The path I followed in accepting the fate of the big red ball leads into territory far beyond that of the actual events. The lessons learned are those I have been over before…..many times. I suppose this is some sort of remedial class for cosmic discernment and I seem not to fully grasp the material that is covered.
The facts are these:
1.I had already invested a good deal of time, energy, money, and angst into the big red ball at this point.
2.The big red ball was sitting on its small sandy island west of Eddie’s parking lot.
3.There was nothing I could do with the ball without investing more ….no, much, much more amounts of time, energy, money and angst.
What was I going to do?
I did what I have done many times when facing a hopeless situation. I resorted to “magical thinking”.
There is a lot of information I have uncovered about “magical thinking”. So much so that I could be offered a guest spot on Oprah to discuss it.
My expertise comes primarily from its practice.
But some of my reading has also encompassed the phenomenon. I will not get too deep into the subject now however, as I want to first illustrate it’s detrimental effect, but as I understand it most sane people outgrow magical thinking at the age of 6 or so.
The thinking goes something like this:
If I believe really, really hard the universe will be kind to me and fix this mess I have gotten myself into.
I began to wait for the universe’s solution to the problem of the big red ball.” I believe....I believe….I believe,” I thought whenever I had a free moment, channeling a young Natalie Wood in “The Miracle on 34th Street” as I did so.
The universe’s solution came (I thought) in the form of a commission in my place of residence, Albuquerque New Mexico. There was a catch, however. I was one of 3 finalists for the project.
“No problem.” I thought, “I will simply believe my way into the commission”
I will propose a sculpture using the ball. I will get the commission. The money from the commission will cover the headaches involved in construction. And I wont have to really move the ball until its time to install the sculpture and I wont have to move it far.
In my mind a significant portion of the sculpture was already done, as I was the owner of the big red ball.
The universe was handing me this on a silver platter.
I did exactly as I had planned. I proposed a sculpture using the big red ball. I envisioned it every day. I said “I believe” countless times and when next I heard from the universe it said, “I regret to report that your design was not selected by the jury."
I’ve been here before I thought.
Perhaps the big red ball had simply lost its mojo and as its caretaker I was prone to the same fate.
As I look back on it, I have a difficult time recalling an instance where “magical thinking” has actually worked.
But lets not let that get in the way. Such luminaries as Tony Robins have endorsed the practice, and he looks like he knows what he is talking about.
Tony Robbins actually played a minor part in my dealings with Angela and Angela is exhibit ‘A’ in my next demonstration of magical thinking.
Angela had met Tony Robins and my wife and I discussed this with her at a local art function. I’m still not sure how we came to know Angela but she appeared to me to be all that her name suggests. While she was clearly aging she still possessed a good deal of what in her youth must have been an astonishing beauty.
” I love your art,” she said and for me that is all it takes to convince me that a person is highly intelligent. Angela began to tell fabulous stories of a string of very wealthy men that she knew, had known, or rather, had known her. With each story I became more and more impressed and enamored …not that I was tempted to join the line of men….all I wanted was for someone in the line to buy my artwork.
Artists are desperate creatures. They want love, but mostly in the form of cash.
Soon my thinking began to go awry. I thought I could see my future clearly. Angela would introduce me to the world of wealthy art collectors and my family and I would begin frolicking in Cannes or at Lake Como or somewhere where other people frolic. I figured I could pass my time this way for a good 20 years or so…and by then I would be rich and famous enough that all my worries would dissipate. I could visualize the Vanity Fair articles about me…as well as those in Art News and Art in America.
Angela meanwhile was extremely accommodating. She took reams of notes about my artwork and I handed her all manner of information and images of sculptures.
When I get to the Caribbean I will look up Vernon,” she would say and in my mind I could see a sculpture on every island, a “funded by Vernon“ sign on each one.
The more we talked, the more certain I became that Angela was destined to be my angel.
Here I think it‘s important to warn you that once magical thinking has taken hold, a person’s cerebral cortex turns to mush.
Then one day I looked out the window to see a limousine pull up in my driveway. Angela got out with the feeblest looking old guy I had ever encountered. “Better sell him some art fast, “I thought.
We sauntered around for a few minutes looking at my work before Angela’s friend began to saunter with a distinct wobble. We headed for the house. After a glass of wine he seemed to revive a bit, but I saw no inclination on his part to buy my art. We discussed Mexico where he spent part of the year, then Angela and her feeble consort got back into the limo and off they went to frolic.
“This may take a while,” I said to myself… however time has no meaning to a man who is magically thinking.
A few weeks after the limo departed with what I had hoped was a bona fide art collector an ill wind began to blow .Ill winds are often associated with magical thinking but I’m not sure exactly why. But as is the case with such winds nothing on the surface seemed out of the ordinary until…..
One morning my wife went to fitness class at the gym and I stayed home with our then 4-year-old daughter.
There was a knock at the door. I looked out to see a somewhat disheveled Angela leaning against the wall.
It was barely 9:00 in the morning and I was extremely surprised to see Angela on my porch at such an hour. I greeted her warmly, inviting her in and I inquired about her and her art connoisseur friends. Angela seemed a bit out of sorts.
She wasn’t making a whole lot of sense but for some reason that failed to register with me. My daughter busied herself playing with the dog and Angela and I sat at the table. “ Have ya got some wine?” she soon asked. Again in hindsight it seemed odd but I’ve come to take things pretty much as I find them. “Sure,” I said and got her a glass and found the bottle from her recent visit. We sat quietly for a moment.
“I climbed your wall ” she said.
I could not picture this once beautiful petite lady climbing my adobe wall. A strange feeling of unease came over me. “I couldn’t open the gate ”she said as if that explained her climbing the wall. More questions began to crowd my mind.
“Ya got more wine?” she said. I dutifully poured another glass.
“’My….my wife is at the gym “ I offered, but the conversation ground to a halt.
After a fair amount of silence Angela said, “Ya got some scissors?”
I cannot accurately describe what was occurring in my brain at that moment but it may have involved a form of algebra or it may simply have been blood returning to the frontal lobe.
I could feel the grip of magical thinking begin to loosen and a ray or two of reality hit me full in the face.
The only way I can explain what happened next is to say I was raised in Texas and my mother was from the South.
In that environment I was taught to respect and revere women and up until that point respecting women meant to do what they asked me to do.
I went and found some scissors and slowly, very slowly, I handed them to Angela.
Angela took the scissors, held them aloft shakily and half gracefully and half clumsily lunged at me.
I jumped back in shock. Not since the second grade had a female lunged at me. The older woman stared directly at me as she wildly swung the pair of scissors in front of her bringing them dangerously close to my right eye.
I could hear her saying something but I could not decipher it as I retreated from danger.
Instinctively I leapt from the table, grabbed my daughter, and headed to the door. The dog started to bark and I made out her words as I was leaving.
“ I want to cut your eyebrows,” she was saying over and over, “ I want to cut your eyebrows.”
“ I have to go now” I stammered, “ I’ll cut my eyebrows later. Right now I have to go see my wife.” I said as I hurried out the door. At the time leaving Angela alone in my house seemed like the first sane thing that had occurred that morning. Only later did I question whether this was a good idea or not.
In the dense mental fog brought on by the crazed woman with scissors I headed for the gym where I found my wife. I told her as best I could what had happened and we returned to the house as quickly as possible.
Walking in the door we both had another shock in store for us.
On the floor next to the coffee table lay Angela in a pool of blood. Not far away lay an empty wine bottle.
We immediately checked on Angela who seemed to be sleeping soundly.
I called 911 and while we waited I took my daughter out to the sandbox to play.
Soon the house was swarming with medics and police. Angela was well attended to. Somehow my wife became the expert on what had happened and she held court answering everyone’s questions. It was soon determined with certainty that Angela would be ok and that she was not seriously hurt. I didn’t move from the sandbox, seeking shelter in the most innocent place I could find.
Finally a policeman walked up to me smiling in a manner that he hoped might convince me that we were old friends and I could trust him.
He said, looking me in the eye, “Did you hit her? ”
It was meant to elicit a quick confession from the guilty.
“No,” I stammered, “I…..I have a wife.”
That seemed to be the perfect answer, at least it satisfied the policeman. He walked away looking puzzled.
Angela left in an ambulance and soon the house cleared of medics and the police. My wife was on the phone immediately finding out all she could about Angela.
The empty wine bottle was a major clue.
Angela’s story was indeed complicated …..and sad. Reality was a bitter pill for me but more so for her. On top of her myriad of other problems she was broke and homeless. This is not an ideal position from which to sell art to wealthy patrons and it was clear that she was not going to advance my art career any time soon. All my delusions and magic thinking were for naught.
And as that day faded into night it occurred to me that the world seemed a good deal grimmer than it had before and finding a place in the art world might be a more difficult task than I thought. One of the good things about magic thinking however is that no matter how grim things may seem, more delusions are right around the corner.
Later that evening my wife offered to cut my eyebrows and fearing that there were other women in the world who might be inclined to do the same I took her up on it. To this day they remain neatly trimmed.
to be continued