The three-story terrace house at 9 Hillsleigh Road in the Notting Hill borough of London, is a house I never lived in. Despite this one tiny, insignificant fact, I have some great memories of the years I called it home...
When we were 16 years old, my friend Cher and I began writing a book together. Actually, it was nothing more than the fantasies of teen-aged girls who longed for the exciting life of rock & roll in Swinging London during the Sixties. Cher would marry a famous pop star and I would be a famous pop star. She would settle down with her famous man in a house in St. John's Wood, popping out babies and home-baked bread while I toured, partied, and created incredible hits. We would be friends forever and we would live happily ever after. Of course, this so-called book was completely and unabashedly self-indulgent and immature, although we later gave ourselves new names and altered the personalities of the other characters a bit.
In 1981 I found that old manuscript—some parts in Cher's hand and some in my own—and decided to rework it as a possible first novel. Sitting at a rented IBM Selectric at my dining room table, I began the arduous task of taking out what was not usable and leaving in what had some promise. I moved it from the Sixties to the Seventies and changed everything around. I hid famous celebrities behind different names and renovated their personality traits. I even drew the illustrations for it, and ended up with something that was still pretty terrible. I was strictly a musician in those days after all, not a writer, although I knew I had it in me somewhere. When I was finished with it, I secured the 500-plus pages into a huge 3-ring binder, put it on a shelf and conveniently forgot about it. Over the years, as I moved from place-to-place around the country, I came across it but never did anything with it, except pack it in a box. Then I lost it, but I never forgot about it.
The brain doesn't distinguish between real and fantasy events. All it does is process things that mean something to us and file them away in a mental folder labeled "Memories". As far as my brain is concerned, everything that happened in that terrace house is a memory, and I sometimes get a little homesick for the people and places that were such an integral part of my life for so many years.
I miss Jason, for instance, and how he used to walk in without knocking. I miss how he and Gordon helped themselves to our kitchen every time they came over. I miss the meetings that were held in the top floor loft that I used as my music room. I fondly remember the evening Gordon walked in carrying a large bag of Chinese take-away and a bottle of sake, and how we got drunk sitting in the middle of the floor reading fan mail. I remember when he took me to the garage to pick up his Ferrari, whose left rear panel had been damaged in an accident. He drove us around the Surrey countryside scaring me half to death, showing me what the car could do when opened up.
I really miss Colin, my road manager. He was the funniest guy I knew and it was his weird sense of humor that got me through some really boring meetings. I miss the meals that Cher made in the crock pot, the aroma filling the house on cold autumn and winter afternoons, and I miss the cookie jar on my piano that she kept full. I miss flying into Heathrow knowing that home was waiting for me. I miss walking the Embankment and riding the Circle Line. The times we had in that house! The famous people who knocked on our door! But not all times were happy. There was the occasional row, but we weathered them with our friendship, our humor, and our dreams.
While I was busy with the last revision, my real life music called me to London on business with one of the masked characters in our book. One afternoon I took the tube to Notting Hill and walked to Hillsleigh Road. Turning the corner, I began the slight assent toward #9. There it was, just like I'd always seen it in my mind, even down to the lamp that was secured to the exterior wall. I was amazed. The exact likeness was eerie indeed.
The house was vacant, and workmen in white overalls buzzed in and out of the front door. Seeing my obvious interest in the place, one of them asked me if I'd like to look around inside. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and tenuously entered the door. It was smaller than in my book, but the layout was nearly identical to a floor plan I'd once drawn from my imagination just for the fun of it (inside of me also lives an unrealized architect). I went up the stairs to my loft and looked out the front windows as I had so many times in the book. It was one of the most peculiar moments of my life. Before leaving the neighborhood, I strolled about for a while, and when I returned to walk past the house one last time (hoping I might be allowed in to take some pictures), I saw that the workmen were gone. It was then that I took these to bring home to Cher.
Maybe I'll take the story out of mothballs one day. It would be like a reunion.