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Monday, February 13, 2012

2-12-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #40 (Summer of Sam & the Big Blackout)


A reader has requested that I write about the Summer of Sam. Hmmm. There are a few things I remember about it. . . Summer of 1977, in New York City. I had moved to “The City” just a year previous, was still in school (attending Hunter College), getting homework done, writing up a storm as Trixie A. Balm, and playing in the newly-formed New Wave pop band, Nervus Rex.

That summer, after breaking up with my other beau, JW, I was dating a young man who lived in the West Village, also wrote for Creem, loved to sing Everly Brothers harmonies and play the harmonica. He was a gentle soul whose initials, BA, were the same as my dad’s.

He didn’t like my being in a band and throwing away my writing career -- although he never seemed to have much positive to say about my writing. He saw that Shawn had designs on me. . . and when the big blackout happened in July (the 12th or 13th?), I was at the Krushenick’s loft, rehearsing music with Shawn. The blackout was pretty exciting -- I love candles and flashlights -- and I doubt we were very prepared for anything like that.

I stayed over and slept on the Krushenick’s couch that night -- it seemed too dangerous to go outside, and travel by subway up to East 65th street (my then address) was prohibitive.

I know that BA was angry at me for not going home, but really, what could I do? And we didn’t have cell phones, so calling people was kind of out of the question. . . anyway, it was kind of a mess (though on a way smaller scale than the city, where looting and burning on Broadway reached epic proportions). I wrote a short story called “But Uptown’s Too Far. . .” and I’m not sure what happened to it, but I do remember writing it as a sort of apologia.

Meanwhile, back in Queens, my mom was worried sick over all that “Son of Sam” stuff going on. . . she always urged me to be careful and carry around mace or something for self protection. I didn’t tend to hang around at night by myself (even though I’d feel alone in my head quite a lot), and going out clubbing meant going somewhere we played, like CBGB’s or Max’s Kansas City.

I do remember the day that Elvis Presley died, August 16, 1977. On a sticky hot summer’s night, BA and I were walking around the village, on Eighth Street, crossing Sixth Avenue. I have no idea why I remembered that particular moment; memory is a tricky little beast. (And Shawn, we only started dating later in ’77, remember!)

My little apartment on East 65th Street was kind of dark and small -- and I didn’t like being there too much. When I had a deadline -- which was often -- or some homework to do, I would gladly stay in, but otherwise, I’d try to hang out anywhere, even on my building’s stoop. I had no air conditioning, but luckily, it wasn’t roaringly hot in the apartment, being as it was out of the sun and on a lower floor (second floor, in the back, no elevator, of course!).

My neighbor, Kenny, and I became sort of friends. He and his family owned and ran a little newspaper store on First Avenue, around the corner from 65th Street. He was a small, rather neurasthenic man, who wore glasses, had thinning hair, and was really into “juicing” -- using a juicer to extract vegetable juices.

. . . Not too exciting, but that’s all for now!! Next blog: Meeting Dianne Athey. . .


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