Animal photobombs are da bomb!
I’d just graduated from college and, being pragmatic, understood that becoming a Nobel Prize-winning author, legendary rock star, and Oscar-winning actor might take a few years, so I acquired a day job installing electronic security devices in retail stores. But I had almost no idea what I was doing, so in a way I’d already accomplished one of my goals: I was making a living as an actor.
It was a slo-mo summer day at a women’s boutique in Santa Monica, California, and the 60-something manager had nothing better to do than chat me up while I stripped wires and prayed nothing would catch fire. Mid-chat, however, she spotted a man on the Promenade and said, “I know him!” She hurried out the door.
Half an hour later she rushed back in, bursting to tell me about her encounter. She did know him: “We went to high school together, but I haven’t seen him in almost 50 years! I teased him, ‘How can you just sit around? Are you independently wealthy or something?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And he wasn’t joking! So, I said, ‘Really? How?’ And he said, ‘I invented the parking meter.’”
Whoa! Now she had my attention. It turns out…
The summer after Smart Guy and his buddy graduated from high school, they were “looking around” when they noticed a parking cop ticketing a car. Minutes later they spotted a wind-up alarm clock in a five-and-dime window. “Hey!” they said in unison, “what if we put one of those in front of every parking space?” So they pooled their resources and bought the alarm clock, then took it home, tore it apart, and figured out how to set it off with a coin drop. By the time they were in their 20s, their patented meter had made them both independently wealthy.
It took me a long time to process the information, but I slowly began to understand that success is not a matter of “designing our fate,” as if we lived in a one-person vacuum. Nor is it a matter of passively “waiting for luck;” the only thing I ever caught while napping was flies. It’s matter of “looking around,” of being ready to use what we’re given. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, some are intrepeneurs, making small but significant in-house improvements–like the matchbox factory worker who figured out how to save his company thousands of dollars a year, by putting the striker on only one side of the box instead of two (true story).
But the greatest successes are human ones. Mother Teresa saved thousands of lives by figuring out how to feed India’s untouchables. Ancient Israel’s King Hezekiah “accidentally” rediscovered the teachings of Moses, and by reinstating them saved his nation from political and moral collapse. His secret to success? “In everything he undertook,” 1 Chronicles 31:20-21 tells us, “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”
“If Adventure has a Name…”
Impulsive actions make great movie scenes. But in real life they can get you killed. Or worse: in trouble with Mom and Dad.
I mentioned previously that I was clumsy. I’ve come to the conclusion that my clumsiness is rooted in impulsive actions taken while I am, 1) moving in one direction and, 2) looking in another. There’s never been a time when this wasn’t so; I was moving in one direction and looking in another when I exited the womb.
All of the events that happened in Downey, California, occurred before I was 7, because that was when we moved away. So, although the exact date I climbed The Great China Cabinet is unknown, it was definitely during the classical period known as The Downiad.
I decided to scale it at around 4 a.m. (Mom and Dad were still inexplicably asleep.) It was a mysteriously dark summer morning, perfect for adventure. After much deliberation, roughly 1/3rd of a second, I began my ascent. I opened the bottom drawers, et voilá, two perfect steps appeared! Soon my feet reached a precipice, above which lay the legendary shelf-lands.
I opened the oaken doors, careful not to lean too far back. The climbing was easy at first: the porcelain serving dishes and crystal goblets watched placidly as I glided past them on my epic journey upward. But soon the cliff began to rattle. I tightened my grip. The rattling ceased. But then something occurred that I was powerless to stop: an avalanche! The entire mountain lurched forward. And then, in one breathless moment The Great China Cabinet that had stood for millennia crashed to the valley of Living Room far below!
Why wasn’t I killed? Somehow those open doors and out-slid drawers created a hollow just big enough for a skinny sherpa-boy.
Mom and Dad, who weren’t awake when my adventure began, were now suddenly present. They were terrified that I’d been killed. Or that I hadn’t and they’d have to do it themselves.
Miraculously, I survived without a graze! The porcelain didn’t.
How is this a scar story? I felt so bad about destroying Mom and Dad’s china that a week later I decided to make it up to them by fixing them breakfast in bed. At 4 a.m.
Who knew those old glass milk bottles were so heavy? Or so slippery when you lifted them off high refrigerator shelves? With one hand? While fishing for strawberry jam with the other? And looking over your shoulder? Or that they hurt so bad when they detonated on your foot, producing torrents of pink milk?
I still have an elegant half moon scar on my left foot to match the one on my right. And every time I look at it, it reminds me of the moon on that fateful morning, the morning I climbed…
The Great China Cabinet!
Uber-busy today, so I’m humbly re-posting this old hymn to my own universally recognized awesomeness. ;>)
“I am! For reals!” as my once-small and adorable, now big and adorable, daughters used to say. But don’t take my word for it. I was nominated for the Epically Awesome Award for Epic Awesomeness by that all around prince-of-a-fellow Charles French. Click here to visit Charles’s blog and see just how eminently qualified he is to dole out this honor!
Rules for Receiving the Award
My Awesome Answers
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Unless you “eat like the locals,” can you ever truly experience another culture?
Note: To read The Wishing Mapfrom the beginning, click here.
Previously: Preparing to fill their grumbling stomachs, Zack and Gina had nearly forgotten their mission.
(See below for a Glossaryof SurKellish words*)
“Gina!” Zack whispered urgently, “We still gotta find the you-know-what!”
“What? Oh! Right!” Gina turned to the fisher folk and said, “There’s something we really have to—”
“Nay, cheldings,” Shelcor replied. “Eat first.”
The Screaming Spiffwit’s innkeeper greeted Maerith and Shelcor by name, and then welcomed the two “sea whelps,” Zack and Gina. He set down a platter piled with silvery raw shellfish. He also placed a big brick of mottled orange and yellow cheese before them, and a wooden bowl piled high with dried bread and burbeedup, a sweet-sour curd made from Kellish flax-berries (burbees). “The meeth’s fresh-brewed,” he said…
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