This is a very sad week for me. At my last, and hopefully final job, there worked a wonderful dental hygienist named Laura. Truly a unique individual. No matter what she has going through, she was never less than completely centered, capable, and upbeat. Isn’t that an amazing trait? She is moving to Kansas today to join the love of her life and her one-year-old son in a brand new adventure. Wonderful happy news for them; not so much for those of us who will miss her fun and exuberant spirit so much. I guess because my childhood was such a tangled web of here today and gone tomorrow, I really loathe change and people exiting my stage.
In a perfect world I would have been born and raised, married and buried in a small town, with one never-changing family and community. A place where you had the same friends forever. Christ, I don’t even like to rearrange my furniture. My Mama used to rearrange furniture several times a year and I absolutely hated it. Wasn’t it enough to have completely new sets of relatives every couple of years? Couldn’t the couch and end tables just stay put; did everything have to shift, disappear and reappear? I remember as a tiny child getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and tripping over furniture that shouldn’t have been there, stubbed toes and missing relatives, one and the same, I supposed. Looking back, all that rearranging she did probably followed on the heels of an exiting husband, but at ages 6 and 7, I couldn’t yet figure out that correlation. I’ve never had that magician’s knack of holding onto people and places and consistency. I’m jealous of those who do. Laura, George, and baby Jorge, you will be so sorely missed. Love you; miss you already.
I’ll tell you what; it may be a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do as soon as this gets posted. The Spousal Unit is color blind, a fact he is loathe to admit. He thinks I have green eyes and that our crepe myrtle trees are red, when in fact, the eyes are grey, and we possess no red plants at all. That’s made it quite the long voyage to select and agree on paint colors for the great room, kitchen, and master bedroom. I painted giant blocks of color all over the walls two months ago in order to check them in the sunlight, by lamplight, and on dreary days. With no protest or howls of pain from The Unit in all that time, I assumed the coast was clear and set off to Lowe’s Home to buy the paint. Keep in mind that we have been considering color schemes and paint swatches for 13 months. Yet The Unit was quite surprised. “Really, already? Isn’t it a bit soon to decide? That’s a big commitment to one particular color. Maybe just a small wall to start?” Go pull on your Western duster and Aussie cowboy hat and Jesus sandals, then step aside; someone has to make a decision here.
I do have some butterflies whenever I look up and see the apex of the soaring ceiling so, so high up. It’s going to take a ginormous ladder to reach up there, which The Unit assures me we have. Images of Hoppin’ John falling off his ladder preparing for Hurricane Earl, and the resulting six months of medical adventures he’s had as a result, are causing some misgivings. Did I tell you I hate heights? The colors are awesome though, so I hope I don’t die from a fall before I can enjoy them!
Before we move forward with Paris and what might or might not have happened with that ill-fated contest, there are two things you must know. Number one, I arrived with $200 in my wallet. Being poor and basically unemployed, I possessed no credit cards. I knew that round trip air fare was taken care of, as was hotel, including breakfast. Dinner nightly had also been promised. Deborah and I were also given petty cash every night in a rough estimation of the amount we would need for the Metro the next day. Not being very materialistic, I thought that a $200 ‘back up protection plan’ would be more than sufficient, as I would start working immediately and get paid the following week.
By my third or fourth day in Paris, I was beginning to stink like three-day old fish. I could not get a single booking, no matter what. I did not understand this situation. Martine decided that it was my hair style, or rather lack of it, that was holding me back, and sent me off to be made over by Gilles, courtesy of CloClo. Sadly, I have no photos of that haircut, or abortion, whichever, until a few months later, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Suffice it to say that I looked like a hybrid of Prince Valiant and a peasant serf. If there had been an ounce of sex or sizzle when I arrived, it had now been sent packing.
But deferring once again to the school of “What the Hell Do I Know?”, I stuck out my chin and continued on with more appointments, more magazines, more photographers. Every evening Deborah would recount her victories and her upcoming shoots, and I would grow more and more perplexed. I also was beginning to notice a definite chill from Martine, CloClo, and the staff when we assembled at night. You know that pitiful look you give the runt of the litter when you know you’re planning on bashing it in the head and drowning it in the river?
One night, Martine and another agency booker drew me aside and told me my name was “merde” (French for shit!). Apparently Renee is right up there with other geriatric names like Dorothy, Gertrude, Frieda, Hortense, Edna and Myrtle. Martine thought my crappy, old-lady name might be throwing some potential clients off. How would I feel about changing it? Well, let’s see. I already pissed off my entire family by dropping my first given name of Deborah when I left Texas. Texans only called me Debbi, which, with the accent, always came out to about an eight or nine-syllable word, sounding something like this DAAAAAAAAAAA BBBBbEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I swear they could take 43 seconds just to speak my name. So, escaping to NY was the perfect opportunity to drop that sucker and use my middle name of Renee. This did not make the family happy campers, which I truly didn’t understand. Weren‘t they the ones who gave me that darn middle name in the first place? Well, I decided stabbing them in the name-game heart twice would be familial suicide and declined politely to Martine.
I was beginning to sense that I had run headlong into a major karmic gargoyle in this city of Paris. Nothing that I did seemed to work or be right in the eyes of these folks. It was like they had all just received a news alert that the Unabomber was about to walk through their doors. Looking back some months later, I guessed that my appearance didn’t help my case. I basically wore overalls EVERYWHERE, EVERYDAY. Add my huge size 10 abominable snowman boots, KK the coat with its ripped and tattered lining, that haircut, and my increasingly woebegone expression, and maybe they had a point. And to add to my joy and their revulsion, I developed bronchitis in the grey, cold misery that is Paris in January. Nothing makes you quite as attractive as a perpetual death wheeze and cough that bends you over double for minutes at a time! Fear was beginning to overtake the wild confidence I was brimming over with when I arrived in Paris. If this endeavor turned out to be the debacle it smelled like, I wouldn’t possibly survive at Wilhelmina beyond the Memorial Day bloodletting.
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, I began writing the obituary and epitaph on my very short-lived career. Next week, my close encounters with the Parisian gendarmes. That’s police, kids!