Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

The hotel windows had gone, the furniture had gone and the sky was coming through
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The Independent Online

I woke up to a strange thudding sound. I looked at the clock: 4:25am. I liked this room, number 1022. Everything was white, everything light, like a little apartment. L-shaped with a small kitchen area. Pale green wooden table and chairs. Two white sofas. TV. Dressing room. Bathroom. And windows from floor to ceiling, with an amazing view going east along Sunset Boulevard.

I pulled back the curtains to take a view. A Prussian blue sky with a million little lights below. I kept staring and then I saw it. At first it didn't make sense, the sky seemed to be divided, something black, and below a trillion sparks seemed to fly. It was moving really fast. Then I realised.

Fuck. A tornado. I grabbed my phone, pillows, bed covers, and towels. I don't know how I kept my head together. I closed the dressing room and bathroom doors, jumped into the bath, putting the towels, bed linen and pillows on top. And I began to pray. I thought about my Nan in 1907 when Halley's Comet appeared. How she and her family had hid in the cupboard under the stairs holding hands and praying, believing it was the end of the world. And now I was here alone. I tried to think of everyone I had ever loved. I was crying. I began to tremble. I heard an unbelievable sound, like a million souls being whipped into hell. I don't remember screaming but I remember thinking no one could hear me. And then it was over. A deathly silence. I clambered out of the bath.

I don't know how long I had been in there. It could have been minutes. It could have been days. I made my way forward and pushed the dressing room door. Sunrise hit me - a searing, blinding light. Then the realisation: the windows had gone, the furniture had gone, the ceiling was away and the sky was coming through. My hotel had disappeared. Only my corner remained. I was suspended on the 10th floor. Concrete and plaster started to crumble. There was no way down.

I picked up the receiver and dialled room service. "Yes, Miss Emin. What can we do for you today?"

"I'd like scrambled eggs, a side order of bacon, grapefruit segments and English breakfast tea."

"Will that be all, Miss Emin?"

"No. I'd like to make something very clear. Now, I don't want to sound mean, but can you make the scrambled eggs with only two eggs. I repeat: two eggs. Not 12, but two. Also, please can the toast be toasted, preferably hot, the bacon crispy, and the tea with cold milk. Repeat: cold milk, not hot."

"Is that all, Miss Emin?"

"No. I would like the grapefruit segments away from the egg. In fact, God help us all if anything appears anywhere near that egg!"

"So, Miss Emin, let me get this right. You don't want your eggs served with potatoes and mushrooms, but you are happy to go with our fruit-of-the-season, pineapple."

In a really curt, crisp, fascist tone I say: "For the last time, let me make this very clear. If there is one tiny scrap of pineapple lurking or touching anywhere near that egg I will puff and huff!"

Oh God, these Americans and food. They just don't get it! From the crappiest diners to the best restaurants, they still serve portions fit for baby elephants. There's no room on the plate to move the food around. Now, I simply ask for two plates - one of them empty.

Years ago I went to Santa Cruz with F and his friend, Adam. We had a fantastic day, watching sea lions barking and surfing in and out on the waves. Their shiny black coats, hard to distinguish from their surfing human counterparts. It was so mesmerising to watch these majestic animals roll in the waves. A couple of years before, Santa Cruz had been hit really hard by an earthquake. Masses of empty plots of land, vacant, where buildings once stood. There was something ghostly and serene about this place. Benches lined the clifftops, engraved with the names of the dead. "In loving memory of...". We went along the pier and ordered fish and chips. OH CRIKEY! I was given a fried fish, not exaggerating, at least two foot long, and a bucket of fat full of chips. I pushed it away in disgust. The waitress asked: "Do you want it to go?" I said: "Yeah, just get it away from me." Ten minutes later I was given a beautiful box, tied up with string, and inside was the dirty great, big, greasy fish. I nearly had a seizure.

Super gladiators of our time

I was going to say: It gets right under my skin, I just can't get no satisfaction, but I try... Being a rock chick (mouse), it's hard going hanging out with the Rolling Stones. I'm not impressed by much, like I could never be a groupie and would never admit to being a fan. I'm just too cool (just a normal mouse). But it was a total WOW! Have you ever been on stage at the same time as the Rolling Stones? Well I have. Petco Stadium, San Diego, 2005, the Bigger Bang tour.

Mind-blowing to see what they see, from where they see it. Thousands upon thousands of people. The excitement. The adrenalin. The performance. These 60-year-old men. So super-fit. Not an ounce of fat between them. Sinew. Pure muscle. Focused minds. Super gladiators of our time.

For me, something fantastic not to feel afraid of the crowd, to share their enjoyment, to be part of it. Something for the rest of my life that I shall never forget. But for now, I would like to just go home, cook chicken soup, and be happy. LA can be a very humbling place.

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