By Gordon T. Hughes II
Among the things New Yorkers and Parisians have in common is summer travel. I love that about those two cities. Paris, like New York, has wonderful neighborhoods, and of course my favorite neighborhood in either city is the West Village. Most weekends you see people of all ages on Fridays with small suitcases going off for weekends in the mountains, country or to the beaches. But come in late June and you begin to see Villagers with large suitcases hitting the road for a week or two at a time. Well, I’m right with them. I can’t stay away from the city for too long at a time or I begin to get itchy. I am originally from Southern California and that’s where I head for a week or so of warm weather and no humidity and it is always a delight. This trip was spent between Ojai and Santa Barbara.
It was in S.B. where we spent a week with friends who have a remarkable view of the Pacific Ocean with the Channel Islands in sight and no mosquitoes or any other kind of bugs for that matter. One of the nights, six of us were dining alfresco with great food and great California wines and that view, when I brought up the West Village. I asked how many of these Californians had been to the Village, had spent time in the Village and whether any of them had a story to tell. Boy did I open the floodgates. Now we are all the same vintage, so all the stories seemed to emanate from the 60’s. My wife told me a story of her first visit to the Village—one I had never heard. You may remember back in the 60’s the coffee houses where the “beats” would play bongos and read poetry.
It had been her dream that after visiting the coffee houses of Newport Beach she would visit a real Greenwich Village coffee house like Cedar, and in order to do that she would have to lose the surfer look and get a big baggy “beat” sweater, which she did at a local shop for $20 bucks. Then she regaled us with the night she met Ahmad Jamal at a reading. Now my wife’s best girl friend told us about tracking down her “wild child” younger sister who in a fit of pique had run away from home to the Village, and how she went in search of her for two weeks and somehow found her one night at the Village Vanguard and brought her home. One of my best pals on the planet is a west coast Wall Street type who spent time in Gotham and somehow became friends with the owner of The House Of Oldies record store. He delighted us with stories of the basement of his store on Carmine Street and how he would spend hours as a young guy going through the vinyl and listening to music from the 50’s and 60’s. They remained friends up until the store closed not long ago.
There were other tales told, one about our friend who as part of his divorce package had to rent his ex a charming West Village apartment that even back then cost him an arm and a leg. He did not have the fond memories the rest of us had or have about the Village.
It was a wonderful evening with great wine, perfect weather and great stories. So like those Parisians, we New Yorkers do flee the city during the hottest weeks of the year. That said, the following week I was back at Panino Mucho Gusto Cafe having a cup of java, talking to my West Village neighbors getting ready for my next exciting experience in the Village and feeling great to be back.