Can a night at the club be any more decadent than bar hopping in Greenwich Village? | Eileen M Greenleaf

As I stand in line for the last piece of the banner heirloom crockery at a posh Brooklyn restaurant, my ten-year-old daughter draws a happy face on a photograph of a woman carrying a suitcase. The smiley face belongs to one of her teachers from the English class at PS 1.

“You go to a Kinko’s and get someone to make you one,” she says. “They’ll make you a scarf for the class. Here’s an English textbook, and these silk flowers.” At first I am suspicious, but she argues, “You don’t want a computer. You want to learn about history.” She likes this information and wants to learn more. Last year she had to wait for a team of English teachers to show up. The next year she got her way.

“This year,” she says in a perfect English accent, “She’s bringing her boyfriend with her to the classrooms. This place isn’t so bad.” There are five million students like this in America. It’s hard to believe, but according to the center for research in diversity at UCLA, there is “a strong correlation between diversity in a school and its test scores. Students who came from diverse environments test better than students who did not.” This study shows that the positive effect of diversity is far stronger in the early grades, while the negative impact of low-performing students is delayed. It’s easier to lose kids in special education programs, when kids in special education typically have lower test scores than other students.

In recent years, at least, I have tried to encourage my daughter to look for better alternatives to Manhattan public schools. But more and more we are finding her being seduced by other places, especially lower Manhattan. She wants to go to a private school, to look for real “crafts” (I have to admit, she will have to wait until she can afford it before she will abandon her fancy dresser), to dance, and to grow up in a Brooklyn nook where her hand-me-down horse shoes hang on a hook from the ceiling above a brass bed.

My companion who is more concerned about making ends meet than about any other social phenomena of my era has spent many an evening in Greenwich Village after work, in line for a decade ago, wondering what is wrong with Manhattanites. For those who get parking tickets, the fact that times have moved on is no less appalling than when they used to rent a soul-filled, lyrical nightspot, in hopes that patrons would sit there and hold hands in the hallways at night. The upscale bars now seem cramped with tourists and some of the imported extras on the club scene. They seem like a scene in a road movie, like Manhattan Station.

Bars can be a refuge, particularly for the freedom seekers with psychically disturbed mothers who insist on silence, especially once a certain age arrives. The police, once under the rule of that classical badass, Commissioner Kelly, have more recently ruled that bars must allow entry to the younger crowd. So from tonight, Black Friday, to begin, at least eight new bars will open in the Lower East Side and so will Sondheim’s column inches. We get the knockout hint. Let the dancing ensue.

Last Saturday night the Rio Mediterranean Grill was crammed with Black Friday hawkers. This was a pretty eclectic crowd, which I don’t need to say had in common a discomfort with money. They ate at the table all night, upending bowls as they did so, and some came to chat with friends rather than make themselves known in the overcrowded bar with up to 30 other lovers and their entourages. Everything was happening too fast, and I am not sure if they enjoyed this order in a society that has moved on. Something had to give, and it gave in a bit of a huff and a sulk.

Maybe not everyone who goes to the clubs of New York is looking for such a mere get-together with his or her soulmates. Sometimes people who go to parties take pleasure in seeking to be apart from their social classes. I find this not quite so absurd as most writers make it out to be. This culture serves other purposes as well. Certainly the deeper social passion is international, if not global. There is far more we can learn from our peers in our new remote institutions in the hills of Ukraine and in Cuba.

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