Chapter 3 of TREASURES

When twenty of the new immense drawings were completed I had them photographed and made a presentation to the Drawing Center, a highly respected exhibition space for works on paper. They asked me to bring over the actual works. I rolled up six of my favorites, and carried them under my arm from Franklin Street north, crossing Canal, then through the mess of knock off shops and wandering tourists, stumbling over the cobblestones to Wooster Street. In the rear room of the Alternative space at the Drawing Center, I unrolled them, one by one, on a gigantic table. Two young curators looked at them. 

“We need to get Ann over here,” one of the curators said. Ann Philbin, the director, rushed over from the main gallery across the street. They agreed that the drawings were exceptional and wanted to plan an exhibition. 

I was elated. Everything I had hoped for was at once coming to fruition.

*   *   *

At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, I was doing my exercises in the living room of my new loft and turned on the news. It was January 17th, 1994.

“At 4:31 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, an earthquake of 6.7 on the Richter scale hit the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles and parts of Santa Monica, on the San Andreas Fault line.” I thought, the valley is so far away, I’m sure it missed my property.

An hour later the phone rang, it was a friend of my son and daughter, who lived in Venice, and after hearing the news took a run along the beach to see if there was damage up the coast. He saw that under my property land had fallen, huge amounts of dirt, closing Pacific Coast Highway. He ran up the hill and over to my house.

“Elaine, the earthquake hit your entire street. Some of the houses went down the cliff, but your home is still standing. The upstairs water heater has burst and water is running throughout the house. The brick fireplaces are all down in piles, and there’s glass and debris everywhere. Your tenant must have been terrified and run out, leaving the front door wide open.”

I was stunned. My worst fears had been actualized. I thanked him and asked that he please close the door. 

“It’s a total mess and I don’t have the key to lock it up. You’d better get here as fast as you can.”

On my flight the following day the silent cabin, packed to capacity, gave me the sense that all were en route to Los Angeles for the same reason. Every sullen face seemed distraught, creating an ominous, frightening aura. 

I thought about my tenants: Joan and Melissa Rivers, and recalled the day Joan came to look at my house, all prim and proper, after her husband Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide and she had sold her Beverly Hills home. 

I was in my front yard dressed in shorts, sun hat and sandals, my hair in a ponytail, watering my roses. I saw the black limo pull up and park in front of the house. Joan stepped out, and beside her a hairdresser with brush in hand, who proceeded to smooth down Joan’s hair. Immaculately coiffed, she came in alone as if on stage, opening my green-weathered gate, then adjusted her trim black suit, and noticed me. Assuming I was the housekeeper or gardener, she said: “Could you please tell Mrs. Good that I am here?”  

“I’m Mrs. Good, come on in.” Taken aback, she wandered in slowly, walked into the living room, then carefully up the step from one room to the next, looking around. I sat quietly in the kitchen waiting. She came in and said: “I just flew in and haven’t eaten a thing. Famished. Got any crackers?” 

I pulled out a box of Wheat Thins and handed them to her. “Want some cheese to go with them?”

“No, just crackers are fine, I’m on a diet.” 

She sat at the kitchen table, eating directly out of the box, staring out the window at the azure sea. “I love it,” she said, “we’ll take it. The ocean soothes my jangled nerves.”

Joan and Melissa Rivers stayed in my house five years, and never came back after they ran out, the day of the earthquake.