All Krohn Up | Welcome to New York, Now Live

krohn2Dana Varinsky It was either this or a shot of him spinning the cube.

The college kids are back – in droves. Maybe you remember what it was like to be an innocent in the East Village. If not, meet Jonathan Krohn, a member of N.Y.U.’s class of 2016. Actually, you may already know him: he was a “Time 100” finalist at the age of 14, and just two years later wrote his second book, “Defining Conservatism.” His thinking has evolved since then, but like any freshman he’s still got a lot to learn. And you, oh jaded Villager, could learn a thing or two from him. Hence, his weekly column about life as a neighborhood newbie.

“Welcome to the East Village.” Something no one said to me when I first arrived here.

My first night in the East Village went a little something like this: About thirty minutes after I left my dorm on Third Avenue a balding, stocky middle-aged man attempted to get me to hold his keys, wallet, license, and wedding band in exchange for me paying him gas money. I ran off. An hour later I encountered a scantily clad woman (I was told she was a prostitute) who was very high. She rolled around on the ground, screaming that someone was coming for her, and threw her backpack into the little pond in the center of Washington Square Park. I left the park with some nice jazz musicians from Brooklyn who took me up MacDougal Street, where I was then hit on by a transsexual. I screamed at some point around there. We don’t have these things in the suburbs of Atlanta. Or at least, we don’t have all of them in one neat little area.

Maybe I should introduce myself. Back home, I used to fancy myself a conservative pundit. More accurately, I was a 13-year-old who thought he knew everything there was to know about politics and happened to have grown up with and around conservatives. I published a couple books and some horrible columns on the subject and after about a year in the spotlight I decided to try and reevaluate everything. During this time of reflection I began to immerse myself in a study of philosophy and classic cinema and when the time came for me to apply to universities, N.Y.U seemed a perfect spot for its top ranked programs in both fields. And so, here I am.

And there I was. After a bit of post-shock therapy with the musicians who had brought me with them down MacDougal – and by therapy I mean they laughed at me – I was ready to get as far away from that location as I possibly could. I remember the return to my dorm as a blur: one of my companions had to tell me how to get back to 14th Street and from there I ran and ran and ran as fast as I possibly could. After running for a few blocks – actually, I think it was after I passed a bespectacled middle-aged man in a tutu with a receding hairline – I realized that I couldn’t run away from this strange new environment. I was now a part of it.

I consider that night my “christening” as an East Villager. Or at least, the beginning of my christening. Or my pre-christening. My Village rebirth. Whatever.

Now I must admit that I know there is somewhat of a not-so-flattering stereotype that East Villagers have of N.Y.U. kids, which probably goes something along the lines of “smartass, wanna-be partier, rich kid.” But I guess I’m not your average N.Y.U.-er (I’ve never been laid or invited to parties; I’ve never smoked weed; I was disowned by my middle-class father) so I’m probably not the best person to debunk these sentiments. But I would like to point out that most other N.Y.U. kids I’ve met believe that they can handle anything because they’re finally free and independent. They still think they can “conquer” the Village. You can’t conquer the Village. Either you co-exist with it or you let the Village conquer you.

Now, I’ve obviously got a lot more to learn about the East Village. I’m still getting used to seeing old drunks rummaging through ice coolers while muttering something about Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I’m still getting used to the random guy on the street corner telling all passers-by he’s selling marijuana and cocaine. And then there’s the racist who got off the subway in Union Square calling me and my fellow Jews “a category” (I don’t even know what that means). And I’m still getting used to the wonderful set of writers that is, in many ways, the heart and soul of our community.

What do I think of the East Village? I’m really not sure yet, to be brutally honest. I’m still trying to figure it out. Though, I gather that even those that have lived here for years are still trying to figure out exactly what to make of our shared home. But I’ll try to find out. And if I do, maybe I’ll share it with you. If I can find my way back to 14th by myself next time.