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December 12th, 2003

canary yellow

"Five minutes to nine", my watch said, with that certain insouciance with which it would converse, if only it could converse. I clicked on "file", then "print", then "OK" and watched the last document of the last waning moments of my Thursday evening at the office wheel its way into the tray. I got so much done today. It's perhaps a good thing to realize when something actually got done.

I remember a time when working until nine, while not a mainstay, was more a matter of routine than now. I remember with a shudder the 56 hour stint without sleep during a busy work time, years ago. I'm older now, and if not wiser, then perhaps more realistic about what a body without sleep can do.

I didn't like missing the return of Dr. Carter to ER, although ER, like most television series this year, just seems so darn tired. I lately have a fantasy of being an ill guest on ER. I knew a woman whose boyfriend got a guest spot as a patient who died mid-show. I'm concerned that I'd get some hepatic condition that made me canary yellow.

Things are a bit more ravenous right now, I suppose, although it may be that I'm just pondering, weak and weary.
She seemed a funny sort of gypsy, with her hair a vivid blonde not known in nature, her skin layered with china doll make-up, and her outfit a kind of tailored Junior League chartreuse. Her home was an immaculate tract home, three stories high, with a five car garage, and a front yard full of stunted ornamental trees, hacked up like a topiaryman's fondest dream. Her Texas twang reminded me more of a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader than of a mystic seer. She even had a huge button on which said "Bush/Cheney 2004!" and another button which said "I have see the future and it is not a Donkey!".

But when she started to wield that tarot deck, I knew she was the real thing. For one thing, she could whip those cards around like a Vegas blackjack dealer. I always feel that mystics are so slack--but not her. She was the goods, the real deal, and when she asked me to cut the cards before the reading began, I knew I was getting a fair deal.

The funny thing about the reading began, though, when the first card came out all weird. I mean, who ever got the SUV card during a reading? I nearly goggled when I saw that giant thing, looking more like a misplaced bit of desert military hardware than a tarot card. "Very good!" she whispered, "already you show you are a good consumer!". Then she flipped up another card, and it was the Gerrymander. "Ah. good, the Fates declare that we can control the future". I was getting puzzled by now, because you expect trumps and cups and necromancers when you buy a tarot reading, not a picture of an obscure governor in the shape of a lizard-y thing.

But she wasn't done yet. Next she pulled up a card with 7 pigs on it. "Ah, the 7 of pork!", she said, "this is a very bad card, but a necessary evil. Here, I must cleanse you". She then touched my forehead with something I'd swear was a Handi-Wipe.

I was just about freaked out, and ready to hit the exit, when she said "just one more card, dear", and grasped my wrist with a vise-like grip that indicated to me she'd spent a lot of time in the gym. I must say that she was the fittest mystic I've ever met, and she had a way of making polyster seem pleasingly wrinkle-free. I waited nervously, as she reached down to the deck. She flipped up the final card. On it I saw a picture of George W. Bush. But it wasn't just a picture. I could swear his lips were moving. That card was talking! and do you know what it said? Well, that's the creepy part. I could not understand a word he said, because everytime he opened his mouth, some auction barker kept saying "Sold to this fine corporation!", just like in the old tobacco commercial, except there was no auction bidding. It was all just sold. The reader swiftly picked up the card, and said "there's no future in talking about that".

I got up to leave, and paid for my reading, and then she looked at me, deeply into my eyes as if she were looking into my soul, and she whispered, as if it were Saturday night and we were having drinks in a bar somewhere, "it's all in the cards, dear (altho she said it "Deeeyar"), and you can't escape what is to come".

I learned my lesson about mysticism that day. Don't go looking for the future. You may just find you're living in it.

pausing at the end of the middle

"I'll give you television. I'll give you eyes of blue. I'll give you a man who wants to rule the world"--old Iggy Pop song

This long week ended so quickly. I got so much done, but I sit and count up things I have yet to do. Lately I'm doing all sorts of stray bits of self-assessment. I went from a client meeting to the doctor's office today, taking a customary wrong turn and driving in south Dallas, past well-worn frame homes in which people live. I always feel that I'm wandering among other lives. This makes me think about my own. In so many ways, this year went as well as can be expected, but I see challenges and goals scattered before me like so many tinkertoys, waiting to be linked. I think the key, though, is to avoid a kind of personal imperialism. It's so easy to see oneself as a success or failure depending on the ribbons one has achieved--did I publish? did I win a big verdict? Did I stand out in some way? I respect striving, and I do not denigrate success. But it's not about building the biggest dragon's hoard of victory cups and commemorative plates.

I ran my age through an actuarial estimator which applies a life expectancy table. If I am the typical 44 year old man, I have 35 years on average to live (I initially autonomously typed "win"). That means I am on the downhill slope. I'll resist the metaphoric snowboard and the name Sonny Bono in my metaphor. I'll remember, though, that it's not what I do, but who I am. Who am I, really? Why, who I am, of course. But that's what I must remember in 2004. I wish to be who I am.