Column #103 Greenwich Village
May 1, 2001
Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to be so good
They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home
Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned.
– Bob Dylan (1966)
Almost four centuries ago and for the equivalent of less than I spent on beer last night, the crafty Dutchman Peter Minuit closed what simply has to have been the deal of the last Millennium. According to papers recently discovered in the sub-basement of an old Greenwich Village coffee house, after days of doin’ the peace pipe thing with a group of Indians, Minuit successfully traded a mere “wooden shoe, a leather pouch of tulip bulbs and a weight-challenged girl named Annemieke” for the whole of Manhattan Island. “It really weren’t a biggie,” Minuit was quoted years later. “In fact, it weren’t even ’bout the land. We just wanted to dump the fat chick.”
The next milestone in the evolution of possibly the most famous, most fascinating, neighborhood in the world — the “Village” — occurred in 1646 when the mighty British Fleet sailed up the Hudson River. As any kid who’s studied American history well knows, the Dutch went down with barely a whimper. In fact, Peter Stuyvesant, the governor at the time, pretty much confirmed this the morning after the battle.
“Fuhgeddaboudit! I’s sittin’ on toity-two. Da hairy Brit muddah steps up ta da line, lookin’ at 126. He strokes. Nineteen. Trippah nineteen! Bull!! Da muddah stoned me, man. Wok’d off wit me whole damn tobbacah plantation.”
Then nothing much of consequence happened.
Oh, there was the American Revolution. The Brits sailed home with their darts in their cases and millions of elk, deer and chipmunks were again free to roam the wilds of Manhattan Island. There was a smallpox and yellow fever epidemic in the early 1800’s and a bunch of people died. In the early 1900’s somebody built some buildings. The Village survived this cement invasion though, maintaining its neighborly, residential feel because its bedrock was too soft to support the weight of two-hundred story skyscrapers.
I suppose some other stuff of minor note, at least compared to the Big Event, also occurred along the streets of the Village. As the heart of Bohemian life, the Village became the symbol of the repudiation of traditional values in America. Eccentric “Beat” poets and coffee house existentialists did their repudiatin’ here. Rebel actors studied the “Method” and did their repudiatin’ here. The Village spawned the sexual revolution, women’s liberation and gay rights. Yep, there was a whole lotta repudiatin’ goin’ on.
And there was a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on too. And smokin’. It is to the Village that Bob Dylan traces his musical roots. And Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Jimmy Hendricks, among so many others. Edgar Allen Poe took a nip of opium, was inspired by a pigeon, and wrote The Raven here. It is said that Timothy Leary “discovered” LSD while living in the Village.
Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ ‘long the street.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ on the floor.
They’ll stone ya when you’re walkin’ to the door.
But I would not feel so all alone.
Everybody must get stoned.
But it was in 1950 that the Big Event happened: the Kettle of Fish opened for business on MacDougal Street and, according to lore, the first of many dartboards to follow took up a prominent location on a wall inside. In the late 1970’s the Kettle was relocated to Third Avenue. In 1999, its current owners — Patrick Daley and Adrian Kufta — moved it to its current location at 59 Christopher Street. It is here that I have spent the past eight hours of my life.
Ain’t no two ways about it: the Kettle of Fish is a cozy, neighborhood kinda pub. It’s easy to miss, tucked away as it is between so many similar looking store fronts. But the moment you clasp the worn, wooden, fish-shaped handle of the old front door, pull it open, and step inside you are certain to feel surrounded by friends. I hit the head straight away only to be greeted by dozens of small green fish, lurking about in odd, unnatural, places. As the evening wore on I am fairly sure that the one directly above the urinal winked at me. Of what I am absolutely certain is that I responded in kind by hosing the little wanker. Sorry Patrick and Adrian.
The room is small and dark. The ceilings are low. The music is superb; it takes you back to a familiar place in time. As I picked my way through the crowd of patrons at the bar on the right it was entirely natural, almost expected, that the harmonica and gravely wail of Dylan’s Rainy Day Woman mixed with the smoke and conversation.
They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table.
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able.
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck.
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say ‘good luck’.
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone.
Everybody must get stoned.
Past the jukebox and a comfortable setting of couches to the left, I continued my way through the crowd to familiar territory. My plan was to meet up with a half-dozen members of New Jersey’s notorious Dart Hacker’s Club – guys with tough sounding monikers like Big Dog and Lawn Tractor — and throw some darts. As it turned out, only one member of their crew, Chris Erner, was brave enough to show up. Thanks to a nine-mark from God, I got the best of him. That was my strongest showing of the night.
As it happens, the Kettle is the home bar to a powerful team of women called the Kettle of BITCH. The bad, bad word is actually a creative acronym for “Babe in Total Control of Herself,” although it seems to me that it is also a sort of oxymoron like, say, “marijuana initiative” or “butt head”.
Anyway, I found myself in the middle of what is almost certainly the strongest all-female league team in the nation. Captained by Kaem Coughlin, the nine-lady contingent also counts Tina DiGregorio and Suzana Vaccaro among its number. After their friends Jim Eisenhardt, Mike Brabham, Tom Kovach and Finn Melchior stomped me pretty good I lined up to take on the ladies. Three of ’em, one after the other. Something I’ve fantasized about for years. Yep, we’ve got acronyms, oxymorons and double entendres hangin’ from the rafters in here.
Well , they’ll stone ya and say that it’s the end.
Then they’ll stone ya and then they’ll come back again.
They’ll stone ya when you’re ridin’ in your car.
They’ll stone ya when you’re playin’ your guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone.
Everybody must get stoned.
First up was Kaem, although we never technically left the table. The problem was that I asked her a question. A simple question, I thought. “Hey Kaem, can you tell me where exactly I am in relation to the Laguardia Airport and downtown Manhattan?” Well, a half-hour later, while others pounded away on the two dartboards across from the fireplace next to where we sat, Kaem completed her answer. Using a cell phone, matchbook, cigarette package, a dart and a can of beer to represent Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Brooklyn, Kaem pretty much convinced me that, all things considered, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know where I was.
Next up was Suzana, although we never technically left the table either. Now Suzana, I strongly suspect, was clued-in to my taste in women. Perhaps she reads my column? And knowing, as I’m sure she does, that she possessed those particular assets which cause my eyes to glaze, I have no doubt it wasn’t by accident that she spent so much time talking with me, playin’ with me, like the proverbial cat does with a crippled mouse. She told me she lived “just a short walk” up the road, near the Empire State Building. She said she was planning to go to the coming weekend’s shoot in Philadelphia and asked me if I was planning to attend. Anyway, the short story is that Suzana left early with her boyfriend before I had an opportunity to check out her assets at the line.
Well, they’ll stone ya when you walk all alone.
It was getting late when Tina and I finally stepped up to throw. Me in jeans and a dart shirt. The always un-opinionated, red-headed, Tina in a little dress, a deceptively roomy sweater and some kind of fancy boots with high heels. Hmmm.
We cork. Tina sticks a red bull. Calls 501. She steps up, and although I no longer remember the combination of marks, pops in 149 points. I follow with a score of five. Not bad considering that Tina’s ranked fourth in the country and I’m distracted by her outfit.
They’ll stone ya when you are walkin’ home.
Tina wiggles her way back to the line, tosses back her locks, and throws up 140. I follow this with a 42.
The score: DiGregorio – 222; Dartoid – 454. I’m down 232 points. I’ve got her just where I want her.
They’ll stone ya and then say that you are brave.
Eleven darts later — and before the very eyes of Chris Erner, the only bonafide New Jersey tough guy that it appears I really know — Tina completed her dismantling of my rugged male ego by closing 52 for a 17-darter, leaving me with 366 on the board and a nine points per dart average for the match.
Tina kindly shook my hand with her dainty one and asked me if I wanted lessons. Tough guy Erner’s reaction was even worse: “Yo Dahdoid! Whaddya, stoopid? Youse jus’ got whup’ by a goil.”
They’ll stone ya when you are set down in your grave.
Yep, I done got stoned by Tina DiGregorio. But…
But I would not feel so all alone. Everybody must get stoned.
I shall return. To the Kettle of Fish. It’s a damn fine place to spend an evening.
From the Field,
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