That alley I look out on between the Bowery and Second Avenue when Bleeker Street turns into First — I wish were a restaurant courtyard. Where there might be picnic tables and portable heaters there is just space, maybe a cigarette butt or a green bottle oozing with saliva from the last mouth that touched it. On Sunday afternoons there could be jazz, like there is in Albert’s Garden on Second Street. On Friday nights there could be dancing, on Saturday mornings a photoshoot to showcase the unnoticed murals on those East Village brownstone walls.
There are plenty on the way to Tompkins Square Park. Take a Canon and find the falcon by the entrance to the garden and the boxer who says, “This May Weather” on Second Street and First Avenue, the Blondie mural by Saxon + Parole on Bleeker Street and the Bowery, the astronaut and the woman in the red dress by Bar Primi on Second and the Bowery the Latina in the fedora by Taqueria Diana on Second Avenue.
Take the opportunity to eat when you can, because your other life of imagining will take precedence on a consistent basis. When I’m circumnavigating, searching the streets like the emotionless corridors of an art museum, I lose myself in the acts of finding, only giving to myself what must be found, never something as light as a kiss or as buttery as a croissant.
If you live here and you find little space inside yourself, you have to make space elsewhere.
Elsewhere, an espresso shop where an artist colleague of mine works on Sixth Street between Second and First Avenues. Coffee shops here are like morning bars, with metal stools and wood countertops to keep you working, steaming with the temptation to return later in the night for a drink in a cold glass rather than a mug. I trail through Think Coffee on occasional Wednesdays, when classes start later, and browse the shelves of Codex Books looking for a text to inspire my current choreographic project, for poems to scan in the library, to cut out and glue in my journal to project on the stage. This village is a place of looking. For things to become. For names to grow familiar, perhaps even in your circle. But the key first is space.
I would keep the windows open, to absorb the Sunday jazz to comfort you and the bursts of damp winter wind to chill you so you keep working. Always keep working because eventually there will be a time when you can go home. And this whirlwind of mapmaking your life will be over, like a dream that couldn’t end because its cartographer forgot to write an X-marks-the-spot. Believe me, the streets will center you, all the ones east of the Bowery, south of 14th Street and north of Houston Street. And why not invest in the space outside yourself, because It’s not like your landlord has made room for you at home.
Take cash, a paper map, a journal to stuff with scraps and stubs from each stop you make and space to hold this dream as it dashes in and out of you toward the East River.