Sunday, May 7, 2017

296. Wonders of a West Village Walk

         For six LibraryThing prepublication reviews of Bill Hope: His Story by viennamax, stephvin, Cricket2014, Shoosty, terry19802, and graham072442, go here and scroll down.

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Pearls of wisdom from that great American thinker, Yogi Berra:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Never answer an anonymous letter.     
Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.                       

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         This post  is about a walk I took in the West Village on Sunday, April 30, an overcast day with a bit of wind.  Nothing spectacular happened, just a series of small adventures that demonstrate the richness of trivia available in many New York City neighborhoods where one can walk casually without the trouble of a car and the need to find a parking space. 

File:A cappuccino.jpg
Was this the source of my high?
Nick Lott
         First, my brunch at Philip Marie, a popular restaurant at the corner of West 11th and Hudson, but a block from my building.  They put me at a table with a good view of the table by the front window and the busy sidewalk outside.  As I consumed my yogurt with strawberries and granola, followed by apple and pear cobbler a la mode and -- unusual for me -- a cappuccino, I took note of the diners nearby.  At the table by the window were two young guys with beards, probably a couple, who were talking earnestly.  To my right, at a table for four against the wall, were three young women who were talking with great animation, often howling with laughter.  Probably they were young professionals enjoying their weekend off.  Though I could see one of them whose face was very expressive, and whose hands were constantly gesturing, I couldn't get snatches of their conversation.  At the table next to them, barely visible from mine, were two elderly men, probably gay but not lovers.  At other tables not visible from mine were young couples, and families with young children.  All in all, a feisty mix typical of the West Village.

         In addition to these neighbors in the restaurant, I could see a group of some six or eight young gay men out on the street that got bigger as more young men, and one young African American woman, joined them.  There was much joking and laughter and many hugs of friendship, as opposed to hugs of love, but they hardly noticed when an ambulance with flashing lights but no siren raced past them on Hudson Street, a reminder of mortality in the midst of youthfulness and joy.  Next, after some hesitation and arguing, the group slowly drifted away down West 11th toward the river.

         Leaving the restaurant, I decided to follow them toward the river.  Not having walked over to the river since autumn, I wanted to stretch my legs and go at least part way.  At the corner of West 11th and Greenwich Street, just opposite the Spotted Pig restaurant, I noticed a boutique I had never seen there before.  It seemed ablaze with color and the door was wide open, so in I went, and found myself the only visitor, surrounded by elegant displays of female footwear, some flowery and some bejeweled, plus handbags and other accessories, all of the items bright with colors but always tasteful and, I was sure, pricey in the extreme.  This, I learned from the young woman in charge, was the flagship boutique of Ivy Kirzhner, featuring her spring 2017 collection, and they had been there for a year without my knowing it.  The display was dazzling, even though I was not the intended target, and I complimented the young woman on it and collected a card announcing “Ivy Kirzhner, New York.”  Later I would Google her and discover that she is a seductively attractive young woman with distinctly Asian features and dark hair topped by a large bun, New York born and bred (Ivy, not the bun), whose products have attracted a cult celebrity.  And her very un-Asian name?  She is married to artist and photographer Alex R. Kirzhner and lives in the city with him and a rambunctious little bulldog named Hamlet Bacon.  Tasteful goods, trendy and pricey: very New York, giving me a quick glance into an aspect  of the city I have rarely experienced: fashion.

         Going on from there toward the river, I forgot to look up at the controversial Palazzo Chupi, a pink architectural monstrosity (or daring innovation; opinions differ) that I have chronicled before.  Reaching the river, I crossed West Street and walked along the riverfront to Pier 46 at the foot of Charles Street.  Going out on the pier, I found a large group of families with young children having a picnic on the artificial grass, with a host of colored balloons: a reminder that the West Village is more than gay guys of all ages and young hetero professionals not yet settled into long-term relationships and the responsibilities that such relationships impose.  It was a real fun scene.

         Next I went to the Millennium Garden, my favorite riverside garden, a dog-free sanctuary featuring artist Stephen Weiss’s three-ton bronze sculpture “Apple,” a large apple with a hole through it that visitors are not supposed to crawl through, though the younger set, being New Yorkers, usually do.  A plaque tells you that Weiss dedicated the work to the city of New York and to his neighbors of the Far West Village, of whom I cannot count myself one, since my building is a bit too removed from the river.  I had the garden to myself, but what caught my eye this time was not the sculpture, but scores of tulips in full bloom all around me.  Some were orange and red with hints of yellow, and others, not as tall, were what I decided was a very dark crimson, maybe not quite purple, since they had no hint of blue: a beautiful color that I had trouble labeling.  Crimson, I have since learned from the Internet, is a “deep red color inclining to purple,” so maybe that’s what it was after all.  Whereas scarlet is a bright, brash red, crimson strikes me as being dark and mysterious.  Never before have I seen flowers of just this color or been so obsessed with identifying it.  Spring madness, or just a cappuccino high?

File:Violett tulips.jpg

         Coming back along the river, I saw three ducks a short ways from the shore, but couldn’t identify them because there was no sunlight; maybe male mallards.  Then I looked up and suddenly discovered, steaming downstream right opposite me in the river, a huge cruise ship, the hugest I have ever seen, with at least ten tiers of staterooms capable of housing hundreds of guests on voyages to distant places.  Others were staring at it too, and when I asked a man who was photographing it what it was, he squinted at the vessel and said, “Norwegian Cruise Line.”  So the Vikings have come to us and in this case, so he told me, have visited the Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier now serving as a museum at Pier 86, uptown at Twelfth Avenue and West 46th Street.  Later, Googling the line on the Internet, I learned that there are a host of these giant vessels – the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian anything -- any one of which might have been the one that I saw.  And what do they offer us?  Trips to the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Mexican Riviera (wherever that is), and even Alaska: a whiff of international adventure (at a cost) to season my little West Village walk.

File:Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Spirit 02.JPG
Piergiuliano Chesi

         Surely that was the end of my walk, you might think, but no, one more tiny adventure awaited me.  On the front stoop of a residence on West 11th Street was a big bag with a sign: REMEMBER  THE  ADVENTURE  OF  MAPS.  Curious, I looked in the bag and found there a bunch of highway maps.  Leafing through them I took out one of Northern France, one of Maine, and one of New York City and Long Island -- all places I have been to.  Remembering how I am trying to get rid of household items, not accumulate them, I put back Northern France and Maine, retaining only New York City for reference.  A comedown after the Caribbean and Alaska, but much more relevant.  “Thank you” I scribbled on the sign and came on home, my mind full of flowery and bejeweled shoes, colored balloons, purple tulips, and voyages to Bermuda and Alaska (I was once in Alaska, but not on a cruise ship): a where-but-in-New-York experience that would not have been the same, had I not been walking alone.  A reminder that New York isn't just monuments and Times Square and the crunch of rush hour crowds; it's also quiet little things that just happen.

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BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series,  tells the story of a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client   It is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming soon:  Maybe, in honor of Mother's Day, a post on matriarchs, or the names for New York City and where they came from, or Browderhell and who I would delight to lodge there.  Sooner or later, probably all three.

©   2017   Clifford Browder

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