Portraits

Dear Hope Nation,

As I write this, I’m looking at a woman who is looking at me. It’s disconcerting, since I’ve been doing this for 30 minutes or so, all in the name of a project I’m very excited about.

As you may know, I have three daughters in their 20’s. They get along well enough now, and did as small girls, but there are and were small jealousies and disagreements, for, of course, they are human beings. I adore each of them, and spend time with each in our own way, if that makes any sense. The project is not having more children, if that’s where your brains are.

“Eventually, I suppose, I will die,” says the master of bottling sad truths in uncertainty. I’d like it to be a long time from now, but don’t know how much control I have over the timing. Whenever I die, the world will be one pompous clown poorer, and I’m sure my girls will be inconsolable. The project is not stockpiling nitrous oxide around my deathbed to cheer the girls up.

The project is time-delay practical joke for my funeral, or at least the reading of the will to follow. I’m having three portraits of myself painted, one for each of the girls, but I’m not determining which girl gets which painting. It may be the girls immediately know which painting she wants. More likely, there will be some kind of horse trading involved. I can hear it now:

“Okay, I’ll give you Dad’s sock collection and his forged autographs of dead 19th-Century botanists in exchange for the portrait where he doesn’t look like a weasel emerging from a chipmunk hole having left behind a toad carcass.”

Or:

“Fine, you can have the picture where Dad’s nose is in the middle of his face, but you’ve got to give me the teabags he carefully dried from his trip to Patterson, New Jersey.”

Or:

“I’ll trade Dad’s membership card in the Three Dog Night fan club, his two-legged stool and his porcelain hat. You give up the picture where Dad’s face doesn’t look so diseased.”

In each of the artistic critiques of the portraits, you’ll notice no disparagement of my hair. Why? Because my hair, , like that London werewolf’s, is perfect. (an aside: Warren Zevon is one of my favorite performers and songwriters ever. “Werewolves of London” is one of my least favorite songs ever. Please, please, please listen to “Splendid Isolation,” “The Indifference of Heaven,” “Ain’t That Pretty at All,” or “Genius” and forget about that novelty song from 45 years ago.) Whichever portrait each girl gets, she may not like the weak chin—even under a beard—the hawklike nose or the bags under my eyes, she will love the hair.

My friend, Dave, did the first portrait, which I love. My friend, Natalie, is doing the second, which I am just dating until it’s finished. If you are an artist who would like to be considered for the third portrait, please let me know.

As long as you can capture the hair while being willing to fudge on everything else.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Best,

Keith

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