1976: more b&w; more color

by Alden Cole on May 9, 2015 · 0 comments

2PencilSketchesWP“No matter where you go, there you are.” – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

1976 brought momentous personal changes in its wake. Shortly after New Year, I arrived back in NYC after a two-week sojourn of California dreaming. So seduced was I by the glamour of San Francisco, that I came back convinced I should move there. The Fantasy: finally, I was going to live in the City of My Dreams – A City on a Hill, as well as on a Bay, where I would start feeling comfortable about being a gay man. So I deluded myself with a lively fantasy of finding happiness elsewhere.

QuetzalcoatlWPHowever those plans did not stop me from pursuing a little folly in my own back yard in the meantime. The weekend after arriving back in NYC I attended a mid-January party hosted by friends. On the make, I tried picking up a couple different guys whom I met that night, neither of whom responded with any reciprocal interest, just casual flirtation. As the evening wore on however, I noticed that someone was actively pursuing my attention. Although disappointed about the ‘two who got away,’ I was flattered and allowed myself to be charmed and convinced by this aggressive young man that going home with someone was better than going home alone that night; despite the fact that I wasn’t ‘that’ excited about this guy who was obviously very interested in knowing me better. Roger did have his charms however – a young 23-year old dancer with a lithe willowy body, I discovered he was studying dance with American Ballet Theater and keeping a roof over his head by working in a bakery, one of my favorites, on the East Side at Madison & 78th Street. Living dangerously, I considered my options and invited him to spend the night with me, which at this particular point in time, was the Griffiths apartment at West End and 96th Streets. I only had 3 more days before they returned from touring; my plans thereafter were to move into a friend’s apartment at Broadway and 80th Street, where I would rent a room while I continued to California dream and scheme.

2DrawingPadWP“A little folly is worth whatever you pay for it.”

How quickly plans can change. As a result of a chance meeting at a party on a Saturday night, four days later I was living in a single room of a friend’s apartment with a new lover in tow. My friend Chuck had been gracious enough to agree to house me for a few months when we had originally talked about this living arrangement. He was a bit bemused by the situation when I called him Monday evening asking if he could handle my bringing along a new guy I’d just gotten involved with two days before, when I moved in on Tuesday. The reason: new boy Roger claimed he needed to move from where he had been living as well; in my desperation to be in a relationship, even a less-than-ideal relationship, I acquiesced to his insistent suggestions that we live together. What a great recipe for disaster, or at minimum a tense living situation, which it proved to be.

TheMagusWPOur tenure in Chuck’s apartment lasted less than two months. Roger could be less than charming on occasion, and after enough of those times, Chuck asked us to leave. Where next? My friend Tony Heyl’s sister Fran was about to move from her apartment on 94th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, to the East Side. What a seeming stroke of luck for two vagabonds like ourselves. In early March we moved into the apartment while Fran was still living there; the plan was that she would be leaving in a week or so. This factor, plus the evolving competitive tension between Roger and myself made for an interesting reality show before such things existed. The week or so of overlap stretched into almost three, while Fran’s apartment on the East Side was being prepared. It was not a smooth transition. I was probably as close to loosing my mind there, without knowing it, as at anytime in my life; realizing that I’d really bungled in involving myself with this darkly handsome but strange Aquarian man nine years my junior. And to top it all off, there we were, still living together having just moved into another place, for the second time in as many months.

2VariationsWPThe late-March Saturday that Fran moved out provoked an unpleasant and irresolvable argument between Roger and myself that proved fatal to our relationship as partners. Although we continued sharing the railroad apartment, we claimed separate rooms, and had minimal communication, for another three months. I temporarily but totally lost my sense of humor, not for the first time or the last, but certainly the longest, wallowing in moodiness and being generally difficult to be around. During those months Roger acquired a cat to keep himself company, while I more and more dreamed of being anywhere else than where I was. California dreamin’ kept me company in my room while I created more and more artwork for myself and occasionally Harold Stover, in addition to the book covers that I was doing for Weiser’s during this period.

2MorePencilSketchesWPHarold Stover, knowing of my tense situation, offered me his apartment in the Broadmoor for July and August while he summer-vacationed from his teaching position, spending quiet time back home in Latrobe PA where he’d grown up, an opportunity to relax and compose. The day after he handed me his extra set of keys and departed NYC, I surreptitiously gathered my things together and moved out, while Roger was at work. Shouldering my relatively few earthly belongings from 94th and Riverside Drive to 101st and Broadway was relatively easy, requiring three trips to complete the task, after which I felt a tremendous sense of relief. No goodbyes, no reconciliations, just cold anger with a deep internal despair as I ruminated about my various unsuccessful attempts to create a meaningful and harmonious relationship with another man. I had just struck out a third time, and was wondering if there’d ever be a fourth.

October75ShowPiecesWPThe Fourth of July 1976 occasioned great feelings of personal relief and freedom. While America celebrated her 200th anniversary with lots of hoopla throughout the city, including an impressive parade of tall ships in New York Harbor sailing up the Hudson a bit to show off, I celebrated by spending much of that time inside working on a mural in the bedroom of Harold Stover’s apartment (be watching for an email plus posting with photos of that sometime soon). I was actually elated to be on my own again, particularly after the tensions of the previous six months. What to do? I was still working for Weisers, but had no long terms goals, except maybe get myself to San Francisco. That plan receded in importance as I found myself in other involvements that sabotaged any serious efforts to save money for a possible move. I committed to buying an expensive painting on the installment plan, agreeing to pay fellow artist Linda Gardner $2000 for a painting that was really stretching my means. Nevertheless I was convinced that this painting was going to be my ticket to fulfilling an obsession: meeting Rudolf Nureyev. And it was, though differently than imagined and ever so briefly. But that’s another story that also deserves its own posting.

DivinityWheelWPIn mid July Fran called me to let me know that the Roger had vacated the apartment, without a forwarding address, leaving his cat in the apartment; thus I inherited my first dependent, a relationship that lasted longer than I really wanted, and brought out the animal in me. Other memories of that summer are as non-existent as much of the art created at that time. The piece at left was created in a flurry of energy, inspired by a conversation with a revered friend of Don Weiser. Shortly after its creation, I had the chance to show the recently completed original to him when he payed Don a visit at the office. He was so enthusiastic about the art that I simply gave him the original gratis. Too often I had no concept of any possible monetary value attached to these unique pieces I was creating to satisfy an inner craving. At the time I was simply glad to be making art and giving away pieces to those who appreciated them, an encouragement to make more.

EzekielWPWith the advent of August I started contemplating my options, knowing that Stover would be returning by the end of the month. Where next? I discovered that a one-room studio was available on the 9th floor of the Broadmoor for $190 a month. I decided it was time to settle down in one spot again for a while so I signed a one-year lease and moved in, just in time for Stover’s arrival back in NY at the end of August. In early September I rented a small UHaul truck and drove north to the family place in Maine, to retrieve a number of household goods that would be useful in my new abode. The majority of these items had been stored in Dad’s barn since the fall of ’73, when Mayberry and I had broken up housekeeping and I was forced to condense three rooms of furniture down to a single room. Other items had been there since June ’74, when I had packed up my one room’s worth of furniture and moved north to Maine, out of New York City lock, stock and barrel for the first time. That particular sojourn north only lasted a summer season plus – June to October. Now I was trying to amend my wandering ways yet again by settling into an apartment I could call my own, for the first time in four years.


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