Let me talk a bit about bathrooms…

There are none in Manhattan.

I was telling my friend this and he said, of course there are – they are labeled Starbucks, a term from the Dutch settlers meaning toilet. This welcoming chain has hosted many non-coffee drinkers seeking relief, and I know where almost every Starbucks is located. My Midwestern sensibility compels me to buy something, though, when I use the facilities.

Last week, stopping with a friend not for an iced coffee, but a beer from a store on Avenue C, I rediscovered one of my favorite places in Manhattan: Alphabet City, in the East Village – formerly home to squatters and drug dealers. The designation Alphabet City is kind of a throwback to the area’s former criminal activity, so it’s mostly referred to now as the East Village. I love the slightly seedy, old quality of some of the buildings and the untouched facades. It still has lots of charm, and new development is required to keep the low-rise character of the neighborhood. During the daytime, it’s not bustling with throngs of camera toting tourists, yet it’s bustling with daily life. Walk down most any block and tucked away between buildings you will see tiny, gated parks, community gardens with names like 2Bn2C, and Earth People Community Garden. Beautiful and well tended, sanctuaries amid the clamor of the city, the gardens are locked at night and managed by volunteers. I think there are at least 50 in the neighborhood. We spent the day on a shady old bench in one of them, enjoying the sights and sounds and a couple beers. The hours passed and suddenly feeling the..um..urge for a Starbucks, we bid farewell.

I headed back out into the hum of the city (with an iced coffee) before catching the train home.

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