Just Kids

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in 1977.

Last night I went to see Patti Smith at Skylight Books here in LA. It was a bit of a mob scene. Fortunately, they had a live video of her reading next door in their art book shop because the main shop was packed.

I found her reminiscences about the old days in New York to be very moving. In fact, I had a few goose-bumpy kind of moments as I listened to her speak. Her no-nonsense passion for art and the creative spirit was really inspiring.

She read a passage from her book Just Kids about running into Robert Mapplethorpe in Tompkins Square Park just as she was trying to figure out how to escape from a bad date. He agreed to pretend to be her boyfriend, and the rest is history…She also read the story of how Allen Ginsberg bought her a sandwich because he thought she was a very pretty boy. She read about being so poor that she had to sleep in the bathroom at the bookstore where she worked and rummage around for spare change to buy peanut butter crackers. Hunger was definitely a recurring theme in the passages she read. She mentioned that when she and Robert didn’t have any money, they just didn’t eat. He could go longer without food than she could. She would get shaky and feel faint. When they did have money, her three specialties were lettuce soup, couscous with anchovies and spaghetti. Their rent was $80 per month. Someone asked her what she thinks of New York these days, and she calmly responded that the city should be for the people. And New York is not for the people now. It’s for the rich.

It was so strange how she met Robert Mapplethorpe. As a twenty year-old newly arrived in New York, she actually bumped into him twice before (once in Brooklyn and once in the bookstore where she worked) that night he saved her from the bad date. It seems like they were meant to find each other, right? I wish I could remember more…she was incredibly warm and down to earth and funny. She laughed at herself often. The whole night was incredibly inspiring. After she signed my book, and I was walking out of the store, I had to take a deep breath. The woman has an incredibly strong spirit. Just being in her presence restored my faith.


~ by Valerie Palmer on February 1, 2010.

One Response to “Just Kids”

  1. […] I read Just Kids months ago, and I’m still gushing about it to anyone who’ll listen. […]

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