This post continues my story of Roadkill brought us closer together and Art school senior year chronicles, but under a new title for this next part in the series. Rather than have the series get into the double digits when titling what "part" it is, I am starting once again at part one and many thanks to John Steinbeck for the inspiration for the new title here! The links to the previous installments are at the bottom of the post.
Taking into account a number of photos that I couldn't locate I decided to add casual looking line drawings as part of the story in this post and for future posts. Another reason for the pencil drawings is to show events for which no photos exist and for places that are long gone such as Leo's, which was a wonderful restaurant in Providence starting in the mid '70s, but closed some years later. For a story relating to time spent at an art school it makes sense to have lots of visuals!
It was January 2nd, 1977 at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon and I had just arrived back in Providence for the six week part of school called Wintersession. Some colleges often have part of January off and then the second semester resumes. In the case of RISD we had our second semester begin on February 23rd just nine days after Wintersession ended on Valentine's Day.
In the words of the old RISD catalog that I have from when I was looking at various colleges as a high school junior: "Begun in 1968-69, Wintersession gives students each year for study outside the requirements of their departments. ...instructors give special courses not available in the regular curriculum...and a student may cross departmental lines to pursue any subject of interest..." I had always found this period of school a very special time to learn a subject in great depth during the six weeks that Wintersession consisted of.
Maria would be arriving around 5:30 on a commuter train from Beantown which was the final leg of her trip back from Maine. That wonderful feeling of being in love euphoria had been present since early in the morning when I was finally fully awake and reminded myself I'd be in Providence seeing her by the end of the afternoon.
I figured I'd stroll down to Union Station in time to meet her walking into the waiting room. In fact, I decided to walk downtown early to walk around a bit before the train was due. What was esssentially the beginning of the downtown business district was a five minute jaunt from my apartment. Union Station was located on Kennedy Plaza as part of the group of government and business related buildings that included city hall at one end and the federal building and post office at the other with Industrial National Bank and Union Station facing each other across the plaza in the center.
The train pulled in quite close to schedule and I was waiting outdoors on the platform right after that point. Maria appeared about a minute after the doors opened. As I recall back in those days "Hello, there!" was my greeting for her in public spaces. She responded with "Hi!" We had last seen each other at Union Station just before the Christmas break and our kiss and hug were as long as nine days before when we parted company.
Many times in the past few months it occurred to me how once the Christmas break was over we would not be away from each other until after graduation on May 28th and that was a wonderful feeling.
On the short walk to my apartment (which was really our apartment at that point in time) she filled me on her day of travel which included over an hour's stopover in Boston.
I had enough food in the kitchen to cook up a dinner--spaghetti and pasta sauce...always a staple in the household. The next day we could walk north to Star Market and stock up on food for the rest of the week and weekend. We had two full days with no school until January 5th. In previous years I would have returned the day before school started up, but not this year!
Nothing had changed at the apartment since we had been away and Maria still had to go to her apartment, but tomorrow was perfect timing for that.
Our dinner was a mutual effort. With no microwave in those days the pasta was heated in a double boiler. Of course, there's been huge growth in the pasta and sauce area in recent decades, but in '77 I had something like Ragu for the ready to heat up pasta sauce.
Unlike some apartments in the area that were carved out of old houses the building we lived in (Colonial Apartments) was originally designed as a modern apartment house in the 1920s. In fact, H.P. Lovecraft is on record as being ticked off by the prospect of the new building as I found in this article:
"H. P. Lovecraft is quoted in the Lovecraft College Hill walking tour as “[bemoaning] the fact that this ‘wretched ultra-modern apartment-house with all urban sophistications’ replaced a ‘bit of actual country remaining’ on College Hill.”
His outrage, expressed in 1929, was directed at the Colonial Apartments on Benefit Street, then under construction. What Lovecraft deplored was the realization of the dream of Max Richter and his brother-in-law Israel Dickens – to construct the first New York City-style modern apartment building in Rhode Island. The huge lot that they had chosen was the former location of the Hogg Greenhouse, the last open space on Benefit Street."
We were very much into H.P. Lovecraft and love craft as a general term of what we engaged in our spare time.
Dinner was on a small table in what was now the living room/bedroom combo. The table was originally my drafting table and now served as dining area two. Because we had spoken nearly every night on the phone we had heard many stories already from our time on vacation. Nevertheless, I did hear an update about her former boyfriend. She heard through channels that he was still dating the attractive grad student at Columbia. Apparently no worries for me about him coming up to Providence to slice and dice me with a machete for being with his lady. As mentioned a while back, his decision to drop Maria was a win win for me and apparently for Maria, as well, since she was still with me these many months later.
With the printed materials from Newark in hand I had a show and tell from that interesting day during the break. I had described a lot about the house over the phone but in a classic case of a picture is worth a thousand words, the book from the Newark Museum really told the story the best.
I said I had an idea for lunch the next day at Leo's. We had not had a lunch at any restaurants before in Providence and with the day off it could be a great time.
Maria seated in the "dining room" part of the living room/bedroom:
While on the Christmas break I bought two sets of bedsheets for the apartment. All I had prior to that time were twin sized sheets and this bed was "full" sized. That was the first time I ever purchased bed linen and it was another move transititioning from youth to an "adult."
There was no sofa in the apartment and now the bed was the substitute sofa. What started as a cast off from our neighbors below had become a great addition to our living situation.
Relaxing after dinner...
The next day we spent a little time in the morning cleaning the apartment and further setting up the studio space in what had been the bedroom. The desk from the guys downstairs was fully operational and ready for future graphics homework.
For the Wintersession period I would be mostly working on my degree project, but I also had been tapped by the head of the design division to design and print posters for a host of visiting lecturers starting in a few weeks and lasting well into the latter part of second semester. To have been chosen over my classmates in graphics was a great honor for me, plus I was paid for my work!
Maria had her degree project mostly wrapped up. She was taking two courses, one in the architecture department and the other in printmaking.
In the next few days I would start putting lots of notes on the wall of my former bedroom, now studio space, in my effort to distill the many ideas I had for the degree project. In terms of time spent exploring many ideas I could tell from what my classmates were doing that I was really out there in looking at so many possibilities and I still had time on my side before I narrowed down to the final piece I would create.
Were I to create a Venn diagram on January 2nd of the my life at that point it might have looked like the following:
Unlike a diagram shown in a previous post I now have Maria in the center instead of myself...the proverbial center of my universe!
The large drafting table in my former bedroom, courtesy of my architecture department neighbors downstairs:
From one of the sketchbooks I brought back to school after the break. Below are a small sampling of sketches made freshman year, January 16, 1973 and March 18, 1973 in the afternoon to be exact. Back at that time RISD's Museum of Art held at least one concert in the main gallery once a month. As a student I was able to attend for free and I caught nearly every concert that school year:
Leo's was a good 20 minute walk from the apartment. It was located in an old brick building in what is called the jewelry district in Providence south of the center of the city. I first had lunch there a year earlier in '76 with my partner/editor of the RISD yearbook and the editor from the year before who was giving us advice for our book. I happened to order a spinach salad with chopped mushrooms and Russian dressing that day and it immediately became a lifetime favorite of mine that I started making in my own kitchen. A special feature of the restaurant was a huge mural painted by a RISD painting student. It portrayed many illustrious RISD students from the '70s. I could pick out several, but there were so many more I could not identify.
Over lunch there were a few more stories about our time away from Providence, but, more importantly, we were talking a lot about gearing ourselves up for getting jobs after graduation. We both had to work on our portfolios and perhaps we could do some of that preparation in the next few weeks.
A sketch of Leo's. A search on the web turned up nothing at all so I have done my best here to illustrate how it felt to sit in the restaurant with the huge and wonderful mural hanging on the nearby wall:
After a fantastic lunch we walked back to campus where Maria emptied her mailbox at the RISD post office and then we walked north on Benefit Street to her apartment. Her roommate, Sue, was scheduled to come back the next day. Like my apartment, nothing was amiss and the sense was the place had just been left alone just a few days.
The classical front door of the house containing Maria's apartment on Benefit (also shown in photos way back when in the early part of this series). If doors could talk just imagine what an old Providence front door like this one would have to say...
For both of us four years at school had enhanced our sense of humor in a few ways. Walking around Star Market we were both cracking jokes about the products and their related ad slogans, which was our custom every time we shopped there together such as "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken...Perdue!!" and "Double your pleasure with Doublemint!!"
My Star Market sketch is below...
Years down the road Star Market would be gone and a Whole Foods would be in its place.
The story for this post ends in the evening after we had dinner and were sitting around for the evening. The pattern of our lifestyle for the remaining amount of the school year was now established in not only the previous semester but this first day back together.
Just as a reminder that my sketches of Maria are very loose and casual looking...here's a photo of her taken a few months later which was processed with the sepia and grainy effect that we both liked:
More stories to come and the previous installments of the series leading up to this point are here:
Art school senior year chronicles:
Roadkill brought us closer together:
All of the line drawings and the photo, plus the personal text are © 2012 by B+Co., Inc.