New York City is a place of dreams, a city where you can feel the electricity in the air. It is also the setting for fiction as diverse as F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Phillip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and the poignant stories of John Cheevor. When I lived there, I was drawn to Greenwich Village because this was where the cool cats went: an area of coffee houses, small theatres, bookstores and art house movies. It was also where some of my cultural heroes had lived: Isadora Duncan, William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neill.
I spent my first months in New York in a women’s residence on the northern border of the Village with grim-faced nuns. As soon as I could afford to, I moved to a garret on Christopher Street where the previous tenant had been evicted and the paint-drizzled floor looked more like a canvas than something to walk on. The flat was bohemian: unfurnished with one consumptive, gasping radiator I nicknamed “Camille”.
In the 50s and 60s Greenwich Village was hopping with jazz and folk music. Now Tin Palace in the Bowery and Bell’s of Hell on West 13th Street are gone. The building I lived in houses a Petit Puppy parlour which sells small breeds to residents who are now more likely to be drinking fine wines than going to smoky dives for a set.
You would need to take the L train to Williamsburg in Brooklyn to find a place which carries on some of the Village traditions. The coffee houses and bars are now off Hope Street. Across the East River is Madison Avenue, the setting for the brilliant TV drama Mad Men set in 60s New York. For their 2009 Christmas party the series that is Cheever on celluloid asked the Brooklyn-based group, Eclectic Method, to provide the entertainment. EM are also madly creative men whose innovative audio-visual remixing of film and music is a leap into the future. Check it out here. Stay tuned . . .