About forty years ago when I was a young artist and a graduate student at Pratt Insttute in New York City I had a friend who was also an artist and he had long hair, as was the fashion with many young men in those days.
His mother, God rest her soul, had been after him for some time to cut it off.
Her birthday was coming up and my friend got an idea.
He would cut off his pony tail and give it to his mother as part of an artwork.
He carved a small wooden pony out of pinewood. It was sturdy and golden and stood on a small rolling base. He dug out a small opening in the back of the woodcarving into which he was to epoxy in the ponytail, varnished the carving of the pony and set it aside to dry.
And when his hair was finally long enough, he reached back with a pair of shears and cut off his own hair.
He wrapped a rubber band around it and dipped the ends in epoxy and laid it aside to harden.
That same day I was introduced to him in the sculpture studio where he worked as an graduate-assistant. I needed some help with a project of mine.
We got along surprisingly well, we were two kindred spirits, and at the end of the day, he invited me to come home with him and see his sculpture studio and have dinner with his family. I was single at the time and poor and hungry and, naturally, I accepted. I climbed up into the front seat of his big Chevy truck and we drove off toward the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
On the way out to Staten Island from Brooklyn, we stopped and, to show my appreciation for his helping me and inviting me to dinner, I bought a six pack of Ballentine XXX Beer, the tall ones. We had a nice time driving out there and drinking and talking. By the time we arrived at his place I had quite a buzz on.
Wanting to be helpful, I picked up three or four of the empty beer cans and put them in a brown paper bag I found on the console between the seats. We went inside and my friend introduced me to his wife, his two small daughters and his dog, Beaver.
While I chatted with the kids and petted the dog, my friend puttered around the kitchen for a few minutes then asked his wife, “Mouse (he called her Mouse)—have you seen a brown paper bag with a ponytail in it?”
“Did it have some beer cans in it,” she asked.
“NAHH!!, my friend responded rather irritated at the thought.
I interjected in a meek manner, “Ummm…as a metter of fact…”
Suddenly he interrupted. “Where is it now?
“I put it outside in the garbage“, she said, still not comprehending the severity of the problem.
My friend ran outside. The garbage men had come early that day, for once in all the years he had lived there. The garbage can was empty and the bag was gone.
My friend’s heart must have sank.
His mother’s birthday was approaching and now he had an unfinished present and short-cropped hair.
The next day, he drove out to the Fresh Kills Landfill and spent hours looking for that brown paper bag.
I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind.
He did not find it in the sea of garbage.
He never gave me a hard time about it or said anything to make me feel bad.
He didn’t have to.
I felt bad enough.
He was the best man at my wedding about 20 years later and we have been friends for life since that first day.
If you ever have a friend, make sure he’s the kind of guy that will look through a mountain of garbage to find something he cares about.
It took a while.
He grew his hair back.
The following year he gave “Pony Tail –a Gift for Mom” to his mother for her birthday.