Sweet Dreams

"I know my mom is freaked out," he said, "because she gave me sixty dollars. She never gave me that much money before." Brad is ten years old, and this is the first time he's been far away from his mom. When he arrived, and saw the shaman mask on my wall, and the pictures of tattooed Maori warriors, art photographs, etc., he said, "I feel a little freaked out, now."

The definition of "freak out" is to lose one's nerve, or be overwhelmed by unusual circumstances. If the kid took the big mask off the wall and looked at the back of it he'd really freak out, because it was owned by a witch doctor in Nairobi who was convicted of ritual murder. The mask was given to me by a man whose back I fixed, and who told me it was because I'm a shaman.

I am not a shaman, nor am I a witch doctor. But I understand the conflicted impulse to own the mask and to get rid of it. Every time Bianca comes over she studies it and says, "Do you remember when you offered to give me that mask?" I say no, I don't remember offering to give it to her or anybody else.

It's a hand carved piece, and the eyes are not the same. One is slightly higher than the other, which gives it a disturbing asymmetry. To one side of it is another African mask which has no history that I can recount, other than it was brought back to me by a client. To the other side is a beaded bag with a fetish figure inside it, from New Guinea, and a Maori war club.

The other room is painted a dark purply red, and on the wall there's a black and white photo taken many years ago of a young woman in a Japanese tea house. It was taken by candlelight, and is very high contrast, with dark eyes and blurry movement. I never really thought about it as frightening before. Below it there's a drawing by Jasmine called "Zonsters," which depicts a scene from an Emily t-shirt. There's also a framed three picture series of Jasmine and her cousins in masks and flowing white gowns in a graveyard.

I had never noticed that these things might be frightening, but then, I never walked in on them cold turkey as a ten year old kid. It gave me a different perspective on home decorating. Don't scare the children. Anyway, he crawled off into the loft, which I'd made up with a featherbed, and woke up enthusing about how comfortable it was. "That's way more comfortable than my bed at home," he said.

We went down to Alvin's coffee shop for bagels and cream cheese, hot chocolate and coffee, on our way to walk through Golden Gate Park to the ocean. Brad said he wants to go there every day. The kid likes bagels. I drove him to the top of Twin Peaks for a view of the foggy city. "All I see is houses and cafes here," he said of San Francisco. "I was thinking a place like this would have other things."

"What kind of things?"

"You know, things like Sea World and roller coasters."

"We've got cable cars," I suggested. He looked skeptical. I brought him home and put on Happy Gilmore and ordered out for a pizza, half pepperoni and half vegetarian. That should keep him busy for a little while.

I'd like to have three hours to sit down and work on Ash Fork, but I don't think it's going to happen until he crawls off into the featherbed again. One thing I like about ten year olds, is they still go to bed early enough to give me some alone time.

Sweet dreams, kid.

Posted: Wed - July 12, 2006 at 05:22 PM