I have written a version of this story before, involving storage spaces.But I joined up with the Andy Warhol story to keep to a storage theme, having been stuck in a room full of Interview magazines for several days.By accident. It’s somewhere on this blog.
I live very close by to some storage containers, which look like colourful box cars, in East London. I wonder how or if the people with stuff in the upper containers visit their stuff. I wonder if it’s mainly junk their spouses say “I just don’t wanna see that shit anymore” and she or he may be talking about all his National Geographics or punk fanzines that were in the garage before they got a big freezer to store stuff in case there is some kind of nuclear war or natural disaster whereby storage freezers still work and stock all the cheap but filling shit from Iceland ( shop not country) Greggs puff pastry meat pie and so on. Can you imagine, a nuclear war, your country is trashed, your best friends are dead, your house is ash, you are vomiting and bald from radiation, and first thing you think is, ooh, I could murder a Greggs’ mince pasty. Maybe, and this is my guess, they are filled with all the missing sculpture arms, legs, sometimes heads you see on fractured but ancient sculptures in the British Museum. They’ve gotta be somewhere. Or maybe, but not likely, they are stocked with tins of sardines with cocaine in them.
This was really the case for a good pal of mine in NY, she had to leave a guy ( we all do, eventually) ,and move in with , actually it was my mother, ( not the pal, the person she moved in with) and she had a lot of stuff, what we would call nick nacks, stuff you may see in car boot sales as the sunburnt outsize lady in vintage dress and mirror shades tells you that is really from the 50s, you won’t find another one, and you pick it up,say oh how cute,she tells you the price, you put it down she says more desperately you really won’t find another full set of gollywog jam jar labels made into a collage, and before you get into the whole gollywogs were racist thing, you put it down and go to the next stall where they are selling Brazil football t shirts for 50 p. But my pals nick nacks were cute. Wind up toys and the like.
No, I dunno where this storage space was, but it was a container or small room of a sort. One night she was watching the local news and it said that some foodstuffs ( sardines) had been illegally stored in a storage unit which did not allow foodstuffs, but that wasn’t even the really illegal bit. The really illegal bit was that inside the sardine tins, which still had sardines in them to put the sniffer dogs off the scent, were small packets of cocaine, pure, very high street value. She said ohmygodthat’s my storage space, not the sardines and cocaine container but the same general building or stack or whatever. What had happened was that there was some chemical reaction between the sardine oils ( meant to be high in Omega oils, good for you) and the cocaine,(not so good for you) and this reaction had rotted the tins and the stuff started leaking cocaine infused sardine oil all over the shop, right over and into my friend’s storage space. On to her nick nacks. Like exactly over it and through the ceiling and on to her stuff.
We were young back then, I think I was on the road with the folk singer and had dropped by New York when I had been fired for the hundredth time before she rehired me two hours before a really important gig. Anyways it was around Halloween time. She was a calm sort of girl, half thinking oh shit all my stuff is stinking of sardines, but also practically thinking if there were any chemical way we could somehow ( maybe this was my thinking, I don’t recall her flagging up this idea) we could chemically extract the coke from the sardines and become drug warlords in Queens, and I could leave the psycho folk singer and we could rebrand the coke like, it’s bad for you, but it’s full of Omega oils and calcium, which will rebuild the hole in the bridge of your nose without resorting to expensive surgery.
But it never happened. I don’t even know if she managed to salvage her stuff, what I do remember it was the Halloween parade. I was staying in a hotel for people who had no money. Pimps and drug dealers offered me all sorts of shit in the lift, jobs, drugs, as various people dressed as like, characters from Scooby Doo or ( my favourite) six guys standing really close with tin can outfits and Bud written on them, they were a human beer six pack, went up and down the lift to head to the parade. This was just around the time the parade was thinning out by the original gay guys who orchestrated it cos they were all dying or dead of AIDS, and becoming more mainstream. Lots of kids from Long Island to look at the freaks. It was becoming a bit soulless, but I wasn’t going to the parade, I was going to meet my friend to , in theory, discuss the sardine situation, but in actual fact, she was in her office, very high on something ( Wow, did you manage to extract the coke from the sardines? Nah, I just have it) and she was there to chew me out, to tell me I was a bad daughter (I guess I was, having moved to England and not going back every year to NY , my mum was sick , which was most years) and when I did come back, being a slob, leaving my tour shit everywhere, snotty tissues which had missed the wastepaper basket, I treated my mother like shit and she just wasn’t gonna stand for it. It was kind of fair, just strange context, repetitive ( on account of whatever she was high on) and I got bored and kept looking for bad Judy Garlands out the barred windows.
I had not long been to California and picked up an all purpose but meaningless expression. “I hear what you are saying” and I said this every time she launched another attack. I thought, I do hear what she is saying, I just don’t want to listen to it, I wanna find that human six pack before the parade ends.
I never made it to the parade. We went back to Queens together and sniffed coke right off the dryers in the buildings communal laundry room, not far from the old fall out shelter sign and broken milk machine ( old prices, 25 cents for a quart) We went back into the city to some all night party on the Lower East Side and danced with cute Puerto Rican guys all night.
We’re still friends. We don’t take drugs anymore. She still collects nick nacks. I got rehired on the tour, left the cheap hotel and went to stay in a much nicer one with the folk singer. It was, I recall, a good gig.
Isn’t funny how a yard full of colorful storage containers right round the corner of my East London flat brings back all these memories. I’m not sorry for it. ENDS