In 1960 there were still plenty of us who wanted to live in Greenwich Village. The heydays were long gone, but the aura still hung around. The Café Bizarre was just catching on. The Figaro still had wind quintets or string quartets live on Sunday morning, men with heavy sweaters and horn rims reading the fat Sunday Times at tables the size of a dinner plate. There were still pushcarts with vegetables and fruits on Bleecker Street. The Aurora Italian restaurant was still affordable, the waiters still had Neapolitan accents. Chess in Washington Square. A tuba and piccolo duet by the fountain. Painters showing their stuff alongside the church.
Mari and I found an apartment on Gay Street. One room, a Hollywood kitchen, a fireplace and a mattress on the floor. Bliss. Around the corner was O’Henry’s. Up Seventh Avenue women shouted from the windows of the prison. Further along was a flower market, then a Greek joint where there was good food and bouzouki music.
We were young, life was all excitement. Little by little we met others like ourselves, enchanted by the past, involved in the present. Carol Sawyer and Lowell Lotspeich lived over on Sullivan St. They had recently returned from a year in Greece, and Lowell now worked for one of the big architects in the city, Phillip Johnson, I believe..
There was Milo, who worked for Standard and Poor’s, and practiced piano and composed in a basement apartment on Barrow. Milo studied with famous composer Stefan Wolpe. He introduced us to the tertulia of the Argentines scattered around the Village and as far over as Hudson.
All were from Buenos Aires and came to New York to study. Strangely, or so it seems to me now, they loved Eva Peron. Maybe because they were from the upper middle class privileged population they were supportive of their government. This was 1960, as I mentioned, and at the time most of the world thought things were hunky-dory down among the gauchos and tango dancers.
Norberto Chiesa was a painter who earned his living making models of yachts from plans, and painted wonderful decoy ducks. His wife Noemi Lapsezon danced with Martha Graham’s troupe. Diana Machivelli studied psychology at Columbia. Mario Davidowsky was already making his name with electronic music.
So you see there was still plenty of atmosphere.
Me, I thought I would become a writer, but in the meantime took on any job that would pay the bills. My wife Mari was a painter who at the moment was teaching in junior high school out on Long Island. I was working for BabyCraft in Queens, selling photographer’s appointments door to door in Nassau County. Ir took the subway to Queens every morning. Julie Stein drove me and others in his crew into the territory and dropped us off. He hung out with his blonde shiksa while we worked the neighborhood.
One of the guys was just back from living on the Balearic island of Formentera, a foreshadowing of what was later to come. But that was still ten years in the future. There had been a previous hint of the Balearics back in Toledo, Ohio, but who knows when a foreshadow is happening? Only in retrospect. Everything pointed in that direction but who knew?
But I am way, way ahead of myself. But you will see why I mentioned it.
I spent a lot of time in the Hudson Street hangout of the Argentines.