I have read Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ over Christmas and I loved it.
What a woman. She writes about moving to New York in the late sixties/early seventies. A Woman of little compromise. I love how she works on her craft, tries to find her voice not knowing what her medium is… and finally does. She finds her medium and her voice. It is a wonderful book.
When she moved out of the Chelsea Hotel into a loft with Robert, it made me think of my time in London. I lived in some cheap and – how shall I put it – sub-standard, challenging places?
But I always knew that should the sh*t hit the fan hard, my family would help me out. (Though my parents didn’t go to University, they are pretty middle-class – something that can only happen in Austria. I’m not sure it can still happen here.) I don’t think Ms Smith had that advantage.
I lived in a warehouse in North-East London, Unit M (M for Madness in this case. Though I didn’t know, when I moved in). And I think it’s good to see things in perspective. I had just lived in the Austrian Catholic Centre for 6 months. Very safe, very structured, very… well. I needed a change. So I moved to the hippies. They are also about love, but a different kind of love.
My room didn’t have a window, was a little bigger than a mattress. We had a break-in once and I think the lack of window was the reason they didn’t see me room. They went through most other rooms (with people sleeping in them). Seems cocky and it is, but at the same time it’s not. I lived with 9 other people. You get used to sounds up to the point where people walk through your room and you don’t wake up.
It’s hard to describe the place. I can say I shared a house with a single mother and her son (18 months), a drug dealer, a french hippie in his late forties, a french artist doing spectacular work (and collecting clothes in the studio), a tree doctor.
But that’s only part of it. The little boy Ganesh gave the community structure, his mom was a lovely woman. The drug-dealer was also a DJ, he only sold weed and not after 9pm. “There is a child living here, f*ck off” I remember him telling a desperate customer at 9.05pm. I don’t remember his name and I never knew his last name. Paolo I think. He was a good guy. With principles and a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Tried to get me to smoke with him. But my first weed experience was a bad one, so I’ve been a zero drug path every since. (I did not inhale. I ate the cookie. And vomited my guts out afterwards.)
Paolo was on a mission to change my mind, but he didn’t succeed.
It was fun to live there. And hard. Some nights I came home after work at 10pm with our kitchen full of strangers. One told me once: “Stop cooking man, we’re having a party”. “Who are you? I live here. Go and party somewhere else.”
My girlfriend at the time hated it. Cinzia, the single mother told me that I will marry that girl. And she was right. I did.
Living in Vienna is very different.
I’m currently knee-deep in Patti Smith’s book M Train…