Readings — From the March 2015 issue

Realty Bites

Download Pdf
Read Online

From a conversation with Raul, a resident of Manhattan, included in The Edge Becomes the Center, an oral history of gentrification in New York City, by D. W. Gibson, out in May from Overlook Press.

It was a good neighborhood, the East Village. It was bugged out, rich people, poor people, everybody on top of each other. I was like eight, seven, and I had this friend, his name was Richard, black kid — we’d go all the way to the West Side Highway, when the West Side Highway was still up high, and I used to look at the graffiti on the walls. I wondered why somebody would do that.

I used to write — graffiti, whatever. The gods, they don’t mention the word “graffiti.” It’s “writing.” I fuck up and call it graffiti all the time. Writing on trains is the ultimate. You gotta be in and out. I wasn’t great by any means, but I went to prestigious yards where we would stop and just look around — where the fuck am I? I’ve been to mad, grand, crazy yards.

When I was sixteen, Patti Astor and Bill Stelling opened up the Fun Gallery. They made graffiti expensive. Fab 5 Freddy did Andy Warhol soup cans on the trains. He brought it all together on my block. I went across the street and introduced myself. My friends, they were scared, they wouldn’t go. I didn’t give a shit — that’s my block! I grew up there. If it was on another block, I would never in a million years have introduced myself to them. I was just like, Fuck it. Jean-Michel, Keith Haring, those dudes, they were on my block. I was hanging out with rock stars, gods. I was like the little kid in the group. I’m going to fucking Warhol parties, eating seaweed.

That’s when New York was New York. Mudd Club, Max’s. A good time to grow up. Andy Warhol used to always be in Keith Haring’s studio. I was scared to death of him. Sometimes on Sundays he would have these little picnics in Central Park. I used to have a baseball team and he’d always come watch us. Interview magazine had a baseball team, and we used to beat the shit out of them all the time. My team was Futura, Fab 5, Zephyr, Ricky Powell (used to be a famous photographer), the Beastie Boys, two or three kids from my neighborhood who were really good at baseball, and me — and we would kill it.

I was working getting weed for people and shit. And I used to steal linen canvases from Utrecht and sell them to all the big painters. I had a rent-controlled apartment, a little studio. I was in love with this girl and shit, and we moved to Mercer Street. All of a sudden I went from paying four hundred dollars to two grand. I remember walking the streets thinking, Where am I gonna get the money for this fucking apartment? I ran into this guy I knew — a booker for a model agency. He asked, “You know where I can get some?” [Raul mimes sucking back on a joint, though there’s still half a glowing blunt in his other hand.] He took me under his wing, introduced me to everybody. I went from having, like, a nickel in my pocket to — I had two hundred grand on me in one year. I had never had that kind of money. It was overwhelming at twenty-seven.

People back in the day, in the late Nineties and shit, they be like, “Yo, I’ll fly you out to Paris right now.” Shit like that. I used to go out to the Hamptons a lot, twice a day. I’d bring my girlfriend. Go there, have lunch, go to the beach for a second. Get on a helicopter, come back. Go back that night.

When I was still really young, twenty-six, twenty-seven, I had the concierge of the Carlyle on my payroll — you’d be surprised what goes on in that hotel. I remember going to see my guy, standing behind Nancy Reagan. That was really funny. I’m right behind her. Secret Service dudes. And it was just me and her. Some dudes, they do this job and they take advantage of girls. I take advantage of socialites. Billionaire heiresses. Fucking billionaires up in my crib and the husbands in the Mercedes-Benz outside right here waiting to go to dinner — at the restaurant that I suggested they go to!

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 2

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year. Or purchase this issue on your iOS or Android devices for $6.99.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Share

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2017

City of Gilt

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tyranny of the Minority

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Texas is the Future

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Family Values

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Itchy Nose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Black Like Who?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content
Close

Please enjoy this free article from Harper’s Magazine.