I once had a cavity in an upper molar.

It hurt like hell when I ate and I quickly learned to chew on the other side of my mouth.

I also hurt like hell when I happened to prod it with my tongue. But try as I might, I just couldn't stop myself; even though I knew it would hurt, my tongue just kept finding its way back to that cavity, giving me a sharp jolt.

This behaviour puzzled me to no end, since I am definitely not a masochist. In fact in most S&M relationships I'm the dominant partner.

And you know that more that I thought about it and the more I prodded this cavity with my tongue the more amazing I found this behaviour.

I lived in New York for a little over thirteen years, and for over five or them I operated art galleries; first Skull Space (Essex Street, south of Houston) and later Anti Gallery (Seventh Street near Avenue B, and the 'A' in Anti was spelled with the Anarchy symbol).

Both started out as a classic New York real estate scams; there is a major shortage of affordable housing in the five boroughs. Getting a large living space is not just difficult - it's downright impossible.

But square foot for square foot commercial space is far cheaper and far more available.

The only caveat is you can't live there since it not zoned for residential purposes. Even now the City would have you believe that this is for your own protection.

Oftentimes you could find a landlord who didn't give a shit what you did with the space, as long as you were as paying the rent, didn’t damage (or better yet fixed up) the property, and swore that you wouldn't live there (wink-wink-nudge-nudge).

So it all started back in 1989 with me renting a commercial space from one of the classic Ludlow Street sleaze-lords who is now in jail for trying to murder a low-rent tenant, Mr Mark (if you live in New York and read the Village Voice you know who he is, but he was always fair to me so I won't use his last name here). And with the usual wink-wink-knudge-knudge I was solemnly instructed not to live there.

Hey no problem Mark!

So started Skull Space. And since I wanted to make sure that Mark didn't get into any trouble, I began to organise monthly shows there (a veil of commercial activity complete with invites, voice-mail and advertisements), featuring my friends who couldn't get gallery shows.

And why the fuck not?

Most of them were quite accomplished artists, but lacked social skills (as a Geek / Artist I easily related). Others had extreme drug or alcohol problems (I'm still chasing my own demons some twelve years later) and couldn't do the whole social thing an art career demands.

And a few more were real over-the-edge gang members that I ran with on the streets (the 501's etal). On the streets of the Lower East Side they wouldn't stay in one place long enough to be identified for their art, their tags, let alone be attacked by rivals.

But we had great times at my galleries.

I'd post a new show once a month, and it would stay up for three weeks. For one week the gallery would be in transition - white walls - and then we'd have a new show complete with a bang-up opening. Lower East Side Poets and musicians would perform for free and these were absolutely wonderful and memorable times.

So you might ask what did I get out of it?

Well first and foremost living space.

I had a huge space to live in and - even better - it was constantly changing. I kept my sleeping bag and other belongings locked in a closet at the rear, only opening it at night.

It might sound like a rough existence, but I loved it.

And even better I made some really solid friends, people I'm still in touch with.

And that brings us to the subject of this writeup.

Did you know that 98% of the women displayed at one time at MOMA were nudes on canvas? NOT ARTISTS! And there were other inequities but it soon became apparent to me that I had to organise a few "women only" shows.

So I did, and met quite a few nice girls as reputation about the space spread.

And one of them was Janet.

Now in her heyday she must have been such an awesome piece of work (I mean that in the most non-sexist manner since she such a great artist and so fucking smart), and she quickly zeroed in on me as gallery owner, publisher of HYPE magazine, and boffo curator extrodinaire.

We quickly started having an affair.

Now that was ok, since not only was I living alone with a cat, she was cool enough (not only ART America articles about her but she was / is close buddies with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame), prolific enough (I acquired seven of her paintings for my own collection and well read enough (Fuck! Everything I'd ever fucking read she'd already read and then some!) that I fell for her in a major way.

Well you know the expression "I love you, you're perfect NOW CHANGE!".

And that was how I felt after a few weeks.

Because this babe was always tired.

This babe was famine victim thin, even though she'd eat like a horse when I could coerce her out to dinner.

This babe wanted to sleep - all of the time! And I'm a real high energy sort.

This babe had these exquisitely beautiful drooping eyelids, half-eyes she'd view the world through.


Now that should have been my first sign, eh?

Well, it wasn't long after that - actually after I'd found her works hidden in a towel closet and I didn't tell her- that she invited me to move in with her.

"My cozy flat is much nicer than that open and cold gallery", she'd tell me. And she had a point there.

But even though I've taken well over 200 hits of acid and am very open minded regarding drugs, I was a little reserved.

So now I must tell you about the other girl friend, a nice small blonde haired, blue eyed girlfriend from Wisconsin who three years before the time of Janet that I met in a restaurant while playing with some toys (she had her own) and who I fell for in a major way, who was paper thin and always cold and tired and sleepy and dove-eyed and who had a wonderfully quick and seductive laugh and who loved cartoons and who would watch them with me for hours and hours and who liked to draw with me in crayons on the white table clothes of nice restaurants and we'd always insists it was food stains but the waiters or waitresses wouldn't blow us in 'cause she was so damn nice, who had a strange friend named "Miquel" who called at all late hours with small brown packets and she would meet at the door with cash, and she was the wonderful gal-pal who I sometimes couldn't wake up for ten or fifteen minutes in the morning and stupid fuck that I am I simply didn't question why and who one day I simply couldn't wake up after returning from a business trip and all the Latino ladies were out in the hall outside our flat saying "Honey, your girlfriend done left you and the freezer is open!".

So I got to find her three day old old old body on the bathroom floor, blue blue blue bloated bloated bloated with red foam on her mouth and chest dead dead dead from a fucking heroin overdose.

So naturally I don't care for that drug that much.

"Where the fuck was she shooting up?" was all I was curious about. No tracks on her arms or her legs; I'd inspected her body quite well during our intimate sessions and try as I might I just couldn't fucking figure out where she was injecting it.

But one day we had an argument about my suspicions and she spitefully told me - under her fucking tongue!

Oh my gosh! It was true and I told her everything and she agreed that I couldn't go through that again, that she loved me and would go into rehab.

And what a rehab I found her! $20,000 it cost me, my entire life savings at that time and in she went two days later.

We sat up the entire night before she went in, drinking wine and smoking pot. She was nervous but I was committed and on a bright Monday morning I escorted her to the clinic and watched as she signed herself in.

So I went back to my gallery to get some much needed sleep (we were putting a new group show up) at about 7:30AM that morning and I was awakened by the phone around 4PM that afternoon.

She'd left the clinic. Signed herself out. Couldn't deal with the Junkies, the losers, the nurses, the doctors, people telling her what she should be doing, what she shouldn't be doing, the constant valiums and other drugs designed to calm her nerves.

A million and one excuses.

She wouldn't go back. She wanted me to come over and spend the night. And being mindful of my previous experience, I declined the invitation.

Next day I called her, but her old boyfriend (Jay from the band Original Formula) answered the phone and wouldn't let me speak with her. "Janet was sleeping".


So I called the clinic about my $20K. Turns out it was non-refundable and was in the papers that we'd both signed. In fact, they wanted another grand or so for a whole shitload of damage she'd done while generally being an asshole and insisting that she be allowed to leave.

So I paid. But this isn't a node about money.

You see for well over one year after this incident and our time together I'd ride my bike past her house at all hours of the night.

Lower East Side junkies only came out at night, and as painful as I knew it would be, I was hoping for a glimpse of her.

Like that fucking cavity I'd one had in a tooth, I found this behaviour amazing.

But try as I might, I couldn't help myself.

Copyright D. A. Coker 2000

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