'That's Simone'


Rachel Hutcheson


Her face did not reveal the wrinkles she might have accumulated over the years and her hair was still red, deep red like a Michigan cherry. She could have been thirty-four but she wasn't, she was forty-two. She was forty-two today and she was ready for it. She was forty-two and didn't care who knew it. She was forty-two and that was good.

She leapt out of bed at 6:20a.m., anxious to begin her birthday in the same way she had begun every birthday for the last thirty-three years. "I am going to find my purpose in life today," she said aloud while tipping back the antique dining room chair she was sitting in.

"I am going to find my reason for being and then be," she tossed off.   "August 15th 2005," she wrote, in black ink at the top of page three hundred thirty-four, in a diary she had entitled "Number Eleven." She began to notice a nervousness in the pit of her stomach, similar to the feeling of searching for something that can't be found. The real trouble was Simone had found her life's purpose over and over and over again and had pursued those purposes with great determination and vigor, always.

Simone found this determination and vigor at the ripe old age of ten. She was lying in bed and dreaming that she was playing Mozart at the Met when her mother woke her up to tell her to get ready for school. Simone did not want to go to school that day and twenty minutes after telling her mother that she did not want to go to school, her appendix burst. Simone missed the final three months of the fifth grade. It was at that moment, in the fifth grade when her appendix burst, that Simone came to the glorious realization that she could make anything happen and she always has. In fact, I can tell you with great certainty that Simone is going to find her purpose in life today and I mean before 7:00a.m.

She took a bite of the English muffin she'd smothered with cream cheese and strawberry jam, which was her new favorite breakfast. As she raised a paper towel to wipe the corner of her mouth she found herself thinking of Elvis, which was a good sign. After all, Simone was at an Elvis film festival in Terra Haute, Indiana when she met Katinka Fan who introduced her to chess, which Simone not only loved, but turned out to be very, very good at. She started flying to New York City to play chess in Washington Square Park on weekends. This enabled her to buy her very own brownstone on Manhattan's upper west side with the winnings she'd accumulated in just over two years.   The beautiful brownstone on Riverside and 77th goes unoccupied most of the time.

"I have never really found my destiny. I thought I did, but I must not have," Simone whispered, as she slumped into the back of her chair while scooping cream cheese into her mouth with her finger. She started outlining a knot she found on her oak dining table with the top of her Bic pen. She'd built the table herself in a 9th grade shop class.

The table won the "Best of Show" prize at a local art fair when she was just 15 and Simone had been dragging it around ever since. If you peak underneath the table you can still see the faded Best of Show ribbon stapled in the middle.

I hope I haven't given you the impression that Simone has been sitting at a table searching for her purpose for the last thirty-three years. Believe me when I tell you Simone is no chess-playing slacker, it's not as if she has been waiting for something to happen all these years.

She lived in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Spain all before the age of twenty-seven.   She made a mint in the stock market in the early nineties after which she spent 6 months lingering on the lips of a dreamy poet she'd drifted into while sailing off the coast of

Portugal. The two shoved off for the South Pacific moments after they met.   The poet loved champagne and popped a cork ninety two times on their voyage to Bora Bora. After taking a few sips, the poet would kiss Simone deeply and, while still locked in the kiss, would plead, "Please marry me, Simone.   Please marry me,” in the most satisfyingly sexy voice any girl had ever heard.

Most girls would have found this to be the singly most seductively romantic event of their life and would groan back "Yes, yes, yes!" But not Simone.   She would throw her head back and laugh until tears welled in her eyes and then streamed down her cheeks. She would laugh so hard her stomach would pain and her face would ache. Eventually the poet would grab her and kiss her salty tears until she stopped laughing and the humiliation would end until he opened the next bottle of champagne.

"What, what, what do I really, really, really love to do?" she called to the Gods of Destiny, just in case any happened to be listening. She was drawing a cowboy hat on page three hundred thirty-two of her diary and feeling anxious for a destination or a vocation and the anxiousness was showing in her flushed cheeks.   She thought about the time she'd spent in Greenland after deciding to become a sculptor on her thirty-second birthday. She studied with the famous Horst Dabo, who lived off the coast Greenland near Nuuk. Horst spoke no English but somehow managed to teach her the entire Old Latin alphabet in French. Simone discovered him on a list of "The Greatest Unknown Sculptors North of New York", in the July 1991 issue of Smithsonian she was flipping through while getting an oil change at Jiffy Lube the day before her 32nd birthday.

After arriving in Nuuk, Simone and thirty-seven of his other students spent two years constructing three hundred palm trees out of Mountain Dew cans reaching as high as one hundred forty-seven feet. The project was written up in the arts section of USA Today in Oct. of 1993. The article inspired people from all over the world to send Mountain Dew cans to Greenland for "Greenland's Palm Tree Art Project". Over thirty-five million cans arrived from one hundred twenty-two countries.

You might remember having caught a glimpse of the forest in the controversial Borgi video about American drinking habits on MTV. Even today, the palm tree forest is considered a "must see" in three Greenland tour books and on the ever popular "See Greenland" DVD.   Mountain Dew, which is owned by the Pepsi Corporation, was so pleased with the free publicity they contacted Oprah Winfrey about the project and the entire group of sculptors appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about recycling. At the end of the show, Mountain Dew awarded each artist with an all expense paid safari in Africa.

Oprah gave everyone a top of the line Nikon camera to record their adventures, a lifetime supply of film and a year subscription to American Photographer .   During the third week of the safari, Simone met an exporter of African art while following giraffes in the Congo. She purchased a container of art and sent it to her then home of Boulder, Co. Upon her return she opened a wild boutique on Main Street called "A Tumble in the Jungle". At the grand opening a monkey walked around giving out glow sticks while Jonathon Richman played "I Don't Want To Let The Neighbors Run My Life".

Simone had briefly dated Jonathon in 1986 while touring with him and "The Modern Lovers" playing stand up bass. She had been a member of the group for three days when she and Jonathon fell in love. When she broke up with him two months later at the end of the tour Jonathon said, "Anytime, anyplace," as tears rolled down his New England cheeks. Just in case you are unfamiliar with Jonathon Richman, he has been an underground pop icon among college students for the last thirty years and was the guy who sang the narration scenes in the Farley brothers hit film "Something About Mary.”

At the opening of "A Tumble in the Jungle," Jonathon ironically played in front of a sepia-toned mural Simone had hired a graduate student from the University of Colorado to paint. Before the mural was complete, she and the reticent art student were swinging like Tarzan and Jane and yearning to live in Verona so Danny could paint Simone on the veranda as the European sun set. She loved his unwieldy hair, quiet voice and the fact that when he looked at her, no one else in the world existed. It didn't hurt that he was twenty-three and ready for love either. Two weeks after the opening she sold the shop for $725,000.00 to Demi Moore. The grad student has yet to come back from Italy.

The teapot began whistling as Simone thought thoughtfully about cowboys. "I love cowboys, I love cowboy hats, I love rodeos, I could travel with a rodeo… Maybe I am destined to be a cowgirl.”   The more she thought about this idea, the more passionate about the rodeo Simone became.   "I like this," she said and so she wrote:

Number 1. “Become a cowgirl," and she underlined it twice on page three hundred thirty-five of diary number eleven.

It was a week ago last Tuesday that Simone got a flat tire after running over a bed frame which had just fallen off the back of a pink pick-up trunk she happened to be driving behind on her way home from a hootenanny. While she was jacking up the front-end of her 1947 Rolls, a group of Eastern Indian women stopped to see if she needed any help.

Although the women were in saris, they were able to get the spare tire off the trunk and onto the axle. One of the women explained to Simone that they drive up and down highway 91 all day hoping to find someone in need of help. She said they were terrifically pleased to find her as they had just been yelled at by a girl on a cell phone who had flown over four lanes in less than three seconds and practically careened into their blue minivan.

Simone thought about these women as she drank her green tea and how happy helping people seemed to make them. Interestingly, the day after she'd meet these Indian women, Simone was able to pass on the good deed. She had just ridden her bike to a gas station to fill the tires when she saw a kid fall off a five-foot wall on his skateboard. When she reached him his lip was as big as a quarter jawbreaker. So she brought him over to the 7-11, called his mom and bought him a Slurpee to help with the swelling. He seemed pretty happy with the Slurpee and she felt pretty good about being able to help him. So, with confidence, she wrote:

2. "Help as many people in anyway I can, always,” and she underlined it three times.

As she continued contemplating her future she realized that she had spent most of her life doing exactly what she thought she should be doing. This led her to wondering (as she often did) if she truly had a destiny. Perhaps some people did have one and then some other people have many. Then she thought perhaps there is no such thing as destiny at all, maybe there is only love or desire. Simone had desired so many things that desiring just one thing seemed too small. Simone loved life and she lived it.

She considered the time she and her friend, Kitsy Crawford, rode camels through Egypt to see the great pyramids. She thought of her children's book, entitled A Hundred Places To Find A Penny , which received a New York Times book review recommendation stating, "A great book for youngsters and adults alike. Read Simone. You will love her too."

Within months, she sold the movie rights to Warner Brothers, David Mamet wrote the screenplay, Steven Spielberg directed and it starred Katherine Hepburn in her last movie role with a very young Gwyneth Paltrow. It won an Academy Award for sound and all and all was a pretty great event in her life. "It seemed to have a purpose", she thought.

Simone was crazy about the job she held as navigator on the Queen Elizabeth II from 1988 to 1990. She thought coming in twenty-seventh place in the Daytona 500 when her car was hit and rolled over five and a half times which landed her picture on the cover of the Sports Illustrated was significant. Yet, Simone felt a giant push to do something more and her nervous stomach was now a ravenous lust for adventure.

Simone got up to stretch and then it hit her like an order from God. "Strike gold in California," came bursting from her mouth and before she had finished the thought she was out the door with a suitcase and a sign that read, "California or Bust.” It was 6:59 a.m. on her forty-second birthday.

Four months later she struck the biggest gold vein ever found in California and donated every penny to restoring old vaudevillian theatres in the west and built five hundred thirty-two drive-in theatres all over the east.

Three years later she was on the ESPY's receiving an award for Outstanding Cowgirl of the year.

And just last week I think I saw her in a sari, pushing a blue minivan out of a muddy ditch on highway 91.

That's Simone.