Anita was my room-mate when I was a year sober.
I met her in Fall 1989, at the halfway house I had recently “graduated” from, Fellowship House. I started back to art school in the Fall, taking one class, and went back full time in January 1990, at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
At the same time, Anita and I moved in to a big flat in a classic St. Paul duplex.
It was a precious home, despite our complete lack of furniture and household amenities. Anita put together stylish outfits from thrift shop finds and cooked gorgeous food. We gave a big party that January to celebrate my one year and her six months of sobriety; we put on such a spread!
Anita in our kitchen.
She was the first person I knew who made French buttercream; it was a huge deal, back then, and many people are still skittish about it. Don’t be – get a copy of the Cake Bible and read everything on buttercream, then only make Rose’s Honey Buttercream forever! In this drawing you can see the little hand-painted porcelain ginger grater Anita found at the thrift shop, near the stove. I still have it! I pack it so carefully every time I move, all SIXTEEN TIMES since then!
Anita standing in our kitchen.
She often wore red!
Anita worked days and was home at night, and was always willing to pose for my homework.
These two drawings, using marker, charcoal and pastel, are much like the drawings I do with marker and conte crayon today!
I would guess these two were done in February or March.
I had homework nearly every night, and while only some of it was figure drawing, that is still a lot of figure drawing! Our friend Tom got out of the halfway house and came to live in our spare room, and our house was so warm and full of family in the endless, freezing Minnesota winter.
It was a short time, less than four months; Tom found his own place, Anita was forced to return to California because of some deeply unjust carceral bullshit, and I had to give up the big flat and get a place by myself. Below is a page from my sketchbook, when we learned she would have to go back to prison. It was devastating.
The impact of this four months of my life was profound.
I learned so much about being a person and being an adult from Anita and from Tom.
I was 23, but the staff at the halfway house said they had never seen a person as unprepared for independent living as me – “You don’t need rehab, you need HAB!”, they told me.
Anita never shamed me or scolded me for my helplessness or poor executive function. She did grown-up things gracefully and adroitly and I watched, wide-eyed, marveling at her competence.
She was thirty five then, and had run businesses, had many different kinds of jobs, been to Le Cordon Bleu for cooking school. She knew about medicinal foods and took care of me when I was sick, and played Tom Petty records, and our men as they came and went were a source of drama and excitement but our friendship was the strongest, sweetest nutrient I ever drank. I called her my Precious Flower.
The drawings above and below weren’t homework assignments; they were friend portraits, done for Anita to keep.
She kept them, over the last thirty years, and sent me copies over Instagram two weeks ago.
She found me through my website, and we talked on Zoom. I got to meet her kitties, and see the huge backyard garden she is working on with friends in Tecate, where she lives now.
It is literally a miracle, to see someone after so very, very long and still know them and honor them, and talk about food and science fiction. I don’t really know how to talk about it.
Here’s our ginger grater, in my baking tool drawer here in West Berlin, in 2020.