…is that for the six years I lived there I walked many, many times a week past a peculiar building at No. 50, a kind of New York structure, known as a “store front,” that might house a Chinese laundry or a dry cleaner/tailor or any of a kind of neighborhood service establishment that no longer exists in this day of coffee bars and restaurants that weren’t even there last week and this week are trendy.
Outside No. 50, several times a day, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, there might be a scattered gathering of men and women, all ages, all genders, bikers, businessmen and women, arty types, actors, dancers, drinking coffee out of Styrofoam containers, smoking cigarettes (this was the 80s), talking animately, often laughing.
I had no fucking idea who they were or what they were up to. The best explanation I could come up with was that they were social/political activists/anarchists. One day, the girl friend who lived at No. 33 told me No. 50 was a meeting place of Alcoholics Anonymous, known, I learned years later, as the Perry Street Workshop. In my mind, if not in fact, I started walking on the other side of the street, for I didn’t want to catch alcoholism. In reality, though I didn’t suspect it at the time, I was afraid they’d look me over and call out to me that I was one of them and had better come inside and catch a meeting.
I drank alcoholically for another decade after leaving Perry Street, until May 3, 1991. (At a meeting I went to in the fall of 1991, at the West Side YMCA, I bumped into the old girl friend, who was also newly sober.)
So here’s a map of Perry Street and its coincidences: