Thursday, March 11, 2010


About 30 years ago, in Paris, I met a beautiful gypsy girl from Uruguay. She was wearing a long skirt that looked like the crushed petals of a black poppy, and unlike the carefully coifed French women, had wild gorgeous hair free in the wind. Her name was Veronica Artagaveytia. She spoke 6 languages fluently, and had a little net bag to carry her notebook, and the moss, or something that looked like moss, that she rolled into cigarettes. We met at an avant garde ballet performance at the Pompidou Centre. The ballet was danced by a corp of very beautiful and highly skilled ballerinas, naked, who executed geometric patterns of classical steps with extreme precision and no emotion whatsoever. The set was a large scale video projection of buildings falling in earthquakes, floods, disasters of war, bombs, etc. The sound was alternately a very loud amplified faucet drip, alternated with an equally loud jackhammer. Veronica didn't care for it, and although I was impressed, I thought it was contrived.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was returning home the next morning.

After the ballet, having discovered that we had much in common besides an interest in dance, we decided to find a nice quiet cafe where we could talk. But walk as we did, up and down the cobbled streets of the Left Bank, the exact cafe eluded us. While we walked Veronica railed about the unnatural trimming of trees in Paris, in cities in general. She was headed to India, away from tree-trimming.

I told her that I was a hillbilly. "What is this Bill of the Hilly?!"

Finally she lost patience at my inability to find our cafe and declared that we would choose the very next cafe that appeared, regardless. The very next cafe that appeared was a militantly gay leather bar. We went in. Neither the owner nor the clientele seemed pleased. Veronica ignored their displeasure, if she noticed it at all, and we sat down at the bar.

The only drinks served besides hard liquor were champagne cocktails, so I ordered two. It was then that Veronica noticed the bartender's pet, an enormous Great Dane large enough to swallow both of us. What she noticed is that its ears and tail had been clipped, and this trimming, not of branches on a tree, but of a dog, sent her into a voluble tirade, in French, so that everyone who should hear it would. The waiter brought us our drinks. The drink for Veronica was tinted blue; mine was pink. To add injury to insult, after I paid, I realized that the waiter had short-changed me, about $20. Since my French wasn't even conversational, much less argumentative, I shrugged it off. Veronica's eyes widened at this, and she asked, "Doesn't that make you angry?" I told her no, that I was very pacifistic and only expressed anger in my dreams. Her response; "That is bad. We should go and get machine guns and come back and kill all of them." Headline: Hill Billy and Uruguay Gypsy kill in Paris Gay Bar.

Back home I got a postcard. I don't remember exactly what it said, but I remember she wrote that when we parted she felt a "tendresse" ~ "like saying goodbye to a river or a star."

Imagine my amazement when, a couple of days ago, I was deleting spam and just barely happened to assemble the letters in front of me into the name Veronica Artagaveytia before pressing the button! Of course she turned out to be a fabulous artist, and this video shows some of her work. I am so happy to find her again!


Cathy said...

How wonderful that you found her again! And I so love the story of your first encounter.

SBD said...

Life is but a dream..row, row row your boat gently down the stream
Isn't this just perfect?

Dan Dutton said...

Well she found me, actually. She wrote an email saying she had discovered the letter I wrote her, back in the 80s, with a rooster drawn on it, & searched my name.
It's a wonder that I noticed it in my spam!