Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Mr. Rush, as I said, never talked 
too much, though he really didn't 
have to. I never really even knew
how he arrived each morning  -  I
guess by bus or subway. Eighth 
Street was easy enough to get to, 
subway stops all around, Astor 
Place and Cooper Union down the
street towards St. Mark's, well-used.
Up in the other direction, subway
stops as well, all over the Jefferson
Courthouse section. It was easy, and
had always been a real hub. Just 
across the street was one of those 
famed rock and roll hippie hotels,
seedy and crash-pad-like. Jimi 
Hendrix, before he hit big, lived 
there, lots of others too. He built
Electric Lady Studios just a bit
down the street. I used to get 
25 cent potato knishes upstairs
from there, in a little deli-eatery
thing. Man, I used to have to make
one of those last me for two days. 
I can remember, one time, in the 
Studio School lower room (my
'fancy' room) one time one of 
those ritzy kind of privileged 'Art' 
kids came down while a few 
of us were huddled around the 
record player listening to my 
stolen copy of John Wesley 
Harding, then Bob Dylan's 
just-breaking latest album. I 
had somehow lifted it, as I 
recall, from the small record 
store nearby too; plenty of 
activity, like I said. The street 
was actually famed for its 
row of shoe-stores, but I 
couldn't have cared, obviously, 
about that. He came down to 
see what all the action was, 
and he had this gigantic sandwich 
with him. It probably cost, back 
then, like 5 dollars, which would 
be a ten-dollar sandwich now at
least. Having seen me around in
my indigence for a while, I guess
he took enough pity and gave me
about half the sandwich. I can't
exactly remember the whole 
scene, but he remarked, a few
minutes later, 'I've never seen
someone eat a sandwich so quickly
before!' Not wanting to say, 'Dude,
I was hungry!', I recall muttering
'Well, what else was there to do 
with it?' He laughed it off, and,
referring back to the album, and
Dylan's 'new and improved' version
of voice, said 'Well, at least he's 
finally learned how to sing.' It
was just a funny scene  -  I've
always been uncomfortable 
around privilege, and the school 
had any number of rich-kids 
playing at art. So to speak. You 
could just tell : they had entirely 
different approaches, and they
held themselves differently.
It was at first difficult to get 
used to, because I knew for sure 
I wasn't one of them  -  probably 
didn't even belong in that same 
building with them. They always
kept themselves in reserve, in the
way that, for instance, you're never 
'supposed' to be hungry, or get
hungry, and when you do eat,
hungry or not, you're supposed
to eat in a fine manner. Wolfing
down a hand-torn sandwich, as
he'd seen me do, was really 
some  slumming for him. I 
simply didn't have the time to 
wait for the napkins and fine 
china. Living with the masses,
he got an eyeful.
I used to really love that room. It 
was really class, even though 'class' 
had all but gone away. We'd sit 
around, drinking stuff and just
looking out to that fine garden,
or we'd go out there on good days,
just lounging like rich folk. No 
one knew what to make of it, nor
my situation there. It was like, 
'Man, how'd you swing this sweet 
deal?' I never had an answer really.
Luck and hard work. The persistence
of an idiot. There's probably a name
for that somewhere. The funny thing
was, no one ever just upped and asked 
to stay there with me, share the space,
live in. Had that ever occurred (and 
I was prepared for it at any time) I 
realized I'd really have no defense 
nor any real solid reason to say no 
or turn someone away. I certainly
couldn't have said 'there's no room,'
or, 'sorry, the fireplace is taken.'
None of this was really mine; I'd
just been given something to do and
found places I liked to do it, and took
them over. It was all pretty wonderful. 
But, it never happened. There 
probably were a few girls around
anyway that I'd not have minded
'rooming' with, but I didn't mingle
real well anyway, and I realized
inside that what made this all 
worthwhile to me, the most, was 
the wonderful isolation I'd fallen 
into. Sometimes, when you're 
young you really are just a fool.
When I first went to the Studio School,
they were in their previous location, 
a loft on lower Broadway  -  large, 
roomy, rich with the smells of oil 
paint and varnishes and turpentine 
and the rest. The artist behind it all,
a woman artist from the rough 50's
period of the Cedar Bar and all those
drunk, angry artist guys romping
around punching each other and 
taking each other's women, had 
been part of that grand old scene : 
DeKooning, Pollack, Franz Kline,
Milton Resnik, Esteban Vicente,
Philip Guston...the list went on. You
can read about any of it whenever. 
her name was Mercedes Matter,
she having married photographer 
Herbert Matter some time back 
then. Previously, her last name 
was Carles, I think. She was the 
first person I met there, was taken 
in by, enveloped as some new-boy-
wonder coming in. It wasn't anything
like that, really, but they'd arranged 
for me to come in, bring whatever 
bunch of paintings and stuff I'd 
wish to, from home, and sit down
with them and be prepared to talk
my case, whatever that case may be.
In other words, it wasn't so much
my 'work', which they looked all 
over, yes, but more the potential 
of whatever 'theory' I was willing to
bring. As long as it was cogently
presented, and I had to talk it all,
like a huge oral exam, premise, 
qualification, approach, execution, 
enumeration, philosophy, worldview, 
the entire gamut. You have to remember,
I was essentially at that point nothing
but a freak of nature, a wild theoretician
at war with something in the world. I 
was as new and fresh as a peanut is,
before it enters the process of becoming
peanut butter. It was a tall order for 
someone like me  -  the equivalent of
giving a concert on stage before critics
and not knowing the instrument nor what
score I'd be given to play. I had one in
mind, but it might not have been theirs.
They could have thrown me out, but they
took me in. I finally had someplace to be.
Anyway, the loft was real busy; serious
people padding around, brushes, art, naked
people modeling, big sheets of wall-paper
being drawn on in charcoal, painting
and stretcher bars everywhere, 
stepladders, big glops of dripped paint
on the floors. My mother would have
killed me, at home, for this stuff. It was
like a mad liberation. Fortunately, they
ate up everything I said, and the blue 
eyes of Mercedes glittered at me with 
fire. I only realize now that she was, at
that time, about 55 already. To me she
seemed a fresh and wonderful 25, maybe.
 I was on Cloud Nine. I went downstairs, 
and my father (who'd driven me in; we'd 
loaded his station wagon with all sorts 
of stuff. It all had now to come back 
out and down. He was furious, having 
gotten a parking ticket. For some reason
he'd felt it all right, because of the
situation, to suspend all parking 
restrictions and place the car right 
at the Broadway doors of the building.
It worked out fine for the loading and
unloading, yes, but the ticket was a
complication). Anyway, we re-loaded
everything. He thought the place was 
nuts, the people inside it insane, and me
crazy. But I was already gone. In the
intervening few months, before I fully
arrived (had to finish crummy high school
first), they'd have gotten a huge bequest of 
money straightened out and purchased those
three brownstones I mentioned in the 
previous chapter; the old Vanderbilt 
mansions, the old Whitney Museum (Gloria 
Vanderbilt Whitney). That's where I'd end 
up. A girl named Claudia Stone had been 
killed in a car accident, and her extremely 
wealthy family had given an enormous sum of 
money in her name (she had been a student 
in the Broadway loft version of the school) to 
the school, with which, over time, they'd 
arranged  all this  -  buying the property, 
making the needed appointments, and 
transferring everything. My first times there 
were spent in moving and lifting and 
hauling, all part of the move.

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