Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Mitali East, Indian restaurant.
Mitali East, the sister restaurant of one that used to be around the corner from the Friends' building.
The former CBGB is now an upscale clothing store.
315 Bowery at Bleecker Street, John Varvados boutique, formerly CBGB.
P.S. 3, diagonally across from the building.
The Friends apartment building again, with Central Perk on the ground floor.
90 Bedford Street at Grove Street, where the the gang lived on Friends.
The house across the street dates back to 1822.  Rachel briefly lived next door to it.

Two doors down, 86 Bedford, legendary speakeasy Chumley's is undergoing construction after a chimney collapse.
Chumley's main entrance at 58 Barrow Street around the corner.
The Washington Square arch, Greenwich Village icon.
W.U. 1883 can be seen carved at the peak.  Now a bank with luxury condos.
The 1883 Western Union uptown branch in the shadow of the 1902 Flatiron Building.

A high-tech port-o-san in Madison Square.  I don't know why I took a picture of this.
It's 5:00, that means Friends is on! It's become part of my routine ... watching the TBS sitcom lineup ... "Very Funny". I've always hated that slogan ... it's like calling yourself "Very cool" or something. Anyway, I've got to get these Lean Pockets in the microwave ... Friends is on! Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

They happened to be showing that last episode this evening ... where Chandler and Monica move out of the apartment on Bedford and Grove Streets in the West Village, up to a house in Westchester. I think the reason I'm into the show is specifically because it is a New York show, and I love to point out city locations. I decide to take a walk down to the building on Bedford and Grove and I'm feeling pretty energetic so I think it's doable. By the time I get down to Madison Square Park, I see that the park now has a state-of-the-art port-o-potty. An electronic port-o-potty of the future!

I also notice a small ornate building in the shadow of the Flatiron Building, on the southwest corner of 23rd and 5th. The peak reads, W.U. 1883. So that must be the year it was built, but what does "W.U." mean, I wonder. When I got home later that night, I found out that W.U. stood for "Western Union". This was the original office, and messages used to be sent 2 1/2 miles to a downtown office via pneumonic tube.

By the time I got to Washington Square Park, I make a right on Macdougal Street, and come across Bedford Street. From there I walk straight a few blocks until I come across Chumley's, 86 Bedford Street, a storied literary hangout that collapsed into itself in April 2007. There's been talk of it being repaired and reopened even this year, but now it is still just a construction site. The unmarked door, #86, was a secret entrance during Prohibition, and supposedly the expression to "86" something, meaning to get rid of it or end it, comes from the owners telling to patrons to "86" out the back door when police raided.

Often tourists want to know where the real Central Perk is, the coffee shop that the gang hangs out in on the show, but that's just a studio out in California. On the ground floor of the building there is a little red cafe called, "The Little Owl", but it is about a quarter of the size of what is depicted on the show, and looks nothing like it. I like how the show found this building, though, and used it for authenticity, considering it is on a rather narrow, hidden street in the village.

The closing credits of the last episode show scenes of the West Village, and I try to figure out where they are exactly. It's mostly just unidentifiable streets, but there is also the Jefferson Market Library on 10th and 6th, and Washington Square. I did see one place called Metali West, so I looked it up online. It's a Five Guys now, but there is still a Metali East in the East Village.

The other corners of the intersection are interesting as well. Across the street is the home of window-maker William Hyde, built 1822, where author James Baldwin often stayed. Diagonally across is P.S. 3, where the Marquis de Lafayette was taken when he wanted to see the best example of the New York public school system, while visiting the United States in 1824.

I go around the corner to Bleeker Street, and after finding the former Metali West, (which I'm pretty sure I came across before, months ago, coming froma another direction ... boy, the West Village is confusing) I decide to walk its length all the way to its end at the Bowery, the site of the former CBGBs. As the New York Songlines webmaster wrote, "All roads may lead to Rome, but Bleeker Street led to CBGB's.

My cousin's hair salon is around the corner, a little street, Elizabeth between Houston and Bleeker, which in the mid-1980s got the notorious nickname "Crackhead Alley". I told her this once and she said that now the street should be called "Pothead Alley". I also asked her if she'd ever been to CBGBs, a place I've got to admit I wish I had visited when I had the chance, and she told me it was just a overpriced bar with bad service, kind of overrated, like most things. When I'm down around here, I sometimes feel like I should stop in and say hello, but I know she's very busy so I don't.

Before I head home, I've got to find Metali East, hidden on 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue, and so I do, in a basement location with the same sign, even though it is the only Metali left ... no "East" needed any longer.

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