Artist recalls her brief marriage with crusty rebel

Photo by John Penley Amy Sanchez, who married L.E.S. Jewels when she was an 18-year-old School of Visual Art student, read some of his poetry at Friday night’s memorial.
Photo by John Penley
Amy Sanchez, who married L.E.S. Jewels when she was an 18-year-old School of Visual Art student, read some of his poetry at Friday night’s memorial.

BY GERARD FLYNN  |  For close to three and a half years, Amy Sanchez, 25, a soft-spoken artist from North Carolina, was married to Joel Pakela, a.k.a. “L.E.S. Jewels.” Jewels was a regular on “Crusty Row” and godfather to the street kids and punk travelers from across the country who frequent that section of Tompkins Square Park and the East Village, an area synonymous with an appetite for alcoholism, heroin addiction and rebellious estrangement from social mores.

While the Crusty King had a criminal record, including for assault, Sanchez, 18 when she tied the knot, saw a softer, happier side of Jewels, who died last Saturday morning at age 43 at Beth Israel Medical Center.

While the police are not viewing his death as suspicious, the investigation is still open as the police await the results of an autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

In an interview, Sanchez shared her memories of Jewels.

How did you meet Jewels?
I met him in Tompkins Square Park. I had broken a broken ankle and had crutches that were too big. He said he had a spare cane in C-Squat so he said, “Come to C-Squat,” and that’s how I met him. My initial impression: He seemed like a nice guy willing to help. He was neighborly. For someone new to the area, he was a stranger in the park who greeted me, asked me my name, told me who he was and he looked a bit scary. But he wasn’t. He was friendly.

What happened next?
We would hang out all the time. We would hang out with the crusty kids and the neighborhood people. I was an artist and would draw him and the crusties.

And you married him when you were 18?
It was his idea to get married. I wasn’t opposed to it. There wasn’t much thought put into it. It was more spur of the moment.

What was it like being married to L.E.S. Jewels for  three and a half years?
It was nice. It was hard at times — because he kept drinking and going to jail. I’m not opposed to drinking but his going to jail was too much. I didn’t like to have to take care of him when I had to take care of myself. But there were many times when he would take care of me. So it was balanced out. He showed me I could do the kind of things I never thought I could do. He was very helpful and fun and it was pleasant. But I gave up because he went to jail. I was graduating from college and found someone new. And of course he was upset with that at first, but we got to remain friends and I was lucky. I am happy. He told me he was happy to be my friend. He understood me being with someone else. It hurt him, and he had anger toward this other person, because he told me.

What kind of person was Jewels?
He evolved wherever life took him — into someone newer and better than before but he was always the same person. People who know him from childhood would say, “Yeah, that’s the same Joel.” He was the same person all his life but he just evolved into different situations. He had many jobs and been with many girls and been to many states, done many different things, including fishing. He went to Rutgers. He liked Rutgers. He didn’t finish. He also went to culinary school.

Yet he became a crusty?
I didn’t know him when he decided to f— it all. Maybe he gave up or lost his place. I’m sure there’s a reason for it. Maybe the street offered him more freedom. He was free to be a poet. He was a performance artist. He did his own thing. It’s not bad that he was on the street. He did a lot of good. He did have enemies too, and did get drunk and poop on a park bench in public. But over all, he did wonderful things, even when he was on the street.

How do you feel about the news?
Awful. I feel he didn’t deserve to die. I feel he had a concussion from being beaten or kicked and I feel it was untimely. He didn’t deserve to die that way and it was a horrible way to die. He wasn’t afraid to die, but he shouldn’t have in that manner on a sidewalk on Avenue A and he was probably very lonely when he died. I saw him every day the week of his death and I didn’t think he was going to die. We are waiting for the result of the autopsy, but he could have died of natural causes. But there are sightings of him being hit and beaten, just too coincidental that it was a natural death. I feel it was unnatural and all I can do is wait for the medical examiner’s report. Somehow karmic justice will come around for him and for whoever may have harmed him.


80 Proof Tears

By L.E.S. Jewels


October 10, 2009 at 12:35 p.m.


Now you know there ain’t no Santa, Nor is there any elves

no one you can trust except for yourself

and love it might not even exist at all

sometimes your sorry ass just need someone else to care

so you have to do as you please

not as one says

it’s a cross that freedom bares

and escape from reality is needed by all

Lord knows that’s why we abuse

Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol

and I’m crying

Lord I’m crying

80 proof f—-n’ tears

and I’m crying

Lord I’m crying

80 proof tears

Twisted minds scars of mispent youth

my childhood robbed from me

grew up fast and f—–d up faster

no future do I see

Bottle of booze and I can’t lose

just take me away

you can rob my future as was my youth

I am social decay

yet, I live for that drink toward my escape

High, alone and free

and I see a grave freshly dug damnation belongs to me

and hell’s fires rise to my demise another ruined fate

I’ll have that drink now anyway

The Devil can mutha f—-n’ wait

and I’m crying

yes I’m crying

80 proof f—-n’ tears

and Half my life forgotten and lost

in these bottles of booze

too young to die

fight to win

yet I fight to lose

the booze decay

wasting away

and forever echoes insanity

on my mind all the time

the punk ass suicide I can so easily wake up to be

instead I choose to be a man, slowly booze and poison my mind away

to many

Blackouts, Arrests, and Forgotten Nights

and I’m just rock and roll decay

and I’m crying

Lord I’m crying

80 Proof F—-n’ tears

More of L.E.S. Jewels’s poems are on his Facebook page (Joel Pakela) under his notes. His former wife, Amy Sanchez, has some that are handwritten that she has yet to type.