simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Better When
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Thursday, 13 December 2007

Better When

I'm very surprised that I can find nothing written online or offline about this exquisite little building at 176 MacDougal Street in the Village. It sits at the corner of MacDougal Street and MacDougal Alley (click here). It is unusual in that much of it is unattached on four sides - atypical of small buildings like this in Manhattan. Coupled with its white-painted exterior, the building has a very free feeling to it. The detailing and window boxes gives it a European, perhaps Parisian, flavor. The retail space has gone through a number of incarnations over the years - currently it is a laundromat. At one time there was a restaurant called Shakespeare's here. Along 8th Street there were numerous bookstores - the one at the corner of MacDougal is where Bob Dylan was introduced to Allen Ginsberg in 1964. I was told that Robert Joffrey of the Joffrey Ballet lived atop the building in the photo; today I have learned however that it was next door at 180 MacDougal. Across the street was Capezio, a renowned maker of dance shoes. The Joffrey Ballet company was around the corner on 6th Avenue. The neighborhood had the type of places that gave the Village its Bohemian, artsy, iconoclastic character. But all this nostalgia with remembrances, reveries and reminiscing reminds me of a great article in the New York Times which had a profound impact on me. It was written in 2001 by Jill Eisenstadt, a Brooklynite who recounts her parent's telling (ad nauseum) of how everything was better back when - seltzer, candy stores, cafeterias, stickball, stoopball, the trolley, mickeys, egg creams, Ebbets field and the Dodgers. I will leave you with the final few sentences of that article: "Years from now, I'll probably tell my grandchildren about the old neighborhood. How merchants let me run up a tab if I was short on cash, how the pediatrician offered to make a house call in an emergency, how the baker made me promise to bring the babies in for their first cookies, how we all helped each other shovel the one snowfall of 1999. But when they ask what a shovel is, I hope I'll tell them the truth. That a shovel is a heavy tool. The nostalgia is a heavy comfort. That I don't really miss Brooklyn way back when. What I miss is being young. That everything is probably a lot better now."

Related Postings: Left Bank, New York; MacDougal Alley; Re-Creation; Washington Mews


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