Lucien Karr (The Wave Maker)
“You can’t be part of a conversation if you add nothing to it,” my mentor and paint instructor Milford Aimes advised me. The coffee cup he was gesturing in my direction with, spilled some of its contents onto the table between us. He cursed, dipped his finger into the spill and put it in his mouth. “Good coffee, by the way.”
I smiled, proud that I had finally found the right proportions of coffee and bourbon to keep what he called ‘heat in his bones’ and ‘taste on his buds’ at the same time. The assisted living place he now lived at, frowned upon their residents drinking alcohol like this, so I always added the bourbon to the coffee I bought him from a gas station up the street before pulling up into the Majestic Palms parking lot.
I had caught him on one of the good days where the Alzheimer’s disease he suffered from didn’t have such a strong grip on his memory. He was helping me find a theme for my upcoming first solo exhibition of my watercolor paintings. We had ruled out every one of my ideas.
Just then, one of the staff entered the common room we were sitting in and greeted us both.
“Hey Charlie,” Milford turned in his chair to face him, “when you hear the words watercolor paintings, what kinds of things do you think the artist painted?”
Charlie continued laying out the snacks for the residents as he said, “I suppose flowers, girls in bright dresses, maybe a pretty landscape. I’m not into that stuff, so I don’t know.”
“There you have it.” Milford said.
“There I have what?”
“War,” Milford answered. “The general perception is that you use pansy paints to express yourself. Defy what people expect from you and your medium and reach deep. Your roots are military. Be brave enough to honor them while joining the artistic conversation.”
While I didn’t see taking his suggestion as being brave, I felt deep inside that the theme I chose would drastically change at least one life somehow.
I lifted my own bourbon-coffee concoction to my lips, wondering if that change would be for the better and felt the heat creep deeper into my bones.
BEHIND THE STORY INSIGHT:
Lucien Karr is a self-portrait of who I was between the ages of eight and ten.
This was the time period I unwittingly began to understand the concept of belonging and the difference between being accepted and tolerated.
The Gospel of Wolves, Episode One (Novel)
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