I’ve often dreamed of having a patron, someone to champion me and my work. There have been many famous mentorships between established artists or those prominent in the field and those struggling for recognition. Even within social networks (I’m not referring to Twitter here or Facebook) such as the New York School, the circle of poets and visual artists who met socially at taverns and each other’s apartments or summered on Fire Island together, there was mutual encouragement and camaraderie.
But to be honest, I sort of fail big-time at networking. It’s like I just can’t step over a perceived hump. What might help is becoming inebriated or high, but that also isn’t in my personality make-up. So I stand there like a lug, the proverbial observer. Not a bad thing for a writer—just not helpful in promoting one’s work.
So yes, I sit around fantasizing that one day my prince will come. To be discovered.
Of course, and this goes back again to networking, you have to put yourself there. Hang around with the right crowd. With artists, bohemians, a rowdy crowd. Except I get tired at night and really like to sleep and after a while small talk becomes, well, small and insignificant. I simply don’t have the patience for hanging out.
Thinking back over my life, I’ve always been drawn to odd people. Maybe the outsider in me recognizes the outsider, those living in the margins of society. Thus, I have been involved in some completely crazy situations.
Just the other day I remembered something that happened when I was about 9 months pregnant. I came into the building where we were living—a six-flat that had been broken up into dozens of little apartments with a “bathroom down the hall.” It was before gentrification. Today the building looks like a million bucks, really. Not sure of the exact details, but I found a man, one of the residents, sprawled on the stairwell bleeding profusely from both wrists.
Should I have been worried about AIDS, or wearing latex gloves, or perhaps called an ambulance. Probably, but I remember being startled and asking how I could help him.
He spoke very little English, but in Spanish and also using broad gestures, he asked me to help him upstairs to his apartment. Okay.
About a week later a woman showed up at my door with a bouquet of flowers. She wanted to thank me for helping her husband. Again there was a bit of a language problem, but she succeeded in telling me that their little girl had been hit by a car and her husband was very depressed. Suicidal, I guess. He was doing better. And the little girl? Much better also.
The flowers were to thank me. She worked at a very nice hotel downtown and the flowers were left over.
After giving birth to my daughter, she continued to bring me flowers. We’d engage is some bit of conversation. I told her my baby didn’t sleep well. She cries a lot, I said. She made a face as if she understood. Perhaps, her little girl had been a crier too.
Anyway I could count on getting an extravagant arrangement every week until the building was sold and we all moved elsewhere. I thought of her this week. I don’t think she ever realized how much I appreciated those bouquets.
|Detail: Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers, and Grace Hartigan at the Five Spot, 1957, photo copyright © Burt Glinn, 1957|