Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Life of an Artist


Got brass in Pocket
Got bottle I'm gonna use it
Intention I feel inventive
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice
Brass in Pocket, Pretenders

Crack that whip
Give the past the slip
Step on a crack
Break your momma's back
When a problem comes along
You must whip it
Whip It, Devo

We had a place to stay for a week in the City, our dreams coming true, on our way to stardom! Our hosts were adamant that we stay not one minute longer then seven days. The studio apartment that we shared was on 56th street, east side, family friends of Emile’s, one week to get our shit together, find a job and a cheap place to live. 
I was definitely not the one whom we would rely upon, culture shocked definitely.
Emile went out on his own one night, Ice Palace, a couple of blocks away. I visited with the neighbors, pre-yuppie types, cool people, we got stoned and listened to Rufus with Chaka Kahn. That night Emile met a guy at the bar who said that there was a vacancy in his building, $200 a month, two bedrooms, Queens. So the next day we boarded the confusing connecting three subway trains, took over an hour from the city, last stop on the M line, Middle Village, we found our way home. 
Okay I am going to admit that I was a mess at the time, really though, what teenager that moves to NYC isn’t a little delusional? My expectations were way out of proportion with my reality, as was my self-perception, which was always tinged with worth, doubt and a foreboding sense of calamity.  I suffered great loneliness, missed my family, that landscape of New Mexico, but I was more than glad to be out of there.

Anyway we signed the lease, one year, me taking my boot off to retrieve my portion of the money. The landlady was an alcoholic dog-groomer with a flailing business who was in a relationship with an abusive alcoholic boyfriend. Nellie was her name, would stutter when nervous, her building was across the street from one of the largest cemeteries in the city, the smell of the Magnolias ripe in the summer heat. The neighborhood was old school Italian, we were very near the center of town, not much, a laundry, cinema with Dollar Mondays, a decent bakery and plenty of locals who did not appreciate two queer kids moving onto their turf. Peter, the neighbor who helped us find the place, was very happy for the gay company. 
I soon found a job at Bloomingdales, Emile was also hired, we were at training together, they called his name, he left the room and did not return, they checked his resume and found some lie on it, I had no idea what had happened, would not find out till much later, at least I would be working in the meantime.

I was stationed on the ninth floor, this little bath accessories department, novelty soaps, stupid little cheap things, shower-curtain liners, that kind of stuff. One of my customers became infuriated with me, “Where are you from? What is that accent, why are you soooo slow?” Another client said that she had been shopping all day for Christmas gifts and found that with me she could take a deep breath and relax for a moment. When people learned that I had just come from New Mexico they would either tell me that they had never travelled to Mexico or ask me why on earth would I leave such a lovely place. Apparently there were numerous New Yorkers who had left the city and found some nice piece of land near Santa Fe or Taos. 
I was only working part-time, Emile was still not employed, we managed to balance things out and share whatever we had. There were the lessons that I gave him, tutorials on how to eat at the grocery store, there was a giant Walbaums near the apartment and security was very relaxed, so we’d nosh then I would steal, we had to survive.

We had one mattress and were sharing it, I would wake in the middle of the night to find him looking over me just staring. He was lovelorn and would be so till the end. 
One evening while at work I met David, a reasonably attractive man, sold him what were the cheapest trinkets by the dozen, holiday gifts he said. I followed him around the floor and when lost track asked every salesperson if they had seen him, but he had vanished. He was watching behind some column and waited till I had clocked out approaching me on the street, I though that it was romantic and agreed to go out with him.

Back to the future.

My high school art teacher came over to see me the other day.  I think that that had been the first time that we have spent together, alone, in at least thirty years. There was always that small group, a couple of my best girlfriends and the art teacher, going out for lunch anytime I visited from NY. 
We spoke in length about the cycle of death that we had obviously both been going through, she had me beat. We spoke of the drama teacher, Sam, her best friend, how he was suffering from some mysterious ailment and rapidly losing bodily control. We spoke of Paris, she is headed there soon, I visited four times in the 90s. She was still being a teacher, telling me to look at this flower in that light and that tree that was filled with so many blossoms glowing in the sun, to take in the scene, the atmosphere, the view, the memorable event that would normally go unseen.  Remember me.