On the Streets of Greenwich Village

On the Streets of Greenwich Village ON THE TOWN -- October 1996

ON THE TOWN -- October 1996

Tucked between skyscrapers, business suits and super megastores is New York City's village, Greenwich Village. In this place of winding streets, eccentric shops and classic brownstones, anything goes. Upon your next evening on the town, meander for a few hours among the Village curios. You'll find them in the stores, on the streets and under the stars.

The Village, with its gridless roads, dates back to Colonial times, when country estates decked the area. In the 1790's the region was subdivided into narrower lots for the new order tradesmen and small shop owners. Their homes stood along streets that followed the old estate property lines. When Manhattan was later "officially" plotted as a geometrical grid, it was too late to change those streets.

Those streets felt the footsteps of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, e e cummings, Walt Whitman, Henry James, O. Henry, Norman Rockwell, Bob Dylan and Eugene O'Neill. American-Bohemian culture was born and bred on those streets. Today, the Village is an urban community, where the rich and famous share breathing space with students, strugglers, artists, immigrants and shoppers.

If it's eccentric or musical, it's in the Village. Quaint shops sell everything from discontinued albums and antique clothing to pop art, while piano bars, jazz clubs and punk-rock joints dot the streets. There are many coffee shops and street-side cafés to explore.

Prime "exploring" time is October, when the Village colors are most vivid. On October 31, 1996, the annual Village Halloween parade promises to dazzle with colorful, creative costumes. This year, the theme is "Glow in the Dark." The parade runs along Sixth Avenue, from Houston to 23rd Street. Just follow the stars.

Experience Bohemia on Broadway at Rent, Jonathan Larson's award-winning musical. Unless you are just waking from a coma or returning from Mars, you have surely heard the rage about this rock soap opera, a contemporary version of Puccini's La Bohème. This gritty look at young life in the East Village sets off many musical and dramatic gems. The costumes inspired a line at Bloomingdales; the movie rights set off a million-dollar bidding war; and the Boston production opens November 18. Rent plays at the Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41st Street; call 212-921-8000 for tickets.