Tribeca, SoHo, and the East Village

For my 49th trip to New York City I concentrated on exploring the Tribeca, SoHo, and East Village neighborhoods. My main goal was Tribeca since I’ve rarely ventured into that area. SoHo is just north of Tribeca so it made sense to see a few things there. I had recently finished reading St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun so I was keen on going back to the East Village. I didn’t see any plays or shows on this trip because I could not find anything worthwhile to see.

The bus dropped us off at West 49th Street near the Eugene O’Neill Theatre which is still showing the musical “The Book of Mormon” and the Ambassador Theatre where “Chicago” is playing. Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church is also on West 49th Street so I went in there and sat in a pew for a few minutes while waiting for bus to take us home that evening.

I tried to take a C train downtown to Canal Street but the weekend schedule changes meant the train did not stop at that station. Instead it seemed to follow the F train route. I finally realized the problem when it reached the York Street Station in Brooklyn. I got off the train there and took an A train to the Jay Street – MetroTech Station. Then I was able to get on a C train heading towards Manhattan which did stop at the Canal Street Station. I don’t have the A Line in my custom travel guide so I should add that. Even though we arrived in New York City early at 9:30 a.m. it took me a hour to get to Tribeca.

The first thing I saw in Tribeca was 56 Leonard Street, the so called Jenga Building because of its cantilevered balconies. It is the tallest structure in Tribeca and makes a good landmark for navigating the area. I exited the subway on the corner of the 32 Avenue of the Americas Art Deco building so I was able to immediately go down Walker Street to find the Soho Rep theater and the art galleries Bortolami Gallery and Alexander and Bonin. Both of the art galleries were closed. The nearby Postmasters Gallery was also closed so my trip was a bust as far as visiting art galleries went. I did see the small art gallery on the second floor of the Pearl River Mart.

I saw Casey Neistat’s 368 on Broadway. Casey Neistat is one of the most popular YouTubers and many of his vlogs concern his video production studio at 368 Broadway in Tribeca. I didn’t see anybody hanging around 368. My next goal was to check out the Flea Theater which had moved to a new space on Thomas Street. I could have seen a show at the Flea Theater but like most theaters these days they seem more concerned with virtue signaling their politics than with producing great theater.

Casey Neistat's 368

Casey Neistat’s 368

I had an early lunch at Odeon Cafeteria. This is a swanky restaurant but I did not have any problems getting a table at 11:20 a.m. I ordered an omelette with mushrooms, onions, and bacon plus some French fries. I immediately used the restroom before my food arrived. This meal only cost me $24.00 with tip so that was quite affordable. My secondary choice would have been the Square Diner which I photographed.

The Odeon

The Odeon

Next I walked back east to find the former location of the Mudd Club, a nightclub during the late days of New York Punk Rock when New Wave was replacing that music scene. Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, and Deborah Harry used to be seen at the Mudd Club. I recently bought a book on the Mudd Club by Richard Boch. There isn’t really anything to see there now except an empty storefront and a plaque honoring the Mudd Club.

After that I found the Ghostbusters Firehouse, aka Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8. From there I walked south many blocks to find  The Mysterious Bookshop on Warren Street. I’m not a big fan of mystery novels, but I did find a book to buy; The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher. This is a non-fiction book about Harry Houdini’s attempts to debunk a medium in Boston. I should have read this book before my trip to Boston. I don’t know why magicians feel the need to debunk mystics, psychics, and spiritualists but many of them seem to take offense at occult magic. After buying this book I found a nearby Barnes and Noble but I did not feel the need to buy more books just yet. Instead I found the campus of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and took some photos there. A security guard there made me a little nervous but college campuses are public spaces and I was making it obvious that I was a tourist just taking photos.

Federico Garcia Lorca Mural

Federico Garcia Lorca Mural

That was the last thing I wanted to see in Tribeca but I also photographed anything I came across on my way north to Canal Street. Walking east on Canal Street I quickly found Wooster Street which I  entered to find the Performing Garage and the Drawing Center. Unfortunately the Drawing Center was closed with police tape stretched across the entrance although a sign indicated they were only closed for an installation. The Performing Garage is the theater owned by the famous Wooster Group. There aren’t many photos of this theater because all there is to see is a black security gate. Also in the SoHo area is a huge mural of Federico García Lorca. I only discovered this while researching the Canal Street Station entrances for the 6 Line which I was going to take to Astor Place to visit the East Village. I’m not terribly familiar with the work of Federico García Lorca but I read The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Expression by Edward Hirsch which includes much about Federico García Lorca’s concept of duende. While planning my personal tours of New York City it is always great to find something obscure that is significant to me. These are the things that make a trip seem special and worthwhile.

As I mentioned my next step was to take a 6 train to Astor Place so I could walk around the East Village. I got there at around 1:15 p.m. so I had plenty of time to explore the East Village neighborhood. This wasn’t really necessary because I’ve made special trips to the East Village before. But after reading St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun I was eager to walk that street once again. One of my goals was to take much better photos of the major landmarks. While doing some additional research on the neighborhood I found that many of my old photos were not particularly good and did not represent a thorough documentation of the streets and establishments. For example, I took photos of Cooper Union and the St. Mark’s Hotel which I did not bother to photograph on previous visits. I also made more of an effort to enter a few establishments like Gem Spa and McSorley’s Old Ale House. On the street St. Mark’s Place I was particularly eager to photograph Arlington Hall where Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground staged the Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the location of Club 57. After reaching Tompkins Square Park at the end of St. Mark’s Place I went up East 9th Street to find Enchantments Inc. Initially this was the only reason I was going to revisit the East Village. Enchantments Inc. is a retail store specializing in occult products for witches and tarot readers. I was hoping to find some books on shamanism but they don’t seem to be into that. They also did not have as many tarot decks for sale as I was expecting. But I did find an interesting book to buy; The Best of the Equinox, Dramatic Ritual: Volume II by Aleister Crowley. This book appears to be volume two of The Best of the Equinox so there isn’t another volume on dramatic ritual. This struck me as the perfect book to buy because I’m very interested in how ritual functions as a form of symbolic action which can be used in the theater.

Enchantments Inc

Enchantments Inc

I didn’t leave the East Village until 4:15 p.m. and I got there at 1:15 p.m so that was three whole hours which gave me plenty of time to photograph the entire neighborhood. I made sure to find Trash and Vaudeville’s new location and took photos of the exterior but I did not go inside since I’m not in market for rock musician clothing. I did go into East Village Books which has a nice selection of books for the intellectual. I bought Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play by L. M. Bogad which seems to be a theoretical book on theater for social justice. Although I have soured on social justice warriors who are only interested in identity politics, I’m not necessarily opposed to all types of political theater. I took lots of photos of St. Mark’s Church, Tompkins Square Park, and the St. Mark’s Place intersections. I walked a few blocks west to find the Wild Project, a performance space used by some theater companies. As I mentioned previously, I entered McSorley’s Old Ale House but it was crowded and there was no place to sit so I went to Le Petit Parisien instead and ordered a cold brew. Later on I had some ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s on St. Mark’s Place.

East Village Books

East Village Books

After spending three hours in the East Village I finally ran out of things to photograph and was feeling utterly exhausted. I wasn’t planning on heading uptown until 6:00 p.m. but I felt like I had spent enough time in this neighborhood. But instead of returning to the Astor Place Station I walked up Broadway to the Strand Bookstore. I was hoping to find the book I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography by Richard Hell but I could not find this book anywhere at the Strand. After browsing for a long time I finally settled for Silent Screens: The Decline and Transformation of the American Movie Theater which is a photography book. I’ve taken a few photos of shabby movie theaters in Pennsylvania so I figured this was a book celebrating the sort of artistic work I do too. I don’t really consider myself to be a photographer but it is something I do. On this trip I even tried to capture more interesting people or scenes in my shots.

From the Strand Bookstore I walked to Union Square where I took  a train uptown to the 49th Street Station. I was going to get off at Times Square but the 49th Street Station was closer to where the bus would be picking us up. I went to Two Boots Pizza on 9th Street for a slice of cheese pizza and two cans of soda. Mostly I was just thirsty and didn’t want to deal with the complicated process of getting something to eat at a better restaurant. Since I still had almost two hours to kill before the bus arrived, I wandered around Times Square as usual and tried to take better photos. Eventually I walked further up Broadway to see the Broadway Theatre which was playing “King Kong” and the Ed Sullivan Theater, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I had to spend a lot of time on West 49th Street waiting for the bus to show up so I sat for awhile in the Saint Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church and took many photos of a limousine parked outside the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

Times Square

Times Square

On the way home the bus stopped at the Liberty Travel Plaza in Mifflinville which has a Burger King. This was the first time I’ve ever found them to make a comfort stop there. I liked it because I was able to select from a wide variety of beverages in the convenience store.

Unfortunately I did not find this trip as inspiring as previous trips. I think exploring several neighborhoods doing little besides taking photos was a little dull. I will have to go back to exploring Brooklyn on future trips to New York City. But my next bus trip will be a two day trip to Western Pennsylvania to see Falling Waters and the Flight 93 National Memorial. This will be a more expensive bus trip since it includes an overnight stay in a hotel but it will be more like a vacation.

 

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