"WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN"
....a “How-To-Have-Fun-While-Being-An-Artist” life survival guide memoir from the POV of an enigmatic, fascinating party girl who also happens to be an internationally acclaimed trapeze artist.
I lost my memory!
London is a super old city dating back over 1,000 years, really just a bunch of old villages that grew together; so aside from a couple of highways and ring roads, there were very few grid style areas at all; most of the roads just wobble curvedly around, connected by roundabouts (rotaries) which are wild as they contain everyone driving from bicycles to trucks.
So because the roads are small and wandery with lots of tiny wandery streets, long ago a paperback map book, the “A to Z” (Z is pronounced “zed”) was issued and is carried by everyone whether taxi driver or London Underground rider to help get where they’re going.
I had gotten tired of carrying mine around, it didn’t fit into my purse, and had begun memorizing the center of London pages and then outward, and somehow the overload of map info, combined with a general overdrinking of champagne made me start forgetting everything instead of remembering the way around London. At parties I’d run into people and have to let them know that I had lost my memory and could they remind me who they were and how we met? It was embarrassing, but when I explained about the “A to Z” they’d laugh and say, “totally understandable!” and bring me up to speed.
I was still as courageous socially as ever, and one night, Andrew packed me onto the scooter in my finery and we doodled off to a very special party for the painter Francesco Clemente at his London gallerist’s posh private home in Knightsbridge. We knocked on the black door of the beautiful white house, and in we went.
This party was fab! All of us Chelsea (F)Arts Club kids were there, the Bloomsburies, the aristos, the collectors; there was a fabulous dance room pumping when we arrived. I tossed my purse and coat on the bed in the bedroom with everyone else’s, and, hit the dance floor.
I should preface all this by saying that in addition to having lost my memory, I had completely run out of money.
I was down to my last pound note, at that time about $2.50.
For some magical reason, even though I hadn’t told a soul, everyone had decided for the past two weeks to take me out- whether for lunch, dinner, drinks, shopping, or whatnot, so, I’d been carrying that single one pound note around in my purse, not even needing it for the Tube or the bus because people kept saying “I’ll pick you up, be ready in 30”, and we’d drive around in their car.
I was expecting a few checks from my articles in Over 21, Film Market, and Cosmopolitan, but meanwhile, every time I looked in my silver leather clutch purse I’d see my address book, my house keys, my lipstick, and, the lonely one pound note.
It had become kind of a talisman.
So, I tossed that silver leather clutch onto the bed, threw my coat on top of it and didn’t think a thing about it- we were at a very posh house in a posh neighborhood with partygoers who were quite wealthy. Plus there was only one pound in it.
I had a blast, Francesco was a doll, he danced with us too, and when the night was over, Andrew and I went into the bedroom to find our things- and- my purse was GONE! We looked everywhere. I tried to blame it on my memory but Andrew remembered I had it with me and that I had put it on the bed under my coat. We asked the remaining partiers, no one had a clue- we let the gallerist know it was missing, gave his assistant our phone number to call in case anyone found it.
Everyone was concerned I’d lost all my money- but- I hadn’t told anyone still about my financial predicament- so -I brushed that off and told them I was much more concerned about my missing address book that was in there with all my London, New York, and SF phone numbers and addresses in it.
I had another memorization trick I’d used already- that worked- when in NY, I’d forget the other city’s numbers and just remember the NY ones, in SF, I’d forget the NY ones and just remember the SF ones- and in London, I’d remember the London ones and forget the SF and NY ones. But now that I didn’t have my address book, I was really concerned that the most precious thing to me, my friends phone numbers and addresses, would be lost, as it seemed my memory was lost.
Andrew and I scootered home, me clutching his back and pondering, what to do, what to do.
Meanwhile, word got around that my purse had been stolen (from a posh party in Knightsbridge! For the posh artist Francesco Clemente! At his gallerist’s fab home of all places!) and friends had decided to fill the cupboards, buy me a new address book and take me out for dinner til my checks came… so I wasn’t stressed out about money and was collecting a few of those London phone numbers at least. I did seem to remember my closest friends phone numbers, and as word got around, others phoned in to help me fill in my new address book.
Within a couple of days, thank GOD, the checks for the articles I wrote arrived and I had money again.
I considered how lucky I was, it felt like a windfall to have money after almost three weeks with only one pound left.
Then, one day we got a call from Francesco’s gallerist. “Could you come by?” he asked. “Your silver leather clutch has been found!”
We doodled over there on the scooter through daytime crazy London roundabout traffic, all the way from where we lived in Archway, North London, N19; to Knightsbridge, Southwest London, SW1.
We knocked on the black door of the white house, the door was opened by an assistant, and we entered the quiet calm of this wealthy gallerist’s home. He came out and sat us down, and handed my silver leather clutch over to me. It looked a little worse for wear than when I’d set it down on the bed at the party. “We had some trouble in the loo last night, and called the plumber today” he began, “and the plumber found your purse in the cistern! So, it got waterlogged. We dried it off. I am so sorry, we looked, there wasn’t any money in it, except for one pound left.”
I couldn’t believe it!!
One pound left!
And, miraculously, my house keys, lipstick, and… address book! Waterlogged, but still legible!
Andrew and I thanked Francesco’s gallerist, and zipped back out into the London day.
Painting by Francesco Clemente
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