ABJ gave me Just Kids because she knew I arrived in New York at the same time that Patti and Robert did. They were two years older than me, but reading the first few chapters made me feel like they were much younger. The1967-69 narratives totally distracted me because I kept recognizing what they experienced.....opening of Filmore East, Doors Concert, Electric Circus, Janis Joplin. But I got really distracted wondering why they couldn't find jobs ( I had no trouble finding jobs but I always checked the want ads, which doesn't seem to have occured to them). And why did they pay so much for their accomodations - I had a $37/ month (yeah there were rats and holes in the walls) and then a very nice $45/month appartment on 2nd street between 1st and 2nd Ave. And why were they always hungry and short of money? I had minimum wage jobs but there were lots of cheap places to buy food - day old bread in bakeries, bargaining with the street vendors, and I even managed to save money.
And the biggest question which was the huge preoccupation of my generation - how on earth did Robert escape the draft?
I finally came to the conclusion that what I found in New York, after leaving Chicago during the riots while National Guard tanks were rolling down the streets of the West Side and barely escaping my building as the supermarket next door burned - was peace and normalcy. And that was what I found. Sounds strange, but after the terrors I had lived through, the Lower East Side seemed quite peaceful and both the neighbors and the police, very benign. I really wasn't looking for more novelty and my life coping skills, honed in a hostile environment, were pretty darned good for someone who had just turned 19. I suffered from a bit of PTSD, now that I think back, but Chicago honed my survival skills. One of these was deciding to leave in 1969 when the drugs and craziness around me became too intense. I never doubted for a moment that I could cope and do it quite well.
As I read through the book, however, I came to respect Patti tremendously. No celebrity posturing or bragging, but an incredibly humble, honest, real person who was perpetually suprised by her own success, supported her dearest friend through thick and thin, and didn't allow herself to get seduced by the glitter of celebrity or become a victim of all the drugs and crazed life of the 60's and 70's. The book isn't the anguished attention-seeking of another celebrity seeking to make herself the center of attention, but a simple story of Patti and her best friend. I wish I had the opportunity to know her back then.
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6 years ago