I’m staying at my brother’s pied a terre in NYC.
This little “foot on the ground” is perfectly located in the heart of the Village. When I open the bedroom curtains each morning, I look down at the White Horse Tavern, the watering hole most famous for being one of the poet Dylan Thomas’ favourite haunts, and the last place he had a drink before he died.
It’s rumoured his ghost still haunts the establishment but the White Horse was frequented by many a literary notable besides Thomas.
The infamous spot was long a popular hangout for poets and writers including Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Anais Nin. Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac hung out there; Kerouac apparently was kicked out of the White Horse often, prompting someone to scrawl JACK GO HOME! on the bathroom wall.
The White Horse was also a gathering place for many musicians during the Village’s heyday in the 60’s. Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary), and Jim Morrison of The Doors all hung out there, along with the Clancy Brothers who also performed there.
The tavern is remembered for having once been a rendezvous for activists and labor members, organizers and socialists, and the idea for the Village Voice was born around one of their tables. In fact, the Voice’s first offices were just a few blocks away from the White Horse, and much of the early content was discussed and developed at the Tavern by the paper’s original editors.
The White Horse opened in 1880, but was not known as a literary hub until Dylan Thomas and other (Beat Generation) writers began spending time there during the early 50s. The place most famous for being the location of Dylan Thomas’ last drink before falling ill and dying in 1953, commemorates the poet’s patronage by serving the last meal he ate (at the White Horse) before he died, each year on the anniversary of his death.
No doubt these days, yet another Generation of aspiring writers frequent the tables and booths that have seated so many others before them.
It feels quite right that I look out onto this historical Village landmark each morning during my stay here in the City, as I am here to see my Literary Agent about a book I’ve been working on (and off during my illness), about my NY family for the past two years.
Last night I had dinner at Lucky Strike (a long time favourite bistro of mine in SOHO) with another writer friend, Tom Folsom, who spent time in Taos (at the Wurlitzer Foundation), while working on his book about Dennis Hopper, Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream.
As I walk these streets each day, familiar to me after years of living Downtown before moving to Taos, I am reminded that I retrace the footsteps of so many writers with every step I take. It’s inspiring to say the least.
I’m in the City till Tuesday, I’ll have another dispatch from here on Monday before I head back to the Mountains.
Have a great weekend, wherever you are.
Top photos Stock Files, bottom pic taken on my iphone