Monday, January 17, 2011

Some Things Always Make Me Smile

I was thinking about the apartment I wrote about in “Yeemin, Jason, Sukarno and Me”.

That apartment was at 302 E. 70th Street in Manhattan. We’re talking about 1956. When Fritz Bultman’s father died, Fritz and Jeanne bought a really nice brownstone on 95th Street between 3rd and Lex. That meant Fritz could move out of his painting studio which was on the top floor at 302 E. 70th St. Which meant Ron and I could move from our slum apartment at 516 E. 12th Street to a slum apartment on the fourth floor of a slum building on the upper East side. Much better. 

Betsy Ross Zogbaum and her son Rufus lived on the first floor at 302. Betsy was an editor on a fashion magazine and her boyfriend was Franz Kline. I don’t remember who was on the second and third floors. But Karl Mann had a studio across the hall from Fritz’s studio. Karl was making pots of money with his seed paintings and he needed a whole studio for his assistants to do the seeding-by-numbers drill with Elmer’s Glue and fingernail files in order to crank them out. 

Smile No. 1

My husband and Karl had known each other in high school in Chicago. 

I’m really fuzzy on the particulars now, but Karl wanted to take off for six months to study acting or film-making or some such in Mexico and Ron wanted to take off and paint in Mexico. So Karl said I could stay in his studio as a sort of apartment sitter for the time they were both away.

Karl had fixed up his studio. And although it had no heat, he’d put in a hot water heater and he’d stripped the walls down to brick and the place looked really nice, compared with the scuzzy painter’s digs we had across the hall.

When Karl got back and Ron and I had gotten back together again and were living across the hall again, “The New Yorker” decided to profile Karl because he had become a real mover-and-shaker in the art world. Ron and I eagerly read the Profile. One line stuck out. Karl complained that he had let a couple impoverished artists live in his studio while he was away and they had eaten all his expensive seeds.

It was true…I had. Heh…heh-heh.

Smile No. 2

Karl’s expensive seed paintings started to sprout on people’s walls.

Yeah…some things never cease to make me smile.

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