Still More from Hell’s Kitchen

Although today, the song is actually from the East Village, circa 1984. (As usual, if you’re on your phone, you gotta turn it sideways to see this music-related post.)

You’ll notice, once you scroll down a little, that my hairstyle changed drastically by the time I was living in the East Village (also called Alphabet City back then).

The East Village (Avenues A through D, and E.14th Street to Houston Street) has been completely gentrified nowadays, but back then, you only ventured into the East Village if you were either Puerto Rican and born there, or you were really poor and/or a struggling artist of some sort and still wanted to live on the island of Manhattan.

I, of course, fell into the 2nd category.

I left my first husband in 1983. Technically, I left because of a misunderstanding. I was pretty sure he’d told me to get out. He claims he didn’t say this and was furious when I left him, refusing to divorce me for another 7 years. However, he was always saying these weird, convoluted things to me, like, “Has it ever occurred to you to stop taking drugs??!!” “Are you ever going to grow up??!!” “Are you ever going to stop fucking around with musicians [male & female] and behave like my wife??!!”

ME: (Question #1)Yes.

ME: (Question #2) I’m not sure.

ME: (Question #3) No.

So I moved out and all I could afford was a 2 bedroom floor-through in an old tenement on E. 12th Street, between Avenues A & B.  But don’t let it fool you; the “bedrooms” were only big enough for a bed, and there were no doors – one room led right into the next. There was a non-working fireplace in the front room, and a non-working fireplace in the kitchen, along with the cast iron bathtub. However, someone along the way had been thoughtful enough to put in a half-wall of glass brick to sort of give a feeling of privacy to the bathtub, so that was super nice! People sitting at the kitchen table didn’t have to look directly at you while you were bathing. And then the toilet was in a tiny closet at the very back.

The entire apartment was maybe about 600 square feet, and the whole building leaned in the direction of the East River, so you had to get used to walking, sleeping, and sitting on an extreme slant. I can remember sitting at my kitchen table and writing in my journals, feeling like the chair would topple backwards at any moment, the sloping floor was that extreme.

But I lived there for 9 years until I ventured into my 2nd marriage (where the questions put to me by my second husband were remarkably similar!).

I have some amazing memories from that era in the East Village, gang. I was still playing music out in clubs all the time. I had a new band and sometimes I had a manager (although we argued a lot and often she was indescribably pissed off at me because I was indescribably opinionated). I had indescribably huge amounts of sex in that apartment, too. And some of it was actually really good sex, too. I wrote constantly. Songs, mostly. But I wrote in my journals all the time, documenting everything, including my own insanity. And I also began taking my fiction writing seriously while living in that apartment – I was living there when I first started getting published in underground zines.

The neighborhood itself was just awful. It was full of deserted tenements that looked like bombed-out buildings. These were called shooting galleries because junkies would go in there to have a semblance of privacy while they were shooting up or nodding out. Because of the heroin problems down there, crime was also really bad. And when crack came in, the neighborhood got vicious.

But art was all over. Iggy Pop lived a couple blocks from me in one direction. Richard Hell and Allen Ginsberg lived a block away in the other direction (not with each other, though). Life Cafe was around one corner, where a number of my friends gave poetry readings, and The Ritz was around the other corner (where I saw many cool musicians, including but not limited to: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nina Hagen, and Lou Reed. And back then, tickets to these shows cost $13.50)

There were a number of sex clubs in the East Village, where BDSM was going into some really dark realms. Stuff was going on that even I would shy away from.  There were a few after hours bars. The Mafia had a store front up the block from me. There were dirty cops on the take all over the place; cops from the 9th Precinct, which was just a  horrible precinct back then. Dirty cops scared me more than anything I had encountered up to that point, and by then I had already been raped a number of times. But dirty cops were just fucking scary. I accidentally walked in to a video store on Avenue A once, when a cop was in the middle of a payoff. He saw me see it, unfortunately, and even though I tried really hard not to see it and left right away, he followed me all the way home. And the cops did shit to my friends that was truly terrifying.

There were people having sex in the parks all night, including friends of mine who were turning tricks there to make enough money to score heroin. They were wretched little parks. They had swing sets and sliding boards and teeter-totters for the little poor kids who would play there during the day. But then public sex was rampant there during the night.

Of course AIDS was everywhere by then. Most of my friends were dying from it, right and left. I literally lost count of how many friends died from AIDS.  And it was also during this time period that I volunteered for Visiting Nurse Services of NY and watched a lot of people die (see my post about Peter Hujar here.) I was also taking that songwriting workshop with Jim Carroll at that point and was writing some really cool songs.

The one I posted today is called Avenue A. It’s a rockabilly number, actually. This is a 24-track demo, but still analogue. Rob Nash is playing the electric guitar (check it out  – he was great.) His wife, Judy, was on drums. Lloyd Blake was on bass and then me on acoustic and vocals. This is a really fun demo, gang. I always liked it.

All righty. So here’s the hair from that era. First, me on the Double R subway train during the daytime, with no make-up and no Aqua Net hairspray:

Me on the Double R

The performer version of me back then, with make-up and hairspray. You can see here that Aqua Net hairspray really was awesome stuff!

Marilyn Jaye Lewis with make-up and hairspray!! Although I went by the name Marilyn Jaye then. My legal last name back then was Chong.

All righty, gang!! I gotta get crackin’ around here.  Hard at work on Chapter 20 of Blessed By Light. Thanks for visiting! I love you guys. See ya!

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