It has taken a long time to digest this post, like the elephant from The Little Prince...but here it is.
I took some jewellery-making lessons with the local goldsmith, when I was 17.
He was a long-haired sandle-wearing new-age kind of fellow, a dude in a homespun jumper, who had set up shop in a semi-rural town, near where I lived.
I vaguely remember the other students were wandering ferals with hardcore scarification on the arms and manky Thai fisherman pants. Apparently they never actually paid for the lessons. I was a quiet skater kid myself, - but just starting to go through my nature-boy phase- you know, eschewing the Ramones and Fugazi, trading them for any kind of folk music vinyl I could get (you know, right?). My family quite rightly found this even more intolerable than any punk music.
from that ... to this:
(but trust me it was actually a good trade)
Anyway, the goldsmith's workshop made an impression on me. There were lots of old tools, some of them self-made- which had indefinable presence. One such tool was a small hammer with a square-profile head and handle. I admired it so much that the goldsmith said I could keep it ( I should have bagged it then and there- as I never did get to actually have it ). Juxtaposed with this was the pervasive scent of petuli essential oil and some esoteric paintings whose lurid acrylic colours were unmistakably straight from the tube, unmixed (not in that cool Gauguin way either). It was a weird mix of tradition and tacky New Age. (not in that cool Intelligent Clashing way either)
As I got to know the goldsmith, I was impressed to learn that he had undergone a very traditional apprenticeship amongst jewish jewellers in Europe.
After this series of lessons, unbeknownst to me, my stepmother paid a visit to the goldsmith. She would frequent the organic fruiterers next door, buying the produce for those alfalfa on pumpernickel sandwiches...
(that I would never eat).
She enquired as to the possibility that the goldsmith might employ me as an assistant?
(the very idea was news to me)
He said yes, okay- later explaining to me that he agreed because I had appeared in his life three times,
...and that our first names were the same, and that I was exactly half his age. (rigourous HR policy you'll agree)
And of course, this type of thinking set the tenor of the whole escapade.
It was understood that "unfortunately" I couldn't be paid for assisting, but I didnt mind that and was glad of the experience. I came in once a week, usually riding my bike about 10kms or so down from the hills.
I helped out with repairs, plopping things into the ultrasonic cleaning bath ( yes that is a real thing) and occasionally some soldering.
Not quite like this Sanyo Ultrasonic bath; more like this:
Local characters would drop in for a chat; it was like being in an episode of Hamish Macbeth. One curious acquaintance of the goldsmith was a fellow with the same first name as the goldsmith and myself. So you see, there we were,the three of us. (heavy man)
He had been hatching plans with the goldsmith to start up some sort of commune, the proposed main activity of which would be the drying of flower petals for essential oils. They let me in on this, and I see now that they were considering my suitability as a candidate. (or crunching the numbers at least)
(I doubt it would have been half as cool as this)
Unlike the goldsmith, this #3 namesake wore chino pants and loafers, and had shorter blonde hair with gold round-rimmed spectacles.
But, he was not the 'Wolfgang Laib' type, nor the 'John Lennon' type--I summed him up as the ‘Gestapo’ type, he definately looked like one -civilised but somehow sinister.
(the baddie from Indiana Jones)
At some point he attempted to read my palm, taking my hand uninvited! I tore my hand away, telling him I would not stand for such things- him muttering some piffle that I had a ‘strong’ this or that. I suspected that he had some charismatic influence over the goldsmith, who was a humble sort of person.
The two of them would tell me I had an ‘old soul’ and so would welcome my opinion on certain matters. Unable to pass up such a rare opportunity to have my idealistic teen views taken seriously, I rather tactlessly told them that they should definitely quit smoking, and that the goldsmith really ought’nt leave his wife. This was met with uncomfortable silence.
A week or so later, the goldsmith called me up and explained that he felt it was giving him ‘bad vibes’ to have someone at the bench next to him, and so there was no longer any use for me. Perhaps the synchronous three-ness of it all had somehow faded for him?
"He who is hired by the vibe is fired by the vibe" I suppose...
He closed the shop soon after, actually- I guess business wasn’t so good...(or perhaps the flower-petal commune idea had actually crystalised? (crystalised he he!))
Still, I learnt some things from the goldsmith- little bench tricks, that you would only learn from a tradesman- never from a textbook.
Several years later, after having pursued the art of Goldsmithing along other paths- I chanced upon a snippet in the local paper-
“Baby born in Kombi”-
there was a photo of a young woman holding the child- and next to her the unmistakable figure of that goldsmith.