Sunday, November 14, 2010

My First Roommate

It seems like two weeks ago we were celebrating Tony Patti’s 50th birthday. Last week Tony turned 52.
I posted a few pictures from old notebooks last week and mis-identified a couple of them as Tony’s. I should have known better because Tony’s stuff has always been easy to spot.
Aside from an unsuccessful one night experience in a Central West End carriage house with a guy named Ed Emerson, and a week we spent at Tony’s mom’s place on The Hill when she was away, the first place I lived away from home was a tiny apartment in Soulard with Tony and my brother Patrick.
Tony and I were 16 or 17. With his permission, someday I’ll tell the story of the night we got the idea to live together.
It was a three room apartment we shared with two dogs. I was able to throw a single mattress on the floor of a closet so I had privacy. A gas space heater stuck out into the middle of Tony’s room and I burned all my winter clothes as we huddled around it. As I’ve said before, the rent was only $50.00 a month and we had trouble coming up with that.
There was a tiny store front under us where some religious group held revival meetings.
It seemed like there was 24 hours of sinning upstairs and redemption downstairs.
For a while our buddy Fojammi slept in a hallway that led downstairs to the front. It was dark out there and I was afraid there might be rats. We always used the back door.
Tony was always reading us passages from Marcel Proust and James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. It would be years before I actually read Joyce and I still haven’t gotten around to Proust.
We ended up trashing the place so much that when the apartment next door became available we moved. At that same time, my father’s heat had been turned off so I invited him to sleep at our new place.
Tony and I came home very late after a heavy night of partying to find my dad asleep and shivering on the floor next to the dysfunctional space heater. We hadn’t gotten our heat turned on yet and it was the middle of winter. It’s a wound in my heart that time will never heal.
The saving grace is that my mom let us all come over to her place to sleep on the floor. I remember the four of us gathered around a tiny TV watching Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr in Boom Town.
I’ll never forget Julie Heller, one on the great loves of my life, bringing her friend Nancy Post over to visit. Nancy was one of Julie’s private school friends. She lived in a palace on a private street across from Forest Park. Nancy couldn’t hide the fact that she was horrified in this environment and Julie seemed to love every moment of her discomfort.
My dear friend Marge couldn’t stand to see me living there and practically pulled me by the ear back to her apartment in the West End.
I moved without hesitation and I think it must have hurt Tony’s feelings. From that moment on he would always refer to my brother Patrick as his best friend. It used to hurt every time he said it.
Over the years I’ve left my notebooks, drawings by friends, films and tapes all over the city. I regret that many have been damaged by water and neglect. Here are a few pictures by Tony from that time. I used a cheap scanner. I had to scan pieces and reassemble them in PhotoShop.

The first is “Lectric Tea”. I t features my brother dinking his tea from his favorite steel glass, a sissy bar from a Stingray bike, me, Lee Bock, George Clinton, Captain Beefheart, a roll of toilet paper, and a collection of beer bottles and cans that were everywhere in our apartment.

The second is Tony looking back as I smoke a cigarette behind a tearful Annie O’Connor. Annie was the first great unrequited love of my life. I think Tony is looking at a stone sculpture of the unattainable woman.

The third is called “Don’t You Know We Need Somebody To Do Some Work In The Street!”

Click on the pictures for details.

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