Transcript of 8th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Kester Langford, Tuesday, September 16, 1997 at 1:00 pm.

Mr. Langford: It's a really pleasant afternoon. Nice to see you, Doc.
Dr. Balis: From the office window, it does appear like a rather nice day. It's nice to see you too, Kester.
Mr. Langford: You haven't been outside this afternoon yet?
Dr. Balis: No, not yet.
Mr. Langford: I know it's silly, but I remember when I was going to school, I never saw a teacher eating. I kind of got a flashback there all of a sudden--like you were a teacher or something, and it seemed really strange to picture you eating. That's really strange, isn't it, Doc?
Dr. Balis: Strange?
Mr. Langford: No, not actually. In one way it's strange because as an adult I've seen many adults eat and do a lot of other things. But it's also like thinking about my parents making love--it just doesn't compute. Now that I'm more than halfway through my life, I still wonder about older people and what their sex life is like, even though when I'm getting into it, it feels natural to me. I think it can be awkward having sex at any age depending on the circumstances. But I'm getting off on a real tangent.
Dr. Balis: Have you been thinking about sex lately?
Mr. Langford: I've been doing more than just thinking about it. You know that expression: "When it rains it pours?" Well, that's what's been happening to me. I've been painting on postcard-size pieces of watercolor paper--I came across the paper at a garage sale in North Beach. Five dollars for a box of assorted blank cards with some envelopes to sweeten the deal. The manager of the International Arts and Crafts Store saw my marks while I was buying supplies and asked me to make three dozen for them--she'll display them. I was jazzed. She showed me the rack she was going to use and where the display would be. I agreed, of course.
Dr. Balis: Great.
Mr. Langford: Two blocks down the street from the arts and crafts store was a shopping mall with an area around a fountain to sit. I took a few of my brushes, some pre-made Japanese ink in a small bottle, plus a film container of water, and about a dozen blanks. Then I spent about an hour or so making my marks. Across the courtyard, on the other side of the gurgling fountain, there was a young college student watching me in between her reading. I could see that she was engrossed in her book, but she also appeared to be interested in what I was doing.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Langford: I smiled and nodded. She smiled back, but then immediately continued her reading. After a while, she put away her book and walked over to me. When she was directly in front of me, she just exploded with excitement. I'd never seen her before, but her outward enthusiasm seemed out of character for her. Although I don't really know that, that's what crossed my mind. Well, that's one of the things that crossed my mind.
Dr. Balis: What happened next?
Mr. Langford: She said how cool she thought the cards were and asked if they were for sale--she wanted to buy some. I asked her which marks she especially liked. She pointed to three, and I gave them to her. Her reaction was wonderful and gracious. She told me that her name was Meung Kim but that her friends called her Me. I told her that my name was Kester Langford, but that I used to like to go by Lang years ago. She liked Lang because it reminded her of a famous Korean artist whose work she's been studying. I packed up my stuff, and we went to the library together. When I took out James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" to renew, she started laughing and giggling and pulled out the same book from her purse--her constant companion for over two months. She's writing a paper on Joyce. That was it. We're not living together. But we've been making beautiful music together, and we haven't played a note.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad you found a new friend. Would you like to talk some more about this relationship?
Mr. Langford: No. I would like to talk about my brother Chester. I noticed that last week I was angry at Chester for trying to fix me with his new solution. But I think I would react the same way to any of Chester's attempts to convince me that he has the answer to his, mine, and the world's ills. It doesn't compute. It's all really in my mind. My own descriptions of myself are simply slices of reality. I'd rather stick with my questions than submit to answers from anyone. My life is my adventure, and it's filled with many emotional and intellectual changes and challenges. Grieving--which is why I really came here in the first place--was new to me and difficult to handle alone. It's not that I've been without caring friends, but it wasn't enough. When I'm upset or down, it seems as if everything that has ever upset me is coming over me all at once. My ability to go with the flow and live a very flexible life has helped. And having a love's enjoyable and somewhat of a distraction.
Dr. Balis: Distraction from what?
Mr. Langford: Mark making and planning how to create money from my marks.
Dr. Balis: How did you come up with the word "marks" to describe what you do?
Mr. Langford: I've thought about telling you that before, but I've always got into something else and there was never enough time. It's difficult to talk about it, because I'm still suffering. It's a delightful conundrum. Although my work appears to be artistic and design oriented, my orientation is more of an explorer than an artist. My idea is that anyone can make marks. I am someone who enjoys making marks--designs, paintings, drawings. It's more of a way of life. It's more life than it is art. My work is an expression of one of my historical moments. The best way to title them would be to date and time stamp them.
Dr. Balis: I'm still not quite clear as to what your suffering involves.
Mr. Langford: Maybe it's about not feeling that everything is all right all the time. Sometimes, I feel that things aren't quite right. That scares the shit out of me. I can't help but laugh. It's part of my life. It's not something to fix. It's more like taking a chill pill.
Dr. Balis: Describe how you're feeling right now. Not what you're thinking about it, but your experience of it.
Mr. Langford: When I'm comparing myself to some ideal or other, of course, I don't measure up. I feel like big deal. It's just a damn bad habit. I have many powerful distractions to keep me busy--my job, for example, which is getting better but I'm not sure how long I can do it. I am making these cards for that crafts store. I'm sleeping when everyone is awake, and everyone's awake when I'm sleeping. It's pretty strange.
Dr. Balis: Stay with your feelings.
Mr. Langford: At the moment, I feel that my chest is loosening up--it's kind of hard to explain. Like a tightness that has relaxed. That's pretty cool. I often use breathing to relax and focus while I'm painting. It's interesting how this also works by just paying attention--I didn't try to relax my chest. It was more like a surprise. There was a sparkly feeling, and then I felt it relax and told you about. The sparkly feeling has disappeared, and I just feel normal. Is this like hypnosis? Are you hypnotizing me?
Dr. Balis: No. Do you feel hypnotized?
Mr. Langford: No, but the thought just popped into my head, so I shared it. When I was growing up, it wasn't until I was old enough to drive myself that I really started having friendships. Before, I only had my parents to share with, and that only went so far. It wasn't like having a brother or sister or even a best friend. Sharing is something I love to do. I'd rather give a painting to someone who will really appreciate it, than sell it to someone who is using it to match his decor. But don't get me wrong, I will sell current pieces at very reasonable prices, to anyone who wants to buy them. But the longer I have a particular piece, the more money I want for it. I don't think that's out of line. I remember mentioning a mark that I valued at $35,000.
Dr. Balis: You've had it a long time?
Mr. Langford: Yes. That mark is on a hand-made canvas--a five-sided box, four feet by five feet. I used a giant horsehair brush that I made. It was the third painting in a series of five. I call it, "January 23rd, 1 A.M., 1985." Twelve years is a long time.
Dr. Balis: I agree.
Mr. Langford: I received two more postcards from Evelyn. There's been a lot of red tape and she's been in a holding pattern--it's driving her crazy. She was very positive about our relationship. She said she was looking forward to returning in about six months and picking up where we left off. I feel a little strange now that I've met Me. That's going to be something to get used to. Me is at least twenty years younger than Evelyn. I'm not sure what to tell either of them. I talked about Evelyn with Me, but I just said that she was a very good friend. I don't think I had to spell it out to Me, but for Evelyn...that's another story. I don't want to screw up our friendship, but she was out of the picture for so long...and then those intense couple of days...and now away for six months or more. I don't know. I really do better with a healthy combination of intimacy. Who doesn't, right, Doc? But it's either feast or famine with me.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like a feast now. But our time is up, Kester.
Mr. Langford: I want to talk about Chester again next time.
Dr. Balis: That would be fine. In two weeks then?
Mr. Langford: Yes, thank you. This time is good for me.
Dr. Balis: Great. Goodbye, Kester.
Mr. Langford: Goodbye, Doc.
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

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