Memories of A Million Years Ago and Who I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up

Fay Diane

Film Actress – Fay Wray & Photographer – Diane Arbus

While driving today, I thought about a cat I had when I first moved to LA. I had not thought about this cat in so long, it was odd to have her memory pop into my mind. I had named her Fay Wray. At the time I was slightly obsessed with the 1933 version of King Kong and Fay Wray’s performance. I loved the line “It’s money and adventure and fame. It’s the thrill of a lifetime!”

Months after I moved here my neighbors accidentally ran over Fay with their truck in front of my driveway. The cat was a bloody smear across the street. The neighbors felt bad and came out and cleaned up the spot without saying anything to me. I can really remember staring at the spot left on the street, whenever I pulled out of the driveway. I felt numb.

That first year in LA was surrounded by death and disappointment. I lost my father to cancer, we lost my husband’s father with a phone call from England in the middle of the night. We lost many other things which honestly I didn’t keep track of. Cars died, more cats died, dogs went, my CAL Arts masters program went too. Eerily six or seven crows were always sitting in my front yard, I would shoo them away but they would come back. I had the feeling things were showing up in my life that year because it was the place to stop before dying.

Then my mind wandered, as one’s mind tends to do when driving in LA and I started to think about Diane Arbus and how I so wanted to be her when I grew up. I thought about how these first couple of years in LA, being so young, and the things I was interested in, interested in doing had changed so much through the years and how a series of events which had nothing to do with my own choices or actions had changed me, changed me into a more tentative person.

After I got home, I decided to look at Diane Arbus’s photos online, as I had not looked at them in years. I thought about her life and career and how much I admire her so. This made me wonder about my life and how I ended up here artistically, decidedly not a brave Diane. Which made me think about my earlier thoughts about the cat… I imagined that Diane would have taken a photo of the dead cat or of the neighbors and their quiet shame. Diane would have engaged in that moment in time. And my reaction at the time? I could only look away and be very still and quiet. I was sick of things dying around me and it seemed at the time an unrelenting crushing sadness and responsibilities being imposed upon my life which I only wanted to hide from.

It is hard to change who you fundamentally are. It is even harder to grapple with the hand that fate deals you. And paradoxically when you try and borrow all the good parts, the courageous parts, the admirable parts, from others who have come before you, you still end up being you.

Fay Diane2

Film still taken from 1933 version of King Kong. | Photo by Diane Arbus – A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966

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