My meagre surrounds are a humble beginning where the sheep, outside the window, can be heard whispering, the moon rustling. In that I was born I was the first of seven and my grandfather and grandmother were of foreign extraction, immigrants no less, who arrived at these shores with nary a nickel to their breeches. Their first born too, my father, met my mother while rodeo-ing or shipbuilding or standing lucklorn by black and white factory gates, Victorian spikes asplendour. They met, married, just in time for me, soon joined by varying degrees of sibling, some female, others male. I was a shy kid but also a cocky kid, mostly alone but also often surrounded by gangs of people. Women mainly who gave me the keen understanding of the world and its surrounds as I now understand it and filter it through my work. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll have to say it again: women know stuff and do stuff that men, well, you know. It marks me out, right?
And I was a quiet, industrious kid, special in many ways but normal in many other ways, happy to run with the gang, no shoes, holes all over, empty stomachs and railroad cars. There was a tragedy, an incident, which set me on this course for life, although I am far too young to recall it, it set me here for life. My brother crushed neath the fall of iron girders as we strode the flips and flies of the new monuments to American dominance, the skyscrapers. We climbed them high these beacons and while we were mere scraps of kids, me seven perhaps, my brother five, I knew then, even as I cannot remember it now, that the American dream was twofold and double-edged and you had to be careful while on that climb because the American dream could literally crush you to death. How very fucking profound. And so there, forged, me and all you need to know about me and my attitude to life, to women and to work. You should, I would recommend, deploy a permanent bookmark here.
So, of course, things were never the same and though I cherished my brother’s memory I was guilty for most of the while due to the influence of some religion or other, thrown down on me by grieving parents who sought solace in the faith of their youth and sought also to solace some for us. Well, girls and masturbation and dreadful, dirty thoughts that caused me all kind of magnificent conflict as I dashed between good and evil and thought for a while how I would become a professional practitioner of my faith – I took the exams and everything – but looming, and I’ll cut to the chase, my teenage years and early adulthood where I, poet and painter, dived the delights of art and women and never once looked back. Except now, except for here.
In those early days it was better, naturally, and everyone was so young and free, unlike today where they are old, even the young, and bound in all manner of metaphysical and otherwise chains. Smoking cigarettes and whiskey, the freedom push of jazz, it was, from my one-room, rat-infested apartment, mouldy bread and a roll call of all the names you know now but didn’t know then: Happy Stamper, Rick Neck, Todd Refoli, Gordon Zola, Benedict Benson, Fisheye Lens, Nathan Foley, Ichabod Dent. They were in their youth then and death, which took them all too young, was mere years away and how cruelly they were taken, me documenting their demise through song, poetry, painting or photography, whatever took my fancy. Happy days indeed.
As for love, my first wife was a skinny lovely, the girl of sort of next door who, in high school, I promised too soon I would marry. There was a pregnancy, an abortion, a cause of some distance between us. She took it at first, this living, but soon grew tired of the endless art and the endless nights of bohemian fancy, I’m sure you have the picture. I met and fell in love with someone else, a ridiculous one-sided love which took me to Europe for a while where I almost met my end in either the Seine or the Thames. And then an endless stab of girls, each with their own merits, plus a brief dabble with homosexuality where I took it up the ass like a thoroughbred man. But the truth of this journey through love is that only now, in the past twenty years, have I found someone who knows me and fills me and completes me and all that bullshit, where we live, the two of us, surrounded by our stories of the past, our collections of, ha, imaginary snapshots, occasional visits from our children who are, of course, money-driven disappointments or somesuch and not the free spirits we pushed them to be, the irony far too ho-hum to mention. But we fade here as we’ll surely slip away.
At around the same time, in those early days, my first book was published, or my first exhibition exhibited. I became, almost overnight, the hottest new sensation. And this, as you’ll know, is from hereon the stuff you know. Wait, if you can then, for the joys of volume two. Amen.