on gold, rainbows and other heavy things


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I awoke on the morning of the second St. Patrick’s day I did’t care about feeling less than rested. I played video games for three hours after losing Trivia the night before. I stayed up until one in the morning. That’s late for me.

I stayed up until St. Patrick’s day.

As we were leaving, the quiz master told us that St. Patrick’s day started in two hours and that happy hour lasted until midnight. I looked around. The bar was quickly filling up with people I don’t want to be around. People who call it “going out” rather than “I want beer.” People who wear a lot of makeup or product in their hair. People who wear tight shirts to show off their muscles. The party crowd.

They were loud and obnoxious, sort of like howler monkeys that had been drinking.

Seth Green was there, too. He wore a millennium falcon T-shirt and played pool with some of his friends. The pool table is exactly in the middle of the seating area, so we all had to watch him while we played trivia. If he came to the valley seeking anonymity, he picked the wrong bar.

But that’s besides the point.

The party crowd was there and I drove myself and I was monstrously broke so I decided not to drink anymore.

So I left.

That night… I just had a hard time caring about St. Patrick’s day.

When I was a kid I would have to wear green or people would pinch me. It got to the point, probably in middle school or later, where no one even really enjoyed the pinching anymore. It was just a thing that you do, like eating a turkey or thanksgiving or stoning a woman to death when she doesn’t marry her rapist. We didn’t necessarily like pinching the same kids (for it was always the same forgetful fools who didn’t wear green) but it had to be done. If not us, then who?

In college, St. Patrick’s day was fun, because drinking was new and exciting and I had a favorite bar r. It was called the J. Clyde, and it had over 50 craft beer on tap. We brought my friend’s roommate there once. He was a hulking defensive lineman on the football team and when he ordered a bud light they laughed at him.

We got a beer for him before he began any manual tracheotomies with nothing but his bare hands and blinding, white rage.

St. Patrick’s Day in grad school was great because the first one was in London. We stood out in the rain in Trafalgar and bought Guinness for ten pounds an eight ounce cup. No one had any fun except me.

But here in LA…

I use Irish Spring soap because I like Irish things.

Wait, that’s not true. It’s not Irish.

I use Irish springs because I like things that make me think about Ireland, a place I’ve never been but know everything about.

Wait, that’s not true either.I know nothing about Ireland, really.

I use Irish Springs because it’s cheap. You can get twelve bars for like four dollars, even in LA.

Every now and then your skin needs something less abrasive, though. So a few weeks ago I went to Target to buy some nice soap.

They had a whole aisle for soap. A two whole rows for lotion. A fucking section for shampoo.

I just wanted less itchy soap. But here was shea butter. Over there was a soap that would apparently make me smell like a wolf. This one would make me smell like the islands of Fiji. Red, black ,blue, green and every color in between was here. Bottles and bars and everything.

It was too much and don’t even get me started on the fucking shampoo.

I just bought some more Irish Springs because it’s cheap and familiar.

The Los Angeles bar scene is like that. Every god damn street corner has the best St. Patrick’s day celebration you’ve ever heard of. They all have better deals than everyone else. They’re everywhere.

That’s not why I’m less enthusiastic than normal this year, though.

It’s mostly because I work until 11 tonight, and then do it again tomorrow.

No… not quite.

It’s because I’m working on three different writing projects at once right now, and they all actually seem to be going somewhere.

No? Maybe.

No. I think what killed it for me was the quiz master.

I told my friend later that night that the thing about famous people is that you’re used to staring at them. You stare at them on the internet, on movie and TV screens, on billboards and posters. All you do is stare at them. You’re conditioned to do it, not in an insidious way, but simply because it’s what you do.

So I was staring at Seth Green when the the quiz master said St. Patrick’s day started in two hours. He was sitting right behind Seth. I had a good view of him. He had a smile on his face and held his arms out wide for the inevitable cheer from the party crowd.

He had a smile on his face but his eyes…

His eyes were dead.

His eyes were dead and the way he said those words, that familiar phrase he must have said a dozen times before, the tone was so practiced and rehearsed, so buried in years of the same thing and same old whatever that it sounded like a cry for help.

He said some joke and everyone laughed, but I just stared at him. I know the quiz master. He’s from Michigan. He’s thirty and he works as a quiz master for his only job and there’s a sadness behind his eyes when he tells party goers that there will be an even bigger party tomorrow night because, frankly, I don’t think he cares, even though he’s Irish.

Hell, if the bar doesn’t care…

So I woke up on the second St. Patrick’s day in a row I didn’t care about and I went downstairs and I got the coffee going and I ate a cookie I made the night before and I thought about what I would make for breakfast. I decided on toast with avocado.

Then I thought about the coming night.

I decided that I’ll just listen to the Cranberries and have a little whiskey. It’s scotch, but I don’t think the spirits will care too much.

The spirits I’m referring to are leprechauns… or maybe the things in my liquor cabinet.

So let’s talk about rainbows.

They aren’t real, you know. Just light refracted through rain drops. There’s no reason to get excited about them, except…

Except there’s something magic about the mundane being made different for no reason. Where once was grey is now color.

There’s one now.

Watch it through the rain-streaked window in your mom’s suburban (it’s the early 2000’s so suburbans are still cool). See how it travels parallel to the car, only not quite as fast.

Touch the glass. You can almost feel it, can’t you?

“Rainbow!” You shout, and your Mom and Dad and Sister turn and look for it like it’s going to save the world.

You could have caused a wreck but fuck it, there’s a rainbow.

“I see it! There it is!” They shout, and you know their excitement is genuine.

Mom turns her eyes back to the road, but you just stare at it and wonder about the future.

Something itches at the back of your skull and you wonder if, not the first time, there’s a pot of gold at the end.

I mean, come on, you know it’s just light refraction in water drops, right? It’s just refracted light and the cranberries are on the radio and your driving home and the world has that clean scent after rain and there’s a rainbow and you know it’s just light but maybe…

Maybe the legends are true. Maybe it’s different this time.

And you know what?

It’s the maybe that’s the best part.

It’s better than going out and finding that gold.

It’s probably better than if there was even any gold there at all.

So let’s talk about St. Patrick’s day.

Do I like St. Patrick’s day?

Yeah, I like St. Patrick’s day.

I’m just not going out this year because I don’t need to because I know that’s not the best part of the rainbow.

Maybe it is for you, but it’s not for me.

So here’s what I’ll do:

I’ll put on the cranberries and sit back in my chair and sip on some Glenlivet and think about a cold London day when I stood in the rain, or about playing beer pong outside in Tallahassee right after a storm, or about pinching that one girl more than anyone else because you hope maybe this time she’ll turn around and kiss you.

It doesn’t work like that, by the way.

And that’ll be enough St. Patrick’s day for me.

Oh, and here’s an old post about leprechauns I wrote in London.

Cheers!

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The Magic Hobo


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I was lying in Hyde Park at midnight on a Saturday, counting the stars.  I was the only person in the area, and I was shocked at the lack of stars.  It must be because I was in the middle of London, and the city lights blocked them out.  I missed the view from the beach back in Florida, a black sky painted with burning white spots over a dark blue sea.  I was shocked yet again when a noise like the snapping of a twig caught my attention, and a homeless person was standing directly in front of me.

He wore a long, brown overcoat, soiled and filthy.  Beneath that he wore an menagerie of clothing that he had crudely sewn into a massive parka of sorts.  A blue polo shirt made up part of a sleeve, three t-shirts and a tank top made up the front, and two sweater vests made up a sleeve on the other side.  Instead of pants he wore a bizarre  kilt made out of bed linens and towels, that reached down to his shabby leather boots, which seemed to be made from two boots each.  He wore a grubby, faded and torn top hat on his head.

He was seven feet if he was an inch, and he had an untamed mane of hair that I suppose constituted for a beard, that reached well down past his waist and covered the majority of his face, so that all you could really make out were two beady eyes and a large, round nose.  There were… things in his beard, that might have once been small animals or food, but that had now been subsumed into the ungainly collective of hair.  His stench was unbearable, like a trashcan full of feces and rotting squirrels.

He asked me if I would like to see a Magic Trick.

Now, when a homeless man looms over you, blocking the starlight in Hyde Park with his bulk, and asks you if you would like to see a Magic Trick, it’s most likely not the sort of trick you would wish to see, but rather something truly horrible and scarring, so I of course said no.

He showed me one anyway.

He clapped his hands together, his knit, fingerless gloves making a dry, dusty crack. He pulled his hands apart slightly, and a brilliant yellow light surrounded us.  He looked up at me and gave me a knowing smile, and it was the first time I was able to tell that he had a mouth.  His gold teeth glittered in the light like aztec gold.  He pulled his hands the rest of the way, and as he drew them apart, a rainbow formed in between them.  He swung his arms in a big arc, like he were throwing paint to the sky, and created a rainbow as big as his wingspan.  It shimmered in a fragile way that reminded me of an especially thin sculpture of blown glass.

I was awestruck.  I reached out to touch it, but with a wave of his hand the rainbow disappeared.  Sparkles and stardust rained down on my face, but disappeared like snow flakes on warm day upon contact with my body.  He bowed, and I applauded.  It took me a moment to realize that the applause seemed oddly stereo, and I looked around and discovered that a pair of rabbits were sitting on either side of me and applauding as well.  The hobo bowed again and held up his hands for silence.  We obeyed.

He asked if I’d like to see another.

I said sure.

He rubbed his hands together excitedly and then presented me his shirt cuffs.  He pulled back his sleeves to demonstrate that there was indeed nothing up them.  There wasn’t anything there, but the rabbits got up to inspect his sleeves more closely anyway.  They’re untrusting creatures.

He reached up into his sleeve and began to pull out many lightly colored squares of cloth, tied together in a long line.  He began to pace around us, laying down cloth in a large circle, one line adjacent to the next, so that each new rotation had a greater circumference than the last.  He must have pulled out a full mile of cloth, until the length finally ended with his undershirt and underwear, an almost obligatory occurrence for any “pulling cloth out of my sleeves trick”, and we were surrounded by a gigantic spiral of color, far more than any one man could fit up his sleeve, even a man of his great size.

He bowed again, and we applauded ecstatically.  The audience was now positively packed with creatures of the park: squirrels and rabbits, snakes and beetles, sparrows and pigeons.  Some of the wiser ones had brought snacks like peanuts and popcorn to munch on during the show.  They joked and laughed with one another, having a jolly time.  I eyed them enviously.

He asked us if we would like to see another Magic Trick.  We roared in approval, stood up and screamed in approval, beat our chests and slobbered for more.  He smiled widely.

The homeless man, who I was now beginning to think wasn’t your run of the mill hobo, raised his hand yet again for silence.  He stood there, with his head down, humming to himself, like in meditation, at first quietly, and then louder and louder, until he was positively shrieking.  His arms, which at first were held at the center of his chest in prayer, rose with his pitch, until his body was forming a cross.

It was then we noticed he was levitating 13 feet in the air.  The crowd was dumbstruck, silent.

And then we applauded.

We applauded like we had been struck blind at birth and this homeless conjuror had restored our sight.  We applauded like it was the end of the world, and it’s entire history was on stage, taking a bow.  We applauded like this, and only this, was the only thing ever worth applauding for.

I hollered for more.

He was suddenly on the ground.  There was no transition.  The sound of the applause had changed, too.  I looked around.  There was no one else there, no squirrels or rabbits, snakes or beetles, sparrows or pigeons.

Just him and me.

He stalked towards me, breathing heavily through his mouth.  He got very close, his face mere centimeters from mine. I could almost taste the rancid smell of old Sainsbury’s apple cider creeping out of his mouth.  He smiled, and I could see the sores on his gums, and the rot in his teeth that had once been gold.

He asked me if I would like to see the Last Trick, and he smiled like a crocodile.  I only wept and nodded.

He backed up a few feet and stood by himself for a moment.  He clapped his hands, one last time, and changed.

The change was instantaneous.  What was once a ratty old hobo was now a beautiful, young woman.  She wore bright neon spandex leggings, a zebra print, loose fitting shirt, and large hoop earrings.  She seemed to have been taken straight from the 1980’s.

She smiled sweetly, and kind of sadly, like she pitied me.

“At last.” She said.  Something was strange.  Despite sitting down, I was almost at eye level with her.  I shifted around, and my movement made a strange rustling sound.  A disturbing sound.  A sudden thought, a terrible thought, crept into my mind, and my face contorted with dread.  My heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster as I lifted my hands to my face, and saw the ratty, fingerless gloves.  I clapped them together and they made a dry, dusty sound.  I reached for the top of my head, and found a small, grubby top hat.  I felt my long scraggly beard, and the filth up my sleeves.

I was he.

“Quite a trick.” She said, adjusting her makeup as she looked into a mirror she was holding.  “I hoped you paid attention.  You really should have paid attention.”  She snapped the mirror shut and returned it to her purse.  “I would say I’m sorry, but he wasn’t.  He never is.”

And with that she walked out of my life, leaving me alone, at midnight in Hyde Park on a Saturday.  I wondered if it had to be Saturday at midnight for the trick to work, but I realized I had time to figure it out.  I had all the time in the world.  I fell back onto the grass and looked up at the sky.  My god, it was full, full of stars.

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