It snowed on Christmas night. Robert and I walked over to Times Square to see the white billboard proclaiming WAR IS OVER! If you want it. Happy Christmas from John and Yoko. it hung above the bookstall where Robert bought most of his men’s magazines, between Child’s and Benedict’s, two all-night diners.
Looking up, we were struck by the ingenuous humanity of this New York City tableau. Robert took my hand, and as the snow swirled around us I glanced at his face. He narrowed his eyes and nodded in affirmation, impressed to see artists take on Forty-second Street. For me it was the message. For Robert, the medium.
Newly inspired, we walked back to 23rd Street to look at our space. The necklaces hung on hooks and he had tacked up some of our drawings. We stood at the window and looked out at the snow falling beyond the fluorescent Oasis sign with its squiggly palm tree. “Look,” he said, “it’s snowing in the desert.” I thought about a scene in Howard Hawks’s movie Scarface where Paul Muni and his girl are looking out the window at a neon sign that said The World Is Yours. Robert squeezed my hand.
The sixties were coming to an end. Robert and I celebrated our birthdays. Robert turned twenty-three. Then I turned twenty-three. The perfect prime number. Robert made me a tie rack with the image of the Virgin Mary. I gave him seven silver skulls on a length of leather. He wore the skulls. I wore a tie. We felt ready for the seventies.
“It’s our decade,” he said. ●
Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and artist. Her seminal album Horses has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time. Her books include the National Book Award winning memoir, Just Kids, M Train, Witt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence.