I haven’t written a blog post in a while so I’m gonna just see where this goes.
Thank you editor Patrick Trotti for publishing “L.E.S.” today on Mosh Lit Journal, a new magazine on Tumblr with a very clean aesthetic. I’m delighted to be one of MLJ’s first publications on the site.
This story is a single-scene tumble of ideas about a cold night on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I imagine our narrator, the voice here, being a twenty-something from the suburbs in come-along/go-along city adventure mode. Maybe to Avenue A and Seventh.
Age 23. I had a set of friends who worked in the art world, especially Prince and Spring Streets, technically Soho. I had a subset of two friends especially, I think they appear in my Chagall story too, who were very beautiful, think Shelly and Byron, and no end of trouble. Because I knew them, when I went into the city I learned of an alley where it was cool to park and not be bothered or ticketed. I never had to pay for a drink. I always said no to coke (I’d say “can’t afford it” when it was offered, which I liked because it meant financially and physically and socially and sexually). If someone persisted, I’d say, “really man, I can’t AFFORD it” and laugh. That was enough. I had to get to my job at 730 am, while these guys were all lucky-slobbing in at their jobs after 11. So, knowing them, it was cool to turn into that lane, and leave the traffic behind and feel like a gangster’s little sister. Because of them, I’ve never been intimidated by art. They were a bunch of characters who made too much money. There was one month an American Express bill came with you know DUE UPON RECEIPT as is customary at the bottom, and it was for like $30,000 (which is pretty much $70,000 today) and the only tangible item Byron/Shelley had to show for it was an inflatable plastic chair. I amused them because I lived on a budget. I would literally buy a 35-cent cup of soup for lunch and put so many saltines in it you could eat it with a fork. My nickname was Stinkbudget, but it was shortened to Stinkbug at some point. I drove a Volkswagen Fox, so sometimes it was Stinkbuggy. I told them one day I’ll make a plaster cast of my hand giving the middle finger, and I’ll write BUDGET on it and throw it through their window. Hah hah hah. It hasn’t happened yet but I play a long game, my friends. So, everyone was really good looking. They wanted to hear what I said about things, I think they knew I’d write one day. What happened though, is I started having feelings about marriage and family, and thought if I were going ever to have those things, I had to stop hanging out in places I could not sustain myself. Plus no decent guy wants a girlfriend whose friends are all pretty boys. Before I cut the party crew out, I did paint their portraits in oil and give them as gifts, and as far as I know they still have them, wherever they are. What an odd gesture.
Odd to reminisce. Reminds me of Chekhov.
“We just philosophize, complain of boredom, or drink vodka. It’s so clear, you see, that if we’re to begin living in the present, we must first of all redeem our past and then be done with it forever. And the only way we can redeem our past is by suffering and by giving ourselves over to exceptional labor, to steadfast and endless labor.”
― Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard
I do remember listening to a lot of Buzzcocks, and Bauhaus, and PiL. Marianne Faithful was making a comeback. I shopped at Daffy Dan’s “Clothing Bargains for Millionaires” so I was usually wearing Marithe + Francois Girbaud and stuff like that. I’d buy more things with European than American tags, and think about it this was before Marshalls and T.J. Maxx so it was all legit, there really were Armani and Cassini and Dior clothes. They’d cut the tags out of the really good stuff. Like, the tag would still be there but they’d surgically snip out the name. I remember spooking John Lydon, e.g. Johnny Rotten, at a gaming parlor because he was so hopped up he sensed he was noticed. I remember The Pyramid Club and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Danceteria, The Ritz when it was downtown and the Ramones were drinking while “Leader of the Pack” or some such thing was on the jukebox, and what was that church? Limelight, aka Slimelight, and when that Picasso drawing was stolen from a print gallery on Spring Street. Cindy Sherman prints were going for the hundreds. I did see Ellen Barkin. I love her plain baby face and crinkly eyes. But, like the protagonist of this story, the day comes when you realize the real money is on Cindy Sherman. Cindy Sherman had the staying power, artistically. Barkin’s money, ultimately, came to her through marriage. But the protagonist can’t possibly know this.
My only other story that speaks to this period in my life also happens in the East Village, so if you want to read that it’s at The Airgonaut, and called “How to Meet Marc Chagall.” That’s the night I met my husband. It’s epic.
I remember the day came when I realized I had to part ways with Byron and Shelley. It all compresses in time. I opened my eyes one day, like the doors of an elevator making some big reveal. There were no dogs in that world.
Thank you for the visit. I didn’t realize I had all this pent-up chatter.
Postscript about the novel effort this year: I’m still writing it. I’ve covered a lot of ground already, having begun in Northern Ireland, hopped to the West Indies, and now settling characters into the Carolinas. I’m learning a lot about writing loooong. It’s pretty addictive, pretty demanding, pretty tiring. It helps to have some friends I am accountable to, who are also trying to throw down 10K words/month. Have about 40K words since 2/1. I think if I were a full-time writer, I’d be managing more like 30K/month, but 10-11K is the working stiff’s lament, I suppose. I applied for a short-term fellowship at the New York Public Library, but found out I didn’t get it this week. I was sad for a moment, but I’m over it. I’m writing fiction, after all. Might be best not to have the constraints of fact.
Top image: view from the deck of my friend’s boat in NY harbor. Lower East Side at a distance. It’s been a long time. Mid image random ephemera, polaroids, the 80s.
C O N T A C T