Location Greenwich Village
Rent $1600 (market)
Square feet 600
Occupants Candice Smith Hansen (photo researcher); “Thirsty” Dave Hansen (singer, Western Caravan; picture framer); Jolene and Lucille (cats)
Your beautiful apartment, with the deep red walls, antique guitars, and gold shower curtain that you bought on your honeymoon in Paris, is entirely at odds with the street outside. In New York these contrasts are often the case. You’re right near that unattractive West 4th Street subway stop. Around there, Sixth Avenue is like the Mississippi River, a fat, gray-green street. On late Friday afternoons, big barges of people move up the sidewalk in the hot yellow sun with the smell of incense and the tables with 1980s Playboys and the pet shop with the lizards and the ice cream store with the old bananas and all those gummy paper cups all over the sidewalk. The only thing remotely attractive is Balducci’s, further north, with the lamb in the window, and Bigelow Drugs, with apricot lotions from France. Frankly, Sixth Avenue around Waverly looks like it’s left over from another time or a bunch of times, though once I saw Meryl Streep outside Starbucks and she was smiling that smile and her children were holding on to her long cotton skirt and she was talking to other parents. [Candice] Ninety percent of anybody who has been to Manhattan has passed in front of our house. [Dave] Especially if they’re German tourists. [Candice] Don’t make fun of the Germans. [Dave] The worst are the bums screaming. Halloween is not our favorite day, the parade. [Candice] I like the parade. But when New York is empty on holiday weekends, everybody left in the city comes to hang out in front of our door. We stay inside a lot. [Dave] Well, we like having dinner parties. We unscrew the bedroom door, put it on sawhorses, and Candice cooks up a storm. [Candice] Yeah, right.
You said you’ve been in the building 12 years. Candice, you’re very rooted in the neighborhood. [Dave] Candice is the queen. She knows everybody. [Candice] Not anymore. I used to. I started living in the Village in 1975. I’m from Sheepshead Bay—my father, Buddy Smith, was a singer. In the ’70s, I was in that big white building on King and Sixth. Two roommates and I were paying $350 to live in a one-bedroom. I was waitressing at the Bitter End. Then I lived 10 years at 24 Fifth, the former hotel. I was with another David then. I worked on the road with different bands—Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon. For 10 years, I managed the Matt Umanov guitar shop on Bleecker.
Now, that’s a street that is so folksy, so early ’60s. You can just hear Dave Van Ronk singing “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon.” So in the 1980s, you met Thirsty Dave at Automatic Slims and at first you were friends but then one thing led to another. [Dave] I came from Providence in ’80. I was living in Williamsburg in a loft on South Fifth right next to the bridge. It was like scary, mean. There were gangs and stuff. It’s the new Soho now. [Candice] No, it’s not. It’s still scuzzy and mean. I wouldn’t live there, I got news for you. [Dave] I don’t know.
So do you go away on weekends or are you here with the leftovers? [Candice] We don’t have a share. If we go away, it’s six, eight weekends a year.
Do you wish you had a share? [Dave] Oh, yeah. [Candice] No. I don’t like to schlep to those places. People always feel like they’ve got to go because they paid the money. [Dave] If we go to someone’s summer place, we always bring some food. Meat from Faicco, bread from Zito. We cook, we clean up. If you invite us for a weekend, it’s like having servants come into your life. [Candice] Just one servant. Not me. [Dave] We’re the best summer guests in the world.