May 9, 2012
Lawrence is a South African Jew who has been in Southern California since he was 10. I met him through his sister, Francine, who briefly dated my eldest brother after they met abroad on a high-school trip. I hadn’t seen Francine in years, so she tagged along for the interview.
Lawrence is wearing a “Cat in the Hat” T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops when we meet. He’s got sleeve tattoos and an eyebrow piercing. He makes statements like, “I really want to change the world,” and he says it so sincerely and with such excitement that he reminds me of a naive college freshman taking his first sociology class. But he’s a divorced 42-year-old father with three daughters, and he’s well aware of the complexities in the world. Six years ago, Lawrence was married and working six days a week running a very successful stone and tile business he had started at 21 — designing his own lines and distributing them around the United States. “I also have some retail stores.” He emulated his father. “The way we were raised in South Africa, you had kids, had a career and made a lot of money,” Francine says. But his divorce rocked him to his foundation. “I also got sober at the same time,” he adds.
“I restructured my business, so I put in 10 hours a week at the office. It always used to be just about money — that’s how I was raised. Now, I just want to love everyone.” His sister jokes with him, “Who are you? Do I know you?” He continues, “In my personal life I’m trying to be really honest and ethical and present, and trying to bring my business in line with that. I’m trying to have every person who works for me get paid days every month to go out and work in their community. We look for anyone who’s struggling and look for ways to help them. A couple of years ago, some of my staff who work in my San Diego store went on a mission to Mexico to help build houses for people who couldn’t afford to build their own homes.”
Lawrence tells me about getting his toenails painted with his daughters — “I don’t want to miss out on something if they’re doing it. My exterior looks like it’s really out there, but my values and everything are traditional. Family’s important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s close to their family — that’s really, really important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s spiritual, grounded and has a strong sense of self. Spiritual practice would be No. 1. Intelligence would be No. 2. What I’m craving more than anything in my life is connectivity — and the only part of my life where I haven’t found that is in a relationship.”
I ask him what he sees his life like with a girlfriend. “I’d love to travel with them, meditate with them, do yoga with them, camp and hike … do one of the trails — as long as they’ll protect me from the bears. I’m scared of the bears,” he says. Francine jokes, “and the dark.” He agrees, “A little bit. I slept with a light on until I was 36. It didn’t dawn on me that I wasn’t scared of the dark until I got divorced. I didn’t know I liked stinky cheese either. And olives.” He laughs. “I believe in fairy tales. I love romantic movies. My daughters look at me in the middle of romantic movies, and I’m crying.”
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Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.