My Magic Place
My last posts have been about my city (New York, of course), and my neighborhood, the West Village. That got me started thinking about the Village when I was young. Greenwich Village has always been my happy place, with a bit of stardust and glitter about it. Disneyland could never compare.
Hey, look…I was a girl from Elmhurst, Queens. Elmhurst is now a wonderful melting pot of cultures. When I was growing up, it was a strictly Irish Catholic Republican enclave in which my father, a Russian born Jewish socialist ran a grocery store. It’s now a bodega.
I think I could have been happy in today’s Elmhurst. I sure wasn’t in the Elmhurst of my childhood.
BUT, on Wednesdays, when the Catholic kids got of school for religious instruction, my mother, under the guise of my going for Jewish religious instruction (was there such a thing?), took me into the Village for my piano lessons. I was 9 or 10 years old, and it was love at first sight. My Mom was also in love with the Village. I think she was, at heart, a Bohemian, trapped in the body of a 1950’s Jewish housewife. After my lessons, we’d wander the streets and alleyways, looking at the houses with the artists’ garrets, the cobblestoned streets, the coffee shops, the guy with the monkey on his shoulder. We’d stop at the Washington Square arch, where bearded men, and girls with pony tails played guitar, with their bare feet in the fountain. On the west side of the park, disheveled men sat for hours, playing chess. It was all so different than anyplace I’d ever been, and, yet, I felt more at home than I ever had. Sometimes, we’d stop at a coffee shop and have a cappuccino and a pastry.
As a teenager, the Village became my home base. My friends from the High School of Music and Art (now LaGuardia) and I would meet by the fountain with our instruments (by now I was playing guitar). I had a ponytail by then, and long copper earrings. The boys didn’t yet have beards. At night, we’d hang out in the coffee shops, drinking espresso and chianti poured from straw covered bottles, which we’d steal and use as candle holders, the wax from the candles dripping multi colored over the straw. We’d sometimes go to the White Horse (this was before the days of carding) in hopes of meeting some new Jack Kerouac. We were the generation between the Beats and the Beatles; too young for the former, a bit early for the latter. None of us lived in the Village, but, still, it was our Magic Kingdom.