We live in an urban cliff dwelling in Brooklyn.
Manhattan reclines before us like an indifferent odalisque.
We have seen fireworks and falling stars
in the window, from our bed,
and sea gulls pass by, and helicopters.
No job, no car, no retirement plan.
No insurance for me.
We've got nothing but the life we always wanted.
We are two miisfits fit for each other.
In March, Lori and I will have been together seven years. Our first (kind of) date was on my 51st birthday. She said I could meet her at Sideshow gallery at a James Little/Thornton Willis opening. That was it. That was our date. Hanging out with Rich Timperio and that scene. I met Thornton and James and had a good time. She let me walk her home, but she was very cautious about getting involved with anyone, or at least with me.
We first met some years before, at an art opening for Sharon Horvath, at Tibor de Nagy. We were in relationships, and they were good, and she was friends with the woman I was seeing at the time. Lori was carrying a cloth shopping bag from Labyrinth Books. I was an assistant manager at the World Trade Center Borders and miserable. She cheerfully told me she was in the process of working at every independent bookstore in Manhattan -- Gotham, Strand, St. Marks, the Posman’s that used to be on University near Washington Square Park. Cool.
I saw her again, and met her boyfriend, at a birthday party for my girlfriend’s sister. She told me her favorite bands were Pere Ubu and The Mekons, and she loved The Ramones. We were all sitting outside at a picnic table. I observed her very honest face and lovely tan lines.
After the WTC attack I transferred to the Borders at Park Avenue. She and the boyfriend came to one of my gigs with the Audio Artists, at Bar 13. She remembers the part where I crash a toy airplane into my head. She came by the Park Avenue store once, looking for a job. I told her I would talk to the human resources manager and that she needed to fill out an application. I didn’t tell her I didn’t think she would fit in with the corporate totalitarianism of Borders. She seemed to be a free spirit, and I was finding that particular store at that particular time particularly unfree.
A couple of years later I saw some of Lori’s ballpoint pen drawings in a group show in Williamsburg, including a large piece assembled from sheets of paper with triangles with the handwritten words LOVE or LORI on each of them and I realized she was much more than a Real Cool free spirit and misfit bookseller, but an artist doing work of great value. LOVE LORI, yes. I loved her work.
I was going through a midlife depression even before the attack at the WTC, and after it I was in more trouble than I realized. I hated being in retail, my art work was shit, and I was making my girlfriend miserable with my raging misery. After she and I decided to just be friends I was rather lost.
I went to Zebulon one night to see Ken Butler and spotted Lori across the room, which was packed with Ken’s friends and fans. She was much more beautiful than I remembered. I fought my way through the throng and said, “Hi.” She said she was talking to someone else and couldn’t talk with me right then. “Of course”, I thought, and felt bad, but she surprised me by coming back when it was my turn to be talked to. She asked if I was doing more spoken word stuff. She told me she watched the desk at Sideshow, and she introduced my to Rich, who was standing nearby. She said I ought to perform there with the Audio Artists. She gave me her phone number. It was like some divinity handed me a magical sacrament, or holy spell, or blessing.
So I called her a couple of nights later, feeling as nervous as I did when I was 15 and asked Rosie MacDougall if she would go with me to the Grand Funk Railroad concert. Lori told me she was washing her bed sheets, which didn't seem suggestive until I thought about it later. We talked at least an hour on the phone. We talked about art and books and religion, and who knows what else. A nice long intimate conversation, I thought, but did I pass the audition? Her last words before she hung up offered provisional encouragement.
She said, “You can call me every other day.”