In the summer of 2004 I found a plastic green laughing Buddha sitting on the sidewalk at the corner of 22nd and Latimer. Seeing as how my birthday is January 22 and my name is Kent Latimer, I thought it would be heretical not to pick it up. In fact, I immediately knew what I was going to do with it. About a year earlier I had picked up a green plastic comb, quite literally out of the gutter, much to the disgust of whomever I was walking with at the time. It wasn’t something I would normally pick up, but something about the translucency of the green plastic made me think of jade, and the tines had a luxurious, unusual visual weight. My intuition told me to keep it.
When I saw the two together, I knew it was meant to be. The colors matched beautifully. The comb resembled jade even more when in relation to the Buddha, and the furrows in his brow almost perfectly matched the tines of the comb. The construction took about ten minutes. It was a little 3-D koan and I knew, right away, just who would want it.
My friend Mountaine owned a number of my earlier metal pieces and wanted one of my new mixed-media pieces, but had never found the right one. The next time we met I showed him the piece in my portfolio. As I predicted, he really liked it and was OK with the price, but he also said that he was getting ready to take a leave of absence from his job and felt very unsure about making any more significant purchases. He didn’t stop looking though, and told me that he had already planned to be in Philadelphia the following month to see Tan Dun in concert at the Kimmel Center. Perhaps a studio visit would change his mind, but he wasn’t making any promises.
So he came and saw it, but we went to the concert with no decision made. Afterwards, we had tacos at La Lupe and talked, mostly about the performance. I decided to walk us up 10th Street on the way back so we could talk without having to negotiate the Italian Market. The subject of the Buddha returned, and after crossing Washington Avenue, we stopped and faced each other because it was apparent that a final negotiation or decision was going to take place. He said that he wanted it very much and respected my price but still could not bring himself to go back on his promise not to spend any more money. At that moment I happened to break eye contact and look down. There at our feet, in the once wet concrete, someone had engraved – and misspelled – a single word: “Buddah”
We went back to my house and he wrote me a check.