A Christmas Story

Oh what a life I lead!

I woke with a start at yesterday’s dawn and thought, Oh my God! There’s something magic going on! And I don’t actually know what it turned into as the day transpired except the excitement never quite left.

What did happen was that late afternoon a young man, 20 years young, came into the gallery. He was in a sort of dissolute wandering and within minutes had burst out much of his sweet troubled confusion. Most of which was attributable to being 20.

He was on a mandatory hunt for a job. His parents, with whom he lives here when he’s not at UC Santa Barbara surfing and getting a degree in the most odd Environmental Sciences (holy shit) had sent him on a mission in some sudden panic their boy would never be able to earn a living and threatened to withhold funding his upcoming trip.

He has been restless in their presence and it upset them. He doesn’t really want to stay in college. He wants hands-on adventuring. He’s scheduled to go to Thailand in three weeks for several months to study all the usual idiot stuff, credit-earning, of eco this and that and sustainable whatevers. And surf. He has no success with the girls. (I have to laugh, whoever has success with mates!) He got himself off psychotropic drugs to deal with his ennui PRESCRIBED BY THE UNIVERSITY!!!!!!!!! Mother of God the world’s gone mad. And finds he likes having moods after all. Tall, good looking, slim athletic kid I am sure Trevor sent me.

He’s been drawing and painting on his own, watercolors, and writes poetry.

Well, obviously he landed in the lion’s den and I couldn’t restrain myself from encouraging him to abandon all pressures of conventional satisfying idiot planning of his life and go climb a mountain. (He’d said he thinks he’s just got something figured out and then turns around and the mountain he thought he was on top of looms even larger and he’s on the bottom.)

It was so exhilarating. And he was really engaging in a lovely way with what I was saying. He felt one removed from all his friends who seemed so complacent on the paths they were on. Including the girls . . . I asked if he was drawn to women who fit somebody else’s picture and he allowed that they had seemed very happy with the lives they had and not interested in much otherwise.

Then in the midst of my revealing the possibilities of the world he might not have considered (including tales of travel, looking at my Gandy Dancer, an astounding art teacher I had and what I learned from him) Old Tom came wobbling in, announced as is his habit, I’m Ninety!, and I made the young man, Peter, sit down and had Tom sit down and I sat down and I made Tom regale the espionage-riddled story of his midnight hospital escape. Which Peter really liked. We were all laughing so hard.

After which I said (as Peter had half-heartedly tried to escape the old fogeys earlier) that he was free to leave at any time . . . and Tom got up, pleased with his relevance to a new generation, and Peter and Tom left. Before departing Peter stopped at the gallery door with me and said everything looked different to him! You could see it on his face. I recommended a couple of places he could get short term holiday work, and the whole place was aglow.

Essentially I think I told him what it has taken me so long to learn which is to kind of step aside from the problem and observe it with a clear distant-making eye. Here he had parents who loved him and would likely support anything he wanted to do. But they want to see him on some good track and relax about their son, and feel as if they’re good parents who have given him what he needed. And in the mix all the dopey business of how it looks on the outside. And if he could figure out what all that required and satisfy it he would stop feeling torn in so many directions (I assured him that was normal and the product of youth and worth celebrating) and go about doing whatever the hell intrigued his dear heart.

What a Christmas present.

And it made me think again about the children’s book I’ve half begun called, What Does It Mean To Be Good. Which I mainly thought to direct at 7-8 year old’s but it’s probably a good life-long shove also for the parents brave enough to read it out loud to the little ears around them.

All day painting yesterday, really lovely, Peter and Tom’s perfect interlude, and picturing you now heading across vast expansive steppes of Tex.

Bob returned the pile of plates I’d given him with a lovely piece of berry pie tucked inside. Oh what a life I lead.

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