Just over a month ago, I moved into temporary accommodations at Bleecker and MacDougal Streets, right in the middle of Greenwich Village. The apartment itself is nice, but minute. It requires a not-insignificant feat of engineering to get myself into bed, which I can just about lie down in; my room being only an inch or two wider than I am tall. I’m enjoying my time living here, but there are some aspects of Bleecker Street life that have taken a moment to get used to. I’ll give you two examples:
First, tenement housing is dense. Perhaps you’ve heard just how densely packed New York City is. It’s difficult to actually appreciate how tightly crammed together Manhattanites are until you’ve lived in a circa-1900 building surrounded by others just like it. I can hear my upstairs neighbours, my downstairs neighbours, my across-the-hall neighbours, and my across-the-alleyway neighbours if they make almost any sound louder than a moderate sneeze. I presume they can also hear any sound that I make, too, so I have to make a reasonable effort to keep quiet.
Second, Bleecker Street has tour buses. I have never before lived on a street down which tourists regularly travel on their specially-appointed buses, and it’s an odd experience. When I’m actually in my apartment, the buses don’t bother me; my window doesn’t face the street. However, there is a fine cafÃ© across the street where I frequently drink coffee and read books. On the average, every three minutes, a double-decker red or blue bus passes, filled with visitors armed with cameras, camcorders, and in inclement weather, yellow plastic ponchos which make the bus’s occupants look like a small army with a very unfortunate uniform. I’m too far away from the bus to hear the guide’s commentary on the intersection of Bleecker and MacDougal, but the tourists’ heads often turn in unison to look at the old cafÃ©s and bizarre stores as they are pointed out (I often imagine the guide pointing out some of Bleecker Street’s better known bong-selling establishements while Auntie Mavis wonders what a bong is). Some of them peer down to look at the people on the street, taking pictures and video as they go. Now, I’m generally pretty tolerant of tourists, unlike others who live in New York, who impatiently shove visitors out of the way on sidewalks and refuse to answer well-intentioned but silly questions (I was once asked while standing on the Seaport pier where the Seaport was, for example), but having 100 people every coupld of minutes ogle me on a Sunday morning while I’m reading the Times can be a little strange.