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NECKS craned for a glimpse of Patti Smith as she settled at her customary corner table at Da Silvano in Greenwich Village, a favorite afternoon haunt, earlier this month. The wonder was that the patrons, silver haired and sleekly buffed, could pick her out at all. Ms. Smith was understated, even self-effacing in her mannish jacket, boater shirt and beat-up jeans. Watching her sip hot water and lemon, you could easily have mistaken her for one of any number of androgynous downtown hipsters adopting skinny jeans and boyfriend coats as a low-key urban armor.
Was she trying to merge with the scenery? Ms. Smith shrugged, noncommittal. “My style says ‘Look at me, don’t look at me,’ ” she said, a hint of testiness ruffling her easy composure. “It’s, ‘I don’t care what you think.’ ”