Monday, November 10, 2008

Sock Monkey's and Erin Bacon

The first time I saw Erin Bacon, she was playing a Fender bass with her tall skinny husband Joe on lead guitar. They were the founders of a band called "Beauty For Ashes" that specialized in songs that heavily featured minor chords.
Erin had this Goth vibe going on. She was tall and pale with long straight jet black hair down to the small of her back. She looked almost exactly like Sally in "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
No, she wasn't covered in stitches and scars, but she was sporting a black eye patch. I thought it was part of the act, but we found out that cancer had recently taken her right eye. The new glass eye she would eventually get caused her tear duct to water constantly but she never complained about it.
My wife and I were were immediately intrigued by the Bacon's because they so brilliantly contrasted rest of the crowd at the concert. You see, this was in a place of worship in the uber-conservative Simi Valley. The women in that place, generally were matronly and ruddy. They wore floral print dresses down to their ankles so as not to appear impious.
The Bacon's were different. That night as I listened to them play, I sketched a picture of Skinny Joe with his nose ring and somehow he got a peak at it. I gave it to him and we all became friends from that point on.
A handful of us formed a little cell there for a while, a colorful
undulating blob in a sea of well-intentioned uniformity. Eventually we all realized that we needed to move on and left the church. We continued to get together weekly to share our lives and to grope through the maze of our individual spiritual quests outside of the rigid and occasionally cumbersome structure of the conventional church. It was really beautiful.....it still is.
Here's where sock monkey thing comes in.
I have this gift, I guess you'd call it, for taking stuffed animals and imbuing them with life. It's not puppetry technically, because I and my hands are in full view at all times. Using subtle head movements and limb manipulation, I just try to make inanimate objects seem, ya know...alive. I would do this at Disney meetings with the plush toys we would have to correct or approve every so often.
I would be commenting to somebody from Mattel for the 50th time about how Tigger's head needed to be shaped more like a flattened football rather than a sphere or how his tail had to feel more like a bent spring than a hose and before you knew it, he would be doing some suggestive Madonna dance routine to the delight (or dismay) of my colleagues. It was good for an easy laugh. I often take the low road for the easy laugh. It's a weakness...mea culpa.
One night after watching me do a similar routine with a sock monkey for some kids, Erin showed up with a great wonky illustration of a sock monkey that she had found by some struggling artist on the Internet. She bought it, lovingly placed it in one of those clear plastic file sleeves and gave it to me as a birthday gift. I hung it above my computer at home.
I capitulated with the following poem:
Sock Monkey, Sock Monkey you bringer of joy. You’re a unisex creature for a girl or a boy….now Tell me dear monkey what was your beginning? Were you once a sports sock who saw extra innings? How did you get here? What means were involved? Did someone create you or did you evolve? You look to be calf length, that’s obviously true, But can your species be traced to some ankle high crew? Did you hang on a clothesline or a retail shelf? Or did you swing through a jungle of socks like yourself? I can’t help but wonder if you’re an ancestor of mine with your humanoid posture and your bright red behind. We’re so much alike, our features compared… (with the possible exception of my longer hair.) Your long lanky limbs and your thin curvy tail, Cause me to chuckle as they flop & they flail. With your cross-stitched eyes and your ear to ear grin, I dare to darn you ‘cause we’re practically kin. Oh Sock Monkey…my old cotton friend. Perish the thought that our affection might end. We’ll be life long companions, for this is our fate, I’ll never forsake you….’cause you’re my sole mate.

In 2005, our little circle of misfits watched as Erin's life was devastated by the same cancer that took her eye. From the time she was diagnosed, she barely had three months to live. She was only 38. We all miss her.

I could no longer look at the sock monkey picture. I took it down after her wake. I don't even know where it is now.

I am now the owner of a couple of sock monkeys of the actual woven variety. The latest, pictured above, suffered a senseless and unprovoked attack by three sinister cats before I even saw him for the first time. His chest was lovingly patched with some black plush by the 12 year old boy that gave him to me. That same boy then dubbed him "Hasselhoff."
*The good news is that Joe eventually married Erin's best friend who also happens to be named Erin and we love her too.