Volume 74, Number 38 | Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2005

NOTEBOOK

I’m feeling those post-Festivus East Village blues

By Wilson

One of my favorite “recurring characters” in the East Village used to be this tubby old hipster who looked like Santa Claus all year-round. He’d dress in red and green and wear shiny black combat boots, groovy shades and a puffy white (real) beard.

Another merry old soul in the vicinity, who has a long and flowing silver-gray ponytail and a whimsical beard, rode a bicycle festooned with ribbons, cheerful bells and bags of clattering recyclable beer bottles. Someone told me his name is Adam Purple.

But this is the first winter I haven’t seen either one of these festive and colorful dudes.
Just where have my favorite characters gone? Were they bought out? Put out? And what’s going on with the character of the East Village itself? This place was recently ranked “second-best neighborhood” by Project for Public Spaces, but for whom? Dunkin’ Donuts, N.Y.U., sports bars, cell-phone companies and beauty salons?

I’m confused. Commercial rents are unregulated and at an all-time high. Indian row on E. Sixth St. is hurting, raw food has taken over E. Ninth St. and everyone’s smoking on the sidewalk. I can’t even get a decent slice of pizza anymore (experts say never to get pizza at places that also serve burgers, falafel, chicken, i.e., multiple food choices for tourists; and my closest “real” pizzeria received mouse-poop food violations just days after I ate there.) It all just makes me want to hurl.

Every time I go up to the roof (I’m on the top floor/it’s my “yard”) another crane erecting a tall building pollutes the skyline. Formerly beautiful sunsets are obscured by the new, mirrored-glass skyscraper on Astor Pl. and a big/boxy, white elephant of a condo on St. Mark’s Pl.
I used to have a spectacular view of the W.T.C., but now, an ugly, Mussolini-like rectory/bunker on E. Seventh St. is more pronounced than ever. They got special permission to build extra floors, and then surrounded their water cistern with an even taller/bigger blockade — and the huge and barren canvas of cement, where religious artwork was supposed to go, is a full-frontal daily assault. My eyes!!

There’s even a Duane Reade on Avenue B and Second St., where a crazy ex-friend of mine (a health nut from California) got shot in the left thigh while stupidly jogging there in the ’80s. Everyone’s carrying a yoga mat, or worse yet, jogging. I hate running to begin with, and whenever someone’s moving fast in my direction, it makes me think that a crime has just been committed, or that one is about to, against me! (I still have an old black Anne Klein jacket that was slashed with a box cutter when I inadvertently interrupted a late-night crack sale directly in front of my apartment; a Sunday New York Times was also wounded in the attack, as it was being used as both a weapon and a shield.)

Exercise is supposed to be good for post-holiday blues/stress, but not according to my particular Downtown experiences/observations. There’s this other (more creepy/very tall) “recurring character” around here that I call “I’m a Runner,” and he always looks like hell, with multiple knee braces, ace bandages and joint injuries. And I never actually see him running. Also, I personally contracted two weeks’ down time by inhaling at least two strains of flu (and possibly one virus) at a densely packed/poorly ventilated aerobics class at an East Village fitness center. Then, when I went on a tour of a West Village health club, I got totally grossed out by the pool (having grown up near the ocean or a Great Lake), and afterwards almost vomited upon seeing the various naked, white, hairy and cellulite-ridden creatures in the locker/dressing room. I’m positive athlete’s foot — vaginosis even — was developed at a famous nearby bathhouse. And I just know my two favorite/festive “recurring characters” would never have been caught dead engaging in such wanton and frivolous nonsense/folly.
To remedy this negative and highly localized post-holiday malaise, my resolutions for 2005 are to think only good thoughts about the character (and dearly departed characters) of this gentrified, “second best” neighborhood. And because the amount of sunlight in my apartment has been permanently altered (and I probably suffer from that other depressing low-light/winter syndrome), I will be speaking with the plants on a regular basis. Happy Festivus from a formerly bright and merry East Village.

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