Wayyyyyy back in 1999 my sister was going through a divorce. She suggested I spend some creative time with my nephew as he was about 9 years old and struggling a bit. Being the artist I am, I decided to dress him up like an alien and take him around the western Pennsylvania countryside on a photo shoot. It was quite an adventure. Above is my favorite photo of the series.
Forward to 2004: I was working at the Butler Institute of American Art as a security guard. It was there I met Apollo Astronaut Alan Bean, one of the first men to walk on the moon. An accomplished artist who paints moonscapes, he was doing his first major solo exhibition. He spent a week at the museum prior to the grand gala opening of his show. Each museum worker was provided the opportunity to meet him individually. I spent a half hour alone in a conference room with him talking about art and what-not. Truly an amazing man, with a glow, so to speak. I had never met anyone quite like him. He took a keen interest in everything, as if he thoroughly enjoyed life and was constantly drinking in the sweetness that surrounded him. I was in awe and it occurred to me that he was as close to a true Saint as I would ever meet. During a lecture he gave at the museum, he described what it was like to see the Earth from space and the powerful spiritual effect it had on him.
Finally the night of his art opening arrived. It was attended by many wealthy and powerful people from around the country. CEO's from major corporations flew in. The parking lot was packed with Lamborghinis, Jaguars and every high end luxury car you could imagine. It was my job that night to help these people park in the small, cramped lot. I had to spend the entire evening outside, and as event began to wind down I helped people into their cars and directed them to the street.
Some people in Youngstown refer to me as an 'unapologetic self promoter'. Ah well, perhaps I deserve the title.
I could see Alan and his daughter in the museum foyer putting on their coats and preparing to leave. I knew they were catching a flight out of town that night. I rushed in, grabbed a folder I had hidden, ran up to Alan and blurted out "Mr. Bean! I have photographic evidence that ALIENS exist!" and thrust the folder at him. Oh MY God ! The look on his face! The daughter's jaw literally dropped. They stared at me, frozen, apparently afraid to move.
Slowly Alan reached out and gingerly took the folder from my hand. He held it for a second, took a deep breath and opened it. A huge smile spread across his face. Inside was the photo above. I said "Mr. Bean, meeting you was one of the best things to happen to me in my life. Thank you for coming to Youngstown to share your work." He shook my hand, started to laugh a bit and said he was going to frame the photo and hang it in his office. Then they thanked me, walked out the door, got into a waiting car and disappeared into the Youngstown night.
Moonscape painted by Apollo Astronaut Alan Bean.