Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Outerwear Warfare

Once in the winter when I lived in London my former boyfriend (let's call him Francis) and I were out dancing and having a good time, when at the end of the evening I noticed my overcoat was missing. Francis helped me look for it, but, having much more experience in the ways of London's nightlife than I had, he eventually realized not only that it had been stolen but also where it was likely to have been whisked off to so the thief could rifle through my pockets unseen. Our being in a gay men's dance club, he deduced my coat probably lay in a stall in the ladies' loo.

He was right. There in the stall were my coat and several others in a pile on the floor, the pockets of each turned out.

Francis, I should note, was a 6'4" hulk of an Irish bricklayer with absolutely no respect for authority of any kind and the particular sense of vengeance that must be chemically produced by the drinking water on the Emerald Isle. It wasn't enough that we got my coat back...he wanted to know who had had the gall to steal it. So, as the crowds drunkenly made their way toward the doors, we hung back a bit and waited.

After a few moments, just as Francis had guessed, a tall man and street-smart-looking woman came out of the ladies' with a large bag stuffed full of the coats they had stashed in there. Francis walked right up and began chatting them up, casual like (the bouncers were still ushering us out), and the woman, despite having had to have recognized my coat and pieced together that we were onto them, cheekily asked Francis if we would give them a lift home. Francis said "Of course, love," and we all walked out together.

What happened next was all so fast it remains a bit of blur in my mind, but essentially in the car park of the club Francis confronted the pair, ripping the bag out of the woman's hand and calling them both "filthy tinkers" (not a particularly flattering [nor PC, I believe] Irish phrase) and "thieves." The woman was quick on the draw and had an aerosol can out of her handbag in seconds, trying to blind Francis with its spray, but I stepped in and pushed her arm away. The tall man, admittedly more than a little drunk, swung at Francis and hit him hard in the neck.

The next part was so unexpected it remains frozen in my mind's eye in super slow motion. The look on Francis' face when he realized this lowlife had hit him was a mix of incredulousness and something so ancient I can't describe it other than to say it looked like the personification of "fury." With one fluid move, tightening his his huge bricklayer's fist into a hammer, Francis twisted around and punched the jerk square in the face. The tall man fell straight back, like a giant redwood, and landed flat, out cold, on the wet pavement.

As the woman stood flailing her arms and cursing us up and down, Francis quickly ushered me to the car and sped away, not wanting to wait until the bouncers called the cops. On the way home, Francis assured me that the guy was probably alright, but just pretending to be unconscious so he wouldn't have to fight.

About half an hour later, after we both calmed down and began to feel bad about the poor punk lying in the cold wet parking lot, we drove back to make sure he hadn't been seriously injured. I half expected a crime scene, with police cars and an ambulance, but the place was totally deserted. Whatever eventually happened to the coat thieves that evening, there was no sign of them outside the club.

OK, so what's any of this got to do anything? Nothing really...I was just reminded of it when I read about "Whose Coat is that Jacket Youre Wearing?" an art performance in London:
After 10 years of stealing coats from London pubs, artist Mike Ballard seeks redemption by relinquishing his collection back to the public. In his latest exhibition, Ballard will display hundreds of hijacked coats for visitors to claim back, as a part of a self-imposed therapeutic process.

Following his move from a small village in North Wales to London in 1998, Ballards favorite 55DSL coat was stolen from a crowded pub. It was a loss the artist found hard to deal with. Inconsolable, Ballard began nicking coats in earnest, believing he was retaliating against the city that had swallowed his most prized possession.

Frequenting local pubs and clubs, Ballards revenge tactic was initially focused on stealing coats resembling that which hed lost but soon grew to encompass any mens coat or jacket regardless of size, style or make.

Over the past 10 years Ballard has amassed a collection of over 200 stolen coats and jackets. Each coat and its contents have been meticulously catalogued and stored, never worn nor stolen from. Now without space to continue and having come to terms with his loss, Ballard has decided to return the coats to their rightful owners by exhibiting them. If owners can correctly identify the pocket contents or the date and location of the theft, the coats will be returned.
Francis and I were in London together many more years ago than 10, so I don't believe Mr. Ballard had anything to do with my coat being stolen. But he should count himself very lucky he never stole a coat that belonged to someone Francis was out with.

Labels: performance art


Blogger joy said...

Ed? you had me at "ladies' loo". please promise to take part I of this post, flesh it out a bit, and include it in the book of short stories you some day will surely write! (#wheretheartis)

9/22/2010 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

hear hear, I too was trying to figure why your recounting of this memory approached art - where as the show in question, wherein the act is claimed to be art after-wards leaves me doubting its veracity. Something like a recent websites after the fact claim to be an artwork concerning gossip . A suspension of reality versus an oh you just misunderstood and were taken in by your own assumptions.

9/22/2010 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Talk about a buried lead.

9/22/2010 07:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Enda said...

Great story, but "...the particular sense of vengeance that must be chemically produced by the drinking water on the Emerald Isle." I think that comes from the black stuff with the white head which by the way is a great source of iron.

9/24/2010 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think that comes from the black stuff with the white head which by the way is a great source of iron.

Fair enough. Who knew it was such a great source of iron??? Think I'll add it to my breakfast menu. ;-)

9/24/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Re: iron - I seem to remember that was the reason my pregnant Irish friends always gave for their increased intake :-)

9/24/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

This post in the midst of your blog is like the Town-Ho chapter in the midst of Moby Dick. Not just like - exactly like.

Well OK, you're missing the Dons and chicha, but otherwise - exactly the same!

9/27/2010 09:17:00 PM  

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