One of the longest and most satisfying relationships I have had in NYC has been with Phillip, my postal delivery person.
I have lived in NYC since 1987, thirty years the past July. (Wow!)
Since 1995, I’ve had a rental apartment in the West Village, near Bleecker and Christopher Streets.
Over those 22 years, I have gotten to know many of the “lifers” in the building by face. Watched them (and myself) grow older as our stabilized rents slowly rise.
I just know two of them by name, probably only from necessity. My neighbor Orlando, who, in times of unexpected need has helped me over the years in countless ways (and vice versa.) And my super, Sam, who has also helped me greatly in times of need. I have not reciprocated Sam’s help (due to the nature of our relationship,) but I do tip him generously, and I treat him with kindness and respect. I appreciate both of these men.
The neighborhood I live in has changed dramatically over these 22 years. When I moved in, the West Village was iconic: an eclectic, character-filled neighborhood filled with history, grit, spice, color, and diversity. Real New Yorkers lived there. There were grocery stores, corner delis, “Mom and Pop” businesses populating the streets.
Then things started changing in the late ’90s. Many of us blame “Sex and The City” and those damn cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery for the neighborhood’s demise.
Slowly, but surely, high-end fashion stores began taking over leases on Bleecker. Rents started rising, often astronomically. The “Mom and Pops” couldn’t afford them and were pushed out. The people who serviced these businesses with whom I’d developed working relationships disappeared with the neighborhood’s uniqueness.
In the last 17 or so years I’ve seen an ever-changing sea of young people who seem to be fairly affluent come in and out of the landscape of my building. We are now a mainly transitory residential building. The “lifers” have started to die off of move to supportive care.
There are some of us still there, adapting, as we humans do, to the changes in our environment. Holding out, and on, to our apartments.
We grumble about missing the West Village From Before. It had authenticity. It felt alive, pulsing, slightly dangerous, but in a good way.
We curse under our breath at the hordes of people who now walk on the Bleecker of today that looks just like Madison Ave. (At least before the tourists who came were interesting.) Fork out bucks for Starbucks or French coffees and steer clear of the obnoxious lines that still form in front of that damn bakery thanks to food and “Sex and the City” tours.
But one thing has withstood this tsunami of development.
Philip, my mailman.
He initiated our relationship years ago. I’d be out and about running an errand in the ‘hood and hear my name and a friendly hello. There he was. Philip.
I learned his name, and over the years grew to really appreciate him. Not just for his warmth. He always puts the mail in my box in a very organized way: no cramming or stuffing items willy-nilly.
When I go out of town, without me having to do anything, he holds the mail for me, leaving a test item to see when I am back.
He is an excellent mailman who goes above and beyond, and I reward that as best I can at holiday time.
But the best part is running into him in the ‘hood or in the vestibule. Something fills me when I see his welcoming face.
I don’t think I am alone. I sense that we both cherish the personal, familiar connection, the moment of old neighborly warmth, as we navigate the changed waters of our West Village surroundings.
When I hear my name and that “Hello!” or when I see him and call out “Philip! How are you?!” I am flooded with something I can’t quite name.
When I walk away, I feel lighter and happier.
Philip matters to me. I am so grateful I am on his route.
Together, maybe we can keep the spirit of the Old West Village alive, as best we can.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”
Thank you, Philip, for being not just the greatest postman in the world, but my neighbor.
I need you now more than ever.