Tuesday, October 25, 2016


217. SAD
I went up, once again, to the
loft I frequented, on 18th street.
It was mid-November, already
cold and bleak. One of those
years, (we don't get them as
much now), when things turn
Wintry, dark and dreary, early.
Or so it seems. Nov. '67 was
one of those. I had a bicycle
I used to sometimes get
around the city. It was a
racer-type Motobecane,
which had previously been
like a 16-speed bike. It
had derailleurs and sprockets
everywhere. For 1967, those
sorts of bicycles weren't
yet commonplace. I'd taken
this one from the trash (in
Avenel, actually) on one of
my trips, and had walked it
along onto the train, etc., and
down to 11th street. It had
no chain, not one, certainly
not the two or three needed.
I managed to later get it set
up, as a one-speed, no shifting,
with a fairly normal center-speed,
middling area, easy enough
to ride as a single-speed junker.
It all worked, brakes, etc. It
was eventually stolen, or
taken away as evidence
anyway, when the apartment
was raided. Big loss for me,
I got to the loft, as usual. It was
huge, large, and probably illegal
too, in that you weren't supposed
to 'live' in an industrial loft. There
were artists all about town  -
Coenties Slip, old Soho, and
here, in this ratty industrial
section  -  doing the same
thing. I don't know what
'Landlords' knew or didn't
know about this, or if they
took extra money to look
the other way. It was not
yet (or ever) my concern.
The very best part of it all
was that they were vastly
superior as living spaces.
None of that 'drab walls
and hallways' stuff. Just
open floor space, with
great columns, sometimes
fluted or even decorated,
The very luckiest of spaces
had the needed preliminaries
for bathrooms or sinks,
plumbing at least. Gigantic,
slab-wood floors, sometimes
great-looking brick walls.
Large windows. In fact,
industrial freight elevators,
and concrete ramps at
street-side as well. All
things in these places were
set up for the heavy duty,
and the broad. Perfect for
big art, sculpted pieces,
chunks of steel or lumber.
None of these artists much
cared about normal stuff 
anyway. It was an eye-opener
for a 'suburban' punk like me.
And I loved it. Hot plates
and portable heaters, and the
always constant threat of fire
or inspection or even eviction.
In the mid-sixties, there was 
still a huge exodus underway 
of small-manufacture, and
machine-shop sorts of 
businesses, factories, lofts.
New York was slowly strangling
itself with taxes and regulations,
and it was found, soon enough,
that all things could be done,
more cheaply and easier, in other
places. Highways and the access
of the 'horizontal' became all that
counted. Because of that, a certain
renter-desperation has set in. All
the building and property owners 
were out to get and make up for 
lost tenants. Illegal art-lofts, 
jazz-lofts, dance and cabaret 
even, they all filled the gap. 
Landlords stopped asking 
questions. They just
sought rents.
I got here, in good order. I really
loved the place. It was the loft of
some woman artist who called
 herself 'Lily Brutal-White', and
wrote manifestos, in addition to
producing art. She had friends and
followers, and someone was always
around. She seldom left, saying, "I
can walk anywhere I wish but in
the meantime I stay here in this
wonderful loft-space I make my 
own." She made huge cloth sculptures,
or life-size at least, of people dining,
sitting around tables, like family
tableaux, with sculpted, filled
fabric shapes and forms, painted
into whatever they were supposed
to be. Food, plates, people, the
whole bit. It was kind of weird. A 
long dining room type table, like
from a monastery or something,
stretched out, and that was in
place for the modeled tableaux,
the people and things. Upon 
completion, it got carted 
away, (it seemed that someone
always bought), and another one,
very much like the previous, took
its place. There was also another
'sculpture' line she did  -  hammered
metal boxes and chests. Lead, and
hammered metal. Soft, dark metals,
and shiny and chromed stuff too.
"We also have a musical group; we
take to the stage at places like 'The
Leading Edge,' on 9th Street, or
'Waldron's,' over on 14th. Nothing
much but a lot of noise really. Some
harmonics, with bass and percussion.
It's fun, and I enjoy it." She liked to
talk, and she seemed to like me. I
really knew little of anything  - I'd
sit around, or move things as she
asked. People came and went. I 
saw a lot of crazy people  -  real 
quality and some real low-lives 
too. In the long nights she'd
talk  - when she had a chance;
often there were lots of others 
around and that kept her busy. 
She liked to read this sort of
poetry she did  -  she called it
'Instamatic' poetry, like the 
camera. "I start with a 
newspaper or any paper in
my hand I can find, and go
from there using found quotes
and or other things from memory,
and it's always one-of-a-kind stuff
because it can never be repeated
and half the time I don't even 
know what the hell I've done.
Nobody records it or writes it
down, so it's gone like an 
exercise. An exercise in 
stupidity, I guess. Right now 
I'm a princess, a Cinderella, 
but I know it won't last. It 
won't be like this forever. 
This carriage is a pumpkin 
for sure, just like all life is. 
It's sad scene, but you can't 
look, you just have to do."
For a while, those were 
some of the saddest words 
I had ever heard.

No comments: