In 1965, my apartment on Avenue A in New York City was $53.00 a month. Including utilities. There was a Greek Orthodox church on one side and on Sunday mornings the bells were biblical. The bathtub was in the kitchen, and the kitchen was in the living room, and Tompkins Square Park, across the street, was home to a protest movement. Poets read from flatbed trucks. Peace demonstrations and war news were constant. Experimental theatre–although no one called it experimental–and all the arts existed within, and sometimes it seemed for the purpose of, complete revolution. Actors applied makeup in the cars of a subway, on their way from protest to performance. Productions were done in a church basement, a coffee shop, in a field. Costumes were hung next to French fry machines, filing cabinets, church altars, or the back of a truck. Actors worked for subway tokens and coffee, painted the set, and passed the basket after a show. There were plays about gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights and draft card burning. Thousands of men looked like Jesus and their sandaled feet were covered with dust from the earthen roads of Alphabet City. Be-ins and Hare Krishna. Underground theater. Transcendental meditation. Assassinations, tie-dye, and acid rock. Smell of incense in the streets.
And I traveled from a very small town in a region of northern Canada to the exploding epicenter of blazing Manhattan. This is how I started out. From the Catholic nuns in a school on a quiet, sometimes snow covered island, to the epicenter of an exploding universe. Global war, Vietnam and Biafra. Bloody body bags were carried across the nightly news. It seemed the world and everything on it, was in flames. It seemed sometimes there was nowhere to go but down, and then one day without very much warning, a man walked over the moon. There was no focal point – there were a thousand focal points. Between 1960 and 1970 the world as we knew it, and everything on it, completely unraveled.
–Magie Dominic is a Canadian poet and artist. Her new memoir, Street Angel, will be published in August 2014.