"Lou Brock would like to speak to you," is what the guy said, but he might as well have been a cop wearing mirrored glasses and asking me if I were John Connor.
I had been painting live on the stage at the sports collector's convention, but my stomach dropped, and my immediate thought was, "Lou wants to tell me my painting sucks and he could eat a tube of paint and crap out a better picture."
As you can see, I have a tendency to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
And, as usual, it turned out to be quite the opposite: Lou was warm and gentle, and I learned that he loved my work and had asked to meet me. He really liked this piece (which a couple of people had brought to the show to get him to sign backstage) and asked me about my inspiration behind it.
"Well, Mr. Brock, have you ever seen that movie 'Back to the Future?' The one with the car that speeds off with the flaming tires?"
He smiled in recognition and laughed softly, "Yes, I do."
I winked at him and said, "I think they got the idea from you."
It was a good day.
I wrestled with sending the email in which this blog post originally appeared. See, I wrote everything above about three weeks before Lou and the Cardinals announced that he was battling multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
In the art and sports memorabilia world, a feeding frenzy often follows when a celebrity dies. And this turns my stomach. I got no bones with someone creating a work of art that's a tribute to a celebrity who is important to them. But cashing in on a death? I mean, how many Princess Leia T-Shirt ads have you seen this year on Facebook?
I wanted to share this story because it's a good story, and it shows Lou's kindness and gentleness. Yes, Lou is very much alive, but he's suffering. And I don't feel right benefiting from another person's pain.
Here's my dilemma: is there a way to talk about Lou and my art without seeming like one of the profiteers I just called out? I made that graphic at the top of this email the night I heard Lou was sick, likely as my own way of empathizing with his struggle and dealing with my personal sadness. I considered making it into some kind of fundraising item, yet I still think doing so would blur the line between one person's suffering and another's promotion. Instead, if you want to download a high-res version of that image to show your support for Lou, you can have it for free by clicking here.
So here's what I've decided to do: for any Lou Brock piece you purchase, I'll donate all profits to The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Even if you don't want to purchase a print, please consider donating to the MMRF, which you can do by clicking here. It's a great foundation, and it has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
Maybe I'm being naive, but I prefer to think of it as hope.
And right now, I think Lou and his family could use all the hope we can send.