Had a tumultuous thirty-six hours, in which there was the possibility that I owned a masterpiece, had lost a piece of myself, had outlived my own productivity, and was going to give up my quixotic determination to demonstrate that Life was not over just because you were past the Magic Marker of Youth, and a woman in the bargain.
First, the Picasso print, Mother and Child, left to me by my mother, hanging on my studio wall was opined by an insurance inspector to be NOT a print, but, quite possibly the original. True, there was damage, a repaired rent beneath the white wash-- something the inspector said was clearly Picasso, --from the time my mother broke the painting over my stepfather's head--(Do read THE MOTHERLAND.) But the value would still be enormous.
Since I had an appointment with the paper conservator for the next morning, I did not want to even try to go early to bed, as I would obviously be unable to sleep, knowing that I might have the means to produce my own musical, after saving an African nation. So I stopped by Carnegie Hall for that evening's presentation, Lena Dunham, the young woman with a hit series, GIRLS, on HBO, and David Sedaris, who gets his writings so effortlessly into The New Yorker, the dream of every young writer, which I was once. The crowd, and it WAS. jammed to the many tiered gills, was clearly elated to be there. The person next to me, a softly strong fortyish woman from Capetown was in New York for a conference at the UN of cyber-bio-scientists, all those half-word things that mean, I think, they are still imagining they can save the planet. So if she wasn't giving up, I thought, re-fortified, neither should I.
Then the reading began. To be fair, I hope, and objective, Lena Dunham is kind of sweet and appealing in a self-deprcating young way, welcoming her parents before she began her launch, which featured butt-cracks, hair growing out of her nipple, and several vaginas. The hall was awash in laughter, none of which was mine. I thought it was clearly me, that I was probably jealous, and, at that moment, let go of SYLVIA WHO?, retitled that day for my lunch with the Shuberts, THE WOMAN WHO CAME TO DINNER(Which title do you like better?) opening on Broadway. Then I went home, sad, because I thought maybe I should be realistic, and understand that I was over.
Still, as I lay down, I finished a new song for the show. Came the dawn, I had a call from my beloved Jamie, one of the smartest women on the planet, and I told what had transpired, and my puzzlement at all the laughter. She explained to me, in just these words, that Lena "had her finger on the clitoris of every young woman in America." That brilliant observation quoted several times during the day, tickled the fancy(if that's not too clean) of those I told it to, who said it was "a generational thing." So hope began a new little re-dance in my heart.
Then I took the Picasso in a cab, down to Alvarez, the paper conservator. Taking it out of its frame, after careful examination, he told me it was NOT an original. My heart did not sink, because the truth was, I have never wished for any rewards that were not through my own efforts. I told that gentleman, too, about Carnegie Hall. And he, too, said "It's a generational thing." Then I went home, hung my not-really-an-original back on the wall, and thought to continue my day.
At that hour, Cerene, the dark angel who cleans, came to change my sheets and Jeannie, the housekeeper for the Hampshire House helped her by vacuuming. SIDEBAR: last week I met a delightful duo of young Southerners recently come to the William Morris agency to handle events, loved them and after they were gone, had a feverish search for my book, the TRAVELS OF MIMI, my beloved Bichon, no longer here except in photographs and this collection of poems, writ during our adventures together, while I was writing travel for The Wall Street Journal Europe, and she was in my pocket. Barry, the young man of the Southern duo, had two bichons, so I had gone to Fedex and had a copy made for an exorbitant sum, so the book and Mimi would not perish from this earth. That is, of course, the end of the Gettysburg Address which I had recited at two years old and three months, which made me a celebrity in Pittsburgh, but I was still not as lovable as Mimi. The original book and the copy I'd made for security were both in a plastic bag on the chair. When I went to get them, after the apartment was cleaned, they were gone.
Now THERE was a loss. There was the heart-sink I hadn't felt when Pablo turned out to be less than real. Along with Teddy, who works in the basement, with rubber gloves on, I went through the huge containers of tossed-down-the-chute garbage, but the plastic bag was not there. Desolate, I went back to my apartment. Sure, I had the poems, but they were only an expression of myself. The doggie, and the settings where we had journeyed, were an expression of much that was glorious in my history. And Mimi herself, unique, the expression of all that is loving and giving in humanity, which is oft better expressed in dogs. "I'll go through the laundry," Jeannie said, because she had loved Mimi, too, the only little dog who had ever totally captured her (she has Great Danes.)
I prayed, feverishly. Finally the phone rang. "I have it," Jeannie said triumphantly.
"Was it in the laundry?"
"It's on my computer," she said. As my friends know, I have had few occasions to love computers, and had absolutely no memory of even sending it to her. Several years had passed since I apparently did.
SO HERE IT IS, that all of you might know, and if you care to, remember her. And even if you don't wish to tiptoe around in that kind of light-hearted sentimentality, you might stop to consider what is the true meaning of LOSS. What is it, that if gone from your life, would leave a hole in your soul? Surely not that which you had given to Bernie Madoff.