It was a long time in coming, but finally I met the man I was to become. Along the way – and first – some other people pointed me in the right direction.
As you move through life, you cross paths with countless others. A few resonate with you in deep ways. It is, I think, the shock of recognition, as if you are meeting pieces of a future self. They have qualities that are as yet only latent in you but waiting to come out. They mirror back at us features of distant selves that we can only guess at.
With the perspective that comes from years of living, I now see who some of those guides were.
Ignacio Peri was a fashion designer and arts entrepreneur in Oakland, CA. After assisting him at one of his fashion shows as waiter, he took me to lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Back then, I was still an adolescent and uninitiated in that other world, but he talked to me of slow Sunday mornings with his lovers. No one as yet had ever spoken to me of such things at all, let alone in such an easy manner, savoring each hedonistic detail. Later, when he heard through the grapevine that I was picking up stakes and moving to Argentina, he reached out to me and again invited me to a meal, this time in a converted warehouse long before downtown Oakland was cool. He wanted me to know how important it was for me to go live abroad; how it would transform my life, as it had his. I think he was also concerned that I might get cold feet faced with the obvious challenges of starting over in a foreign country. With great love and wisdom, he told me that I had throw myself wholeheartedly into this project – that my life depended on it. He also gave me some practical wardrobe advice for traveling, most of it centered on leaving behind my jackets of questionable taste with their padded shoulders and taking a single, well-tailored blue blazer.
Another of my guides has been Dennis Stapleton, a house painter whom I met when he painted my parents’ house and who returned to my life as an adult when we coincided on a construction job. Dennis is the most iconoclastic person on the planet today, a true original. No one has opened my mind as much as Dennis. A child of Okies who survived by packing fruit and being quick with a blade, he can at times be overwhelming with his rapacious and volatile intellectual curiosity, but I recognize that no one has challenged me to truly think for myself and avoid calcified commonplaces as much as he has. Hanging out with Dennis is like doing psychedelics without doing the drugs.
Another of my guides was Brian Day, a graphic designer and motorcycle racer who was one of the first people to see me as I wanted to be seen. An early participant in Burning Man, he met me once and just adopted me. I had no say in the matter. He would write me letters that I treasure. Even though our friendship was cut far too short, Brian gave me a precious gift.
While I usually think that the greatest influences in my life have been women, these three men played out-sized roles. With their big hearts and free-flowing sexuality, they lived life proudly and with love. If this were a country song, I would say that they loved puppies and babies and the women of the night – but that particular soundtrack hardly seems appropriate here. Their hearts were open horizons that would not be fenced in. Each hewed an artful path through life, one that would never be confused with anyone else’s.
These guides vouchsafed me glimpses of a future self. Ignacio, telling me of his adventures, showed me a world that would soon become an essential part of me and educated me in slow Sunday mornings. Dennis showed me what it means to own a truly free mind and use it to shape your life. Brian, who dropped into my life like a big, smiling leprechaun, gave me the hope that one day I too would see myself and be seen.