Greenwich Village is a state of mind.
I don't know if the cliché still holds up in the new millennium, but I can safely say the Village is my escape.
Its meandering streets are lined with charming old homes and vintage storefronts, and it has the charisma of another era.
It's low, the lowest point of Manhattan Island, from where you can really see the sky — The rest of Manhattan used to look down on it, and the people here would look up, the sky was the limit for them. I'm guessing that's why it was always a magnet for idiosyncratic artists, writers, and intellectuals. One tiny corner of America where nonconformists, misfits and every individual who felt like an outsider elsewhere could feel at home.
It's another day in New York, fallen leaves on the ground signal the end of summer and beginning of autumn. The sky is cloudless, the air crisp and sweet.
I walk into Central Perk, on the corner of Bedford Street and Grove street, it's been my go-to place recently.
A lot has changed in this neighborhood. No revolution is taking place nowadays, it's no longer a bohemian enclave for artists who went on to change the world. The rents went up, the streets are cleaner and safer, the artists left for less polished, more affordable areas.
Yet, as the rest of Manhattan filled up over the last decades with skyscrapers and apartment buildings, the Village holds onto its quaint and charming qualities. It's part of the City but not completely absorbed by the madness of the metropolis around it.
There's a casual pace here that contrasts with the rest of New York. This is what Central Perk feels like, a refuge from the anxiety that has filled this city, a resistance to the numbness and the deadening assaults of modern conformism.
It's a small, intimate and peculiar coffee place, and that's enough for me.
People don't talk about the stock market downturn, or congress bills and business mergers. Instead, friends, lovers, families meet up, drink coffee and talk about their lives, their personal experiences.
There's no pretense, no protocol. Everybody comes as they are. It's a breath of fresh air compared to the Upper East Side.
I am what you can call a voluntary exile, in a self-chosen escape from the burdensome expectations of the upper-classes. It doesn't make me a hero or a martyr, I'm selfishly looking for real human connections. I don't want to wake up old one day and realize I've never really lived.
As per usual, the main orange couch today is taken by the same group of friends, the "Reserved" sign never leaves the table beside it. I think you need to show up before the opening time to stand a chance and take a sit there because they're here a lot.
It's a tight group, clearly.
I've never had that. Togetherness is not exactly the motto of wealthy New York socialites.
Don't get me wrong, I have friends, but to get them all together in one place is work, it requires mailed invitations and formal parties. The idea of willingly and happily seeing each other everyday is something I can't quite imagine.
I guess you would need someone who can hold it together, someone who makes sure these friendships never go south.
I think I can picture who that is in this group.
These guys order a lot of food. The few times I've been there, there were no donuts and muffins left.
In fairness, it's usually the one guy who sits by the small table. Maybe he's a bon vivant. I would be intimidated by his build, but his gentle eyes and good-natured smile suggest he's more of a giant teddy bear.
Sometimes they're loud. Two of them in particular always seem to be at each other's throats. But I think they enjoy that. Well, I do hope so because she has a daughter — or a son, hard to tell, and I presume, from the way he looks at her protectively and is always by her side, it's his baby.
Sometimes they're completely silent, listening to that same guy, looking a little bored and not really paying attention to what he says.
A lot of times they're laughing. I can spot the jokester from here. I don't hear the jokes, so I can't tell you if they're funny or not, but I can hear the good-humored tone in his constant interjections. It doesn't sound mean or deriding, it has the cheerfulness of a guy with a real sense of himself.
Then there's her. And she's kind of a mystery. Actually, she's pretty transparent but it's like watching a fish out of water.
Everything about her is whimsical, a free spirit unfazed by her surroundings. The kind of person you envy, for not caring about what shouldn't matter but unfortunately does to you. Kindness and authenticity shine through her, you can tell she lives life according to her true nature.
She is who she is. Unabashedly so.
I've seen her with a guitar case and I do wonder if she plays. I've not been here long enough to know that. She would fit right in with the 1960s Greenwich Village crowd I feel. I can picture her with a guitar in Washington Square.
For my part, I like to sit by the window. Watch people — not in a creepy way I swear. Listen to snippets of conversations, soak up the human warmth.
The waiter approaches me with my coffee. He's seemingly the guy who runs things around here, and just like this coffeehouse, he's a little weird but unique. A bit grumpy but you can tell he lives for this place.
I take a sip of my coffee and go back to reading my book. Sometimes I come here to listen to music on my headphones and transcribe it.
It feels like home, a fresh start.
This is what I wanted for my new life the moment I gave up my big shot lawyer career. A new home because I'm not sure I'm welcome anymore in my own one.
It's a funny thing — My parents were shocked and disappointed when I told them about my life-changing decision, but they're the ones who wanted me to learn the piano from a young age because it makes you smarter. They didn't expect me to fall so madly in love with it, I'd give up everything to pursue it. I don't really blame them, they never considered music a viable career option.
I kept playing all these years, even during the busy days and sleepless nights inflicted upon a law student and the long hours of an attorney. It was always there, notes floating in my head when I couldn't be near a piano.
This is the kind of place where I can find inspiration.
Inspiration and warmth and maybe, just maybe, friendship and love.
I've been dealt a bad hand in the game of love, but I don't want to be bitter anymore. I am not looking for love but I'm hoping to find it, open to experience it again.
It's a platitudinous saying but I do believe sometimes you find love in the most unexpected places, and sometimes it finds you.
Granted, there's a good chance I might not find the greatest love of my life here; or hell, just another great love. I'm not expecting an intervention of fate, a cupid's arrow or the perfect alignment of planets and stars.
But I can find happiness here, in Central Perk, on the corner of Grove Street and Bedford Street, and I, too, can live a life true to myself.
It sounded like a fun little idea in my head.
Hopefully, you guessed whose POV this is. *unsubtle wink*
Thanks for reading!