The Universe, TSC and me

“You just don’t understand,” whined Ralphie Stardust.

Actually, I understood perfectly. I just didn’t agree with him, which to Ralphie is the same thing, since he has the lock on Truth.

This time his Truth, and the topic of this convo, was his latest guiding life principle. Note I said “his latest,” because Ralphie changes his guiding principles about as often as I change my skivs. Once it was Bio-Energetics, then it was pyramid power, then the I Ching, crystal healing, aroma therapy, Sri Baba, Sufi dancing — you name it, and he’s believed it (except, of course, for logic and objective testing).

His latest mishegas is The Law of Attractions. It’s simple enough, at least according to Ralphie: “You see,” he said, “whatever you put out to the universe gets returned to you.”

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “You do good things, and good things will happen to you. You do bad things, and bad things will happen to you.”

I didn’t disagree with him because it would’ve been futile. He, like all True Believers, has no use for facts, experts, scientific studies or anything that might disprove his beliefs.

Still, I found the concept of The Law of Attractions intriguing. It seems it’s based on the universe, rather than being an infinite number of planets, suns, moons, black holes and all the rest of the space stuff, is instead a conscious entity. It’s less an astronomical phenomenon than a cosmic Santa Claus. And there it is, way up on high, keeping close tabs on all eight billion of us, doling out either pats on the backs or kicks in the slats, whichever is called for. So, for example, when Lonnie Nafkawitz wins 350 million bucks in the lottery, it’s not because he beat near-impossible odds. Instead, it’s because he always mows his ancient, decrepit neighbor’s lawn. That MUST be it!

I think both Ralphie and his theory are doo-doo when it comes to cause and effect. And actual studies bear me out. The only “proof” ever offered by the believers is anecdotal, which is about as solid as a politician’s promise.

In addition, the theory can’t explain why good people become victims, or why total schmucks get away with murder — both figurative and literal.

Ralphie was so frustrated with me that at our conversations end, he blurted out, “You don’t believe in anything, do you?”

“Oh, wrong again, Ralphie,” I said.

“Yeah?” he said. “So tell me, what DO you believe in?”

“Coincidence,” I said.

“Coincidence?” he said. “That’s it?”

“That’s enough,” I said.

And I meant it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had coincidences so seemingly impossible that no bookie in his right mind would’ve given odds on them.

For example, I was in Chamonix, France, on the observation deck of Mont Blanc, when I literally bumped into one of my favorite students from 20 years before.

Or how about warming up on the starting line at the Boston Marathon in 1974, when I noticed a guy near me looked familiar. And he was — he’d been stationed on the base I was on in Germany. Even odder, he lived in Kodiak Island and the islanders sponsored his trip, so it was a way against the odds he’d’ve there in the first place.

And there have been lots of others, all of them pretty fantastic, but none of them NOT due to conscious plans from The Great Beyond, so much as sheer dumb luck.

Spinning my wheels

Then there have been seemingly impossible events that in fact WERE impossible. My most recent one is The Case of The Smiling Cyclist.

It’s a two-part tale. Part One took place 50 years ago. Part Two took place this summer.

What happened was this: I was driving down Petrova Avenue, when I saw a woman walking on the sidewalk. I didn’t know her, but something about her — some very strange something — was oddly familiar. Probably six months went by before I saw her again, once more walking on Petrova, and once more tweaking my memory banks. I was sure I’d seen her before, but when or where eluded me.

Then, several months later, I saw her again, this time in profile, and it all came back: She was The Smiling Cyclist.

I never knew The Smiling Cyclist’s name, or anything else about her. And I had no way of finding out, since I never saw her after the summer of 1973. She was just a young woman I saw from time to time, riding her bike through town. She rode at a very leisurely pace, and with an enigmatic smile on her face — a homespun Mona Lisa on wheels, so to speak. She was tall, had long hair, a mellow aura and a face that could be described as handsome. Since I saw her ONLY when she was on her bike, I saw her only in profile. And that’s why when I saw the woman on Petrova 50 years later, I couldn’t place her until I saw her from the side.

Of course, while she looked like TSC, as I’d remembered her, she may not have been. But I HAD to find out. This was easier said than done. First, after I first noticed her, I’d seen her about every six months. Second, in order to find out if she was TSC, I’d have to talk to her. And let’s get real: If I approached her, how would she know I wasn’t the local masher? Or maybe a visiting masher, just stopping in for a quick mash?

Another year or so went by and a few months ago, as I was walking my dogs on Petrova, I saw her walking toward me. When she got close, my dogs greeted her, then I did, then we chatted a wee bit and finally I blurted out,“So, were you here in 1973?”

She was taken aback for a bit, and then laughed out loud.

“1973?” she said. “I was barely 10 then.”

“Oh?” I said. “But are you from town?”

“No,” she said. “I’ve only lived here a few years.”

“So I guess you’re not The Smiling Cyclist.”

“The Smiling Cyclist?” she asked, frowning.

I then explained the whole saga of TSC, we chatted some more, and then went our separate ways. And so much for coincidence, I figured, But I figured wrong.

The next day I was in Aldi and ran into Elizabeth Izzo and Lauren Yates. We chatted a bit and then Elizabeth said, “So what’s new?” Ah-HA! It was the perfect time to tell her about TSC saga, with its most recent developments. So I did.

“That’s cool,” said Elizabeth.

“Maybe,” I said. “But it’s also kinda weird.”

“How so?” she said.

“Well,” I said, “it’s not weird that I was wrong, cuz how accurate could my memory be after 50 years? What’s weird is I saw her only a few times in two years, and actually ran into her only once.

“I mean,” I went on, “it’s a small town. You’d think I’d’ve seen her more than that, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” said Lauren.

And at that very moment, a figure appeared at the end of the aisle. A tall figure with long hair and an enigmatic smile. The same tall, long-haired figure with an enigmatic smile who I’d seen only a few times in two years, but I now saw two days in a row. It was uncanny.

It was also a total fluke, since I haven’t seen hide nor long hair of her since.


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