Three NYC Postcards by Patricia Kelly, 1980

Patricia Kelly and I moved from Philadelphia to Manhattan in August 1979. We stayed with our friend Marcia in a huge space she shared with several others near Houston and the Bowery. Marcia, at the time a lunchtime waitress, had a hard time waking up so she had about a dozen alarm clocks she set to go off at seven o’clock waking Patti and me sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor, but Marcia slept on snoring loudly like a log being sawed.

Marcia was an artist who’d given up to pursue love frequenting AA meetings and church socials until she found a boyfriend, who, as it turned out, stole her panties and wore them, a pyromaniac who started a fire in her bedroom after Patti and I moved out.

I wanted to live in Chinatown, but the Chinese wouldn’t have us. One lady got so mad when I asked if she had rooms to rent she chased us from her store, shooing us like chickens who’d somehow wandered in. At the Buddhist temple near Chatham Square we stopped to see if anyone knew of a place to rent. There is a room that has a huge golden Buddha. In front of it, a man with his back to us was lighting incense. He turned, saw us, and sensing we had a question, approached.

His face was the most deformed I’d ever seen; I thought of napalm in Vietnam. His features had melted one thing into another, hardly an ear or a nose—I couldn’t imagine anyone remaining sane who had to look into that face in the mirror every morning, but when he spoke he had the kindest gentlest voice that told us that no one was going to rent to us in Chinatown, and we’d be wiser to look somewhere else.

Wednesday mornings we’d get up at 6 before Marcia’s alarm clocks and go to a newsstand near 8th Street and 6th Avenue where the Village Voice was first dropped off, its want ads full of affordable apartments. It seemed that what we got to first we didn’t want, and what we wanted, somebody’d already got.

One day in the East Village we found ourselves on East 9th Street and Avenue C where a guy about our age sitting on the stoop of the building at the northwest corner asked us if we were interested in an apartment on the second floor, the only one he had at the moment; if we wanted we could have it; the only problem was there’d been a fire, but we could clean it out and fix it up, ours for $160 a month.

One room, completely burned out needed gutting, fallen charred beams jutted; other rooms, smelling of smoke, were floor to ceiling clothes and other stuff, but we were desperate and said, “Yes,” estimating it would take about a month to fix up, but as soon as we started, we knew that it might take us till bleak December.

Resolutely Patti put stuff into boxes that I took down to the corner where Puerto Ricans came to carry it off so I offered, “Why don’t you guys come up and take everything you want,” which they did helping us clean out the junk. As I brought some charred lumber down later, a Puerto Rican woman asked, “Are you crazy? The apartment across from you is empty. I just moved out. If you want it, it’s yours,” she told us handing us the keys. And that was where I wound up living with Patti for the next eight years.

Marcia, I should tell you, found a wealthy husband who moved her to a beach house in Hawaii. We never heard from her again. I soon got a job cooking at the Empire Diner and started to hang around Saint Marks reading poetry at the opens, while Patti began producing the postcards you see in this blog. Fiorucci bought some and so did Patricia Field, but it was a lot of work for what amounted to not much so Patti in a little while (because she’s always thinking) began to figure out other ways an artist could make a decent living.

The Statue of Liberty by Patricia Kelly, 1980

Times Square by Patricia Kelly, 1980

The Empire State Building by Patricia Kelly, 1980

Photo taken by Ching Ho Cheng at the Chelsea Hotel, 1980.

One Comment

  1. Hedwig Gorski

    Great memoir slice! Thanks

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