I recall being in a tiny village one morning in France and seeing the most extraordinary thing - an old man hanging a huge basket of flowers in the town center. Nothing about the deliberate act seemed practical at all. It looked like a lot of work, the kind of beautification effort rarely seen in New York City.
In other medieval villages, there were old men playing boule and chatting. There were markets. And if I was lucky, there were church bells. There is nothing more evocative than being in a small town and hearing the peal of church bells. I am happy that I am not a devout atheist - it would be much more difficult to appreciate the great churches and temples of the world.
I met author Terry Miller once, at a signing for the release of his book Greenwich Village And How It Got That Way. In speaking to him, I made a remark regarding the over-commercialization of many areas of Greenwich Village. He was quite quick to retort, "Where else are you going to live - Europe?"
I have reflected on this for years. I don't dislike the United States - as I have met people from other countries over the years, I have gotten to appreciate this country more. But I do love Europe. And I do believe Greenwich Village has the closest thing in the United States to the ambiance of the older neighborhoods of cities and towns of Europe - the food, arts, culture, street life and architecture, with its hundreds of 19th century row houses.
As I walked through the South Village along Thompson Street recently, I heard the ringing of church bells coming from St. Anthony's Church (officially the Church of St. Anthony of Padua), which runs from Sullivan to Thompson Street along Houston Street. I ran hurriedly to record it, expecting only to get a few final rings for the 11th hour. The ringing, however, continued for quite some time. I discovered that there was a funeral being held, explaining the long ringing. I can not tell you for whom the death knell tolled, but it called to me and I went...
Photo Note: The tall slim tower in the left photo is the bell tower.