Mistaken Identity

Aug 30, 2015

A good friend of mine, a former good friend of mine, someone who I once believed I loved, did something really stupid one day and ended up in federal prison. He told me he took the bribe but it only happened once. He was caught in a trap. His life was upended.

I stood by him. Helped him out. I was furious at his greed and humbled by the quick turn of fortune. I visited him during his incarceration.

The federal prison he was placed in is a minimum security facility out in the middle of nowhere. There are no fences to keep prisoners in as they walk from building to building but if you are stupid enough to try to escape they don't bring you back there. You go somewhere much worse.

Taft is a hard scrapple place. Not much grows unless someone helps it along, a lot. Oil pumps, giant steel grasshoppers, nod to drivers along the road now and then. Trucks blow past tumbleweeds and stir little else. On my way back from visiting him one February morning this sky presented itself. Inspiration, and something good out of a very bad situation.

The other day I got an email inquiring about this painting. I'm not sure why, but I didn't do my usual "WHOOP" in response. Instead I went for my morning walk and dealt with it later, with a clear head. Maybe I sensed something was afoot.

The buyer wanted to give it to his wife as an anniversary gift. He wanted to know what inspired me. I demurred, saying that the landscape was striking in its starkness, desolation. After I hit send I thought to my self, "nice sell for a romantic gift!"

Over the next few mornings my buyer peppered me with questions about the purchase, which I readily gave. I also noticed that as days went by, his grammar became odd. His punctuation and syntax uneven. Who forgets to capitalize part of his own name? I became suspicious and began investigating fraud. Then came the kicker...he would pay by check and since he was moving to the Philippines his "shipping agent" would contact me to arrange for delivery. A classic scam. They send you a check, which you deposit and the bank initially clears. Buyer has a change of heart and wants his money back which you oblige. Only later the bank finds it's fraudulent and you're out cash.

I declined the sale and pointed out to the gentleman that he was indeed a scammer. No argument there. Never again heard from the guy.

But it struck me that of all paintings to try to scam me on, he chose this one. The one whose genesis was an equally unsavory act. Could he sense the vulnerability I felt as drove down that road? As I bought the lies told to keep me close at hand? Did it reveal me to be the mark that I had once been?

At least this time I saw the con coming.

Painting: Taft © Lissa Banks 2013