By James Maher
Name: Cosmo Yannis
Occupation: Cartoon Artist
Location: 2nd Street, Between 1st and 2nd Ave
Time: 2:35 pm on Monday, November 19
I’m an artist. I’m a bona-fide starving artist. I do cartoons right now. It’s mostly underground, kind of counter-culture stuff. I’ve been at it for 20 years. I make contributions to different publication, like The Shadow, and sometimes the High Times, just for different causes and to free the weed. What’s crazy is that you can go into a bar and get drunk off your ass, but you can’t have a little puff. It’s changing. It’s the will of the people. The worst thing that weed will do for you is make you raid your refrigerator.
I don’t drink; I don’t smoke cigarettes. I just do weed now and then. I do most of my cooking at home; I’m basically an organic kid. I shop organic and I do green juicing every day. I go to the gym every day. I’m not totally a vegetarian. I’ll eat a chicken now and then; I’ll eat an egg now and then. But I don’t eat meat.
The only reason I moved down here was because it was so cheap. Back when I moved to Orchard Street it was like the twilight zone. All the stores were gated. Women were afraid to walk down Orchard Street, from Houston on down. I used to walk by bars and women would ask if I could escort them to Houston. It was that bad.
I had a couple of Japanese friends who came visiting once and when they found out they were on the Lower East Side, one of them put their hand on their heart, because the Japanese embassy told them not to go down here. They told them to stay away. It was just scary here because you’d walk down the street and everything was closed. You’d wonder, ‘what the hell am I doing here.’ When I first moved in there was a drug dealer on every corner and they would be saying things like, ‘Christmas Trees, Santa Claus.’ Reindeer, that was the codeword for Heroin. At night I’d hear a few gunshots and wonder what the hell I was doing here. But it was cheap.
Now, forget about it – across the street from my building you’ve got a 23-story building going up. They stopped it right now, there seems to be a big dispute. We’ve got all these bars opening up and all these loudmouth people in the middle of the night. And the cigarette smokers right outside my window. Bloomberg put them out on the street, right outside of my bedroom window. When I hit the lotto, man, I’m gonna hire about 400 cigarette smokers and have a big party in front of his house.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.