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Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm in for some rough times

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.


Charles Gramlich said...

Maybe the girl's own rough times were coloring her reading. Good point about luck. Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth.

Clifford said...

Maybe she was reading her own unfortunate future. She let me cut the cards once, then cut them three more times. Hmm...maybe too much of her own "stuff" rubbed off and colored the reading...

Let's hope (:

We are the lucky ones, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Well, you know how Callie feels about tarot, anyway. :-)

Clifford said...

Callie's right, of course! Tarot's all about the sensitivity of the person doing the reading...

Kate S said...

Well, Cliff, I'd do a long-distance reading for you, but I'd want it all to turn out well, so my own reading might be a bit "prejudiced" too. :) So might as well cut to the chase and say "I see a bright future ahead for you, filled with unexpected little pleasures, good friends and good weather." ;)

Sidney said...

You know I think it was while I was in SF that I read an article about a lady who'd been killed while homeless. She'd been gainfully employed up until she moved a desk at work and hurt her back and it put her on a spiral. It's true, you never know.

I was in a coffee shop once in Chicago, watching a guy outside panhandling. A lady stopped and gave him one of those huge muffins she'd just bought, I guess for herself. It was a gesture I've often remembered.

There's always good and bad in the world, I guess.

So it goes.

Carlos Ferrão said...

I don't believe in Tarot or other unproven divination methods. Having said that, each to their own and I'm not going to go Dawkins on you.

From my experience, the sort of spiral that lands people living in the streets and panhandling is dependent on much more than luck or circumstance. People who are strong mentally and clear-headed can always find a way to get back on their feet, even if they have to go through a rough patch in the meanwhile.

So... I think you're safe! And if you want I'll burn a candle and say a prayer for you (all metaphorically, of course!).

Clifford said...


I don't believe in Tarot either (:

As for your assessment about homeless folks, well, for the most part I agree with you, but it's much easier than that. Especially if you're living in an expensive part of the country, like I am. I was telling a friend just the other day that this was no place to live unless you were pursuing or had pursued a professional career.

Also, mental health is a continuum along which most people seem to slide back and forth. I'd wager that half the people you know and work with are not totally healthy. How much of a swing does it take to put someone at risk? That's the $64,000 question.

Clifford said...


Thanks for the long-distance reading...hmmm, maybe I do believe in the Tarot!

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.