When I received an unexpected windfall in the form of a prorated refund of my cancelled car insurance, I bought volume one of Paul Klee’s Notebooks and a restaurant dinner. Klee’s words and images became the real school I attended. Going to classes at the University of Illinois was increasingly a charade. I was too advanced intellectually to submit myself to an elementary program, but I was too undeveloped in my skills to make manifest what I could see, feel, and understand. A little more patience and a lot more humility would have helped considerably. But often it was only my well-inflated ego that kept me from drowning in the deep misery of shallow love.
Tom, an old friend from Clarion days, was visiting from Pennsylvania. Bea, Tom, and I went out for our windfall dinner and afterward strolled into unfamiliar territory. As we passed a rough-looking bar, a half-dozen equally rough-looking young men came out and formed a concave line in front of us. Tom, whose right arm was in a plaster cast and who hadn’t earned the nickname “Rhino” for nothing, had lagged twenty feet behind us. One of the young men stepped forward from the middle of the line and said, “Hey man, you got five dollars?” I swept Bea back and to the side with my left arm as I reached for the folding knife in my back pocket with the right. Suddenly the line parted as Tom charged, with his cast upraised and a big smile on his face.
“Thanks, you’re pretty formidable to begin with, but that cast looks like a serious weapon,” I said.
“It was the smile. Nothing is more intimidating than fun,” he replied.
Later, Bea said the whole scary situation was my fault; that I should have just taken out my wallet and given them five dollars.
I’m enjoying the most productive period of my life—25-50 photographs and 6-10 thousand words per week and a painting everyday, and I’m not even working very hard—I love it when that happens…