The first time I visited the West Village when I moved to NYC eight years ago, I fell in love with it’s character and easy, unpretentious charm. My education on it’s rich history of artists and activists is ongoing, involving stories about writer Jack Kerouac getting kicked out of bars and James Gandolfini studying scripts at a particular corner of a bar and seeing where musicians like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix found inspiration, recorded, and played their first shows, the cast of SNL always hung out after shows, and the Stonewall riots of 1969 took place. The West Village has been known as “Little Bohemia” since 1916 due to it’s reputation as a place where artists came together and supported one another, the heart of new movements, ideas, and experimentation. I wish desperately that I had been around back then but I’ve since created my own memorable West Village experiences over the years.
I just celebrated my eight-year NYC anniversary, or NYC-iversary as I like to call it. I’ve always heard that you can officially call yourself a New Yorker after living here for ten years. I think experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in NYC warrants a fast pass to this (New Yorker) status. It’s been a tough year plus. The roller coaster of emotions is almost indescribable. My anxiety and depression have never been worse and I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have my health (though I did have the virus) and to have gotten by financially despite having no work and without any significant loss. My heart broke daily for all I saw struggling and the ghost town, apocalyptic state of New York City I saw broadcast on tv.
It wasn’t until October 2020 when I finally felt safe and responsible enough to venture into Manhattan. Naturally, the West Village was my first destination. Corner Bistro, my favorite burger joint, was going to have live music outdoors. I arrived to find super cute, heated huts and I couldn’t believe I scored a front row seat. I watched in awe, mesmerized and almost in a sort of trance, as the Chris Campion band played songs like, “Ghost in You,” “Gypsy,” and “That’s life.” And then came the tears, flowing continuously down my face. I realized that this was the first time I had heard live music in over a year, something that has been such a crucial part of my life. I felt overcome with beauty and peace and calm. It was the happiest moment I’d had in awhile – and enjoying my favorite burger and fries simultaneously didn’t hurt.
The guys played outdoors twice a week throughout the fall and winter, no matter the weather, rain or shine, snow and all, always with smiles on their faces, earning them the nickname, “The Klondike Three.” I watched the audience grow and a community and family build. I watched as others were moved the way I had been. People were vocal about how much it meant to them to hear live music and engage socially again with others, to feel some semblance of normalcy and the culture of the West Village alive again. We all bonded over our common love of music and one of the only ways we knew that the arts were existent in NYC.
It wasn’t long before we outgrew the huts but we gladly took to the street corners, even though we were freezing, even when it was snowing, because we wouldn’t miss the magic for the world. It stopped everyone in their tracks – kids, dogs, passerbys, celebrities – taking pictures and videos, dancing, singing along…wanting to be a part of it, if only even for a few minutes. This is what the West Village is all about.
It has come to my attention that someone or someones have been complaining about the Bistro’s live music. The police recently showed up at 6:00pm on a Sunday due to a noise complaint. Yes, 6:00, and the band consists of an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, congas, and the tiniest of amps. They can’t even be heard from around the corner! This is unfathomable to me. This neighborhood is a home to the arts and artists who were some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and you’re trying to shut down the music and hurt the musicians who have been a lifeline to so many? What kind of monster are you and why do you live in the West Village?! In fact, why live in NYC at all? So many people would give anything to live in the Village and here you are and you don’t even appreciate it. Worse, you’re campaigning to bring it down. This can’t happen. We can’t let the Village die, the legends would roll over in their graves! We can’t let a few miserable neighbors ruin it for everyone. The legacy (and show) must go on. Please join me in supporting the arts and Corner Bistro and keeping the West Village alive. If you want to help and you live within two blocks of Corner Bistro, please stop in and sign the petition. LA VIE BOHEME!
“I regret profoundly not being American and not being born in Greenwich Village. That’s where I should have been. But it never works that way. Everybody heads towards the centre, that’s why I’m here now. I’m here just to breathe it. It might be dying, or there might be a lot of dirt in the air, but this is where it’s happening.” – John Lennon