Of Bleecker Street, Forty Years On
Bleecker Street, it’s been so long that difficult as it once might have been to imagine, I haven’t thought about it, perhaps in years. I remember Figaro’s at one end and the Bitter End at the other in that portion that most affected me, and all the little bars and shops and the non-conformist crowds comprised of confused individualists delighting in life that made it what it was, at least to me.
Time and space converged in the moment but the moment kept evolving and repeating, bound somehow by a central core, like a kind of compost that kept creativity flowing carelessly in all directions. I remember being in love, or perhaps in lust, with a beautiful short haired, flat chested blond girl who kept me supplied with dark draft beer and Uncle Paul’s clam chowder at the Other End, the Bitter End’s less recognized sibling, and that while I hardly ever talked to her (she was not much interested in conversation it seemed), I once sent her a white rose. She’d reminded me of someone on whom I’d once had a secret and unrequited crush at a Catholic School in Hollis as I was crossing the threshold into adolescence. Even then I’d been fascinated by the Village, although I’d not quite understood why.
I remember the Waverly Inn and the Waverly Theater, and a beautiful little Mexican restaurant, perhaps on MacDougal Street, where friends from NYU played classical and baroque music on stringed instruments, although they were students of fine arts and I studied the intricacies of international legal systems. I recall the fine arts students at our graduation dancing in delight in our processional, and the whispered rumors after we took our seats concerning the purported total absence of encumbering clothing under their togas. It delighted me and reminded me of the naked girls frolicking in the fountain at Washington Square on my first day at NYU, something I longed unrequitedly to see repeated.
And I remember the 70’s which we then perceived of as a continuation of the transcendental sixties, not realizing how transitional that decade would become, culminating in the rise of the Reagan Right and all that’s followed.
I understand that Figaro’s has closed and wonder what happened to all the old newspapers written in a French I could almost understand, and I wonder what happened to the amazing graffiti in the restroom walls, and I wonder how the verbal duel there over life and death between God and Friedrich Nietzsche turned out. I guess I’ll never know now.
I so much wanted to live on Bleecker Street back then, not, admittedly in the more honest tiny cramped apartments, but in the then evolving duplex complex next to the Bleecker Street Theater (I probably have the name wrong but the memories are well). Unfortunately (perhaps), my average bank balance back then topped of at around five hundred bucks and by the time I had the money to get whatever I wanted, I was long gone, figuratively and literally, along with my peers, betraying the amazing visions and aspirations we’d once shared when the world was ours to change and Bob Dylan was our guru, whether or not he cared.
My most consistent fantasies are not erotic anymore but rather involve going back in time with today’s memories and knowledge and trying the paths not taken. Making new mistakes, certainly, but daring what I’d disdained or probably more frequently, lacked the courage to try. It seems true that the path not taken eventually seems the greenest. I think I’m now a bit more like the me from back then than the person I’d morphed into, both spiritually and, unfortunately, financially. Perhaps that’s why long lost longings are rekindling.
Nostalgia for what almost but never was is hard to overcome but why would one want to?
Simon or Garfunkel, perhaps both, would understand.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2016; all rights reserved