Thursday, June 21, 2012

When we were young

In her memoir, Patti Smith paints a lush account of her early years in New York with her lover and muse, Robert Mapplethorpe.

We hadn't much money but we were happy. Robert worked part-time and took care of the apartment. I did the laundry and made our meals, which were very limited. There was an Italian bakery we frequented, off Waverly. We would choose a nice loaf of day-old bread or a quarter pound of their stale cookies offered at half-price. Robert had a sweet tooth, so the cookies often won out. Sometimes the woman behind the counter would give us extra and fill the small brown paper sack to the brim with yellow and brown pinwheels, shaking her head and murmuring friendly disapproval. Most likely she could tell it was our dinner. We would add take-out coffee and a carton of milk. Robert loved chocolate milk but it was more expensive and we would deliberate whether to spend the extra dime.

Just Kids, Patti Smith

A Moveable Feast  was published in 1964, three years after Ernest Hemingway's death. His memoir of Paris in the 1920's with first wife Hadley and their young son, captures the romance of beginnings told in his crisp style with wonderful insight.

I had been stupid when she needed a grey lamb jacket and had loved it when she had bought it. I had been stupid about other things too. It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending. Especially if you buy pictures instead of clothes. But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich. It had never seemed strange to me to wear sweatshirts for underwear to keep warm. It only seemed odd to the rich. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.

A Moveable Feast,  Ernest Hemingway

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