~Ghosts of the Lower East Side / Under the Volcano . . . 2020

me, and my R.I.P. artist / collector / art dealer hubby . . SIMON CERIGO,
we lived on Rivington and the Bowery . . from 1987 – 1996.
most of the time, about 9 yrs / rent free – thanks to landlord / tenant court.
where we raised our 2 young kids, Kate & Theo . . in a storefront.
it was pretty raw, but big / it had a great backyard garden / & no complaints about the rent, non-existent.
thanks to RICHARD HAMBLETON aka ‘The Shadowman’, from whom we had sublet the place / who took our money, $600 a month for the entire floor / but didn’t pay the landlord, hence the journey . . . into the court system.
Jean-Michel Basquiat lived around the corner – we chatted him up in the local deli / so did Keith Haring who we ran into at the Red Bar all the time, but of course our fav & dearest neighbor – was DAN ASHER !!

195 Chrystie Ave . . . Lower East Side, today.
at one point, me & Simon, we were in the money, and had a good sized studio, on the 2nd floor of this building,
on the left / a chic gentrified storefront, where the Agnes B. ‘Snap Cardigan Photography’ show is currently taking place.
back then it was dark, and very gritty. it was a big hub for cheap drug addict prostitution.
in fact, RICHARD HAMBLETON used to pimp out his red-haired run-down & addicted Canadian girlfriend, Bonnie out there.
you’d see her out there in torn black fishnet stockings, early in the morning, and late at night.
the streets were lined with dirty needles. the ‘park’ in the center of the avenue, where that row of large trees is . .
was a war zone.
enter at your own (very) real . . risk.

our studio was on the 2nd floor, something like that.
the building was so distressed at the time, CHARLIE FINCH / the notorious early 2000s artnet scribe, almost had an asthma attack when he came to visit / though he did buy a watercolor from me.

we lived just down the block, heading south on Chrystie / on Rivington St.
of course, those are still the original 5 story ‘tenement’ buildings,
now . . very very expensive apartments.

that now super chic, cheery bar/bistro on the corner, used to be a super religious Kosher meat packing plant !!
great slabs of raw beef arrived there daily, that’s how grubby the area was.
I think they made . . smoked meat there ?
because it had a huge smokestack, emitting huge dense plumes of spicy steam, that coated the block with pungent greasy fog.
every now and then, a stranger to the area would call the firemen, who would show up with many trucks & ladders to put out the ‘fire’/ that was only . . smoked meat, cooking.

turning right, at the corner of Chrystie & Rivington, heading west to the Bowery a short block away /
on the south side of the street, where a chic up-scale Japanese lifestyle & plant shop, GREEN FINGERS MARKET, now stands . . was our storefront !!
5 Rivington St. the East Storefront.
very early on, when we first moved in / the west storefront was the original . . Spiritual America gallery.

although the current landlords appear to have have painted over the large white hand-painted ‘5’ / that used to proclaim it’s identity above the entrance to the apartments above / the original steel ‘door’ buzzer from the 80s, still remains / caked with dirt, recalling the grit of the old neighborhood / and . . it’s history !!

you can still make out: RICHARD HAMBLETON … APT 1 !!!!!!!
I guess if he had been less of a douchebag, and more like ANDY WARHOL, or even BASQUIAT, there might be a plaque there, now / stating that:
RICHARD HAMBLETON . . once lived here / and set in motion the court case that allowed artists . . . NANCY SMITH & SIMON CERIGO .. to live here, rent free (!!!!!) in the heart of the most happening place on the face-of-the-earth at the time / for almost 10 years, and then were handed over a $90,000 cash settlement to finally vacate the storefront / & get the hell out / when the area had gentrified enough.

NANCY SMITH & SIMON CERIGO, with our young kids, Kate & Theo . . outside our storefront at 5 Rivington St.
ca. 1988

PHOTOS: NANCY SMITH / except the family portrait which is c/o SCOTTIE HARRISON

NANCY SMITH, just before I left Montreal for NYC, ca. 1981.
see: an interview with me / NOAH BECKER of WHITEHOT MAGAZINE – published last year, 2019.

at the Carroll Dunham show, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Chelsea, NYC / Dec 2012.