by Les Bohem
Great Jones Street #1 – Relativity
Here is the only way that relativity has ever been explained to me where I could understand the concept of time being a dimension. You are invited to a party at a loft on Great Jones Street. The party will be held on Saturday, October 9, 1982 at 10pm.
If I arrive at a different time—say a Tuesday night some thirty-seven years later, the loft will be gone—the junkies who lived there, dead. Simple—you go to Great Jones Street at another time, and, even though the coordinates of the other three dimensions are the same, the party will be over.
So here I am in Manhattan, on a warm summer Saturday night with that hot wind blowing tears into my eyes, and I’m remembering the best night of my life. I was with a girl who was not my wife, I was high on heroin, and I was sitting outside at some restaurant on Seventh Avenue in the Village. One of those warm night breezes blew and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that absolutely nothing could ever go wrong. It was 1983, the year after that imaginary party in the loft on Great Jones Street. The year 1983 now seems to have gained some sort of iconic virtue, but at the time it was just where we were. A coordinate.
I loved this girl that I was seeing. Loved her not so much for who she was, but for the part of me that was about to be no more that she represented. I had been somebody cool, at least from a distance, and that’s who I was, for a little while, with her.
These days, I rarely think about her, but now here I am in a warm, breeze-blowing New York night just like the ones that we spent together, and I am for the first time in my life understanding that Einstein was really onto something.
Great Jones Street #2 – Kratom
Here is a strange little tale. I am walking through the East Village, Trying to find some semblance of a youth I never quite had here in New York, where I have never been more than a visitor. I decide to write a song. It will be called, “That Won’t Get Me Laid.” I dictate the words into my iPhone. “That won’t get me laid/ That won’t change my life/ That won’t make me young/ That will make it right.” It’s a summer night, and I’ve never seen so many beautiful young women. I am reminded of another song, a song that I wrote when I was seventeen. “Nowhere to Go but Tomorrow.” The lyrics go, “Put the girls in summer dresses, the boys all look like fools.” How exactly, did I know so much when I was seventeen? It was as if I were receiving messages from my future.
There’s a new drug I’ve heard my son and his friends talking about. Kratom—some Thai sort of leaf, that sounds, when they talk about it, like a combination of the coca leaf and heroin. They tell me it can put you anywhere you want to be. Anywhere.
My son is in his second year of college and has just moved into an apartment with his girlfriend on a lovely street with a big sign that says “DEAD END” right outside their house. I had a fantastic job last year, producing a TV show that I had created. I was fired; the show was taken away from me and rewritten by talentless hacks. This is not common knowledge, as it would hurt the show’s chances if rumors of “trouble” started, and so, when I go out to meetings, I have to smile and pretend that I’m on top of the world.
I mentioned that I was a visitor. I used to come here some in the ’80s, to a Manhattan that was apparently a thing unto itself, although at the time, we all thought that we were just trying to live in Lou Reed’s world, or Dorothy Parker’s, or Charlie Parker’s, or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, Pollock’s, Dylan’s… the list is endless and what strikes me as strange about it now is that it had already been romanticized then. We were living in a present that was simply a playground for tomorrow’s legends.
I stayed in those days at a friend’s St. Marks walk-up. A closet-sized studio apartment with a tiny kitchen. There was a minuscule rectangle of a window above the sink and, if you lay just right on the bed, you had a view through that window of the spire of the Empire State Building. There were nightclubs that didn’t open until four in the morning, clubs where the bartender would serve you cocaine, laid out in the bar next to your double bourbon, if you knew how to ask. There was desperation on a scale so epic that none of us realized it was actually desperation.
Okay, so I’m walking up Second Avenue from St. Mark’s. There’s a smoke shop. I go in. I ask for Kratom. There are many different varieties, but I don’t care. I take what the owner recommends, buy a bottle of water, and down eight capsules.
I feel nothing. So I walk up Second to 34th St. Then I turn around and walk back. I keep on walking. Soon I am on the Bowery. Here is my friend Bobby, who died in 1988 of a heroin OD in his loft on, ironically , Great Jones Street. He reaches out his arms and we embrace. And then we walk into CBGB’s to see Television open for the Talking Heads.