Stay gold, Ponyboy

stay gold, ponyboy

“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” – quote from The Outsiders found under a heater in Vancouver.

This weekend, I dove into a local store on West 4th in Vancouver to escape the cold. I popped into the washroom to touch up before I headed for dinner with friends. And I noticed this odd bit of urban graffiti.

First, someone had adhered a sticker that says Stay Gold. I tried, but Google doesn’t reveal any links to electrical companies, heater suppliers or the like. No idea where that sticker came from.

Stay gold, Ponyboy quote

Beside the Stay Gold sticker, someone (else?) scrawled, “Ponyboy”. This turned the sticker into a more clear reference to S.E. Hinton‘s 1967 novel, The Outsiders. I’m not sure about the rest of North America, but the book was on the 8th grade curriculum in my part of Canada in the 80s and became a popular 1983 movie. I read it when I was in second grade and struggled with understanding how you could be considered to have long hair when all it did was touch your collar, so it made more sense when I read it again when I was 12 or so. The movie was a who’s who of young Hollywood, with C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio and Patrick Swayze. The book and movie’s portrayals of gang violence, abusive and dysfunctional families and criminal activities was controversial, but the book developed a cult following among 80s teens.

The “Stay Gold, Ponyboy” quote comes from a letter written by Johnny, toward the end of the novel and movie. It’s a reference to Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, a poem the lead character, Ponyboy Curtis, read to Johnny. I won’t say much more, in case you want to read the book or see the movie. But Johnny directs his friend, Ponyboy, to hold on to his innocence, stay true to himself and maintain his youth.

I’m sharing this odd shopping trip find – the Stay Gold, Ponyboy quote graffiti – because it stood out to me. As we forge forward in our lives and careers, it can be easy to become jaded, disgruntled and distanced from where we started. We can forget the wonder of our experiences, always focusing on the end goals or past hurts. Sometimes, just taking time to notice the wonder in the world can make a difference. For me, finding a weird bit of graffiti under an electric heater in a shop gave me a bit of that glee you have when you’re a kid and you find a bit of treasure.

I’m posting about this weird find because, first of all, it was just so odd. But I’m also posting about it because it made me remember being 12 years old and sharing the pleasure of the book, the movie and the Robert Frost poem with my friends. Even years later, in our graduation yearbooks, we wrote things like “Stay gold, Ponyboy” and “Nothing gold can stay”. We were young and full of hope and promise, but we also connected to the darkness and dysfunction of the book and the idea that we needed to hold on to our integrity and optimism. For me, finding that same quote under a heater in a store brought back some of that youthful glee. A giggle at the joke. A smug smile for getting it. A bit of curiousity about how it came to be there, under a heater, in the back of a store – and for how long and by whom.  It was a found treasure and a delight, like when one of my kids brings me a beautiful stone he’s found or a stick that looks just like a sorcerer’s wand. And I think all of us, whether we’re forging ahead in our careers or our lives, sometimes need that bit of wonder. So, today, I shared this funny little find with you.