After walking around for too long in the hot sun, we settled on the corner of 7th Street and Avenue A. The spot checked off all our boxes: Picturesque. Out of the direct sun. Bustling but not overrun with passersby. A mom & pop storefront for me. A bit of greenery for Julie.
We had barely set up our stools by the curb, when character after East Village character approached. First up, a man with glassy eyes that rolled around in his head, who queried our every move. We answered succinctly, but he wasn't one for social cues, so as we mixed up the colors of our palettes, he stood inches between Julie and me, swaying back and forth like a pendulum, precariously close to the paint set-ups perched on our laps. Eventually, he gave up on our lack of attention and moved on.
Next, an aging rocker with no side teeth regaled us with tidbits of his days as one of the first Sludge Punk Rockers, a music genre that apparently combines the darkness of heavy metal with the screaming vocals synonymous with punk.
Then along came a man named Cissy, pretty in pink from hot pink bob to rose-colored bra to magenta patent leather sandals. He shared his financial woes with us and his memories of the good ol' days in this never-a-dull-moment community.
As each gentleman caller came and went, Julie remained steadfast on her sketch, but, with the exception of the stoned one who came precariously close to body slamming us, I rather enjoyed taking time out for the repartee with these East Village fixtures.
When we were finally moving and grooving on our paintings, a clean-cut, just out-of-college guy shyly came close. He explained that he had recently moved in to an apartment in the building beside us and looked out at the same view as our painting. Would we be interested in selling our work to him and his roommates, who would chip in together? Soon after he had gone, a well-put-together blonde woman sauntered by, noticing that her Pilates Studio was featured in both of our paintings. I half-joked that there was a bidding war on our work.
About a month later, after the cool down of one of these Pilates classes, I glanced out the studio's front window, struck by the way the late afternoon light diagonally sliced the facade of the building across the street. As my eyes settled on the view, I then noticed that I could see inside the apartment directly across from the 2nd floor studio. First the cheery red painted walls, then a whole gallery wall filled with artfully arranged paintings. I'm pretty sure if I stared at this view long enough, I would've spotted a beautifully rendered watercolor of a street scene from 7th and Avenue A, bearing the signature in the bottom left corner of one Julie Kessler.