In addition to loving the story, I have become obsessed with this photograph. I have looked at it for at least an hour. As I flipped through other pages in the magazine, I found myself compelled to turn back to this one page, just to stare at this one photograph.
The caption below the photo reads: Smith and Mapplethorpe on their West 23rd Street fire escape, 1971.
I'm obsessed with it for several reasons. 1. Everything about it screams New York. And not the new New York, but the old New York; the New York we'll never get back, the New York of the pre-fame artist, the New York of Andy Warhol and Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, renting out rooms in Chelsea Hotel and living off whatever money they could make at their counter jobs, doing drugs and smoking cigs and drinking and creating amazing art just because they wanted to create. 2. Every time I look at it, I see something new. It took me several views to realize that Robert's right foot is actually not touching the fire escape. It looks like he's levitating, which seems appropriate. Writing this just now, I notice that Patti's fly is unzipped. XYZ Patti! 3. It was totally candid. 4. They're clearly fucking badasses and I want to be them.
I feel that I am entering into a new stage of my life where I want to explore everything and try everything. I want to listen to every kind of music that exists (just because). I want to read a gazillion books (just because). I want to stand around outside bars on the Lower East Side and smoke menthols, (just because I do it sometimes when I drink, and I always want to be those beautiful punk girls who let the smoke glide between their thick red lips while they talk). I want to get tattoos and then sort of regret them later (but not really because I'll just remember wanting to memorialize something that was important to me at the time). I want to make new friends, some of whom I'll never forget (and others I'll never remember). I want to write until I pass out. I want to use art to celebrate where I'm from. In short, I want to recreate (my version of) Patti's New York.
I want to remember that one day, I will look back on these young minutes and realize how special they were, and how important. I can't know now why they're important, but one day, if I'm real lucky, I will.
"...[Patti] was in the room in the Chelsea when Kris Kristofferson played “Me and Bobbie McGee” for Janis Joplin in her easy chair.
'I was there for those moments,' writes Smith, 'but so young and preoccupied with my own thoughts that I hardly recognized them as moments.'"