Friday, September 22, 2006

On Magic, Karma & Luck

A magic day, the kind when paths open in front of you in the grocery store, in the parking lot, in traffic. I remember a concert once upon a time when this happened; foot traffic was thick and I was going against the flow but somehow the sea of humanity parted and it was as if I was walking alone on a trail somewhere. I had a good buzz going but this was happening without thinking--I was traveling at a good rate and no one even brushed or challenged me. I'm normally placid in crowds, content to keep my place in line and give way as necessary. I like to think it's politeness or respect and not timidity but it's just the way I am, the way I was raised. Anyway, back to my magic day...

I had a bellyache from hell and reminded myself once again that I need to give up late night pizza and all the cheese associated thereof. But once I got myself moving the magic began. Here's what scares me: I put ten dollars in the change machine at the laundromat and received $20 worth of quarters. I would have suspected that I accidentally stuck a twenty in the slot--except that the same thing happened to me two weeks ago and so I double-checked this time. What bothers me is karma. This is the kind of thing that ALWAYS comes back on you. Always. I have vainly prided myself on being honest to a fault in matters such as this. I give clerks the pennies that I owe even when they blow it off. I think the fact that it was a machine caused me to turn a blind eye but the fact remains: the money belonged to someone else. So now I have to go back and explain and do the right thing. I imagine that not many people put tens in the slot or else they would have had the machine serviced. I see many people who will give the attendant a ten rather than use the machine. You can imagine what will happen when the wrong person finds out though. That person will take a c-note and have it broken down. Then they will go get $200 worth of change. And I imagine the attendant (who's a little crusty anyway) will hear all the coins jangling and go "Hey, hey, HEY! What you doing thell? You no need one-hundled dolla quawtahs".

Speaking of karma. I'm an asshole. I keep hearing that Dennis Leary song in my head every day lately and I know why. I owe a public apology to my buddy. When you can count your friends on two fingers you really don't need to be throwing them away. See, I couldn't face ya to tell you that I couldn't make that trip to Austin that we planned so many months ago. I couldn't afford it. I was supposed to be working steady by now. I knew you'd try to pay my way and I knew you couldn't afford it either. And I've been wanting to crawl into a hole. I told a friend (the other one), "No one wants me anymore" and he said "Yeah, but we're damn good looking". Reminded me of what my mom used to say, "Too bad you couldn't have been born rich instead of so good looking". Fact is, I could use a little less looks (though there's really none to spare anymore at this stage of life) and a lot more money.

There's another sad little truth about the matter: if I take a trip out of town I may not be coming back. In all probability I won't come back. I am miserable in Houston and I haven't been able to develop a rapport in better than ten years. Most of my antipathy is created by the freeways. I don't think traffic will ever be solved in this city--there are just too many cars on the road. You finish widening a stretch but the new road has to bottleneck down somewhere. By the time more lanes are completed it's already time to add more. I see the stress and the rage that overtakes drivers every time I'm out. Usually it envelopes me while driving three blocks to the grocery store. I keep telling people that every time I think I've seen everything, someone shows me something new.

Me and a guy were driving home from work the other day and we commented how people will try to pass a string of cars lined up for an exit. Then they want to cut in at the last minute and tie up two entire lanes while they maneuver. Sure enough, a pickup did it to us. We ignored him but he kept coming until we were forced to brake and pull off. He was willing to hit our beater with his brand new truck to squeeze in. We both cussed the driver and later pulled along his right side when traffic opened up. Our driver cussed their driver and spit on his car. We were separated again but fortune brought as back together. At which point our driver cussed them and spit on them again. He's from the Northeast and has a bit of the New York driver mentality that you hear so much about. This didn't lead to a shooting or anything but you can see how it happens. There's just no politeness or respect out there. Everyone is in a hurry. People race through traffic to be first to the stoplight. People pass on the shoulder. People race through parking lots and through apartment complexes. And always people imagine themselves to be much better drivers than they actually are. That's the scary part. Luck, and not reflexes or skill, saves them for a time. But sooner or later luck turns and they are the ones holding everyone else up.

But I was talking about leaving Houston. To me it's a money-hungry, lucre-chasing, dog-eat-dog place; it's unihibited greed driven by fear and insecurity. You think it's the same everywhere but the attitude about it is different some places. In California it seemed there was a lot of money and people really didn't mind spending it so maybe it only appeared more casual. I was warned about it when I arrived here. "Everyone wants to get over on someone". "People don't want to spend it but they sure want to take it". And at every party that I've ever attended here there has always been someone who says "Well, it's free beer". And you realize that is the only reason they're present. It was a new concept to me the first time I heard it. It's like "I don't want to be here but if it's free it's for me". I guess my point is, I don't like everything to be defined by dollars and cents. I don't want to negotiate and haggle over every little dime that is spent. I don't like companies that neglect the real workers to feed their bottom line. And I'm not going to a party for free beer if fun isn't included.

So where does that leave me? Well it seems I'm on the verge of adding destiny to this discussion. And I don't know where that fits in with magic, karma and luck. I have an idea but I don't want to go there right now. I just want to stop this spin and get off. So Jay, I'm sorry. Damn I've spent a lot of time apologizing for one thing or another in this life. But when you can't make 'em right ya gotta do the only thing ya know. BTW, do they have strip centers everywhere in Austin like they do here? I got an idea for a next gig that beats pushing brooms; washing windows is kinda rewarding afterwards when yer looking at shiny-clean glass. Speaking of, my reflection doesn't say good-looking to me unless ya mean in some odd kinda way. But maybe a reflection is magic in itself. And maybe that magic will help me get my karma in line. And then maybe I'll get lucky.