My front stoop is exquisite. I know it, the neighbors know it and the guy with the gold tooth who wears a matching gold-Devo-sort-of-hat contraption and shines people’s shoes for a dollar knows it. I first admired my stoop from afar, through the window of the taxi that dropped me off across the street during a near-fatal apartment hunting frenzy. There it stood, so regally, at the bottom of a tall brick building in Greenwich Village, in the middle of all that is great and disgusting about the neighborhood, painted the color that blood would be if it dried into a paint shade years after it first spilled out of a large wound. At the time of my arrival, I was schlepping around a sixty-pound suitcase and scoffed over the unusually tall height of each individual step. I have since come to appreciate this extra height, for it enhances the stoop-sitting experience with optimal back support and generous legroom. The bouncers from the bar next door think so, too, for they sprawl across it nightly before the last call hangers-on congregate on MacDougal Street. The aged, intoxicated flower children of days gone by stumble out of Café Wha? and pass the dawn upon it like its 1961 again. I like to sit on the top step and make long distance phone calls to people I’m only moderately interested in speaking with so that I can breathe the city air. (I found out shortly after handing an envelope full of cash to my landlord that the windows in my apartment shouldn’t be opened; something about a vermin problem; New York Fuckin’ City!) Some visitors to the stoop are more pleasant than others. At times, they come bearing a brown paper bag full of Magic Hat beers or a funny joke. Other times they come only with poorly planned pick-up lines and not wearing shoes. The stoop is unpredictable.
In no particular order, here are the five most memorable creatures I’ve encountered on my front stoop in Greenwich Village.
The telepathic problem-drinker with an affinity for passing out on my stoop when her night shift ends
Greenwich Village is full of psychics, which works out okay for me, because I am totally insane about wanting to know what the future holds. Even though I know that it’s probably not feasible for anyone to know whether I’ll grow up to write several highly revered novels, move to Berlin and marry a straight-ish version of Rufus Wainwright circa the Want One album, then come back to New York and buy a loft in Park Slope (or whatever), far too often I find myself handing over crumpled ten dollar bills to pay for psychic readings in basements identified only by pink neon letters. I was highly intoxicated one Friday night (fucking fine, it was a Tuesday), and a friend and I decided to get our palms read. We went to the fortuneteller at Bleecker and Sullivan because this way we could get cheap tacos first. Mistaking us for a couple, she told my (gay, male) friend and I that we’d be pregnant soon and that “the village is no place to raise a child.” When we told her that my friend was gay, she begged to differ and insisted again that we move out of the village to raise our never-going-to-happen baby. Then she stood up, motioned for us to leave immediately, and shrieked that we should never go outside in the rain. How does this relate to the people I’ve met on my stoop? Because the next morning she was asleep there with a pack of cigs and an empty bottle of vodka clutched under her arm! She woke up whilst I was mid-climb (in a dress) over top of her body. I offered to buy her a coffee. She said caffeine is bad for you, and that she meant what she said about going out in the rain.
The (trying-to-be) dapper NYU “grad student”
One warm Sunday night in June, a friend and I came home from eating high-end frozen yogurt and found two guys sitting on my stoop. One was a questionable neighborhood character who scurried away when he saw us coming, but the other was just a suspender-wearing NYU bro who wanted to eat a slice of four dollar pizza and talk about nerd things like “baseball” and “HTML.” He told us he was doing a post-graduate degree in public relations at NYU. I asked if that even existed. He said it did but that he didn’t do any homework because he didn’t like reading. “Not even Wikipedia?” asked my friend, half seriously/ half very genuinely concerned. “Kids are passing high school without having to actually learn anything,” he said, so he regularly logs on to post false information to cause high-schoolers to fail tenth grade and learn their lesson. When I reprimanded him for this, I mentioned that I work for a music magazine, where facts are important. He was very curious about which one I worked for because he plays in a “really mellow chillwavey but not shoegazey band,” so I said I would tell him if he guessed correctly. (He guessed Rolling Stone. Wrong!) It turns out that I saw his band play in a parking lot in Brooklyn two years ago. They have since added a keyboard player, still kind of suck and just got signed to Sub Pop.
The woman-scorned who starts the biggest street-fight Greenwich Village has ever seen but is probably a really nice person otherwise
I had been at the Beirut concert in McCarrren Park earlier in the night, and this being my first Beirut experience, was all sorts of sensitive when I got home. I sat on the top step of my stoop to think about trumpets and ukuleles and stuff. The stoop is seven tall steps high, so one could theoretically sit at the top and not have to feel awkward if a stranger were sitting at the bottom. A woman, Jax (as in “facts” but with a ‘J’ and an ‘ax’ at the end) was at the bottom of the stoop, out for blood. There was no cell phone in her hands, no newspaper, no sign that a friend was coming to meet her; just two clenched fists with two long, fuchsia, acrylic thumb nails sticking out. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend,” she said to me. “Okay,” I replied, sensing that she hadn’t meant to ask my permission but in fact, quite the opposite. “He’s in the club with some hussy.” Before I could fish my keys out of my horrifically disorganized purse and get the eff out of there, she spotted her boyfriend coming out of the club with the aforementioned other woman, flew across the street to lunge at them, somehow removed her shoes while on her way over so she could smack each adulterer in the face with a stiletto, and knocked them both to the ground A violent brawl ensued, and I subsequently felt like the worst idiot ever for thinking Greenwich Village was the land of peace and love. It isn’t! Sometimes people cheat on their girlfriends and end up with a stiletto to the face. I couldn’t think about progressive Balkan folk music anymore after that.
The Elvis Presley look-alike (or maybe I am just hallucinating)
Without revealing too many clues about my exact address (although I did already state the name of my street and the name of the bar across from my apartment, so you could Google Map this fairly easily), it is important to note that I live in the very middle of Greenwich Village. Many of the locals have lived in the neighborhood for decades. The woman at Café Reggio who always yells at her customers for no reason once told me that she used to serve coffee to Bob Dylan. This kind of story enchants me. Like many, I moved to Greenwich Village because I was naïve and wanted to try and exist fifty years ago. 1961 it is not, but a lot of the people who lived here then still live here now. One of them looks like Elvis Presley’s ghost and wears sunglasses in the dark – a different pair for each night of the week. Once, he sat down with me to smoke a cigarette. I was wearing a Broken Social Scene shirt at the time and he said he really liked them. I nodded slowly and tried to take this in. Elvis Presley – wearing glittery gold aviator sunglasses at midnight – just told me he liked Broken Social Scene. I complimented him on his glasses, to be polite. And because they ruled. “How long you been in the village?” he asked me. “Just a month,” I replied. “What about you?” He flicked his cigarette onto the sidewalk, removed his crazy ass sunglasses to smirk at me with his eyeballs, got up, laughed and walked away. I think that means a long time.
The (presumably) post-Pride Scots eating pizza, dressed as purple mermaids
The day I began writing this list was the day of New York’s pride parade, and two days after same sex marriage became legal here. Morale was high. Writing about the aforementioned psychic experience reminded me that I needed to slip out for groceries before the somersaulting gray clouds outside turned into rain. It’s not unusual for me to have to tiptoe down the stoop steps on my way out the door to maneuver around the bodies sitting on them, but this particular afternoon I was greeted by an ocean of whimsical sea creature mermaids from Scotland who were wearing purple wigs and coconut bras. “Is this really happening?” I wondered to myself. “The day I am writing a piece about the strange encounters I have with people on my front stoop is the day I come downstairs to a dude from Glasgow wearing star-shaped sunglasses and a grass skirt?” Believe it! They said they had settled on this resting place after being kicked out of a bar down the street, which totally sucks, but I think they were on ecstasy and they probably really benefited from sitting down and drinking a few gallons of Vitamin water, and then leaving their trash on my stoop when they left. But whatever! Greenwich Village mermaids-on-ecstasy forever.