The only member of my high school class to get anywhere near Hollywood did it big, producing movies seen near and far. When our children were medium sized and we were in L.A. for other things, I called the producer. I’d always liked him – he was funny, and he liked me – I was short.
We were staying in a hotel and the producer arrived, carrying T-shirts and ball caps ablaze with the current movie’s logo, driving his tiny, shiny black sports car practically into the lobby.
We drank a beer and tried to ignore how we didn’t look like high school anymore. I think the younger son wandered off, but the older stayed, and the producer entertained the three of us with his success story (which was impressive). What I remember most was when the producer said to the older son: ”Your parents are going to tell you can do anything!” (which of course was true), ”but I’m going to tell you that isn’t true. You can do a couple of things, maybe some one thing really well, and your job is to figure out what that is.”
More beer – we parted, the kids grew up, the producer died a too early death in a Hollywood way.
In the family mythology, this story is subject to different interpretations, but I take away the part about figuring out what you can do by focusing on that question. In spite of the sad ending, it’s a good story for young people, if they seem overwhelmed by the vast possibilities for their futures. The story also resonates for me when people say they aren’t talented or imaginative, attributes which also require focus.
Once I made a series of artists’ books called “Shoe Statements” to explore what a shoe’s type or a shoe’s relation to others might imply.
In these original drawings for the book titled “Archetypes,” well-worn shoes and boots posed on my worktable. In a book titled “Connections” they consort heel to toe; in “Crowds” they huddle together in an uncomfortable pile; and in “Mismatches,” footwear lose their regular partners: a little cowboy boot pairs with a dress shoe, a Converse-All-Star mates with a work boot.
In my favorite book “Horoscopes,” I combined shoes with some of those daily newspaper homilies. Statements like: “Develop routine that enables you to complete a variety of tasks, assignments” and “The tide suddenly turns” can seem meaningful – or absurd.
All this is to include a text from “Horoscopes” which suggests why focus might be beneficial:
“Focus and the horizon widens.”