I thank the pleasant waiter and tip him generously. I enjoy tipping well – it means they will be delighted to see me next time, and will greet me with a smile and good service. I leave the Sullivan St. Bistro and I intend to come back. There are good people that go there and the food is fresh, the wine is delicious, and reading is easy if you brought a good book. I enjoy going to dinner alone in New York City. There is a table made just for me in one of these restaurants, no matter what state of mind or hunger or company I am in. It doesn’t matter who I am or what I do. It doesn’t matter if I am alone or with a date or with a party. The table is mine, and it’s patiently waiting. All I need is the money.
It was light when I entered the Bistro, but now it is dark and Sullivan Street has the feel of a football game during kickoff. As I pass by the busy cafes, bars, antique shops and boutiques of Greenwich Village I sense that what I am really observing is the inner workings of a gigantic clock. Every piece serves a vital function to the life of this city, and I start to see their effect on a grand scale – an easy task as the Freedom Tower elegantly dominates the skyline in front of me. Greenwich Village is beautiful all the time, but I enjoy it most at night. I get a sense of comfort passing by its plethora of restaurants with candlelight shimmering on the tables and being dimly reflected in the wineglasses of its guests. You cannot easily see the chef baking her cupcakes in the daytime unless you decide to go inside, but at night the bright kitchen draws the eye to the meticulousness of her artistry. Walking through The Village in the dark has a strange sense of security, knowing that I can glimpse into the shops and cafes and they cannot see me outside in the dim street. The people look happy, or busy, which to me is the same thing when I am only passing by. They are the only feelings people have time for, anyway, if they live in Manhattan.
As I cross Houston street, I know which route I want to take home. I turn left onto Prince Street. It is my favorite street at the moment. It makes me happy to think that for the next ten blocks I will be welcomed by the same kind of niche shops and quiet cafes and tasteful restaurants. The transition is very noticeable from The Village to SoHo to Nolita and they are my favorite neighborhoods, I think. It is impossible to know for sure, because every day the city changes or I change or my mood is different. But tonight this is my favorite street and these are my favorite neighborhoods.
As I turn onto Mulberry Street and start the walk through Little Italy I notice the green, white and red colors that set the tone for every restaurant. I walk at a brisk pace so that the Italians know for sure that I am not a tourist, and maybe then they will not try to talk me into eating in their restaurants. As I turn onto Canal Street, I remind myself that I should not blame them – it has doubtlessly become a reflex for them by now. They are the same as the Chinatown peddlers whose words have become such a fixture in my daily life that I know I will never forget them. I see the same three women outside of my apartment every single day, and after seeing me pass them one thousand times at least, I will open my door tomorrow, walk five steps and hear those words, “Watches? Watches? Purses? Handbags?”
This is Chinatown and it completes the transformation of the city. I enjoy Chinatown. The food is good and cheap and it is a beautiful walk wherever I decide to go from here. And I know that at the end of any day I will be happy after the walk home.