East Village Surprises

The East Village may be less en vogue than the West Village but for sure it has its charms as well. One of them is the little church St. Marks in the Bowery.

I went there because this morning I looked for places to stay during my last month and found a charming one at 2nd Avenue and 10th Street. As I didn’t have other plans for the day I decided to visit the East Village and check out the location. I had to finish a literary walk there anyway.

The N train took me to Union Square. From there I walked down 4th Avenue to 10th Street and turned East. 10th Street is one of the more elegant ones in the East Village if there is something to call elegant at all. Buildings look appealing and seem to be in good condition. Between 3rd and 2nd Avenue I came across an ice cream parlor and suddenly felt in need of something refreshing. It was not really hot, but the sun was shining from a blue sky. There was a chilly wind though but it was not so perceivable in the narrow streets. I fell for salted caramel. It was nothing compared to Ample Hill’s salted caramel crunch or whatever they call it, but definitely above standard.
When I approached 2nd Avenue I realized that I had been there before and that this is probably the nicest corner in the East Village at all. Stuyvesant Streets comes in and forms a triangle with 10th Street at St. Marks in the Bowery. Benches are grouped around the little square and lions are around. I fell in love with the site and desperately hope to get a positive answer for the room there.
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At the fence around St. Marks I spotted a greenish leaflet announcing a concert this afternoon at 3 pm, chamber music. I looked at my watch. It was 2:50. The concert was free. I walked in. The interior of the church was absolutely surprising. There is nothing that makes it look like a church. It is empty. No pews, no altar, not even a cross. Just some plastic chairs and a piano. They do have church services there on Sundays. How?
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A man sitting behind a table hands me a stack of paper. The program, information about the artists and the texts of the vocal pieces. There will be a piano, a cello, a viola, a violin, and oboe and a baritone. We get Telemann, Brahms, Klughardt and Dvorak. The black baritone sings Brahms in German. His pronunciation is not the best but his voice is powerful. The pianist is an elderly lady with a Juilliard’s degree. She is the boss and she is remarkable. Her hands are dancing on the keyboard and crossing each other. It was a good idea to get in.

Before I started continuing my walk I checked out Oda House, a Georgian restaurant at Avenue B and 5th Street and decided to have dinner there later.
My walk took me through streets with community gardens, creative little shops and unusual restaurants, like an Argentinian one, to places where Allen Ginsberg, Charlie Parker, Frank O’Hara and W.H. Auden lived.
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I cut it short, because it started getting dark and I got hungry. Alphabet City still has a rough touch but it is not dangerous.

Oda House is almost full at 6 pm. I get the last available table. The menu offers a great variety of appetizers, filled breads as a specialty and a couple of meat, fish and vegetable entrees. The wine list shows only Georgian wines, starting at 8$ a glass. I decide on a lamb and eggplant dish in a clay pot and a glass of red wine. As I do not know anything about Georgian wine I just choose the first one on the list. The wine is a surprise, it is really dry and has a peppery note. I had expected something empty and sweetish. My clay pot comes covered with a kind of pita bread, but not as soft as pita. Inside there are cubes of lamb, tomatoes, red peppers, eggplants and potatoes. It is nicely seasoned with herbs and garnished with just the right amount of pepperiness. It reminds me of a Turkish Güvec. At the table next to me two servings of dumplings get switched and the two young women, speaking a language sounding like Russian, go crazy. The one who gets the dumplings with pork filling doesn’t eat meat and the other one is pregnant and allergic towards mushrooms. The mistake is not noticed before the one who expected mushrooms bites into pork and spits it out on her plate. The hostess acts stubborn and stupid. Although it was clearly the waiter’s fault she accuses the woman of not having noticed the mistake before biting into the dumpling. They want a new serving of meat dumplings and refuse the mushroom dumplings. When it doesn’t come the ask for the cheque “to get out of here”. There are endless discussions. They pay with a 100$ note. The poor waitress who is in charge of the table but has nothing to do with the fault at all apologizes several times and tries to calm them down. Unsuccessfully. They want the names of the hostess and the waiter who made the mistake. I feel sorry for the waitress. She was so friendly and did a real good job.

What I learned today:
Be open to surprises, they tend to give you something.

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