By Susan Schwartzman
As a young girl in my tweens, my mother took me to visit my great aunt, who lived in a tiny, cluttered studio on Bleecker Street. I had never been to Greenwich Village before. I was dazzled by all the shops and couldn’t wait to return. Unfortunately, my second visit to the Village was to my aunt’s wake, shortly after that visit.
I yearned to return to the Village when I was a teenager. I don’t remember how old I was but I must have been in my late teens when I traipsed down Bleecker Street once again, purchasing peasant blouses and other clothes you could only find in the Village. I lived in the suburbs and often visited the city with my parents to go to the Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday afternoons. But Greenwich Village was a world apart from the upper West and East sides of Manhattan, and was like visiting a foreign country to me. And when I finally did visit the Marais (or 3rd)
arrondissement in Paris as an adult, it brought back memories of the West Village, especially when I discovered a restaurant that was reminiscent of the Spanish restaurant I had dined at as a teenager.
I had lost track of time that day I trekked through the Village as a teenager, and was suddenly famished, but instead of entering a nearby tavern, hamburger joint or diner, I continued exploring until I finally found a Spanish restaurant, and had my first memorable and delicious taste of arroz con pollo that day. At the Parisian restaurant, which was the setting for a French film whose name escapes me, I ate a scrumptious pot pie in a rustic setting with a gentleman I had met in my hotel. The meal, as the one in the Village, was memorable; my date was not.
That day in the Village, laden with shopping bags filled with West Village clothes, and sated with a delicious meal, I headed home to the boring burbs. I couldn’t wait to return to the Village, which I didn’t do as often as I would have liked. High school and college studies took up most of my time, and hanging out with friends.
It wasn’t until I had a job in book publishing that I returned on a regular basis to the West Village. But it wasn’t for fun. I had weekly visits with my therapist, on West 4th street, that I scheduled during my lunch hour. But traveling to West 4th Street from Midtown took at least 30 minutes each way, and with my therapy session, I was away from the office for a good two hours. But that was back in the day when it was not unusual for publishing professionals to take two-hour lunches. No one noticed my disappearance as publishing offices were as empty of life during lunchtimes as the Sahara desert.
If I arrived early enough to West 4th Street, I would stop at Murray’s and buy some cheese or a delicious sandwich, and eat it at a nearby park, people watching before my session.
More than ten years later after those therapy sessions in the Village, I met a boyfriend for a second date at a small movie theater in the West Village to see a highly-praised movie, Pola X, which was adapted from a Herman Melville novel, Pierre: or, The Ambiguities. As an English Lit major, it was required reading, but I neither remembered the story nor read it, and the movie did not shed any light on the novel. Unfortunately the film did not live up to its review. In fact, halfway through the movie, the audience started booing as they walked out. Gilbert, my date, and I joined the procession out of the theater, and headed to a nearby restaurant.
After dinner, Gilbert walked me to my Honda Civic hatchback, and I drove home around 11:00 PM on the deserted West-Side highway, and made it back to my Yonkers apartment in 20 minutes.
That date led to many others and eventually to a marriage proposal. But Gilbert never again trusted my choices in movies. He and I now live in a rural town in upstate New York. I don’t miss the city. When I worked in book publishing, I wanted to live in Manhattan, but it was unaffordable on a publishing salary, and I had always dreamed of living in the country, surrounded by farms and mountains. But as I write this piece looking out my window at the brilliant red maples and golden elms that look like a Cezanne painting, I have a yearning for those youthful, carefree days of walking down Bleecker Street, with not a care in the world but finding the perfect peasant blouse and memorable meal.
Susan Schwartzman is an independent book publicist who just completed a memoir,
DISINHERITED: A Daughter’s Story of Loss, Betrayal and Forgiveness. For more information, please visit www.susanschwartzmanpublicity.com