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Another Nico-Vali Sunday (Amsterdam, Netherlands circa 1971)

This excerpt from AsEverWas (A Self-Descriptive Biopathy), © 2001, Hammond Guthrie. Permission granted to publish by the author.

During the summer the vacant building next door to our place on the Keizersgracht had been liberated by the macrobiotic set, and the temporary inhabitants of this former convent called their brown rice redoubt the East-West Centrum. They advocated long periods of organic brown rice fasting and the Be-Hungry-Now teachings of Gorges Osawa and his primary adept, Misio Kushi, but with the ebb of summer, the anti-Sampaku crowd moved on, and the penitence cells of the former nunnery began to fill up with transient needle freaks and a far less health conscious menagerie of adepts. They hung a portent un-welcome sign on the front door that read: “Paranoia Is a Heightened State of Awareness!” My building mates and I had to pass by the Gothic-looking shooting gallery on a regular basis, and though our backyard gardens were separated by a common wall of stone, we gave the increasingly unfriendly neighbors a wide berth – though the one time I dared to ventured into the used-cotton labyrinth, I got quite a pleasant surprise.

One Sunday morning as I was sitting on the garden overhang outside my apartment, I heard the unmistakable voice of avant singer Nico singing the Velvet Underground song, “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” I started to sing along with what I assumed to be a recording, when half way through the song, the atonal voice stopped, and then began again with an acoustic version of “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Curious, I went into the courtyard next door to find the proto-Gothic Nico herself (real name, Christa Paffgen), dressed in layers of beyond ebony and seated next to a small harmonium, strumming away on a beat-up guitar. Without disturbing her, I sat down next to a pillar as the formerly beautiful co-star of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” and Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable unwittingly gave me a private concert of Underground samples. When she finally noticed me, I introduced myself from afar and thanked her. She smiled and invited me over – her long ash and once blonde hair was like castle gossamer – her album-cover eyes were now dark sockets of imminent doom, and I could see that the underground chanteuse was well into the terminal stages of an on-going demise from heroin addiction. We chatted for a minute or two, but when she found out I wasn’t interested in junk, she went back to singing (“Sunday Morning”) and completely ignored me.

Coincidentally in the same time frame, poet Simon Vinkenoog introduced me his friend – the infinitely mysterious artist Vali Meyers – “The Witch of Positano, Italy,” and object of an earnest Hemingway diva-desire in late 1950s Paris cafe society.

The colorfully exotic and facially tattooed (by Maori needle) artist arrived in Amsterdam to open a showing of her self-portraits drawn in India Ink and pencil graphite mixed with quite attractive swathes her own menstrual blood. Quite another Sunday to be sure.

Fine weekending days – and I began taking long walks in the Vondel Park, still vibrating from the nomads of summer. Amsterdam’s municipal park is a lovely quarter mile expanse of sculpture, manicured lawns, white gazebos, and a man-made lake, edged by trees, dense plant life and a network of hidden pathways with a notorious reputation for quick and anonymous sex play. It wasn’t uncommon (or particularly illegal) to find men with men, and women, tucked back among the semi-exotic shrubbery having it off with each other.

On one of my mournful Sunday strolls, I encountered a young blonde – a German woman with a shapely figure and flared skirt, who invited me into the bush for some friendly foreplay. This led to a heated passion, and we unabashedly stripped from the waist like a pair of exhibitionists as the passing voyeurs watched us giving each other simultaneous oral sex amid the foliage of our blatant interlude. It was all quite civil really, and when we were done licking and sucking away at each other’s groin, we simply dressed, pecked each other on the cheek, and went our separate ways (smiling for a change!) – on just another Sunday.

Author: Hammond Guthrie got his start in the submerged community when he collaborated with a number of luminaries, including Del Close; director of The Committee and 2nd City , Philo T. Farnsworth III; son of the inventor of television, Liam O’Gallagher, William Seward Burroughs III, John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins of the Arts Lab in London, and Robert Jasper Grootveld; mentor for the Amsterdam Provos. Hammond’s non-representational paintings are represented by Vorpal Gallery, 393 Grove Street in San Francisco. In the Fall of 2002 his first book of memoirs will be released by SAF
Publications in London. Publisher queries welcomed at http://www.safpublishing.co.uk/.

Published inIssue 3.1Issues
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