By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Three years ago, a friend of mine committed suicide. Some time after that, I went to dinner with my family at a restaurant in Fashion Island. As happened quite frequently during that time, I began to feel as if I just couldn't take it anymore, couldn't pretend to smile and couldn't pretend not to be in anguish, so I excused myself to go for a walk and be alone with my thoughts. It was dark, and I was walking quickly, angry at the way one person's death causes a ripple in the lives of those close to that person, but the world in general remains unchanged—cash register drawers still bounce open and restaurants still serve dinner and people still joke and laugh and slap one another on the back, and you can be in so much pain that it seems the only proper way for the world to respond would be for everything to go dark because you've gone dark, and suddenly you're no longer connected to the rest of everyday life, and being in public is just a reminder of how estranged you feel. And then I began thinking that at any given time, there are great numbers of people walking around feeling that way, dealing with their own enormous amounts of pain and tragedy, so who am I to think that the world should somehow register mine, which is horrible to me but, in terms of the world at large, probably akin to a blip—my friend's life was a blip—so what's the point of it all anyway?
And as I was thinking about all this and wiping at the tears and working myself into greater and greater despair, I found myself standing before a giant Kinkade in the display window of the Kinkade store, and for a second, I relaxed and looked up at the picture. I can't remember what it was—probably some cheeseball enchanting cottage with a thatched roof and a walkway and flowers and little lights—but it was like when you're a little kid and you fall and hurt yourself, and you're scared and crying and your mom picks you up and holds you and soothes you and that's actually enough to make you feel better.
Sometimes that's enough.
A couple of days ago, after I finished writing this story, I was looking through some Kinkade promotional materials, and I found—much to my horror—a story quite similar to my own. "For Diane Winters, the inviting warmth of a Thomas Kinkade cottage scene provided hope and healing through the tragic deaths of her daughter and son, her own battle with breast cancer, and months of dark depression." Then there's a quotation from Winters about the paintings saving her life and a quotation from Kinkade about how he's moved but not surprised because he hears that kind of thing all the time. Damn it, damn it, damn it! Not only is my own authentic, emotional, Kinkade story involving the death of a friend—something that's sacred to me—unoriginal, but it's also already being used as a marketing device. I'm reminded of the time I was talking to a recovered heroin addict who was telling me about watching an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 depicting heroin abuse and how he felt, at that moment, that his own, authentic, personal hell had already been bottled and sold right back to him. That's how I feel. Compromised in ways I didn't even know were possible. Damn you, Thomas Kinkade!