Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Real Magic

Since starting this blog a couple of weeks ago, my goal was to post once a week. Some weeks I may only post some lyrics from one of my songs. Others I may only post a photo or a short thought that I found inspiring. Things that I run onto during my day to day - that need to be noted. Experiences that I want to share, but I wouldn't just run up to a buddy and say "Hey, guess what moved me today?" Perhaps I should, but I am sure folks think I share too much already. Man, if they only knew.

This week, a lot rolling around in my head, so I am posting again.

There is a book from Wayne Dyer that I read quite a few years back. Real Magic. It's about noticing miracles, large and tiny, in our world and how they can affect our lives. I am not a huge Wayne Dyer follower, but for me, this book struck a few G chords. Even if you are not a spiritual person, it is a good read just as a reminder that sometimes a cigar is NOT just a cigar.

My wife, Brenda, raises at least one brow when I quip "I believe in magic." But I do. I will tell her and the kids - I believe in Santa Claus. After they realize that I am serious each time, I suppose they consider that I am brainwashed into believing that he exists, but I don't believe Santa exists. However, I do believe "in" Santa. I believe in the value of Santa and all that goes with it. To me - he is magic and that magic is real.

Still with me? Okay, the Santa thing is an extreme example.

If you have read the other posts in my blog so far, you will know that they are about "magic." Everyday, ordinary...magic. Miracles that have touched me deeply enough that I want to remember them and the feeling I get when I realize they have occurred. Some day I will post my "Three Crows" experience. Not your everyday magic.

The taxi driver in Vegas. The one in New Orleans. The one I haven't mentioned from New York - who claimed to be the richest man in the world. When I inquired about his wealth - he showed me photos of his family. All taped to his dashboard. A tiny nugget of magic for me.

Today's miracle is brought to you by Zack. Zack is a boy, I would guess to be about 16 or so. He goes to my church and is faced with multiple physical and mental disabilities. But the glass is always, in my experiences with him, full. Not half full. Certainly not half empty or worse. At least at church he is always glad to just have a seat, although he doesn't stay in it. He wanders around sometimes during the service to spread, what I call "Zacklove."

Recently, he underwent some surgery on one of his feet and was recovering, but he was at church. Pretty much, this situation has just slowed down his mission, but not his will as he shuffles around.

Last Sunday, I took an "emergency" pause from the Sermon (sorry Jerry) to visit the water fountain. While out in the lobby, I ran onto Zack and his father, who was helping him to the restroom or possibly to children's church. I couldn't help but notice his cast and his sock half on during his painful struggle to keep upright as he sort of dragged his ailing foot behind him. My heart went out to him. I felt bad for him and his family.

As Zack and his dad walked closer I must have been focused on his situation and not really "him." By the time I was a few feet from him I looked up to his face. He was grinning ear to ear and looking straight at me. Once we were close enough for him to lunge toward me - I smiled and he responded in record time with a thoughtful, genuine, "I love you."

I am sure that he was the only person who said those words to me that day and I shall never forget them. Or the real magic he shared with me. "Zackmagic."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Arriving New Orleans

It was April. 2002.

It was quite a break for me to leave Chicago in the "spring." At least that's what they call it, despite ne'er a daffodil in sight. Sorry, but being a son of the south, if I ain't lookin' at flowers in April. It ain't spring.

Seven months - post 9-11. I was still apprehensive about flying. Never used to be, but after a coupla' bad flights from Las Vegas and the September 11th tragedy, I had my white-knuckled reasons.

As I sat at O'hare waiting to board, I did some heavy profiling. I wasn't getting on the plane with anyone that looked middle eastern, had an accent, shifted their eyes nervously, or parted their hair in the middle. It was just that simple.

A few Asians, an Indian or two, three guys from the South Side with backwards baseball caps, and a dark-skinned business man with platform shoes. I said a few prayers to the four directions and boarded anyway. Praying mostly that the homies might help me kick some ass if needed. Confession - in the months following 9-11, I always wore tennis shoes and sweat pants on flights in case the requirement for more athletic endeavors ensued. And I never napped.

I couldn't really relax, but managed the flight. It was going to be great being in the South. Humidity is my friend. And New Orleans just has her way. If you have ever been there - you know. I hopped into a taxi and headed to the Hilton. I was beginning to get excited about this rendezvous. Red beans and Rice from Mike Anderson's or maybe even spicy Jambalaya from the old worn Acme Oyster Bar. Couldn't wait. But when I entered the taxi, I was greeted by a driver about seventy years old with a foot tall turban and a foot long gray beard. And I am almost positive his last name wasn't Kershaw. I felt annoyed.

In the months following 9-11, I found myself judgmental and prejudiced. I had never really felt those feelings before - especially, with any real conviction. Inside - I uttered to myself, "Who the hell is this guy? What has happened to the South? Sleeper cell out of Preservation Hall? Cafe Du Monde now serving beniets dusted with anthrax? Will I make it to the hotel alive?" Fear overtook reason.

And then, out of the blue, as if in mid-conversation, the driver says to me, "You know sir, I have saved my whole life so I could live my dream." I remained quiet. "My dream of coming to America." He peered in the rear view mirror for my reaction. What the heck just happened? Was he reading the lines on my face or my mind?

More silence and then I looked back at his flashing eyes cutting from the mirror. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" I mumbled back. "I have waited my entire life to come to America with my family." I asked if they were here with him. He replied, "Only my daughter and my wife."

So I bit. "Why did you want to come to America?" I asked. In his gravelly falsetto-ish voice He replied, "To be free. I have wanted to come to here since I was a boy. It took longer than I thought, but I finally made it."

Okay, so now I was completely busted and suddenly a student.
Who was this man? Was he sent to me? This was creepy. But in my introspective curiosity, I knew there was more to the story. There always is. It was obvious this man from another world, in all his wisdom and experience, was my teacher.

We didn't talk much after that. Lesson learned and I was thankful. He dropped me off, as if he were George Burns in "Oh God," at my hotel. I waited for another sign. Another nugget. I looked in his eyes as he gave me a receipt, and he nodded his head. "Thank you, sir." The moment was over. Or was it?

Eighty degrees and humid. Very humid. I loved it. It WAS New Orleans for sure. Red beans and rice would never taste so good and if I choke on the beniets - it would just be the powdered sugar. And, yes. Daffodils bloomed. Springtime in America.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Arriving Las Vegas

Arriving Las Vegas, last Saturday to work for 3 days, I call my cohort when I arrived at the airport. He is a comedian and was emceeing this event that I was directing and was waiting at the hotel.

He asked me if I had any idea what was going on at our hotel (The Palms). I said no. He replied - The AVN awards and I needed to get my butt to the hotel.Which I responded - "What is that?" It was the Adult Video News awards that night in our hotel and the place was crawling with porn stars. After a few "No ways" and snide remarks from him and possibly one or two by me, I hopped into a taxi to go meet him.

Now - I must derail by admitting that on the flight I had been reading Fulton Oursler's "The Greatest Faith Ever Known." Reading about the early days of Christianity and Paul's conversion, this book really takes you there. So I was feeling rather "connected" after reading for a couple of hours prior to my landing in Sin City.

So - my conversation with Greg, back at the hotel, led my mind down this hyper loaded path as I waited on a taxi at the airport. My brain was racing. Blood was surging. What does a hotel lobby full of porn stars look like? Is this was "hitting the jackpot" is all about?

I get into the taxi, with the usual third world driver and told him I was going to the Palms. Deciding to be more "forgiving" I wouldn't give him a hard time when he would probably jet us onto the interstate to gain more fare miles, rather than taking the local route that is $5 cheaper. To my surprise - he automatically took the local route. That never happens. Guess they're not all crooks.

Once we were on our way - my mind still wandering toward adult "distraction," the driver turned his radio on. He kept it low and directed to his side. As I listened - I heard the tones of Chris Tomlin singing "How Great is Our God, sing with me..." A chill ran up my spine. My surging blood stopped cold.

Mr. Baltic Russian Vegas Taxi Driver was listening to Christian radio! He turned it up a bit and peered in his rear view mirror in my direction.

Immediately, I was focused on How Great my God was and his whopping me upside the head on Swenson Ave. I have taken 2 million taxis in my life, all over the world, and how many times had I heard Christian radio? Only once - today.

I asked the driver - "So you listen to Christian Radio?" He replied, "The only thing." I asked what he was doing in Vegas. He responded in a thick accent - "God's work." I hushed.

When we arrived at the Hotel Gomorrah, he let me out and I gave him the extra five bucks that it would taken to go the long way and said "Thanks Brother." He knew what I meant.

With my holy blinders on - I checked in without temptation, without curiosity, but with plenty of compassion. There is a lot of work to be done in Las Vegas - I am glad my comrade was there to do it.

Moral - There are a lot of ways to make a living in this world. But only one way to salvation I suppose. Even if it's in a taxicab.