Just kids by patti smith:
my thoughts and Outfit inspiration
Just Kids, written by Patti Smith, is an account of her time with photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe in Brooklyn and Manhattan circa 1969 into the 70's. Both were unknown artists then, just starting out and living the truly bohemian, romanticized life of starving artists in New York City......back in a time when you could actually live in New York City, be an artist on a bookstore clerk's salary and still have a roof over your head - I mean, diner breakfasts for 50 cents and 20 cent subway fares? Unheard of in this day and age!
Not that their life was easy by any means. At today's standards rent back then was laughingly attainable - $100 to $180 a month, which they scraped together through Patti's job at a book shop and Robert's art delivery job.
The Hotel Chelsea chapter is one of my favorite parts of the book and it still blows my mind that Patti and Robert were able to live at the Chelsea Hotel in exchange for art, although they did always pay actual rent on time. The hotel back then was occupied by many artists, songwriters, working actors and actresses, film makers, etc. - "Everyone had something to offer and nobody appeared to have much money. Even the successful seemed to have just enough to live like extravagant bums."
I enjoyed this book so much, not only because it provided a nostalgic look back at a city that I love (when I was old enough to appreciate such things, NYC was on its way to becoming "Disneyfied") but because as an artist myself, I know the struggle of pursuing The Dream while working a day job while staying true to your identity and attempting adulthood.
The city seemed so much more bohemian and less corporate in regards to the art scene, at least in their circle of artist friends. There was more of making art for the sake of making art. Obviously, there was also more drugs, less sterilization - the passages on pg. 87 about the "morphine angel" were some of my favorite to read. There was a great part where Patti recounts a bar scene at El Quixote where Janis Joplin was at one table with her crowd, Jefferson Airplane and Hendrix were at another - "...there were no security guards. No pervasive sense of privelege." I can only wonder what it would've been like if Patti and Robert were navigating todays social media and hashtag society. The irony with that is that Robert looked up to Andy Warhol and his art, and his "15 seconds of fame" quote is now more relevant than ever.
I also grew to admire Patti's personality - confident in her art and strengths but also knew and acknowledged her weaknesses. On wondering whether their work was good enough to be exchanged for rent at the Chelsea Hotel - "The work was good. We deserved to be here."
My style says 'Look at me, don't look at me.'
Pretty much most of us know how the story ends, if it ever ended at all. Patti becomes an accomplished poet and punk rock singer-songwriter and Robert becomes a famous artist and photographer. But I feel with this book that the old cheesy quote that the journey is more important than the destination rings true. They went through so much for the sake of art that one of the most poignant parts of the book that literally made me well up in tears was when Patti is at Robert's memorial service at the Whitney Museum (Robert died of AIDS in 1989) and she is looking out the same window that she looked out of decades ago and watched Robert smoking a cigarette outside because they could only afford one ticket - one of them would go in to look at the exhibit then describe it to the other later. He had said "We're going to make it, Patti."