The square dance wasn’t all square dancing. Mr. T. needed a break every now-and-then, but during those breaks there was folk dancing, dances such as Korobushka, Schotishes, and Road to the Isles, which I sat out because I didn’t know them. I guess it was during one of those breaks that I met the girl whose name I’ve now forgotten. After the dance was over, at about eleven o’clock, we all adjourned to another, smaller room in which benches had been set up, as well as a small makeshift stage, and on the stage appeared a succession of guitar players and banjo pickers who led the audience in songs they all seemed to know, folksongs which I had never heard and about which I knew nothing. The reason there were as many musicians as there were was that anyone carrying an instrument was admitted free to the square dance. The girl I had met knew every one of those songs, and I tried to pick up on the choruses. It was the kind of fun absolutely unavailable anywhere else for any price; it was spontaneous and non-commercial, and done for no other purpose than the fun of it, although it probably does sound a bit cornball today.
When the singing ended, it was after midnight, and the girl and I resumed the conversation we had been having intermittently the whole evening. We left together, and talked, and we talked as we walked the hushed streets of the city at night. I reluctantly left her near Washington Square. I had so much more to tell her! We promised to meet again the following day, Sunday, in the Circle, in front of the Arch. In any case, that was my introduction to Greenwich Village.
The following day, I looked for her in the crowd that had gathered in the Circle, a non-functioning fountain in the middle of Washington Square, just south of the Washington Centenary Memorial Arch. Many in the crowd held guitars or banjos, although some were organized around washtub bases and washboard players. Most of the musicians stood in small groups and played their instruments and sang songs that were not on the radio, while by-standers (of which I was one) listened and watched, but the girl never did show up. I never saw her again; I don’t know why, although it might have had something to do with the fact that I had talked too much. Naturally, I was sad about that, but I was also completely caught up in the scene around me, which was totally unexpected.
I should also point out that Washington Square, while physically the same as today, was a very different place from what it is today. Yes, the Hanging Tree is still where it was, on the northwest corner of the park, and the chess tables on the southwest corner were also there (the Alexander Holley bust has been moved from where it was), but the feel of the place was different. Now it feels like an attractive, crowded urban park for NYU students, tourists, and dog owners managed by the police. Then there was no police. It felt like an oasis, an area where the grass was greener, the people gentler, and altogether, it felt like I had come home.