Chapter 19 1981 - Arthur’s Theme

Angela and I were really beginning to settle into their new lives as “Arthur and Hilda Potsworth,” and were finally getting acclimated to the Australian culture. The small community of Rockdale had become their home, and their quest for anonymity seemed to have succeeded beyond their expectations. There had been a number of slips and close calls into revealing their actual identities, and together they decided to full immerse themselves into the new environment as best as possible. To that end, they began to refer to themselves by their pseudonyms.

One might say that Arthur’s theme was depicting that of a suave, distinguished and sophisticated gentleman, quite a contrary appearance to the I Mall rock god image. Arthur even had tinted his hair on the sides to present himself as someone approaching middle age as opposed to this true age of 27. Hilda had also taken to wearing heavy makeup to help in her disguise as well. She had attempted to color her hair blonde, but discovered that red appeared more natural. She adopted a different clothing style, more in line with the contemporary Australian culture, which, while similar to American tastes, still had a=some distinct differences.

Their new home in Rockdale was nearing completion. While not ostentatious, it did not abandon comfort and convenience, but also exhibited its own sophisticated air. With just the two of them, the size was not excessive, but spacious at 300 square meters on a lot with plenty of room for landscaping and other benefits of their lifestyle. However, knowing that their time spent their was likely to be limited (this did miss their native California), they chose to keep things intentionally simple. They figured that someone would come along in the future to purchase it, and would appreciate that it was a fine estate in its own light.

“I believe that you should always strive to do the best that you can do, no matter what the circumstances,” Arthur would be known to say. “We will be here for a while, at least until things settle down back home, so we may as well be comfortable in the meantime.”

Hilda suggested a musical theme for many of the furnishing and decorations, and it became Arthur’s as well. One room was set aside specifically as the music room, and it was to be outfitted with several large speakers, a generous stereo system, and a large screen projection television, one of the largest available in its class at nearly one and a half meters.

“Why do you want a TV in the music room?” Hilda asked when Arthur first brought up the possibility.

“I think TV will continue to be a very important part of music, and by hooking it up to a nice sound system, we can truly enjoy it for our leisure time. We certainly will have plenty of it. Look what happening back in the US, and even what’s happening closer in New Zealand. Music is really moving toward a more visual medium. Sure, we had a significant presence of live performances, but this new medium of short videos will be a big thing, I expect.”

As moving day arrived, Arthur and Hilda stood outside the entrance to their new home. Unlocking the door, they were shocked to see how empty it all appeared. “I thought the movers would have been here by now. The plan was that everything would be in place when we arrived,” Arthur complained.

As they stepped across the threshold, it was apparent that something was wrong. It wasn’t as if their possessions hadn’t arrived, but that they were missing. Only a few scraps of evidence suggested that something had been brought in, but that it had also been brought out.

“We’ve been robbed!” Hilda shrieked.

As Hilda ran frantically from room to room, Arthur maintained a calm demeanor. Finally, he could hold it in no longer, and restrained Hilda on her third pass through the room trying to find the missing items.

“Don’t keep looking for something that’s not going to be found,” he advised. “The movers did come, and were instructed to remove it all again while some last minute improvements are being made.”

“You didn’t consult me on this?” she accused.

“No, because I wanted it to be a surprise,” Arthur added in defense. “The stuff from the old flat is junk, bought without much thought to theme or appropriateness to these new surroundings. I’m treating you to a shopping spree!”

“Ooh, yay,” Hilda offered without much enthusiasm. “I fully expected that we would be able to step right in and settle in, and you’re saying we need to go out and buy it now? Just what happened to our old stuff?”

“I had it brought back to the old place. While we are waiting to get everything in place here, we still need someplace to live. I know, I should have kept you informed. I guess I was just too excited to offer this additional adventure, and assumed you would be as happy as I imagined. I was wrong.”

Hilda was hesitant to give in to Arthur, but she finally gave in and their shopping adventure was set to begin.

“Which room do we want to outfit first?” Arthur asked. “If I had my choice, I think we should start with the Music room. I’ve already laid out the specifics, so it’s just a matter of just getting what we need. A huge stereo, the TV, big speakers. All with entertainment in mind. We might even think of it as our own personal theater!”

Arthur was obvious very excited about the prospect, so Hilda acquiesced and they started shopping for the desired components. By the time they had completed their shopping, a large truck was filled and on it’s way to the new home. It also included theater style seating, and even a popcorn machine, added for authenticity. Hilda drew the line when it came to adding a full snack bar with hot dog cookers and soda vending. “You can just go to the kitchen if you want anything like that.”

“Speaking of the kitchen, let’s do that next!” Arthur’s enthusiasm failed to wane, even under Hilda’s withering glare. “New range, oven, microwave, refrigerator, table, chairs, dishwasher, dishes, cups, food. We need it all!”

So they went to the appliance store and bought everything they needed, the best quality that they could find.

“No food, just yet, until the appliances are delivered and set up,” Hilda advised. “Otherwise everything is going to spoil.”

“Ok, then. The bedroom!”

So off they went to buy a bedframe, headboard, mattresses and box springs, two dressers, a stand up wardrobe, area rugs and curtains for the windows. They even found a nice chandelier to add some elegance.

“We need a fireplace for those cold evenings.” So a portable unit was added.

“And how about a sound system to sleep by?”

It was purchased.

“And a bed for the dog.”

“We don’t have a dog!”

“Then a dog!”

“No dog.”

“Why not? I always wanted one when I was a kid, but never had one. My dad never got over the fact that he’d lost his best friend Greta, and we never had another.”

“No dog.”

“A cat?”

“Maybe a cat. But not in the bedroom.”

“OK, not in the bedroom. But maybe?”


A similar frenzy followed the furnishing of each room, and the process took nearly two weeks to complete. Before long, after several dozen delivery trucks had come and gone, and the parade was continuous: furniture for the living room: sofas, end tables, coffee tables, lamps, draperies, carpeting, artwork, pottery, coffee table books. Then followed the bathroom, little curios for storage, towels, and various other sundries. Tools for yard maintenance. Bookcases, books, record cases, records. Everything to make a living space a space for really living. The house was now finally ready to move into.

The refrigerator was packed, the pantry full, even an auxiliary pantry was well-stocked.

“Why do we need all this food?” Hilda asked. “There’s only two of us, and there’s enough here to feed an army.”

“Well, how about a party. Maybe a theme of excess? Roman Orgy, perhaps?”

“And what about our intent to keep a low profile? I don’t think so.”

Arthur looked down, despondently. “Just a little one?”

“Consider this,” Hilda replied. “We have kept to ourselves these past few months, and have done little to bring attention to us and our situation. We’ve not nurtured any relationships, and don’t have any close friends. Who are we going to invite? The store clerks and salesmen from the places we’ve shopped? The delivery drivers? Face it, I”, Angela slipped out of their new identity, “I mean, Arthur. It’s not going to happen.”

Arthur looked around quickly to see if anyone had caught her faux pas, and the reality of the situation is that there was no one about to catch it or care about it, reinforcing Hilda’s point.

“We need to get some friends, then,” Arthur declared. “It would be even more suspicious if we didn’t have any.”

Finding a balance in anonymity and trying to maintain a social life, meeting new people, making friends and getting invited to their homes, was not an easy prospect. On one hand, they had never been a particularly social couple, due to the desire for privacy following the extremely public former existence. On the other hand, they also missed that interaction.

“We may have to admit that our experiment in privacy and anonymity is not all we expected it to be,” Arthur admitted. “While it has allowed us to move about freely, there is still the need to keep others at a distance, lest they become too close and, putting the pieces of the familiarity puzzle together, discover our true identities. It may be time that we stepped back into who we really are, and destroy the charade.”

Hilda was hesitant. “But I’m enjoying the time we spend together, and don’t want to destroy that. Can’t there be a middle ground somewhere?”

“There is no middle ground, that’s the price of fame. We’ve lost our right to be ourselves and maintain any semblance of privacy. We have to pick one or the other.”

Hilda conceded, “Then keeping up the facade of these fake identities cannot be the choice. There is too much pressure to protect ourselves, and until we return to who we really are, there will be no true peace, no matter how hard we try. Look at us, and what we’ve become: living out our lives, always hiding who we are, trying to buy happiness, but never achieving it. It’s time to end it.”

“But how do we do that?”

“Why not go on that new program, Sunday, that is just starting up?” Hilda suggested. “They cover emerging topics, and it would likely be a coup for them to uncover our ‘conspiracy’.”

Arthur agreed and made a call to Simon Elderjohn, who was the only one who shared their secret. “Simon, it’s Arthur Potsworth.” He paused. “Oh screw it,” he said exasperatingly. “It’s I Mall. We’ve decided to end our secret identities and come out publicly as new Australian residents I and Angela Mall. Can you help us get on Sunday to make our official announcement?”

Simon considered I’s proposal and countered “Are you sure you really want to do this? Everything you’ve worked for for the last year and a half would be wasted. You’d be mobbed and have to start being a public figure again.”

“Yes, we have discussed it extensively, and believe that the time is right for us to make this move. We plan to stay where we are for a while, but eventually, will go back to California. Beside, we don’t consider it a waste. We’ve had some wonderful times, we’ve seen a lot of the country, we have a great new home. But we miss the social interaction. Basically, we are destined to be loners.”

I and Angela Mall had their guest spot on Sunday, and the whole story came out. But contrary to their expectations of either accusations of betrayal, or being mobbed by adoring fans, the story raised no sense of sensation, and was only briefly reported in the local press. Golden Fingers mania had apparently subsided, at least in Australia, probably relegated to the back pages of the current slate of music magazine and the Malls were able to begin building their lives of a formerly very public, but now semi-private residents of their newly adopted country.

Their first public outing was celebrating the Christmas season at the seashore, such a unique experience for the native Californians. To see fully lit trees set up on the beach, and temperatures climbing into the low 30s, the thought of a white Christmas was inconceivable. Instead, they were regaled with activities such as the big Yacht Race, throngs of crowds at the local beaches, camping and all of the traditional summertime activities one would expect, despite what the calendar says. While it took some getting used to, they managed to enjoy the season, and began meeting folks and building a new social life. Gone was the stigma of isolation, of having to protect their true identities. They finally had the opportunity to be themselves. Back at their home, there threw their first Christmas party, inviting some of their new friends. The fully-stocked pantry was opened, and the excess food was finally getting some use. They hired a cook and his staff to make this a most memorable occasion. Out came elegant cakes, and haute cuisine of a caliber that had not been seen in the area for some time. However, missing their own remembered experience of Christmas, they decided to “Americanize” it. They rented a snow making machine and filled the yard with a fresh layer of powder, bringing alive the White Christmas of their memories.

“Don’t you just miss this?” Angela inquired. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

“We lived In California. We didn’t have white Christmases there either.”

“Well not at home, silly, but those days growing up when our families went up into the mountains, played in the real snow, made our Christmas angels. I miss those times.” She paused to reflect. “I’m still a California girl at heart. I miss home, I miss my parents, I miss my brother. Maybe a visit back home?”

“I miss it, too,” I admitted. “Life here has been wonderful, but I think we’ve always know it would be temporary. Perhaps it is time to return home, and really begin the life we envisioned there.”

In their private reverie, they failed to notice that their efforts to have a white Christmas were failing miserable. The 35 degree temperatures were causing the newly manufactured snow to melt incredibly fast, and instead of being a field of fresh powder, it turned to slush, and then to mud.

“Yep, it’s not the same. Let’s go home.”