By Penelope Karageorge

Summer in New York. You raise your perspiring head to breathe, but soot gets in your nostrils. Millions spend millions to escape, fleeing for the French Riviera or the nearer, but almost as difficult to reach, sands of the Hamptons. I wish a fond adieu to these escapees, and exult in having more of the city to myself, a secret vice one is almost loathe to admit to, like a preference for warm Coca Cola or strange sexual quirks.

Summer was the season when I first discovered New York and Greenwich Village. My sister Helen was sharing a studio apartment with two other women at 110 Bank Street. As a recent college graduate, I arrived with my suitcase for an overnight visit, but was graciously invited to move in with them, making it four gals in an un-airconditioned studio. How could I leave? The city was rife with possibilities.

Entertaining at 110 Bank Street. Despite the low budget, everyone dressed for the occasion, including Penelope Karageorge (left). Photo by Betty DeVasto.

The building itself would prove a communal beehive of existential angst. On the elevator, one asked a fellow traveler, “How are you?” and you really wanted to know. This was precious to me, along with what I expected the city to be: loaded with seekers of the Holy Grail that only NYC could offer.

At night the apartment’s stifling heat necessitated cool walks around the Village, whose streets offered an abundance of entertainment with fascinating characters, bearded weirdos, as well as beautiful women and men. Of course, I fell in love with an aspiring novelist who paid a pittance for his apartment on MacDougal Street. (I do not remember Ed’s last name.) He had little to say but communicated with his dark blue eyes. Somehow, I considered his lack of articulation sexy and deep—Villagey. The women in the House of Detention would scream down at us from their open windows. The White Horse Tavern, where I learned to drink dark beer, was a favorite stop. Who needed ocean breezes when all these possibilities of exploration and flirtation were available?

Back in the apartment, we kept the lights low and played music, West Side Story and Candide being the records of choice. The apartment was strictly pre-television. Nobody made enough money to buy a TV, and who wanted to look at one when so much was happening outside our door, and inside? One of the roommates, a would-be ballerina who worked at Macy’s, met a brilliant physicist who worked at Bell Labs at the incinerator. Later, we were all treated to a wedding.

Although I moved uptown eventually, the Village has remained one of my favorite destinations. I no longer drink, but that does not rule out a visit to the White Horse. The Morgan Library, just a few blocks from where I live, has opened a garden, and MOMA is offering a special Matisse exhibit, good for a third and even fourth visit. I plan to embark on some new ferry rides, and I’m working on self-publishing a mystery novel, “Lovers and Other Killers.” If you check out my website you can learn more about it.

Journalist Penelope Karageorge’s articles have appeared in publications ranging from Cosmopolitan to Odyssey magazine. She is the author of two novels, “Murder at Tomorrow” (Walker) and “Stolen Moments” (Pinnacle Books), and two poetry collections, “Red Lipstick and the Wine-Dark Sea” (Pella Publishing) and “The Neon Suitcase” (Somerset Hall Press).

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