and the surrounding midtown sections of
New York City
scream their cultural power in the faces of tourists and city-dwellers alike, the neighborhoods of
subtly whisper their artistically-rooted charms in the ears of those who wander their narrow, cobble-stoned streets. Removed from the uptown bustle, the interior portion of Greenwich Village allowed me to stroll freely through the streets without having to weave through the swarms of W 14th Street shoppers—though the streets were still peopled enough to the point where I felt safe walking alone.
I carried a feeling of relative relaxation with me as I crossed the corner of8th Avenue
—made famous to non-New Yorkers through musical tributes by artists such as Simon and Garfunkel. WithBleecker Street
’s edgy, European vibe still faintly pulsing today, it is no wonder that it was once a Bohemian artist’s haven away from the rampant commercialism of the surrounding city. It would be much harder to imagine a modern-day Washington Irving deriving literary inspiration from sitting in the Dean & Deluca on48th Street
than sipping coffee at an outdoor table of one of theBleecker Street
Like the hopeful artists it once drew,Bleecker Street
cultivates individuality in a city powered by corporate conglomerates. Despite the few chain stores that have sprouted along the path, such as Sunglass Hut and Banana Republic, the shops consist of up-scale boutiques, where those with extra cash can pay a high price for unique couture.
The non-chain bookstore, the Biography Bookshop, adds intellectual flavor to the area, while the non-chain Magnolia Bakery across the street is famous for their gastronomically satisfying cupcakes, banana pudding, and other sugary bits of Heaven-on-earth.
In order to fully engage myself in theBleecker Street
experience, I felt it completely necessary to indulge in both of these activities. So after perusing the discounted paperbacks strewn on tables outside of the bookshop, I situated myself at the end of the relatively short line of mostly women—sugar-cravers and Sex and the City fans—that curved outside the bakery.
They have their cupcake system down to a science here. Especially on the weekends and after work hours, the line of eager women can wrap itself around the block. Magnolia is the only bakery that needs a doorman, who like the attendant of an amusement park ride will only admit enough people to make up for the ones who have exited. With their sprinkled pastel frosting, the vanilla and chocolate cupcakes stand on trays displayed in the window, waiting for the clientele to scoop them up and pack them in white boxes—for immediate enjoyment on a park bench across the street or later on that day.
My "when in Rome" (or NYC) attitude won out against the superfluous preoccupation known as calorie-counting, so I chose the former option and seated myself on a bench across the street parallel to the Bleecker Street playground—a reminder of the residential nature of the neighborhood. Perhaps some biological mothers, but mostly nannies (due to the discrepancy of skin color with the children) pushed little bodies on swings and observed the heated four-square games. A rubber ball nudged my foot, and then a chorus of three squeaking voices begged for the return of the precious play item, so I tossed it to the scrappiest-looking one.
The approachable atmosphere of the restaurants and bars—most of which feature outdoor seating and have foreign names like Trattoria Spaghetto and Suriya—encourages people-watching and long-lunching by day, and alcohol-sipping and street-mingling by night. After dark the same day, many more people had flocked to the bars, music lounges, and comedy clubs, and the extras spilled out into the street. The nightlife buzzed with young professionals and college students, like myself.