Which is not to say I haven't recently passed through some. But it looks like more may be in store.
Earlier today I went to my favorite part of town. It's a gentrified section of a bad part of the city. It houses my current favorite cafe, where the chairs are comfortable and the music is low (normally) and the baristas are pleasant. One, in fact, got a kick out of the fact that we share a name, so we greet each other (Hi Cliff! Hi Cliff!) like idiots and chat about nothing whenever I go in. Simple pleasures, you know.
Anyway, the neighborhood is balanced on strip clubs and liqueur stores and has more than its share of beggars. This evening I sat on the sidewalk and got a tarot reading from one of them. She was probably in her mid to late twenties. Probably dependent on drugs. Most definitely homeless. Here nails were black with dirt, but she was enterprising enough to use her tarot reading skills to support her habits and those of her boyfriend.
The thing about beggars is that the more they see you, the more they reach out. Spend enough time in their neighborhoods and you will break. It gets harder and harder to just walk on by. As I was seated there, my butt pressed to cold San Francisco concrete, a woman walked by and gave my tarot reader some change. She said, "Oh, this is all I have right now." The tarot reader told her, "That's okay, I'll read your tarot anyway." The woman explained that she was in a hurry today, next time, and was on her way.
That I'm not alone doesn't make me feel any less like a sucker though. You see, when you stop, when you stop long enough to look, to respond to their queries and listen to their voices, it's amazingly difficult to just keep walking. At least, it is for many of us.
So she read my cards and my future doesn't look real great. Misery lies ahead for me if the cards are to be trusted. Though it was a 5-card read (it was too windy for a 12-card read, she explained), the outlook was consistently pretty grim (ever seen the TOWER STRUCK BY LIGHTNING card? It's worse when it's upside down). She did offer up a bonus card, to glimpse how things will eventually resolve themselves, and the prognosis wasn't all bad, so there's hope. But in the near future, well, not so good.
She thanked me for the money and I thanked her for the reading, and I left for dinner. I'd given her enough to buy herself dinner, or drugs, or whatever it is she needs right now, but I don't kid myself into believing I'm making a difference.
Most importantly, I realized how little there really is between me and her, and how an illness, an accident, or a few bad choices could change everything in the blink of an eye.
I've worked hard over the years to create a somewhat stable lifestyle. To make myself marketable in a rapidly changing marketplace. But as hard as I've worked, and continue to work, I will never underestimate the importance of luck.