Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Memory Lapses II - Lost Objects (and a lost friend.)

St. Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find my wallet, which has been lost.

At least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss. To this favor, I ask another of you: that I may always remain in possession of the true good that is God. Let me rather lose all things than lose God, my supreme good. Let me never suffer the loss of my greatest treasure, eternal life with God.


The other day my wallet disappeared. It was a Monday morning. My daughter-in-law Lexi was visiting and I was suppose to drive her to the airport before I went to work. My wallet is always in my pants pocket. Since it is winter, it is either in my jeans or my sweats. If it were summer it would be in the pocket of my shorts. If it is not in my pocket where it belongs, I don’t know where it is.

When I got dressed Monday morning and realized it wasn’t in my pocket, I tried to recall anything that might give me a clue to its whereabouts. The night before, I had made dinner for some friends that Lexi wanted to see while she was in town. I had shopped in the afternoon, but hadn’t left the house after that. Lexi and I both remembered that at one point, after I had shopped, my wallet had been laying out on the coffee table in the living room. Therefore, it was in the house.

I searched.

I went through my backpack three times. I emptied out my bedside table twice. I lost track of how many times I went through the mess on the top of my dresser. I got down on my hands and knees in the living room and looked under the couches and the TV. I scanned all the surfaces in the kitchen, dinning room and bathroom. I went back to the bedroom and did it all again. It was gone. The physical wallet had disappeared, but more worrisome was that it seemed to me that it had mentally disappeared, too. Except for that one image of it sitting on the coffee table, I couldn’t track it in my memory. I couldn’t remember why it would have been on the coffee table. I couldn’t remember moving it from the coffee table. Since it was not in its assigned place in my pocket, it was just utterly gone.

This part is difficult to admit: I had to work really hard to not blame someone else for the disappearance of the wallet. I didn’t want it to be true that this annoyance was due solely to my faulty memory. I wanted to put it off onto something external. At my most frustrated, I would have preferred to believe that one of my friends swiped it, than to admit I was incapable of keeping track of my things.

Eventually, I had to give up the search. I barrowed twenty dollars from Lexi to get me through the day and drove her to the airport. All day at work, I worried about it, feeling old, incompetent, and embarrassed. When I got home that afternoon, within seconds of entering the house, I saw my wallet in plane sight sitting next to the computer in the dining room.

Thanks you, Saint Anthony!

Tony, Tony,
look around.
Something's lost
and must be found!

Tony, Tony,

The devils got my appointment calendar

Please get it back for me.

The next morning, Tuesday, I got up to go to work and I couldn’t find my appointment calendar. My appointment calendar is always in my backpack. If it is not in my backpack where it belongs, I don’t know where it is. “At least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss.” I resolved not to get as frantic as I had gotten over the wallet. I looked around a little, then said, “Fuck it,” and went to work. As I was driving over the Newport Bridge, I remembered that the day before, just before leaving work, I had been making copies. I remembered that I had my appointment calendar with me in the copy room. I remembered it lying on the counter where I had been stapling the copies. My synapses were firing like I was thirty! I was filled with confidence that it would still be there and it was. Thank you, Saint Anthony!

(Writing the above made me think of my friend Frances Giambrone, who died in 1992 at the age of 52. Frances claimed that in addition to being the patron saint of lost objects, Saint Anthony was the saint who could help you find a parking space. Driving around downtown Boston, he would ask Saint Anthony to help him while making three circles in the air with his finger. He would then circle the block three times. I can’t say it always worked, but I can say I was with him on many occasions when it did.

I miss you, Frances.)

About the portrait: This is an archival, guest portrait. It was done in Honduras in 2007 by a young man named David Soto. I had gone to the national art school (Escuela Nacional de Belles Artes) to give an HIV/AIDS presentation and to try to recruit students to work on an AIDS comic book I was developing. David drew me while I was talking to his class. When he showed it to me afterwords I laughed out loud, not so much because it is a funny drawing, although it is, but because I had such a sense of recognition. This cartoon really looks like me! Or at least it really looks like what I think I look like.


  1. I love this portrait, John! It really does capture something special about you. I was going to write something else but I forgot what it was . . .

  2. I have to agree, John-- it's a great portrait. Likeness aside, it captures something about your presence and general disposition perfectly.

  3. Lori and Adam,
    So we all agree this portrait captures "something" about me, but can you help me articulate what that something is?
    It was drawn while I was speaking to a group of young Hondurans in Spanish. My Spanish is functional, but it is a long way from fluent. I once described myself speaking Spanish as being like a drunk hammering in a nail with a sledge hammer. So, for me, this portrait shows me putting myself on the line even though I know I'm going to come off kind of goofy. I like that I'm willing to do that.