February 3, 2014
I was at home listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” when I got a phone call from Violet Shenton, who owns the building that Joe’s studio is in. It seems she was upset, and if she’s upset about anything, then it is pretty serious. I got here as soon as possible, and one can feel the mood of the place just by walking in. Violet met me at the door, and asked me to have a few words with Joe who seemed to be in one of his moods again.
Joe is probably the most intelligent man I know. He was the first guy to really introduce me to the writings of Gertrude Stein and had a crazy love for Carl Theodor Dreyer films. For a guy who looked just like he walked off the canvas of a Norman Rockwell painting, he had a lot of deep inner demons.
I went upstairs to his apartment, I knocked, and found myself facing a rifle barrow. I saw him and said “Joe, I presume!” He laughed and faced the rifle down, and invited me into the apartment. He said to take a seat on the couch, which was covered with empty reel-to-reel tape boxes. I removed a pile of the boxes to sit down, meanwhile he took his seat which was a rocking chair. He placed the rifle on his lap, and asked me what I was reading. I told him that I have been obsessing over Paul Auster’s work in general. Both of us were early fans, but lately we been having trouble getting into his new work. The drag for us, was that there were no major changes and one gets the impression that they are reading the same book over and over again. “Ain’t that the truth” he said to me. I just nodded my head yes, while thinking about that rifle on his lap.
“Joe when we get into our arguments about writers and painters, it would be great if you can place the rifle somewhere else besides your lap.” He stared at me for like 30 seconds and his face broke into a smile. “Well it can finalize our disagreements Tosh.”
I didn’t like how this conversation was turning into an alley with no exit. “Joe, have you heard the rumors of Kenneth Anger working with Melanie Safka? Many evenings ago, I remembered Joe setting up a really funky old 16mm projector to screen Anger’s “Scorpio Rising.” He was obsessing about the soundtrack and he felt at the time that Anger was using music in a new way to tell a narrative or bringing out a mood. It always struck me odd that Joe and Anger never got together to work on a project. They both had an interest in the Magik world, and I can’t speak for Anger, but Joe had an obsession with the after-life. Often he would force me to take part in a seance and have a discussion with Buddy Holly. I rather talk to Arthur Kane, but never brought up that subject with him because of his utter devotion to Buddy. I brought up Anger’s name due to the rumors that he was about do do a film-bio on the gangster Pretty Boy Floyd, and he either wanted Melanie to do the soundtrack or star in it.
As we were chatting back and forth, he suddenly put the rifle down, got up from his chair, and asked me if I wanted some tea. “Actually Joe, I have to split.”
He said “are you sure? I can ask Violet to put the kettle on.”
“Nah, but thanks Joe. ”
I got up and walked over to him, and gave him a hug, and as I was hugging him I whispered in his ear “A rose is a rose is a rose.” He laughed and kissed me on both cheeks. That was the last time I saw him.