I’m worried. The Laguna Museum is hosting art classes for kids. This undertaking could be an undertaking. “Dear Lord, please welcome this unsuspecting and trusting museum into your heavenly embrace and forgive those young artists who didn’t know the combustible property of paint and cleaners. Amen.” Kids are cute and that trait makes them dangerous. No one can believe the damage a 40-pound human being can cause until it’s too late. I should know. I knew one of them, many years ago.
His name was Ralph. Nobody called him Ralphie. If you did, then you’d better run for it. Ralph could ralph on command. When Ralph got mad at something that you said he’d ralph on your shoes or if he was furious he went into projectile mode and that was worse for the offender. We learned fast not to cross Ralph and to stay to his good side.
Ralph loved field trips to the museum. The teachers made us team up in the buddy system. Ralph always chose me. I didn’t mind being his sidekick. It made other kids think that I might have a super power too. The rumor was I shot flames. Ralph liked the rumor. It gave him a clear field to get up to no good. I went along because I had new shoes and my mom would kill me if something untoward happened to my Buster Browns.
The teachers had never caught Ralph at his super power. He hid it and then some. Ralph looked like an angel. The teachers liked the look and it helped. But Ralph’s real gift was his schmooze. He could butter up adults better than popcorn in a movie theater.
Ralph enjoyed art. He said the museum was the one place you could see nudies without getting in trouble. Ralph told me that he wanted to be a great artist one day so he could date models. He also thought it was cool that the pictures were hung on the wall rather than under a bed. Ralph worked hard to make his dream come true. He went to the library and read up on all the great masters. He even tried out art lines to girls in the cafeteria. “Would you like to come up and see my etchings? No. Oops those are Mary Jane’s, sorry. ”
On a field trip to the Museum of Science, Ralph and I wandered off right after the teachers unhooked us from their rope system. Ralph contended that the rope was the idea of some western rodeo school superintendent that believed if something bad happened, then kids tied together made for an easy head count and saved round up time. Ralph thought the rodeo superintendent was thrown on his head from a bunking bronco one too many times and he’d love a chance to meet the guy’s Tony Lamas one day.
We went straight to the museum’s gift shop. Ralph did his thing on the floor. The place cleared out. Ralph chose a picture for me. It wasn’t a nudie. It was a poster of Farrah Fawcett in a bathing suit. The picture was very popular at the time. Ralph said that I had good taste in art because some of the greatest works do not bare all, but leave something for the imagination. I still have the poster to this day somewhere. I’ve lost touch with Ralph, but try to shoot out telepathic sparks of my appreciation that he chose me as his friend for those wonderful museum visits.
Take the kids to the Laguna Art Museum studio classes beginning Jan. 19 and held every third Sunday from 2-4 p.m. And don’t tie them up. Just hold their hands and watch their artistic inspiration break out. Wear old shoes. A Ralph wannabe could wander in.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased Border Collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.
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