“It’s an art opening for this Dutch guy Jost. His art sucks but he used to sell me really good pot.”-Sandy Lyle
Barron was raised in a palace by two loving parents, Blythe and Iron John. They gave him every luxury money could buy; Voss water, handmade Australian linen sheets for his California king-sized bed, organic kale salads that magically tasted like french fries, a home gym, personal trainer, even an identity. They didn’t wanted him to struggle or know anything about the real world for fear it might make him think or have a panic attack.
His father had so much power he instructed people in the town to stop complaining, hide their pain and troubles from his fancy kid, going so far as to tell everyone to hire landscapers so the main streets in town looked like a Sotheby’s real estate guide. Despite grandiose efforts, young Barry had a hunch there was more to life than garden parties and bocce ball so he started sneaking out.
The first night he met some friends at a bar and saw an old man. Wrinkles? Whoa! Hasn’t this dude heard of Botox? And what’s with his eyebrows?
The second night he went to a bowling alley. There he saw a man lurching under a street lamp in the parking lot. He’d o.d’d on microwave nachos. Barry realized the underprivileged world could make you very sick.
The third night he took his journal and wandered into what he thought was a garden with funny rock sculptures which turned out to be headstones. You mean that’s it? We drink, play games, eat crap and die?! Bummer.
Since he only snuck out at night he was spared the horror of factories and buildings full of cubicles. Maybe if he’d seen the inside of an office he’d have dove head first into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and never fulfilled his life’s purpose. Ever the optimist, he decided to go out one more time, determined to find proof that there was more to life than being perfect or perfectly miserable. On this trip he met a homeless man, sitting on a bench and smiling in front a coffee shop, sharing half of a pb & j with his dog. They looked happy so Barry asked the man; What’s the secret? I’ve been sneaking out of my parent’s mansion to discover the real world and everything I’ve seen so far is a complete disaster. Behind all the fake grass and facades, life is just empty, pointless suffering. You’re the first person I met who looks content but you don’t even have shoes. What’s up? So the homeless man taught the little prince about inner peace and compassion.
Barry went home and told his parents he was giving up all his belongings and moving to a commune. Naturally they were mortified. The super power couple now found themselves powerless. All those positive parenting books were failing them. I guess we brought this on ourselves. Ok son just please take some hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Once you get this whole thing out of your system Uncle Roy is holding a spot for you at Stanford.
Life at the commune was kind of gross and uncomfortable. There were even more rules than at home. Rigid rules that seemed to change depending on who was interpreting them or whether the sun was shining from the east or west. It seemed like everyone was trying to out-suffer each other. The person who could go the longest without eating or showering was seen as the most enlightened. Barry tried it for a while until one day his blood sugar got so low he thought he was hearing harps. Oh god. I’m dying. Only he wasn’t dying.
Goldilocks was sitting by the river bank tuning her harp. She plucked her fingers across the strings. Brrrraaang. Ugh. Nope. Too tight. She made some adjustments and tried again. Brrrooong. Ugh. Nope. Too loose. She tried one more time but before playing, shared some oatmeal with Barry. Hey man, you look hungry. Those restrictive diets are harsh. Live a little. Yea? He accepted her offering even though it wasn’t gluten free. Mmmm. Apple cinnamon. Good stuff. The warm, whole wheat sweetness filled his belly allowing rational thought to return. His anorexic commune family rolled their eyes in the distance. The will is strong but the flesh is weak. Doesn’t he know that starving is like, proof of being better than everyone else?
Goldilocks plucked her harp one final time. Brrriiing! As the joyful noise filled the air and Barry finished his breakfast, he had an epiphany: It all makes sense! Living in the mansion and here on this dirty farm are both too restrictive, like skinny jeans! Eating Velveeta will give you wrinkles, make you sick and probably plant you in that death garden too soon. It’s too loose. But a balanced diet of meditation, sharing wisdom, listening to chill music and getting plenty of fiber is like heaven on earth. I’m so happy I wanna take my old homeless friend to buy shoes!
Before he could go to Payless he got stung by an evil bee and went into anaphylactic shock. While he was laid up for 40 days, a burned out visiting nurse named Mara tried convincing him the world was a lost cause so he should just stay home, go on worker’s comp, buy a flat screen and watch the Price is Right. You probably qualify for all kinds of stuff, plus I know a guy. Listen, there’s nothing worth working for. I’ve been wrapping up wounds my whole career and there’s no point. People don’t change no matter which pill you give ’em. It’s never enough. You don’t want end up like me.
Mara lit a smoke and poured herself another cup of coffee. Your parents have money. If you don’t wanna stay here watching t.v, go to Europe. Eat bon bons. Buy suits or whatever it is people with money do. You’d look good in one of those fancy cars. Barry was running a low grade fever but despite his weakened state was convinced he still wanted to be a teacher. Mara, I wanna help people! I’m gonna change the world. She wished him well; Yea, buddy, good luck with that. She realized his good vibes were unstoppable so she gave up and left.
For the next few years Barry studied the meaning of life with an intersectional group of friends at a small liberal arts college called Deer Park. They read, wrote, volunteered and tried as best they could to live out the truths they were discovering. They practiced guerrilla gardening, went vegan, then went paleo, then counted macros, then had endless Twitter wars about how water is life, Moby is god and Duba beef is heritage so the bloodlines are ethical, plus Rachel got really anemic. Barry ended the whole fight by creating this diet where twice a day after an early morning hot yoga class, they’d go the soup kitchen and just eat whatever was being offered, that way nothing would go to waste and they could save their grocery budget for shows. They saw Ween 5 times.
Eventually his parents called to ask if he’d declared a major yet and whether or not he planned on graduating. I’ve graduated twice. I just like it here cause the thought of getting an actual job feels like giving in to the system. I can’t sell out now. What I really want to do is become an author. So his parents set him up in a loft off campus where he’d go on to write The Pineal Gland, An Owner’s Guide, The Vagus Highway to Heaven and Ouch That Hurts, How to Put Yourself and the World Out of Its Misery. His books became international best sellers. He had over 500 million followers on social media, not to mention all the swag sales; harps, pine cones, statues, soup bowls, stickers, t-shirts. His ideas created a whole fan club. Naturally, his parents didn’t quiet get it but they were glad he did something impressive they could tell their friends about. No mom, it’s not that we learn to like suffering, it’s that we’re fully aware suffering exists but we live peacefully with compassion alongside the suffering while not adding to the suffering that’s already here. His parents confusion made him realize he might not have all the answers so, after going on a few world book tours he wrote I Don’t Have All the Answers So It’s Totally Cool if You Check Out All These Other Books. He listed the works of well known friends who’d also devoted their lives to being authors of enlightenment and love. This made his popularity soar because people liked the idea that you could read his theory but maybe be a bigger fan of other theories. Barry remembered the food fights from his college days which taught him, it’s best to offer and receive with no strings attached.
Speaking of unconditional love, one day while enjoying a chai latte in a Marriott courtyard in Portland, Barry found himself thinking of the homeless man and his dog; the vision that had prompted his life’s journey. Just as that comforting memory filled his heart, he saw them. The homeless man was standing barefoot on the pavement, his peaceful dog seated at his feet. Hey man! It’s so great to see! You’ll never guess what happened after that night I saw you and your dog sharing that sandwich. But the homeless man did know because a few nights ago he was a looking for a blanket and found a newspaper featuring a review of Barry’s last book. Congratulations.
They laughed at their serendipitous meetings, then Barry offered to buy the man shoes and set him up in a pet friendly condo. Oh wow, that’s so generous. Actually, I have a trust fund. My dad is…kind of a big deal. He could basically give me the world. I live like this on purpose. I’m actually a writer myself, well more like a teacher slash ghost writer. It’s a long story but yea, living like this allows me to reach more people and stay in touch with what’s going on. Seriously though, thank you.
The homeless man with the trust fund invited Barry to dinner to celebrate the joyful mystery of life and even though Barry had already had his two meals for the day, he happily accepted. So, where should we eat? How ’bout Mandi House? I hear they have the best kabobs.