Buried Alive

Faced With Eviction, Taylor Mead Cleans House.

"One of my excuses for not totally keeping the place anti-septic is I've had a broken hand the last couple years," Mead says, as he wraps a splint around his right forearm. He fell down the 14 steps outside his apartment on millennium eve, 1999—his 75th birthday. Shattered his elbow. He's had three surgeries.

At the door, he goes over a checklist he keeps atop the refrigerator to consult each time he leaves the apartment: "Splint. Keys. Money. Snacks . . . " Mead eats and drinks free at a number of downtown establishments that recognize his hardcore boho credentials. He's a night person. During the wee hours, "after the dogs are walked," he visits seven Lower East Side parking lots to feed stray cats. Then he usually hangs out at some watering hole till closing time, and goes home to watch TV, usually falling asleep around five. He has two cats at home. There used to be seven. Until recently, his floor—those parts visible, at least—was covered with cat litter.

This is no longer a city where one can live without a plan: the artist at home.
photo: Robin Holland
This is no longer a city where one can live without a plan: the artist at home.

"We had to almost use a jackhammer to get that litter up," says Wallin. "It had hardened onto the floor. We had to use a crowbar." Though the matter of Mead's eviction is still unresolved, she plans to install carpeting, and get him a couple of small tables. He's never had a table. Mead also informs me, his misgivings evident, that Wallin may be buying him a bed. And he isn't sure he's ready for that.

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