After witnessing that grisly spectacle, I found I couldn't look out my front window without seeing the dying man in my memory, as he lay twitching on the icy sidewalk. It ruined the peace of my loft. Finally, I just packed everything into my car, a large black Ford station wagon that had been a cop car, which I traded for my VW bus when it broke down.
I've got one more story to tell about my New York loft. Things were getting really tight financially and there was a problem with the heat in the winter. For some reason which I've never understood, my radiator, an antique cast iron job with vines and flowers embossed on it, and a steam valve by the back bottom handle, would fill up with tepid, only slightly warm water and refuse to give off any heat. Bubbles of steam clanged through on their way up to the next two floors which were then heated by similar but functioning radiators. After awhile I discovered that by removing the steam valve I could bleed the radiator of excess water and only then would it provide heat for the loft. I tried to catch this water as it shot out of the radiator in a couple of buckets, but some of it always splashed out onto the floor and leaked through to the ceiling of the work space below. This, I was told by the angry heating and cooling business on the first floor under my loft, was creating a big mess in their workshop.
I explained the problem to them and asked if they could fix it. They did nothing so my only recourse was to continue bleeding the radiator. It was a daily process in the coldest part of the winter. We had reached this impasse and I, being upset by the situation and getting more financially stressed, decided to stop paying the $85.00 a month rent. For a few months nothing happened, then one day in early spring a group of heavyset swarthy looking fellows in fedoras and dark topcoats, maybe four or five guys, rang my bell. I looked out the window and perceived these guys as working for the rental agency I had signed a contract with when I moved in. Not knowing quite what to do, I grabbed my 16 mm movie camera, stepped out on the balcony, and began to film them from above. I had no film in the camera, but they didn't know that. They held a hasty conference on my doorstep and then left. I never saw them again.
Back to my departure. Before leaving New York I had my car tuned up and replaced the brakes. A friend who loved jazz and was a master mechanic did the tuneup but I went to a company specializing in brakes for the brake job. They did the brakes in about an hour and I was ready to leave the next day. I should also mention that this used station wagon came with a fire extinguisher.
Early in the morning of the next day, when I would normally move the car across the street to my side, I did so. However, this last time I loaded it up with my paintings, my bass, my art supplies, my camera, movies, clothes, and my cat and her kitty litter box. The station wagon was packed full up to just below the rear view mirror. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day. Lady and I were in high spirits. Well Lady was a bit nervous. This was her first trip, but she trusted me and seemed to be aware of what was going on, that we were leaving our New York loft.
I had made arrangements by phone to stay with my friend Dick Dickinson, my college roommate and a jazz drummer. We crossed the Hudson River on the Brooklyn Bridge and were soon on the interstate, heading for Indianapolis. We arrived in town by late afternoon. Dick wasn't at home so I visited with some friends who lived across the street from Fall Creek Park. Fall Creek is an old canal that runs through Indianapolis and has a border of trees and grass. This was the first time Lady had ever come in contact with grass. She was very frightened of it and tried to walk without touching her feet to it. My friends and I got a good laugh watching her trying to negotiate without touching the grass. She would raise her feet up as high as she could and then set them down gingerly one at a time.
During the brief stop I got an offer for a job playing bass with Slide Hampton's sister, who played alto. She was just starting a new job at a club that night. I was tired but I took the job, had dinner in a restaurant, and went to work. The job was good. Slide's sister played really well. I had a good time. I got in touch with Dick before I went to work. He told me to come over after work and he would meet me out in front of his apartment building after he got off his job. My job had gone well and I was feeling pretty lucky.
I loaded up the bass and drove back to my friend's apartment. I still had to unpack the car. It was late, actually early in the morning. Dick wasn't home yet. I parked in front of the drab five-story brick building (with elevator) on a four lane one-way street. Parking only on one side, my side of the road. There was a tiny front yard, two steps up from the street in the middle of a short cement wall that supported the two small squares of grass on either side of the cement walkway that led to a stone Greco-Roman entryway. Two brick columns arose on either side of the two steps, with a wrought iron arch, with the address numbers that joined the columns together. The heavy front door was always locked. You needed to get buzzed in or have a key. A key which I didn't have yet. I was exhausted by this time, having had a very busy eighteen hours of work, from packing up the station wagon that morning to the three hour drive to Indianapolis, a short respite in the park, then dinner and the three hour gig. I was beat! I sat down on the steps and leaned up against one of the pillars, and waited for my friend to come home. He had to come up these stairs to get in. I expected to see him any minute. I waited and waited and waited. I began to get angry, angrier and angrier. I was still young enough to be overtaken with anger. I had quit smoking for Mary. She said I smelled like an ashtray. I began to long for a smoke.
Finally dawn came and the (going to work) traffic began to pick up. I had become depressed by the scene around me, had thoughts of giving up and going back to New York and eventually decided this wasn't going to be a good scene for me here in Indianapolis. I decided to keep going west to California. I got in the station wagon and headed for the interstate. I got about half way across Illinois when my eyes began to close on their own so I stopped at a motel just past Bloomington. I felt guilty about leaving my job but I was still infuriated after my long wait on the cement steps in front of my friend's apartment building. As I look back I can see symptoms of what we now call post traumatic stress syndrome. There wasn't even a name for it then. I was exhausted and fell asleep immediately in the air conditioned motel room, kitty litter box next to the door and Lady on the bed next to my feet.