The caption to this photograph by Tim Kantor (from Camera Magazine (February/March 1961) says 'this study reveals a solitude that is bereft of inner space..these young faces are haunting, searching and dissatisfied.' The photo was taken at a now defunct Greenwich Village Coffee House called "The Couch". Apparently these girls were vying for the title of Miss Bohemia and, when the photo was taken, were 'listening to instructions on how to behave on stage'.
This image brought to mind my younger years spent working in an inner city all-night cafe which shall remain nameless (the only all-night joint in those days - it seems quaint to think of that fact now). When I went for the interview, the owner's wife, a chain-smoking blonde with eyes like black marbles, said: 'Would you be willing to work midnight to 8.30 every Friday and Saturday night?' I said 'No, I'd really rather not'. 'So, we'll see you at midnight this Friday,' she said, changing the roster with a flourish of her biro and a face like flint.
And that was that. Surprised that anyone would employ a hopeless kook like me AT ALL, I was in no position to argue, and worked those very shifts (known as the Milkie Shift (short for milk-run) for four and a half years.
It was a real eye-opener for an over-sensitive, 18 year old hot-house flower like me. 90% of the customers were pissed as newts (i.e. drunk, for my American friends). 50% came in looking for a barney with wait-staff, cruising to take out their aggression which may have been sparked by yet another stressful late-shift dealing with fuckhead customers, a solitary night on the prowl or any number of slights or miseries that may have occurred during the working week.
And then there was the parade of regular nighthawks, many of whom I will always remember fondly for the sympathy and respect they showed the harrassed wait-staff - hookers, pushers, streeties, nutters, artistic souls, loners - who gave way on early Sunday morning to the scarily exuberant Church youth groups - with a bizarre changing of the guard at about 6am when the air was filled with the sounds of hymn-singing and post-alcohol wretching..
During that time, I started to collect anything that interested me off the tables. I've kept those scraps in a box since about 1991, and decided to share some of them here. There are plenty more where this came from. Feel free to view them as being as meaningful or as meaningless as you see fit...and yes, that rather unfortunate drawing of a woman with sausage like legs does have the name of conceptual artist Jenny Holzer written above it. A long story.