julie and s. celebrated her 22nd birthday in march. she was as plump as a ripe cherry and as big as a watermelon
you know, when your head is in the clouds and you wear your heart on your sleeve; when you have clay feet and an unbounded imagination, the world is your oyster. but when a baby comes into your life sheer reality brings the traveling circus to a screeching halt.
spring finally came. mt. tom thawed. s. and julie scaled mt. tom in may. julie was in her eighth month of pregnancy. s. was proud of her. she made the hike to the summit without a whisper of complaint. she wanted to make the climb. and it was glorious in the crisp spring air to look down into the valley where the little town of woodstock nestled quietly between the green hills; so quiet like a toy town.
s. finished the cradle with sanded and finished oak spindles. he wanted her to marry him. that's when he found out that she had a husband somewhere in oregon. she cried when she told the story of leaving him and her two children behind.
the baby was born without much difficulty. the town jeweler, also a painter drove them to mary hitchcock hospital in hanover, new hampshire, where she rested after the birth of demian. s. gave him his last name.
the ultimate miracle is your first newborn; that tiny swaddled face and those tiny fingers with their tiny fingernails. s. was very impressed by the fragility of this new being entrusted to his care.
the ultimate disaster is poverty. s. got free drinks all night at the bar at the woodstock inn where hilton kramer, a good friend plied him with brandy alexanders. the reason for this generosity was a tradition. when you turn twenty one and can drink legally, it's on the house. that night kind of marked the end of the free ride.
you will remember that s.'s father was supporting him with $100 a month; enough to pay the rent and buy food. art supplies came out of the few sales of paintings and drawings. julie had no money at all and no one to call on for help. mr. right, the lawyer who lost the "cinnamon tree" was about to attach all of s.'s worldly possessions for his exorbitant legal fees.
s. sold 30 paintings for $300. to a forest ranger he knew through bob anderson. they had to leave the yankee paradise.
demian slept in the fresh new cradle s. had lovingly built for him but every night in august would wake up crying with colic. s. was the one who paced the night cooing and whispering. julie stopped breast feeding right away but pumped enough milk to satisfy the eleven pound infant. later they concocted a healthy formula. molasses and yeast and malt mixed in with regular milk. s. fashioned a backpack for hiking with demian.
this proved useful during their hegira from vermont to the cold grey streets of the lower east side.
demian, only three months old rode in the pack to " j. pockers". where mr. pocker was so kind as to buy another thirty pounds of drawings. he even gave s. an extra five dollar bill saying "for the baby, now this is just to buy him something o.k. ?"
the sunday times yielded an interview with jack beale, an artist with a legitimate AIR permit for a living loft on prince street in what later was called SOHO. s. was going to rent top floor of that building (the post office was the ground floor). the rent would be $150 a month at a time when that was almost a monthly income for most working class people. instead of paying rent s. became the janitor of the building. he operated the old freight elevator and stoked the enormous coal furnace every two hours or so. at night he could bank the coal and limit the air vents to slow the burn.
Although much of the fabled Beatnik-era ambiance is gone, you'll find coffeehouses like Caffe Reggio and Cafe Figaro which inspired writers such as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
This ain't no Starbucks!
then s. went to "the figaro" where bob milo was the manager and landed a job cooking the usual hip coffee shop menu of salads and sandwiches, burgers and fries; and breakfast of course. the figaro was a ten minute walk from prince st.
through the fall and winter s. would bank the furnace and show up for a night of work at about 5:00 p.m.. work until 2:00 a.m. then clean-up the kitchen and close. he would get home and snuggle in beside julie and demian on the mattress on the floor.
at 7:00 a.m. he would get up and get the fire going strong. then on a two burner coleman stove julie would make a little breakfast while s. prepared to work on drawings and paintings..
the loft was great. it was so big and long that s. used to ride furniture moving dolly from the skylight area to the bathroom way down at the north end. next to the bathroom was a sink. that's where they set up the cooking area. a wooden spindle for wire cables served as a table. all through the winter they lived like that. s. didn't mind. he was happy. the place was dirty with grey city soot and he was dirty with coal dust. but he was determined to make the best of things. he was working to produce a body of work for his first one man show. what a dreamer….
but julie was not at all satisfied and s. had to search the lower east side for an apartment. he found one for $60 a month. it was a pig sty crawling with armies of roaches. they worked together painting walls ceilings and floors. the worst part was the war against the roaches and the smell of the poisonous spray. under the refrigerator there were so many dead bodies that s. had to use a shovel to bag and deport the mound of the vile creatures. finally, they aired the place out for a week and moved in. s. got a real bed and with a few found chairs and a table they settled in on the ground floor on sixth street between second and first avenues.