Hello! Lizzie Harwood is back today to talk about her new memoir, XAMNESIA! There is a Goodreads giveaway– ends June 23rd- so HURRY!
Interview with Lizzie Harwood about XAMNESIA:
Hi Lizzie- welcome back to Traveling With T!
Thanks for inviting me back! I love your site. Let’s travel…
Xamnesia is about your previous work and the world you found yourself in after accepting a job that required you to rub elbows with rich and famous (but to keep your lips zipped!) How surreal was it to be in a world like that- where money was no problem and most whims could be taken care of with a phone call?
Surreal is a good word. I think the self-containment of it comes across in my memoir – it was a world that operated apart from the real world and everything happened by phone or fax. We never emailed and hardly even went into stores. Things appeared.
Who is one famous person that you would have liked to meet but did not get to meet in your previous employment?
I saw Andre Agassi but had no chance to meet him, I was literally wallpaper as my job description so I wasn’t important enough to speak to guests. He was at the top of his game at the time, but reading his memoir much later I realized how much of a struggle that time was for him.
What was the most important thing you learned about yourself during this time period? If you could go back in time and give past you any words of advice- what would you say?
It’s odd because I actually lasted a very long time in the job; due to my ability to literally become wallpaper. So if I were to go back and give Past Me advice I would never have kept hold of that job. To stay meant stashing your real personality in a closet for “later.” Of course, I should have mastered the local cuisine, taken up scuba diving, and done charity work on the weekends, but I didn’t have weekends or free time so, again, if I’d done anything different I would have been fired early on.
What do you think? Could you have done Lizzie’s previous job? Let me know 🙂
On March 5, 2000, I wheel my bright blue Samsonite through Gare du Nord station in Paris, clutching a ticket for the Eurostar to London Waterloo International. I have a seat in coach five because I smoke a pack a day. My shoulder bag bulges with toiletries and pajamas so I can stay overnight in London and go out with my buddy, Idora. My main preoccupation is where Idora and I will go that night (Notting Hill Arts Club, please).
Inside my case is one million in American dollars.
The money is in 100-dollar bills so it fills my suitcase two-thirds. Anyone X-raying my bag can’t help but notice it’s all cash. Before I shut it, a sea of Benjamin Franklins gaze with a look of disquiet at this unscheduled field trip. A thick, purple plastic band cossets each 10K wad.
In case you think I am part of some cult forced into money laundering, or like that woman from Orange is the New Black, I might mention that I volunteered for this.
That morning I got a safe cracker to open the hidden wall safe in the property I manage because higher-ups requested that this cash get over to London today. I volunteered to take the cash because my overly adaptable personality reframes this illegal activity into ‘doing what I have to do.’ You know, like any other regular day in the office.
I roll toward the ticket barrier with nary a care.
No way do I pull myself aside with a stern, “Lizzie, what are you doing?”
This is because I believe I’m invisible and invincible… so smuggling undeclared cash over an international border, without so much as a letter to say whose money it is, poses no problem.
Steal the money?
Doesn’t cross my mind.
There are several other trains further down the platform that could take me to Amsterdam, Hamburg, Cologne. I could be in Poland by sundown. I could easily abscond with all that cash in my suitcase, no sweat.
Nah, I keep right on rolling.
I clear check-in with a cigarette at my lips and an air of total indifference. Living in Paris yet barely speaking the language makes me a mime artist who smokes a lot, shrugs, and raises eyebrows to communicate.
I present my British passport to the double set of police in their tidy booths. The French police says nothing, the UK police bids me a good trip. I take that as ‘good signs.’ I’m on the right track. I hide my trusty passport with a sincere “Merci” and genuine “Thank you.”
A sudden thought hits me: if Notting Hill Arts Club is on the cards tonight, I really ought to grab a bottle of Veuve Clicquot at the kiosk after customs… to drink at Idora’s place before going out. I can squeeze it into my Samsonite. The Benjamin Franklins can bunch up a little.
I am not panicked that I’ll be grabbed or arrested. I believe I can slink around the whole world unnoticed if I choose because that’s what has worked for me since I was a child.
I have a severe case of invisibility-plus-impulsive-behavior that I am calling, for the purposes of this memoir, Xamnesia.
It’s a heady mix of feeling impervious to your reality. Like nothing can touch you. On March 5, 2000, I lived in a garret on place Vendôme and had full-blown Xamnesia. No cure in sight.
I round the corner and sleepwalk right up to the customs agent with his muzzled, drug-sniffing Alsatian and ominous, gray X-ray machine. As if I were cloaked in a warm, gray fog.
What started me on the path to this — being twenty-seven and volunteering to smuggle cash from Paris to London? To see that I have to back way up — airplane-high — to see how this happened.
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T