Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

Notebook

The Zen of Venn in the Village and how we intersect

By Eden Wall

Greenwich Village is like a Venn diagram, in which several alphabetically marked sets represent the factions that make up the diverse neighborhood. Let us consider three of these many sets, calling them Sets A, B and C. These three sets exist beside one another; what’s more, my street corner, Horatio St., is what we as students would likely refer to as the intersection of the Venn diagram, where the three of these lettered sets overlap and coexist. This intersection is a small sample of the oftentimes overwhelmingly larger city and its ceaselessly different and coexisting elements, and this intersection is my home.

Standing on the corner of Horatio and Washington Sts., you are part of that intersection of all sets, expressed as {A B C}. Facing the Hudson River, you are essentially basking in the materialistic glory of Set A. The newly defined social life and chic inhabitance of the Village is personified in the long legs and designer handbags of the women. Their runway walk is drooled and fawned over by the curiously intrigued eyes of both men and women. They strut down the street from tall apartment buildings that in some ways seem to produce them. We do not know where they are going, but they have a purpose and a look to kill. They have made the Village their own — have redefined it as their trendy Village, as it fills with pretentious galleries and overpriced clothing stores.

Should you turn to the right, Set B may catch you off guard. Set B is where the line between masculinity and femininity is infinitely blurred, as well as the distinction between sexuality and occupation, as full-grown men strut, not unlike the models just mentioned, in sparkly tube tops and stiletto heels. Had they been unaccepted wherever they once lived, they now have found a safe haven in New York City, specifically in the Village, where their get-ups are nearly as accepted as the average suit and tie. They find comfort in the familiarity of the faces they encounter each morning on their corner: faces like their own, and faces that seem to understand them. At times, we cannot help but stare. We can and will not claim that they do not fascinate us, and as human individuals, there are times when we judge. However, their existence in my neighborhood has undoubtedly taught me to accept much more than to disapprove, as they become components of and not interruptions in each day I live on this street.

Rotate another 90 degrees, so that your back faces the river. This is Set C, in which the “old Villagers” identify themselves. These people tend to frown at the sight of the Village changing from a quaint family neighborhood to a hopping nightspot. They are open-minded liberals who are thrilled to bring up their children in such a “diverse” neighborhood. They distrust Uptown where the street signs begin to read numbers instead of unusual names such as Morton and Leroy. They are members of book clubs and send their children to private nursery schools in brownstones, where their preschoolers are taught to block-build and finger-paint. Most own dogs and walk them at approximately the same hour each evening. These are my next-door neighbors, my teachers, my distant relatives, my caretakers.

I am tempted to say that I am an element of Set C and yet I do not feel comfortable confining myself to it. Surely I am no model on my way to a photo shoot, nor am I an adult exploring my sexuality. However, these other people, these other beings and faces of the Village, are still my own. They have defined my life on this corner for the past 17 years. More important, they will forever subtly impact my conscience and my understanding of others years after I have left this corner. Their presence has taught me to acknowledge differences and my preconceived judgments.

Despite these differences and judgments, however, we can share this space in the middle of the city. We coexist. On any given morning on this corner, a mother might roll a double-stroller with two young children on her way to the local children’s park. A model might glance down at the stroller and with a sincere smile reveal her beautifully straight and pearly white set of teeth. The transvestite that has been roaming the streets of the Village for 12 hours now might compliment the model on her beautiful hair. I rush by so as not to miss the next L train, and I cannot help but realize that I coexist with these people, these encounters. This is what it means to live in this intersection.

It is simply impossible to confine ourselves to a set. We are the intersection and although we lead very separate lives, they do in fact overlap. We coexist. We are all our own, but we are also all each other’s. Most importantly, we — all of us — have something that prevails over these different values and tendencies to judge: a shared love for this corner and intersection, and a respectful tolerance of each other.


Wall graduated from Village Community School in 2002 and will graduate from Friends Seminary this June. She is enrolled at Tufts University for the fall. This notebook was her college essay.

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