Friday, February 20, 2009

From Mark, circa 1973

This post is for a very small subset of my readers who knew and loved Mark Ashwill. I've posted about him before a few times, put up photos as they surface, and on occasion some old friends have found me here by googling for him, looking for something to remind them of him. There is very little. Here is a nice collection of Chris's photos. Here is a nice little memorial. And another here.

In brief, for those that read on despite not knowing him, Mark was an artist and musician, died of esophogeal cancer in 2000 at the age of 45. He had a legion of fans and friends that still miss him and wonder where his body of work can be found. He came to NY in 1983 from Wisconsin after a divorce, leaving his young son Jesse behind. The highlights as I know them are - he was drummer in Dairyland Jubilee, then percussion (can we call it that?) in the seminal anarchist band Missing Foundation (another link about them here) and then gathered an eclectic group of people for various iterations of The Spitters. Lots of things happened in between, he made art, danced, worked on many side projects etc etc. The Hungry March Band wrote a dirge for him. His story is representative of the artist culture of the 80's in the East Village, though he lived in Greenpoint for much of it.

When poking through drawers last weekend looking for photos to scan, an old letter from Mark was found. It was written to Marc (Slim) when he was in art school in Toronto, we think it was around 1973. He would have been 18 or 19. It was his first time away from home. So, for those who miss him, here is a piece of Mark for me to share with you.

I think the scans are too hard to read so I have transcribed them, spelling mistakes intact.

Dear Marc
I've been here a week and a day. Alot has happened but I've mostly been lonely. I live in a small room with a small kitchen. My neighbors are very loud, all the time including the early A.M. hours -- 6 or 7 a.m. The city is typical big city. The people are drugged into complacency. Old men all over the streets pick garbage and sidewalks for food and the capitalists pick everyones minds for profit and greed. Everything is subtle here. Subtle poverty (But very bad), subtle hate, politics, greed, racism, everything! I even have subtle cockroaches in my room. I'm in my second day of classes and feel as though I have learned more than at any other institution before. I am very favorably impressed. But even the excellency of the school cannot hide the wretchedness of the big city. Mark Strobe liked it here very much and is returning this weekend then (Thank God or someone) we are moving into a co-op which is extremely more liveable.

I miss home very much because of the fact that I could be honest with my family, something I couldn't appreciate untill I left. Here I know no one to express myself to. School ends in August and unless there is a radical change in what I like I will return home and figure out if I want to return next spring. surrounded by people truly poor and mezmerized, and by crowded buildings and infinite streets is really a drag.

You should come up for a few days just to see how the "other 3/4s" live. I don't believe in this life around me but it is difficult to hide from it because that is exactly what these vegetables out my window are doing (Hiding) that is [illegible] reason such a fucked up order exists and will continue to exist.
Its now about dinner time. I don't worry to much about selection. I have some fruite (each one with a brick in her eye), some cerial (Hot but loathing hell, and becoming a devil or demon), and some milk (Personal suggestion). My Spanish neighbors eat radio batteries stuffed in taco shells. Each night I hide my transistor radio for fear I may be subject to the wrath of a hungry Pancho Villa. Enough of Dinner! it sits waiting!

(down my personal alley a dog lies down, rubbing his forhead(?) against the ground. This all occurs only a matter of three or four feet from the yellowtop-greenbottom fire hydrant.)

(Now an ugly, non-lady with a Turqoise scarf [drawing of a scarf on a faceless head] wrapped about her head walks by this same spot! Doe3s she realize what has occured?! Good God! She'll even go home and eat dinner with her husband, or cat, without thinking)

(Little dogs)

(fat feet)

(Dates (fruit) on bad days)

(death bread)

I could persist indefinitely.
Your friend Mark Oliver Ashwill

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