Being an artist was kind of a holy to poor unschooled roughneck kids.
Living above the Black Panthers was no particular treat, but it is cool to remember in the now distant future. Every now and then I’d pass one or more of these guys in the entranceway. These gangsters, what a bunch, and so full of themselves. They cut me a lot of slack. I don’t know if it was my motherhood/infant child status, or so firmly working class waitressing, or that I kept so many animals or what.
Or being an artist. It was a universal and entirely extraordinary thing to New York City. Being an artist was kind of a holy to poor unschooled roughneck kids. There was an aura connected to it. In the whole time I painted at Coney Island, and believe me that was one dangerous hell hole, I was never bothered by any of the gangs, nor was any of my work ever injured.
One day, sitting in front of a small mural I was painting for a game, I hear this guy behind me, ah-hmmm-ing. I was always worried about turning my back on these alleyways. Every one who walked around the place had at least one switchblade. That and steel pipes most common, not guns, guns were more rare but also present.
I turn around.
“So,” says he, “You the oddist.”
“Right,” says I. “The artist.”
“I like that, what you painted,” says he. “You’re good.”
Period. He might have been the big kahuna or an underling gangster in training, but the word was out and even ten years later, more, none of the work I did got graffiti on it!