Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Mr. Rush was the guy, a little,
very proper, black man, who 
would arrive at the Studio School 
about 6am each morning  -  no exact
time, nothing that specific. While I
was the extended, overnight guy,
doing nothing really, just being 
around, from whenever I got in
until he arrived the next morning, 
he was the actual daytime custodian
or doorman or place-manager on
duty. He was very, surprisingly,
mannered and proper  -  even everyday
well-dressed, almost like a porter or
butler/doorman type. We got on fine.
He never asked a thing about me, 
nor what I did or was doing. We 
traded notes, verbally I mean  -  
boiler issues, sinks and plumbing, 
windows, stuff like that. Those 
were some of the things he was 
responsible for, calling plumbers, 
getting repairs arranged. I was 
basically just the school's allowed 
sleepover bum, rank student presence, 
just to make sure there were no 
rapes or murders, I guess, or any
thievery or big time parties. The 
only real infraction I ever 'allowed' 
(I sound like I cared), was  -  again  -  
those Jim Tomberg antics I'd written 
of. Another time, for a while, in one
of the really nice drawing rooms from
the old Vanderbilt-Whitney Mansion
days, I allowed in Peter Serkin (he
is the pianist son of the famed Rudolph
Serkin, deceased, whose performances 
and recordings of classical pieces are
legion), and his wonderful girlfriend,
Lindy Shirmer (whom I secretly really
had flipped over) to stay a few nights
on the floor, in that room. More on 
them in  a bit. 
I used to spend my nights there, as 
late as they may have been, gloriously 
by myself. It's hard for me to explain, 
except to say that I was almost exactly 
as I am now  -  fairly private, enjoying 
solitude, being alone, industrious, at 
work writing or drawing or whatever. 
So the opportunity for solace and 
solitude I took advantage of. The 
was a very great basement area, a 
level and a half deep. The Studio
School itself had once been three
brownstones, the Whitney Mansion, 
and the  whole was made up, after the
1912 Armory Show, into the original
Whitney Museum. The basements 
then held many untold treasures in 
the nooks and crannies and shelves 
and rooms. I would scour, in the
half-dark; leftover heaps of colored
paper, construction and poster paper,
copy paper. It was a veritable goldmine
of paper, good for most anything. 
Also present were wires, hooks, 
small nails, saw horses, platforms,
loads of wood. no one seemed to
claim nor be aware of any of this, 
and really  -  to my knowledge  -  
only myself and Mr. Rush knew 
of it. I used to tell him he should
start taking things back uptown with
him and sell items on a table on 
Saturdays, like any of the other street
merchants everywhere. He'd always
decline. In the mornings, upon his
arrival, the noise he'd make was part
of our agreement to him getting me
up. I had three favorite places of
sleep-space. The original, and 
main one, all this provided, 
remember, free of charge to me,
was in the lower level, to the left
rear portion of the main entry
building. It's hard to explain, 
and, as well, it's gone now, a 
wall having been built over it. 
In what's now a main gallery 
room, (they have shows on in 
these three rooms all the time),
was a wall of glass doorways that 
went out to like a semi-formal 
garden area - for high-tea and 
all that prim and proper stuff
of old Edwardian-era NYC. A
curved iron stairway went outside
and brought one down to the 
stone surface of the veranda area.
Now, inside again, one-level 
below this, though not the basement,
was an apartment-like area, for
the old servants or kitchen staff.
It had a bathroom, a sink and counter,
the things that once went into the
working-kitchen guts of running the
old brownstone. There was also a
fireplace, now blocked-off. I made a
plywood bedding area, within the 
fireplace (it was big), about a foot 
off the ground and, with a few blankets
and a pillow, used it as a bed. That
was, like I said, the first (and best) 
area  -  my 'formal' room. It also had
a table, and a record player, and a nice
chair or two. Not much else, and I never
furnished nor cared. The door here, as
well, went out to that veranda thing, to
bring supplies and food trays and stuff,
I guess  -  for when the Pierpont Morgans
came dining, or something. You know
those rich folk (joke, 'cuz I sure don't).
My second spot, probably my favorite, 
was the third-floor library floor. You 
have to picture a real mansion, like in 
old movies or something. Vertical, not 
so much spread out horizontally. There
were stairways everywhere, and each 
one led to somewhere else. No map 
ever got you there, or me anyway. My
time there, it was all trial and error to
see where I'd end up with using this
or that stairway. It was weird, but over
time I finally got used to it and knew.
Three buildings, now remember, were
punched out and interconnected. That
meant three, at least, large social rooms,
called 'drawing rooms' in the domestic
days; formal rooms, fancy wallpapers, 
chandeliers, and most of that stuff was 
still there; three central staircases, with
the fireplaces and anterooms and all
that still intact. I was living like a king,
but really was just a lucky night-crawler
traipsing around. The big Studio School
library was a million art books, literature,
essays, commentary, and the rest. The floor
was carpeted. The vast windows overlook
Eighth Street, which never slept, stopped 
even really dwindled. All the lights and
activity and glories of NYC, all around 
me. Every night of my days there. I'd
read myself to sleep on the floor. Totally
alone, in a building I'd been warned of:
one that creaked, had strange noises and,
the words went, had ghosts and spirits.
We'll get to all that. The third spot I slept,
if I was reading down there, was in the very
basement  -  there were seats and shelves
and places to stretch out. I'd often just fall
asleep there.
To close this chapter, and there will be 
more on all this, I want to go back to Peter
and Lindy. Peter Serkin was about 21 maybe.
He was tall and thin, with long, flaxen hair.
he hardly ever talked, and would just sit, 
watching me or whoever or whatever was
around him. He was a serious musician  - 
Julliard or something, and is now a famed
pianist in his own right. Performances,
world tours, CD's and all that. For a while
in the 1980's he had a very fine classical
'group' too, called Tashi. They too have
CD's. Peter was privilege and wealth,
talent and fine breeding. Lindy Shirmer
was a girl from Long Island, I guess my
age. She was something special. I don't
know much else about her. They were 
couple, I kept away, or at least aloof. 
But I really had it for Lindy. They 
eventually did marry, had a kid or two, 
then he got way famous and they divorced. 
That's all I know. Him, I still see his name 
and face around. Her, no trace ever. Anyway, 
those times I let them stay in that other room,
we all stayed together, just crashing, on the
floor, in our clothes. It was just sleep. But,
really, the only reason I ever let them in was
so that I could tell you all, here, (and myself),
that I slept with Lindy Shirmer!

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