It is said paradox is the way of the world. One cannot have good without evil; light without darkness; fresh dog doots without clean Sunday shoes -- OK, that’s a stretch, but you get the point.
It is also said what comes around goes around. That’s karma -- and in my experience it runs right over dogma every time.
Karma follows you through the generations, through several lifetimes, through eternity itself, it seems. I am convinced, inasmuch as folks look at me and see the south end of a northbound mule, I must have been exponentially worse in my last life. Otherwise I’d be filthy rich and have all my hair.
Then there are those moments more akin to Murphy’s Law, as in, “The number of really beautiful women who are going to pass you on a deserted stretch of highway increases in exponentially direct proportion to how far your index finger is up your nose at any given time.”
Moments like that are somewhat karmic, but generally quantifiable.
Then there are those inexplicable occasions when you do something stupid and embarrassing as if by predestination. It’s not that you have a plan that goes horribly wrong, like meeting the parents of a first date with your fly down. It’s more like what I would guess more devout folk might consider demonic possession. You’re simply minding your own business and it just happens. The guy who is about to eat a bologna sandwich, only to be crushed by a falling communications satellite, is a somewhat extreme -- but not necessarily unlikely -- example.
Happily, I seem to have less of these moments than I used to, although occasionally someone catches me singing the occasional Salty Seaman song or reciting dirty limericks to myself out loud.
But occasionally, truly spectacularly bad things can happen. There was the time, a few years back, when I decided to grab a bite to eat at a place I also wanted to book my band.
I walked in and the timing seemed perfect. The lunch rush -- and this place used to get really busy at lunch -- was over. A couple of guys enjoying the day off were sitting at the bar knocking back a couple of cold ones. A couple of women and their children were enjoying a late lunch outside at one of the patio tables. I grabbed a seat at one of these tall round tables sort of away from anyone else, ordered a dozen or so chicken wings, and proceeded to give my undivided attention to one of a dozen televisions over the bar.
Does this easy going, bucolic setting sound like a backdrop for imminent disaster? Of course not.
It’s funny -- funny weird and horrifying, not funny ha-ha -- what your body will do sometimes. When you’re in elementary school, sooner or later you will loudly and involuntarily break wind in class, usually when everyone is quiet, attentive, and instantly able to ascertain the source. A hormone-addled teenage guy will have those moments when he just cannot get up from his desk. It has to do with paying attention to hot girls in short skirts and tight sweaters rather than Euclid or Shakespeare.
Unfortunately, the problem with the old body doing odd and embarrassing things on its own only gets worse with age. In this case, my body chose to hit me with a king-sized Charlie horse to the back of the thigh. I mean, sudden, intense pain, completely out of the blue, apropos of nothing.
Of course, when horrific pain suddenly hits, I generally respond with an involuntarily shout, Tourette’s-like, of any of a number of pain-relieving incantations, usually of extreme scatological and/or blasphemous content. Further treatment may vary; for example, a stubbed toe in the dark will receive immediate treatment of above mentioned incantations plus a helpful one-legged rain dance.
In this case, I grabbed my table and started stomping my foot. I uttered my incantations in a tone of voice which should have broken windows and set off car alarms all the way across the parking lot. And as I stomped, I lost my balance, the table tipped, and my very large and full glass of water slammed against the table and bounced to the floor, followed by a basket full of chicken wings in various stages of consumption.
What is it about edible and breakable objects that, when they are suddenly subject to the laws of gravity, they seem to float, as if in suspended animation, right up until that moment you reach for them, at which point they plummet with the same speed and violent intensity as a meteorite?
I looked up from the carnage to see employees, managers, and the few customers still in the place staring at me first in horror -- no doubt they thought I was having a massive coronary or a major seizure -- then in helpless amusement. After all, it’s not every day you witness demonic possession in a chicken wing joint.
All I could do was mumble an apology and offer to help clean up the mess.
Oddly enough, we never did get a gig there.