Love, Pursuit, Pain

When I listened to the “Because the Night” I heard the passion in Smith’s voice. However, her voice also had a sense of agony that sort of scared me. Whenever she said the word “love”, I felt like this. This is ironic because love is supposed to be something that is good and pure; however, in this song love seems like an animal. The song starts off slowly and begins to build up after the first stanza. After reading about Patti’s life, I feel more able to recognize some of the emotions in her lyrics and voice.

“Chelsea Hotel” reminded me of a country song made for New York. This song talks about a woman much like the women in “Just Kids”. Most of the hotel’s occupants were trying to be legends and they often used each other to help build their career. The singer says “I need you, I don’t need you…I don’t even think of you that often”. These lines make me wonder because I am not sure whether the man actually loved the girl in the song or if he had initially used her in building his career.

“Just Kids” shows a wide range of emotions and stories. These two songs do a good job in capturing some of the main scenes in the memoir including love, being in the hotel, and pursuit. One feeling that reflects all three pieces of art is pain. In the book, both Robert and Patti go through a lot of anguish while “Chelsea Hotel” talks about the loss of a potential love. Finally, “Because the Night” does talk about love but this love seems forced and selfish because it is described as “hunger, fire, and lust”.

– Linda Manchery

Not Just Kids

The young lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were anything but normal. As young adults the two braved disease and drugs, madness and starvation… all in the heart of New York City. Lovers and artists and visionaries, the two were anything but ‘Just Kids’.

I am loving reading Just Kids. The world of Patti Smith seems at times almost surreal; the stuff of legends. Her encounters and exploits could fill many different lifetimes and she goes through things that I’ve never imagined having to face. At the same time, though, I feel as if I can relate to her. She moved away from her family, venturing into New York City with very little idea of what her future would hold. I sympathize with her longing for art and her wish to be a creative, creating soul. I feel for her struggle maintaining steady employment. I understand her love for Robert, and their loyalty to eachother through it all.

I think all of us can find part of ourselves in Just Kids. Its events took place years ago in the 60s and 70s, and the music, clothes, and politics were all different. One thing, however, never changes. We are all humans with human faults. We all struggle sometimes. We all face trying times.

Overly Passionate!

I have to say; when I picked up the novel, I did not think this would be a book that I might enjoy. However, I was thoroughly surprised by the fact that not only wasn’t the book half bad, but I also found it to be quite interesting. What captured my interest the most was the rather inexplicable obsession both Patti and Robert had for art. All they did was art: they spent hours together drawing things, they debated whether or not to spend their extra money on food or art, and they solely dedicated their lives to art. I believe I found this interesting because such a vivid portrayal of passion was new to me.

I have never really been an aesthetic person, and therefore, I have never really taken the time to understand what it is about art that captivates certain people. I have had friends who were superb and spectacular artists, but I always believed they were born with a natural inclination for drawing and painting. I never grasped the fact that many of them spent hours everyday perfecting this talent. Any raw talent has to be refined and sculpted so it looks appealing to everyone else.

When I got up to the part where it was quite obvious Robert had a social disorder, a small smile crept upon my face, as I knew, sooner or later, either Patti or Robert would show some signs of a disorder. Extreme and obsessive passion over anything can lead to a person dedicating all of his/her time to that passion. This results in the breakdown of the social harmony that is necessary for living a healthy life. Patti got back some of her social life when she ceased being overly obsessive about art. She started going to her friends’ houses an started doing things besides art. As such, every time she came back home, she could see the provincial and parochial world that was Robert’s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I would like to see where the memoir takes me.

The Power of Setting

After reading both the first 88 pages of “Just Kids” and the Article on the Chelsea Hotel, the idea of setting popped into my mind. We can see that the fact that a story, whether it be fiction or not, occurs in a specific location, makes it hold a specific weight. As a matter of fact, aren’t we taking a course titled “The Art’s in New York City?” The class would merely be a lecture if it werent for the in.

Just Kids is a perfect example of just this. Patti and Robert, meet because of, and are shaped by, the culture of the city in which they lived. Music, art, photography; what makes these forms of expression special are the fact that they are products of the environment in which they are manifested. The “starving artist” story is all to familiar in New York, and no exception in the events told in this work.

More specifically , the setting that seemed the most prominent so far is was the Chelsea Hotel. This cultural mecca was a home to dozens of the most famous American artists, musicians, and writers. The hotel has been mentioned by everyone from Madonna to Bob Dylan, an seems to be almost the Mickey Mouse Club of the Mid twentieth century, by that I mean; a grouping that seemed to filter the stars of tomorrow. Further Reading: (

For me, it is too soon to tell how the setting of Just Kinds will influence the story but i am excited to see how the world held within New York will continue to impact Patti Smith.

-John W. Cleary

“Transforming Insignificant Bits… Into a Visual Poem”

In the first few chapters of Patti Smith’s memoir, we watch her and Robert Mapplethorpe develop as artists and people. They have not yet even discovered their potential in the fields that would eventually make them famous—Patti in Rock and Roll, and Robert in photography. They go through many different stages in such short time, as represented by the many times Patti would return home to find that Robert had redecorated the apartment. There’s a sense of confusion and even madness in the story at some points as Patti and Robert attempt to find themselves and make sense of the world—as though they are “just kids”. Through all their changes, one thing remains true for Patti and Robert—they are artists. Not only are they artists in their work, but in their mindset and lifestyle as well.

Being starving artists, they are forced to make do with what little resources are available to them. What I found particularly interesting were the descriptions of things they created or put together, not for the purpose of making art, but for everyday life. For example, as a gift for Patti, Robert makes a tambourine and decorates it. Even more practical examples can be seen in their home décor. Along with Robert’s sporadic redecorations of their bedroom, the couple uses random furniture found off the side of the streets to personalize their apartment. They hang drawings and religious artifacts, and Patti has her own study corner with a “frayed magic carpet”. For Christmas time, Robert even makes a wooden manger to be used in place of a tree. Robert also put a lot of effort into making Joseph Cornell boxes that Patti describes as “transforming insignificant bits … into a visual poem.” I see each of these things as art, and, with those words, Patti could not have described them better.

Hotels: Best Places for Drama

When I would hang out with my friends in the city, I would often notice the Chelsea Hotel and say to myself, “Man, that place is so beautiful and mysterious. It looks like a great place for something awful and dramatic to happen.” Well, I guess I was right, but not just for the Chelsea Hotel. Hotels in general just seem to be a magnet for the strange, disturbing, mysterious, and interesting.

In Just Kids, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe end up at the Hotel Allerton after fleeing their house following a shooting in front of it. The hotel was known for it’s “very cheap rooms” and ends up being a haven for the creepy. The imagery was somewhat gruesome, the place was described as “a terrible place, dark and neglected,” the wallpaper was described as “peeling like dead skin in summer,” and Patti compared the atmosphere to the shower scene from the movie Psycho. The rooms were filled with junkies, who were “half-naked guys trying to find a vein in limbs infested with sores” and there was a morphine-addicted ballet dancer mystically dancing in his room. The place had an unnerving characterization, and the unstable state Patti and Robert were in did not help to alleviate this disturbing air. The imagery made me a bit uneasy, and I was relieved when they finally got out of there and took a cab to the Chelsea Hotel, but it seems that the Chelsea Hotel is also a place where strange things happen.

The Chelsea Hotel is a New York Landmark and has housed the likes of Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin, and countless other famous artists at one time or another. However, it turns out that this storied hotel also has an intriguing, mysterious, and unnerving story: the story of Sid and Nancy. Sid Vicious was the bassist of the famous punk band Sex Pistols and in 1977 he began a relationship with a woman named Nancy Spungen. Over 23 months, the two indulged in heavy drug use, specifically heroin, and when the Sex Pistols broke up (largely because of Sid’s addiction and subsequent behavior), the couple moved to the Chelsea Hotel. After living with domestic abuse and increasingly worse drug abuse, Nancy was found dead in her hotel room on October 12, 1978. The killer was never found, and the suspects range from Sid Vicious to two drug dealers who visited the hotel that night. Sid pleaded not guilty to the murder and was put on bail, but died of a drug overdose before the trial could take place.

Therefore, it seems that no matter where you go, hotels are a haven for mysterious happenings, especially in New York. I’m sure most people have stayed in a hotel at least once in their lives, never giving it much thought. After reading about these two occurrences, however, I think I’m going to think twice about staying in one from now on.

-Jon Farrell

Bonnie N’ Clyde

There are few things in this universe that is as beautiful as true love, a type of unconditional relationship that’s independent of any external influence. Patti’s “Just Kids” solidified my beliefs about the beauty of true love. No, I don’t mean the clichéd expression of unrequited infatuation. What I mean by true love is that sensation of finding an indispensable companion that you felt like you’ve known for ages.

Patti, who at an early age was already deemed an outcast, was thrown into a limited reality constrained by the chains of poverty. What she did have, instead, was an almost unlimited thirst to perfect her art and the ability to view the world with the eyes of a child, constantly learning something new. Her reactions to her “hard knock life” had something intrinsic to New York itself; she never gave up on her beliefs and maintained a strong optimism. Her life, however, seem to be dashed to the ground until she meets Robert, a fellow art fanatic.

This meeting becomes the end of Patti’s chapter of poverty. Although she remains poor, Robert gives something that Patti never received; companionship. Robert’s dependent on Patti and Patti’s dependence on Robert exemplifies the coexistence that they can only find in each other. Her relationship with Robert is so uncommonly pure that her success becomes expected.

Furthermore, their relationship is characterized by their lack of interest in what the world thinks of them. Perhaps this intended blinding of perception adds to the depth of their immeasurable love. It can also be pointed out that their relationship is, in itself, “art”. We see the “art” in the journey that Patti takes us; her ups and her downs with Robert shaped the magnificent cultural icon that she is today.

– Jessen Thomas

A 1960’s Cinderella Story

“We hadn’t much money but we were happy.”

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship was that of love, friendship, happiness, pain, and great passion – for each other and the arts. At the onset of Just Kids, Patti Smith spoke about Mapplethorpe in such a manner that anyone could tell that he was someone special. Even as I read the Foreword, I could clearly see that there were feelings present in her writing that go way deeper than what was put on paper. He was her knight in shining armor since day one.

In my opinion, one of the things that makes Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s connection stand out among others that I’ve read about is how it began. Not often do you learn of Prince Charming showing up at the right place just in time to save the Princess from something terrible that is about to happen. Upon reading, I felt as if it almost seemed too good to be true, as if all of this love was being built up just so it could slowly fall…

As Robert grew quiet and distant, it became evident that this was exactly what I had been waiting for. The relationship that once seemed so perfect and untouchable was now coming to an end. How could two individuals who were so happy together and had so much in common go their separate ways? What happened after Patti’s return from Paris is another, in my opinion, extraordinary aspect of their relationship – that no matter what happened between them, they managed to find their way back to each other. They made a vow that until they were each able to be independent, they would never leave each other again. Even after his death, I believe that he will always be with Patti Smith, because he impacted her life in such a huge way.

Coping Through Music

It’s interesting how Patti Smith is the “Godmother of Punk” when she believes that her friends are more talented singers than she is. Although her style of music was different from the other songs during this period, she still had a large fan base. It shows that many people in the 60’s must have agreed that the lyrics to a song is more important that the way a song sounds. Smith’s music sent a message to people, and it helped them cope with feeling detached from society.

Modern music is similar in a way. There are many similar songs that people generally enjoy, but there are also the songs that help people cope with problems in their lives. I know that when I’m upset, listening to music is a great way for me to cope. Listening to the lyrics lets me know that I’m not the only one who has been in a difficult or upsetting situation.  Sometimes, when alone on the train ride to or from school, I’ll listen to music that matches my mood just so I can share my feelings with someone.  I think it’s important for artists to create music that expresses themselves.  That way, their listeners will feel a greater connection to the artist, as well as have a mutually beneficial from the creation of breathtaking music.

~Jessina Wong

From Rags to Riches

Reading Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, I removed the idea of her being a famous Punk musician from my thought process in beginning the reading. Patti Smith’s early portions of her life and her experiences in New York reflect a grasp onto hope and promise of succeeding in a land of opportunity. Smith writes how she was initially homeless in New York, scrapping the streets for food and begging for a place to stay. I find it amazing that even in this worst-case scenario, Smith never lost hope, she never gave up and always tried to push herself forward in life. She truly grasped the opportunity of New York and the American Dream to grow from an impoverished woman to a successful star.

Upon meeting Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith’s world is transformed as she meets her true soul mate who she could endure the hardships of the big city with. The fact that they relied greatly on each other and trusted each other in the harshest of times shows that true companionship is not material, but rather requires an emotional contact.

Together, the couple experiments (both positively and negatively) with the growing opportunities of New York. Smith finds opportunity in the artistic quality of New York, meeting new people and traversing its museums. Mapplethorpe contrasts her experiences by testing drugs, his sexuality and the underbelly of New York. Even though we may not fully agree with their preferences for experimentation, it was here in New York that the couple was able to truly find their identity and fully grasp it.

I think that at its base, Just Kids represents the idea of finding your identity in this life and exploring the options the world has to offer. Patti Smith may not have been successful if she had stayed home with her family and became a struggling waitress, but her strive to push forward in life allowed her to succeed. Smith and Mapplethorpe represent the rebellious subculture that America created, which gave birth to many creations such as new forms of art, expression and identity. By detailing her struggle, Smith truly shows that any rational dream can be achieved with the right amount of work and perseverance. Reading her early experiences, one would not think she would become a successful singer, but more likely a faltering artist or writer. In recounting her early life, she gives hope to the younger generations who read her book, and defines the idea of an American Dream–that people can do whatever they want when they come to America and succeed in doing so.

-Joseph Valerio