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The Cost of Living

white linesMichelle Rick

If you don’t live here in the East Village, you all naturally assume that we collectively get up around 10:30 a.m., rearrange our dreadlocks, drink coffee while sitting on a fire escape, admire the worn painted ads on the sides of our buildings, and then begin our long day of dance auditions before our bartending gigs start at 5 p.m.

You imagine that our clothes are beautifully tie-dyed and that our jewelry looks like we sprinkled a Tibetan souvenir shop onto ourselves. You picture us writing poetry on a bed of leaves in Tompkins Square Park, only raising our heads to drink wheatgrass smoothies. You are not wrong about any of this, and we are ALL like this.

However, it has recently come to my attention that real estate in the East Village is incredibly expensive.

Expensive to the point where if a group of roommates were to live in a two-bedroom apartment overlooking Pommes Frites and live the lifestyle described above, said group would need to be about 10 people to afford this kind of East Village abode, and that is not including the upkeep of dreads.
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Fear and Loathing on East 4th Street

Jesse Fish

The East Village has historically been visited by and home to a diverse and eclectic variety of artists, musicians and writers. More than 50 years ago it was the domicile of the late drug-ingesting, drink-swilling gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. In the winter of 1959 the 22-year-old Thompson listed his address as 69 East Fourth Street, a residence he shared with a friend.

According to Thompson’s letters in “The Proud Highway” (1997), the native Kentuckian befriended a number of Louisville expatriates while living in downtown Manhattan. Most of “them move in different circles,” he wrote to the editor of a hometown paper, ”and all of them have their own reasons for leaving.” Thompson wrote explained that his story would be “a single shot (Louisville Expatriates in New York) or a series of contrasting interviews.” New York City was not easy for The Good Doctor at this time and he had moved in and out of the area on occasion. While living in Greenwich Village a year before, Thompson wrote an unsolicited letter to a newspaper in British Columbia stating that he would be willing to “work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don’t give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.”

The erratic and spontaneous Thompson, who once stated that he had “no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me,” bounced through a variety of neighborhoods and writing jobs in Manhattan during the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s. During this time he also briefly studied short story writing at Columbia University and wrote a novel, “Prince Jellyfish,” which remains unpublished. The work has been described as “an autobiographical novel about a boy from Louisville, going to the big city and struggling against the dunces to make his way.”

Despite his initial grappling as a young writer in the city, Thompson always had time and money for a few brews and one of his favorite haunts, McSorley’s Old Ale House, is within stumbling distance of the East Fourth Street address. Additionally, the Hell’s Angels New York headquarters are located near this residence on 77 East Third Street. This is interesting to note because Thompson’s first published book, “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” (1966), was a non-fiction publication that Thompson penned while riding with the notorious biking gang in the early 1960’s. It is not known if Thompson ever visited their East Village hangout before the 1966 publication of the book, but the thought of a boozed up and downtrodden young Thompson asleep on the group’s bench outside does not seem incredibly far-fetched.