By James Maher
Occupation: Waiter, VBar St. Mark's Place
Location: 9th Street and First Avenue
Time: 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25th
I’ve pretty much worked and lived in this neighborhood for a total of 11 years. I’m originally from New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina brought me here.
When I first got here, I was in a hotel in Queens for three months, and then I ended up getting a job at DBA down the street. I worked there for eight years. I lived in Williamsburg for three years, and then I finally moved over to First Avenue, right next to DBA, and ended up moving around the corner. I’ve been living here for about six years.
The neighborhood reminded me of the French Quarter. I feel a kinship toward this place because it reminds me of home, there being a variety of people. For instance, I feel the difference between the East Village versus the Upper West Side, is on the same block you can see a guy with an eight-inch mohawk, a guy like myself, and a guy in a business suit, and all three of us are living here. Whereas if you go to the Upper West side, you may see some of those people, you might see a guy like me or a guy with an eight-inch mohawk, but we’re probably working there; we’re not living there. Whereas, there really is a melting pot in the East Village. I like that. I like being around different types of people. I love different cultures. I love to get to know people.
Right now I work at VBar. I’m a waiter over there. When it comes to restaurant work, you’ve got to like people to do it. Waiting tables, as much as people might think that it’s an easy job, it can be frustrating. You’ve got to be able to deal with people. It’s easier to appease someone who’s drinking versus food. Food is harder to appease someone. People walk in cranky already because they’re really hungry. There’s a lot of nuance, because you have to give them a lot of attention and satisfy their needs.
We tend to attract a lot of Europeans; I meet so many. Yesterday I had a German guy ... and a young lady from the Czech Republic. I guess because we have a very European café décor about us, it tends to attract Europeans to us. The owner is Italian, from Sardinia.
One thing I like about this neighborhood also is that you kind of get to know your neighbors. It becomes a personable thing. I was just talking with some guy last night about how when you live and work in the same neighborhood, your familiarity becomes a lot deeper and you build more lasting friendships.
I had this friend of mine who died, who lived next door to DBA when I worked over there. The most I knew about him is that he was a playwright. We never hung outside of work, besides when our paths would cross, but in the time I spent with him drinking at the bar with me, I felt I really got to know who he was, even if it was only for a couple hours in a day. This is my neighborhood. I’m part of this. I feel it.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.