Thursday, July 21, 2005

Neighborhood #5 (Okay, That Does It)

Although I moved to Brooklyn more than two years ago, the West Village has been as close as anything in my life has ever been to feeling like "home." No more. I still work in that
neighborhood but I'm glad I moved when I did and would never dream of moving back. I can't: it's not there anymore. What once was a genuine neighborhood is now a big pile of bullshit.

What makes a neighborhood a neighborhood? Well, for one thing, knowing and associating with one's neighbors, rather than locking oneself inside of hermetically-sealed fortresses like those being built by Richard Meier and Meier-manqués. We once lived in small apartments, places largely to sleep. We socialzed on the sidewalks, in the cafes, restaurants, bars, bookstores, in the parks. We knew one another. Now, the latest thing in West Village real estate is to live in a building with a resident chef. No longer must you mingle among the hoi polloi if you want to eat out.

Germ-free living

I know a man who has lived on West 11th Street
for decades, and on every pleasant morning had sat on the front steps of his building to read the newspaper (a recommended method of getting to know one's neighbors, by the way). He did this until a police officer told him — repeatedly — that he was not permitted to sit on the steps of his own building.

There is a lovely new park (despite the rollerbladers) on the riverfront. Shortly after it opened, a friend of mine had a birthday gathering there. One person cracked a beer and suddenly we were surrounded Parks Department enforcers in matching polo shirts, riding Parks Department enforcement bicycles. I mean literally surrounded. In the Village of old, there would have been no question about drinking a beer in the park. Even post-Giuliani, you'd think that, at most, this person would have been sternly warned and been made to pour the beer on the the lawn. But, no. He was immediately handed a summons.

That's the law, you say.
Well, not for everyone. The summons-writer then mistook the birthday girl for Kirsten Dunst. This happens to my friend often enough that it embarrasses her, and her blush was taken by all the Parks Department enforcers as confirmation of her fame. Suddenly, photographs were being taken, and the enforcers tore-up the summons.

That's the law, unless you are a celebrity who is too young to be drinking, anyway.

Making the West Village Safe for Celebrities. That's the motto I've suggested to the Community Board. I've started a petition to widen and straighten those stupid streets like Commerce and Barrow so as to better accommodate limousine traffic.

When I was a kid,
my friend Joe and I would sit down whenever we passed one of those signs reading NO STANDING FIRE ZONE. (What do you want me to tell you? We were smartass geeks.) Today we learn that Jason Eng and Dennis Spafford were ticketed for "standing" in the fire zone in that same West Village park. I wonder: had they been new West Village residents like Hilary Swank or Leonardo DiCaprio or Ashley Olsen, would the summons have been torn-up in exchange for some snapshots? It's a non-question, of course, because none of these people would be caught dead hanging out in their own neighborhood. Don't be ridiculous.

Like everything else in New York, what's out of sight or beneath the surface in the West Village is of no importance. This neighborhood is historically the center of the city's transvestite prostitute trade, and it still is. If only Gwyneth knew what was going on just past those double-panes as little Apple sleeps! I walk these streets often between 3am and 6am, and prostitutes and their pimps own them at this time, just the way that Caribbean nannies and little white babies in $800 strollers own them in the afternoon. Saturday night, I was closing the bar and heard a knock on the door. When you are counting several thousand dollars at 5am, you do not want to hear a knock on the door. But it was my friend, Tyler, who knew I would still be there and wanted to show me his new, high-tech bicycle. I expressed envy, not only for his bicycle but also for the fact that he was starting his day at this time rather than, as I was, ending it. Just then, a heavy-set man with no pants and no underwear came running up the street towards us, screaming. He was followed by several more screaming men (more or less fully-dressed) swinging street debris. Tyler took off and I locked myself in the bar. A good dozen men ran by in pursuit of pantlessman. I recognized a few as local pimps. One of them lifted the standing ashtray from in front of the bar, leaving some 50 pounds of ashtray-sand on the sidewalk.

Leaving the bar at dawn, I found the ashtray a few blocks away, along with some two-by-fours, some empty paint buckets, and a few cobblestones. Luckily, for safety's sake, no one had been standing in a fire zone.


Blogger queenesther said...

freakin' brilliant and very well put. i feel the same way about my west harlem neighborhood, which i still live in and is now going through a kind of infestation that is terrorizing us as residents. writing this good should go farther than your blog. and yes, i'm blogmarking you.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Mr. H.K. said...

Awesome post...

Send a copy to the Mayor, won't you?

Mr. H.K.
Postcards from Hell's

And I Quote Blog

7:59 AM  
Blogger corpodibacco said...

...the only time I was in the States, almost two years ago, few weeks in NYC and all around the country for another couple of months, I had the impression that the police presence was sort of persecutory. Their appeareance was constantly intimidating, asking what doing there, where going, IDs, tickets, no parking here, no resting there.
Anti-terrorism sems to be an excuse for all sort of futile repression.
You don't expect this coming from europe.
So I know pimps are no good, but such powerful and intrusive police is very annoying. In the beginning.
Then scary?

2:27 PM  

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