PRINT September 1986


A Romance in Ten Parts, Chapter 1: Arrival

IMAGINE A YOUNG ARTIST, without a trust fund, coming to live in New York City for the very first time.

In the map he had drawn from reading October, the Art Journal, The Village Voice, and Raw magazine, Rex’s ideal apartment/workspace was located somewhere below 14th Street and east of Second Avenue. He quickly discovered that the East Village had been raked over like a Zen garden. Avenue C had gone condo; Avenue A said bars, restaurants, and galleries with straight walls. Rex put himself on a waiting list for a studio apartment in a newly renovated tenement on Avenue B, the Cezanne Arms, knowing full well he could not afford the $950 monthly rent. He searched elsewhere. Rumors were that TriBeCa was building its own airport to the Hamptons and busy suing for statehood. SoHo’s mil-point-five lofts and cavernous boutiques ate millionaires, and even the speculators had long left the terrain, a quarry of another epoch. Hoboken was sold out solid. Just as Rex was about to surrender himself to Patterson, N.J., his art-school chum Dorothy found him a street-level flat in Brownsville, Brooklyn, for which he had to pay off the superintendent, Rico Radziwell, $500 and the promise of one of his paintings.

“Life is an unconstituted narrative to which art adds the ingredient of time in space,” Rex wrote in his first postcard to himself in Brownsville. He paced the eight steps’ length of his apartment. He looked out the window.

Out there across the East River his world waited for him. One day soon when the phone was installed, it would ring him from the city’s vivid core.

Fredric Tuten is a writer of fiction. He is a professor and the director of the graduate program in English and creative writing at the City College of New York. This serial appears monthly in Artforum.