I first met Patti Smith in La Guardia Airport in 2003 when she was on her way to Houston to install her Strange Messenger exhibition and perform in a special concert. Once in Houston, I Interviewed her for KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM, and stayed in touch with her for seven years. After her memoir Just Kids.was published, I emailed her, asking if she might give a reading in Houston.
Within two hours, I heard back from her:
thank you for your very kind message
of course i have never forgotten you
i will try my best to visit soon.
let me think about how it could be done.
all good wishes always
Patti managed to exit London before fog shut the city down, and Minal and I picked her up from Houston’s Intercontinental Airport on the day before her Houston performance.
The 48 hours that she was in Houston were packed: an intimate lunch with Minal and me, a trip to the Rothko Chapel, dinner at a friend’s house, radio show on KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM, book-signing at Brazos Bookstore, her almost sold-out performance at the University of Houston, and a ride back to the airport the next morning.
In Cullen Performing Hall, a space where she had performed with her Band in 1979, Patti held the 800 audience members captive. She read from Just Kids, sang, answered questions, talked about resistance and protest, and dedicated her song, “People Have the Power,” to me.
On our drive to the airport the next morning, I presented her with Agha Shahid Ali’s translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, whose work she knew, and an ajrak shawl. Before disappearing into the terminal, she posed for a photograph with Minal.