By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
West of Perry the really high-end boutiques have taken up residence, replacing what Sietsema terms "all those little gay-owned antique stores." But it's not the paucity of 18th-century French armoires that nearly brings tears to his eyes, it's the demise of the Chatterbox, which he calls his beloved laundromat. (Can there be such a thing?) For the record, the premises are now occupied by Robert Marc, an eyeglass store.
Suddenly I see Sietsema's nostrils flarethis is not just a figure of speech! I saw it! He is staring with undisguised disgust at a line of fresh-faced happy people curled around the Magnolia Bakery, the place world-famous for its cupcakes, the place made to look as if it's on Main Street in some one-horse whistlestop instead of down the block from the Brunello Cucinelli cashmere store. Sietsema takes one look at those iced treats and snarls, "They're poison."
He reminds me that the Magnolia replaced a pet store, which I seem to recall was called Birds of Paradise, or some such, and had a lot of indoor foliage and was hot as hell and sold toucans. "And ibises!" Sietsema says. "Well, maybe not ibises. Their legs are too long. But lots of fun birds!"
We seek out number 411, the site of the Paris Commune restaurant and now a James Perse shop. (It's just down the block from where Lauren Bacall lived when she was crowned Miss Greenwich Village 1942.) Marc Jacobs used to like to eat at the Paris Commune, and it's supposedly where he first cooked up the plan that led, perhaps unwittingly, to the destruction of the old Bleecker Street. "What a cute little block!" Jacobs reportedly thought one evening, shoving a bite of tartine into his mouth. "I think I'll open a little store here." And so it happened that Marc opened store after store on Bleecker, and Ralph, Tommy, Cynthia, Steve, et al. duly followed suit.
At this point Sietsema decides he's had enough and, no, he doesn't wish to accompany me into the Marc Jacobs shop just across the street from his house, the one where Marc had the genius idea of selling trinkets and trifles for $10 and $15.
So I go in alone and briefly consider an Op-Art belt for $25. Then I realize that I'm hungry, I want something sweet! I make sure that Sietsema has gone up to his apartment and isn't looking out the window, and then, with deep shame, I join the cupcake line.