Trying on labels like a soup can

John Cook practices meditation during lunch as part of his new interest in Buddhism.

CLAY TURNER – Hoof Prints Staff

For his friend Kolbi’s sixteenth birthday party, John Cook got a group of people together to go to IHOP and celebrate. When they got there, he noticed one of the waitresses had her eyes on him.

She had just graduated college so, naturally, he told her he was twenty-four. Throughout the meal, he sat back and waited for the right moment to do something out of the ordinary that might attract some attention. When she came back to clear their table, he got down on one knee proposal style and asked her for her number. Everyone in the restaurant stared at them as she looked down and refused. That was the last he ever heard from her.

As might be easily surmised, John Cook does most of the things he does for the sake of attention. He thinks he has a personality disorder of some sort, and he never gets mad, preferring to brighten people’s day up. But through his attention-seeking adventures he has never exactly decided what “genre” or “label” he wants to be.

He has tried both the goth and hippy phases and at the time is going through the motions of dressing up as a Buddhist, something people who see him at school have probably guessed by now. This venture started when his friend’s grandma, a Buddhist, showed him how to meditate, piquing his interest. That and the kindness of the religion are what draw him in. As a Christian, he feels that Buddha had similar teachings as Jesus, but he doesn’t plan to become too involved with some of the more distant beliefs that some Buddhists share.

Even though he is practicing Buddhism right now, he may not be into it a few weeks from now, possibly having moved on to his next phase. But through all this changing, he likes to keep a piece of each phase with him whether it be meditating, listening to punk music, adoring the aspects of the hippy culture, or poring over the art and literature that goths so enjoy.

“Art in general is a big part of my life,” John said.

Being color blind, he isn’t really into visual art but nonetheless buys drawings and poems off of students at school that he fancies and sometimes frames them afterwards. He also writes his own songs. As of this moment, he has written 38 songs total, ranging from gospel to love to parodies of famous songs from back in the day. He is into folk music and 70s and 80s music as well. John doesn’t just appreciate music but is quite talented at it himself. He can play five instruments: the guitar, violin, saxophone, flute and the piano. His favorite musician is Bob Dylan.

“He’s a terrible singer, though,” John said. “One being famous without having to hit a note inspires me.”

This diversity in taste is reflected in his fantasy dinner party guest list. Dr. Phil, Oprah, and a grandma would represent the good side of society while Ozzy Osbourne and Rhon’ll, John’s African American imaginary friend that disguises himself as a tree, would sit on the other side of the table, symbolizing delinquency and corruption. Of course the interaction of this strange assortment of people would take place over none other than a king’s table.

When John grows up, he hopes to either be a preacher or a travelling gypsy musician. If his current indecisiveness concerning what he wants to be labeled is in any way indicative of his future, John will probably go on to be a travelling gypsy preacher who sings his sermons and proposes that the female members of the congregation give him their numbers after the service of course.