I just returned from an all-too short trip to New York, one of my favorite places to visit. Like every one of my previous dozen or so jaunts to the Big Apple, I experienced very different people, hot spots and neighborhoods that always make the city seem “new” with each visit.
The purpose of this trip was to see Wilco, a band I probably could’ve seen in Atlanta or Nashville just as easily, although the offer of a free ticket and place to crash made the airfare and opportunity to see New York again a much better bargain in my mind.
My friend was staying in Brooklyn, a borough I’d only visited once before. The “now place” for those looking to experience the cool factor of New York on a low budget, Brooklyn is a city all its own and likely a place I’ll explore even more on the next trip.
Most of our time was spent in Greenwich Village. I’d run across some of its footprint on previous journeys, but again, I saw things on this trip that made it seem new to me. We discovered the Village Voice’s No. 1 dive bar—Nancy Whisky—the city’s answer to our own Pickle Barrel featuring good music and cold beers that didn’t require you to break a ten.
We spent a good amount of time both nights on MacDougal Street, a proving ground for artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to comedian Louis C.K. among countless others. This strip of clubs, restaurants, coffee shops and bars is now a haven for people like us who just want to take it all in. We ate at Artichoke Pizza, its namesake slice likely the tastiest treat ever baked on crust, saw the famed Comedy Cellar featured in the opening credits of C.K.’s show “Louie” and visited Café Wha?, the legendary music club that helped launch Dylan, Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other household names we now take for granted.
On the plane ride home, I recounted my visit with some sort of notion that I might justify the outlay of money that I didn’t have, or at least probably didn’t need to spend. But the more I thought about the impending credit card bill, the more I appreciated the fact that I’ll likely never see all of what that city has to offer whether I ever choose to live there or not. And it made me think about Chattanooga.
Even though you could fit our entire city neatly within any one of New York’s boroughs with enough room to spare for Nashville as well, there are pockets of our town that many who live here don’t take advantage of experiencing.
I like to tell the story of when I moved from the North Shore to the Southside seven years ago. I’d spent most of my adult years north of the river and had accumulated many friends and favorite hangouts over there. When I moved down south however, there awaited a whole new set of friends and places to explore. Like any downtown Chattanoogan, I assumed that people my age knew everyone on either side of the Walnut Street Bridge. I quickly learned, however, that people on each end of town keep their neighborhoods close to the vest, without much desire to encounter other people and places that are literally within walking distance. To me this was an oddity that, if positive at all, at least meant Chattanooga was a little bigger than I imagined.
Then I thought back to something a friend living in New York mentioned to me on this visit. She said those she’d met up there are very neighborhood loyal, even to the point of discounting the viability of dating someone in another part of Manhattan. Wow. Maybe everyone’s perception of the world is a little smaller than I thought, even though there’s plenty of it to see.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.