By Gordon T. Hughes, Jr.
The other morning, I was having coffee at my favorite morning haunt, Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto, when one of the regulars commented to me, unsolicitedly, “You know, you can furnish your entire apartment from STUFF off the streets of the West Village. Never pick up anything with cloth however. Bed bugs, you know…” That got me thinking: Our West Village streets are pretty clean, more so, it appears to me, than most parts of the city. Now why is that?
The next morning, I was back at Mucho Giusto having a coffee and ran into one of my pals who was deeply engrossed in a book. I startled him when I asked, “What are you reading?” He said it was a cookbook that he had been in search of for some time. One of his hobbies is cooking, so he was very excited.
He had been everywhere looking for this particular cookbook and had just picked it up. I asked if he had done so at the Strand; he said “No.” He literally picked it up on Perry Street from a pile of discarded books. When I put those two conversations together, I really started thinking about our streets.
Every day, it seems that traffic is held up by street-sweeping trucks or trash pick-up vehicles doing their rounds to keep our streets pristine. Then there are the plastic guys. You see them with huge bags of plastic bottles, sometimes trains of shopping carts filled with bottles. Amazing, and when you think about it, a real service, too. I suspect that this is true all over the city. (Not totally sure about the plastic guys.)
So, the real difference between the West Village and the rest of town is the variety of our street offerings. I for one have, on occasion, taken advantage of these street specials. When I moved into my co-op, I wanted to decorate my fireplace, which did not really generate fires. I found a fire grate, a fireplace tool set, and a fire screen, all on different streets. To complete the look, I located decorative wood on Bleecker Street, from one of the high-end stores.
Besides small collectors like myself and my cookbook pal, there are folks out there that make a living out of collecting and selling what they find. A few months ago (August 2017), WestView published an obituary on Ed Enderlin. Ed was the king of the West Village collectors/sellers. He made his headquarters at the corner of Perry and West Fourth Streets.
There used to be a Sardinian restaurant there and I would sit in the window and watch Ed come by with television sets and old fashioned stereo equipment in a supermarket cart. He would be back with enough money to buy a drink an hour or so later. Ed was part of a highly sophisticated West Village ecosystem.
I guess when you combine the city services, individual collectors, plastic bottle guys, and folks like Ed, the West Village streets are pretty clean—and now, upon reflection, I know why.