May 10, 2005

Free Prayers at the Beach

ACROSS FROM MAIN BEACH IN LAGUNA BEACH is a coffee shop with outdoor tables. They are the best places in town to have coffee in the afternoon. Lots of people think so and come to the shop for coffee and stake out their tables.

One man and his mission are there daily. His is the table with the sign "Bible Answer Stand, How May I Pray for You?" I think about that question and decide to ask him for a SpeedPrayer.

"Okay," he says, "I can do that. What do you need?"

"I'd like you pray that, soon, I get a call from God. I'm waiting by the phone but he doesn't call and he doesn't write. If you get through, tell him it is okay to call collect.

I'm ready to accept the charges." He writes down my request in a small notebook.

"Okay, I can do that." He pauses for a minute and closes his eyes. Then he opens them. "Done, he says."No, I don't accept donations. This is what I do."

Others come and go around me as I work on my manuscript on this fine February day by the ocean. Two tables over a sad blonde with a canvas smeared with iridescent purple goop turned towards the world flirts with a guitar playing man who is tuning and strumming at the next table. He bends over his strings and tunes and strums aimlessly. No eye contact. After a minute or two, she looks away.

I glance down at my cell phone. Nope. No calls missed, no messages waiting. I glance over at the sad blonde. She's still waiting.

Why does she sit there waiting with her hideous paintings turned towards the world? Doesn't she know that they only advertise her confusion, need and vulnerability?

Perhaps she does, but perhaps, in truth, all she's saying is "This is the best I can do. The very best. Isn't it enough?" And it should be. It should be.

One table over, the guitarist picks and strums looking for a tune he'll never find. Giving up, he packs up the guitar and walks off thinking, "That was the best I could do. Shouldn't it be enough?" And it should be. It should.

What's to be gleaned from this? Very little except perhaps that people should learn how to sit down at tables where other people are waiting.

Two minutes after the guitarist disappears, the sad blonde picks up the hideous painting and leaves. As she walks off I notice a price tag on the back of the painting.

Shopping. But still doing the best she can.

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Posted by Vanderleun at May 10, 2005 5:14 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Your essay reminds me of a painting that a son-in-law had hanging in his kitchen in Dallas, TX. The painting is famous and hangs in an art gallery in Chicago I believe. The painting depicts a man and a women sitting together with their faces toward the viewer and another individual in profile. This scene is in a late night café located in an angular intersection of two streets that define the geometry of the café. The lighting is just luminous enough to allow you to distinguish the individuals depicted. I recall my instant response to the scene depicted – just how alone in the universe are we all, those who can comprehend, realize. Your description of the coffee shop scene reminded me vividly of my reaction to that painting. Thanks again!

Posted by: Hugh Smith at February 16, 2005 6:17 PM

You are very welcome. Thanks for that description of the painting. Sounds like Hopper.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at February 16, 2005 7:22 PM

Hopper's "Nighthawks".

Posted by: P.A. Breault at February 16, 2005 9:01 PM

its the socal syndrome -- needing to be special, to be noticed. used to be a l.a. thing, now the entire region is afflicted.

what's it like to live in laguna, these days ? i used to work in a liquor store on pch; gives one a kind of inside look at what goes on in a town.

Posted by: cjm at February 16, 2005 10:20 PM

The wonder of the web that helps to tweak the mature moments of my misplaced memory. Yes, it is Nighthawks by Hopper. And Google provided the following URL that includes the painting and a text description from “Sister Wendy’s American Masterpieces”.

Posted by: Hugh Smith at February 17, 2005 4:31 AM

a kitchen
is an odd place
to hang an oil painting.

i guess it was
a painting of a diner.


Posted by: doc at February 17, 2005 12:52 PM

Doc, No he is a manic/depressive very bright with a terrific country singing voice and when he sets his mind to something becomes annoyingly intense. He has restored a couple of Victorian style homes, formed a band and managed to piss me off on two occasions. Since I have retired from the Army, I have given up the killing game otherwise it might have happened. Maybe its because he graduated from Texas A&M.
BTW in one of his manic phases he took an art appreciation course – hence the Nighthawk in the kitchen. He is also a gourmet cook who apparently needs a lot of inspiration.

Posted by: Hugh Smith at February 17, 2005 3:05 PM

Hugh -

that Hopper had to be worth a bit of cash.

my comment was regarding the
costs of restoration services
(good old hambuger grease and all that).

as i've heard it put,
engineers are "Convergent Thinkers"...and...
arty-types are "Divergent Thinkers".
some of them never stop "diverging".
the better ones seem to keep it in check,

it seems musicians are both gifted/afflicted
on a fairly consistent basis.


Posted by: doc at February 17, 2005 9:33 PM
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