Now for something completely different.
Starting in late 1982, my life operated on two intertwined tracks: Acrylix and my developing relationship with Patricia de los Santos. I often call her Pat, but Patty is what her brother calls her and I love the name, so I am going to devote the rest of my life to putting in the effort to add the extra syllable. I met Patty at a Christmas party in 1982. The hosts of the party were mutual friends of Patty and a friend of mine, Mel Paret. Mel and I met while working for an environmental consulting firm from 1980-1981 and we still stay in touch.
Man, there were so many chances for us not to have met, including laziness and snow that evening making travel a hassle. Patty called the hosts to beg out of the party, but they told her “c’mon, there are some cute guys here.” I had come to the party with my friend Linda Reinisch, a founding member of Wooly Mammoth Theatre in DC and who was kinda/sorta my girlfriend (and coincidentally later married our friend and former Acrylix manager Al Twanmo). I was immediately smitten with Patty; she was almost too beautiful, too cool, and too calm. I was struggling to play it cool, play it cool, and not blow it, not blow it. She had long dark brown hair down to her waist that you could get lost in. We connected over our love of San Francisco, picture framing that we both had jobs doing at the time, and a general discontent with Washington. I told her I was in a band, and well, what do you know?? we were playing in just a couple of weeks at a new club called Friendship Station on Wisconsin Ave., Friendship Heights, DC, which was only one block from her group house on Reno Road. Talk about a pick-up line. She came to the show with her soon to be ex-boyfriend, who was not impressed but at least was man enough to admit that I knew what I was doing on guitar. Patty’s girlfriend and group housemate Nancy Batemen, who came along to the gig, prodded Patty into going up to the stage to say hello to me after our set. I was packing up my gear when she came up, and Marcus turned to me with large, envious eyes and whispered “Who’s THAT??”
After the gig, our first date, in early February, 1983, was to get a cup of coffee (at night!) at the Zebra Room at Macomb and Wisconsin Ave. I told her I was leaving the next day to go up to NYC to continue recording what was to become our EP Color Blind (see Chapter X). Yeah, I know, I was looking pretty damn cool at this point. Anyway, after I returned from NYC, I took Patty out to Floriana Italian restaurant at Wisconsin and Fessenden for her birthday, and presented her with a simple acrylic orange heart I had found on Canal St. She still cherishes it to this day. I was going up to NYC again the next week, so I invited her to come up to watch me record.
Patty took a train up to NYC, but lost the studio address, so she called our friend David Goldberger at Wonder Graphics for the address of the studio. Remember, there were no cell phones back then. She finally arrived, looking a bit frazzled and….very attractive. After the session, Marcus, Patty and I went to an Italian restaurant La Luna and we all stayed/crashed at Bill Gerstel’s friends Chris and Susan’s loft at Broome and Green in Soho. Chris and Susan were old hippies turned punkers, whose son was conceived at Woodstock and grew up to make a 180-degree turn and become a Wall St. broker/lawyer. I recall that a pre-famous David Byrne crashed at their place once.
Patty didn’t meet Bill Gerstel for the first time until the next evening at the club Danceteria. We watched a DJ, featured in the middle of the dance floor, scratch out beats on two turntables while others vogued or otherwise made the scene. There were a lot of colored lights, and I’m sure there was a disco ball. Another night, we went to see Sam Shepherd’s The Tooth of Crime, Off Broadway. Every time I, or Patty and I, went to NY it was a new adventure, anchored with Bill and wherever he was staying in Lower East Side at the time (either 1st St. and 1st Ave., or 3rd St., between Aves. B and C.) Nothing but fond, fond memories. Even after we were “saddled” with a baby. I remember timing our trips so that we left our house in Silver Spring, MD at 8 pm and arrived on St. Mark’s place where Bill was bartending at Dojo’s Restaurant (or was it Cafe Orlin?) around, at midnight with our daughter Melissa sleeping the entire trip. I do know that Café Orlin on St. Marks Place was a favorite for brunch. Coming to NYC was a real thrill; so much was going on and it was all very hip. Lower East Side and even Soho were much sketchier back then. Bill lived at First (Ave.) and First (St.), in a shower/bathtub in the kitchen sort of thing. Canal Jean and Pearl Paint on lower Broadway, Unique Clothing on Canal, and Trash and Vaudeville on St. Marks were destinations. Lower East Side had some great bars (like King Tut’s Wa Wa Hut, Avenue A and 7th St.) to see new bands, and these were years leading up to the Thompkins Square riots in the mid-80s, so you had to watch your step. It was not the dog walker and pram pusher paradise it has become today. Patty and I became extremely close to Bill from this point on, seeing him through relationships and various tribulations until his untimely death from cancer in 2016. We are still in close touch with his wife Robin (a video editor) and son Sawyer.
After the Being Smitten phase, my relationship with Patty developed into something that really fit our needs. I could never be comfortable in a relationship with a man, a heroin addict, or a traditional Jewish woman. Patty was an attractive woman, creative and someone I could present to my parents. In turn, she saw me as fun and someone she could present to her parents. The fact that we each had a college degree was more important to our parents than the whole Jewish/Catholic thing. We mirrored each other. We wanted excitement, fun, and exploration and at same time struggled with a sense of responsibility/compassion for strong, strong-willed, and opinionated mothers.
Patty and I backed each other up. She had a silkscreen business and I helped man the booth for her street fairs, and she in turn loved the Acrylix scene as fun, and of course there were the trips to New York. With regards to music, Marcus was far more instrumental (no pun intended) in my musical development than Patty – he challenged me and, besides, as a Jewish man he had also overcome many of the same dreaded “shoulds” as I. Hard to believe I know, but I would have been even more hindered or crippled by those neuroses if I hadn’t met Marcus.
As an artist, Patty was a partner in crime and extremely supportive of Acrylix. She splattered paint all over a full-length zippered canvas army surplus jumpsuit that I wore on stage (see below), which added a spark visually to the performances. She was true to herself. She wasn’t a “groupie,” but as much as she recognized that it wasn’t in her nature to be one, and was even envious of those who could pull it off, she understood that as much as she didn’t want to be just decoration, at times she went along with being a pretty girl ego boost for me. (What can I say, it was Mick Jagger’s world and I just lived in it.) Music can become a mistress or a third member of the relationship. I never wanted to write a song about Patty, it seemed too…..much. Fact is, I’ve never been comfortable expressing personal feelings in public like that; it reminds me of the one too many times men refer to their wives as “my better half.” In fact, the closest I came to singing something about Patty was with the lyrics “stranded where your car broke down, out in the middle of nowhere” from Somewhere in Sweden, because a few years before we met she had driven a VW bug that broke down in upstate New York. I did jot down one other lyric, which never made it into any song but has stuck in my mind through the years: “Let me tell you about my wife, she may not trust me, but she is my life.”
It was clear I hadn’t been in many serious relationships before I met Patty and hadn’t had the flexibility to accommodate another person’s needs. Maybe it was a little weird for me to be so inexperienced at age 29, but Patty knew that I was at least “pretty cool and pretty smart” (her words), yet also that I was more comfortable with men than women. I am heterosexual, but I had a short relationship with Jeanne Mackey (with whom Shelly played women’s music), before she decided on a committed relationship with another woman. I had a torch-y relationship in senior year of high school but that ended soon into college, and everything after that – all with women - was short-lived. Maybe it was being raised in a boy-oriented family where girls were foreign, or that my mother kept saying how she always preferred boys, or I don’t really know why.
Relationships are hard; ours hasn’t always been smooth and we’ve had our share of arguments. Patty appears to be growing old gracefully - she really really really likes to dye silk, do puppet plays and otherwise share her extensive Waldorf School early childhood education experience with our granddaughter - whereas I really really really like….what Lou Reed sang: “I love women, I think they're great. They're a solace to the world in a terrible state. They're a blessing to the eyes, a balm to soul. What a nightmare to have no women in the world.”