Here’s a memory about art school, from our storied cartoonist, Randy Enos.
As my second (soon to be my last) year in art school approached, I decided to live with a homogeneous group of art students instead of the un-homogeneous group I had been with in my first year. So, four of us found an apartment on Dartmouth Street above Back Bay Station in Boston. It was not a long walk down Huntington Avenue to our school, The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts.
The furnished apartment consisted of one long room culminating in a big wall window looking down on the street from the second floor. Entering our $75 a month apartment there was a little cooking alcove, consisting of an old stove and tiny refrigerator to the left, and a tiny bathroom with claw-foot tub to the right; there was also a long room with four beds perpendicular to the wall down the right side. There was a small amount of room left for sitting before the grand window which formed the back wall.
The apartment building was above Dave Finn’s Irish Bar which had a garishly large green shamrock in the window. The bar and building were owned and operated by our landlord, Dave Finkelstein. Every night the bawdy sounds of music, drinking, fighting and other general ribaldry wafted up to our grand window and managed to deprive us of any quiet or sleep until the bar shut down around midnight.
Across the street was a charming little art store called Hatfield’s Color Shop and to its left a cigar and cigarette store featuring cigarettes from all around the world. My favorites were the strong pungent ones from Turkey. Every morning on my way to school, I would purchase my breakfast which consisted of one of their fat, five-cent cigars augmented by a 5th Avenue candy bar bought at the drugstore next door. That was the breakfast I munched on every morning, finishing off my fat smelly cigar in drawing class where we would draw from a nude model until noon.
In the entrance-way to our apartment building was a small hotel desk (because, in fact, it was sort of a hotel) manned by a little crippled poet named Bob. Facing Bob and his desk was a small rickety elevator which took us to our room. On our second floor there were a few other tenants (I don’t remember ever seeing any of them). On the third floor were rooms for transients and I think, there was a fourth floor, also for transients. There was one of our fellow art students on the third floor among the transients, named Arthur Foley who was also a jazz drummer. Because I talk a lot Arthur dubbed me “Lip-Jazz”, a nickname that stuck with me that whole second year. The transients were exclusively bar and street hookers and their sailors (there were an awful lot of sailors around at that time).
I didn’t eat or sleep much in those days and I really took a liking to Bob with his poetry and intelligent conversation so I hung around his desk often into the wee hours of the morning. We watched the endless parade of hookers with their drunken sailors file in every night. Sometimes the girls would ditch them only moments later, seeking greener pastures and leaving the abandoned sailor boys alone in the room until, finally, they’d stagger back down to Bob and me and ask if we saw the girl they had come in with. It was usually, ”She said she was just going to get some cigarettes.”
Life was frugal for us in those days. About our only form of relaxation was hiding Jack’s thick glasses from him in the morning and watching him stagger around blind as a bat cursing us and our ancestors. Ronnie was an avid rock climber who actually slept with a beautiful, recently purchased and gleaming “rock-climbing axe.” And there was Steve Chop, our “cook,” who we all mercilessly kidded about wanting to have a career in advertising art.
We shared our interesting apartment with about a million cockroaches who would line the rim of our bathtub and watch us take baths. The flooring of our palace consisted of large black and white tiles. When we would open our door to enter, the whole room seemed to move as the cockroaches dove toward the black squares.
One particular night, I pushed the “starving and drinking” routine a little too far. Around 2 or 3 in the morning, as I stood talking to Bob at the desk, I started to feel slightly woozy. I told him I’d better get to bed. I remember opening the elevator door and entering. The next thing I remember is waking up to loud pounding. A frightened Bob face looked through the little elevator window at me laying on the floor of the elevator. He said I had hit every wall in there before collapsing. Ah, the halcyon days of the art school life.
One morning we looked out of our glorious window down to the street and we saw one of our teachers. He had come on the train into Back Bay Station and was proceeding up the street toward Huntington Avenue to walk to school. We were excited to see him. We banged on the window and shouted out our morning greetings to him. He completely ignored us. He looked straight ahead and kept walking. We knew he had heard us; we weren’t that high up away from the street.
Later we arrived at school and confronted him about it.
He said, “I heard you guys but I’m not going to wave to you up there in that whorehouse above the bar!”
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: