01 March 2011


One of the very few times I ever ate at a McDonald's (I think it was a McDonald's - memory fades) was in Washington D.C. in 1972. I'd been driving across country with my Cousin Robert. We were staying at the house of a senator who shall remain nameless - a Democrat, but that's all you're getting out of me. We'd been out of the house most of the night as we didn't want to get in the way of him having his mistress over.

Finally, on our way back, we hadn't had dinner so when we passed an open McDonald's at a little before 1am we stopped in for burgers. I recall the time very clearly. It was in a black neighborhood at a time when racial tensions were high. There were three other white people in the place, including a security guard who stood under a clock - 12:50am. We got our burgers to go.

The next morning the news was ablaze with a shooting at that very same McDonald's - at 1am. All three white people in the place were killed.

That wasn't fate. It wasn't karma. It wasn't saving me to accomplish some great deed later in my life. It was just my cousin and I being kind of nervous and wanting to get back to where we were staying that made us get our order to go. (I almost never get orders to go. I much prefer eating where I'm served.)

Nothing is written. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Life is chance and chaos and confusion.

And I like it that way. It makes things a whole lot more interesting. It makes them even more beautiful when they work out well and a bit more understandable when they don't.

I have lived an extraordinarily lucky life. Even well beyond not having been shot in that McDonald's. I was lucky to be born when and where I was. Lucky to be born to my particular parents. Lucky to have a strong immune system and a healthy curiosity about the world around me. I've been lucky in my career and lucky to have had enough money throughout my life that my career has largely been of my own choosing. Lucky in that over the years my many misadventures proved in retrospect to be more adventure than mistake. Lucky to have met and known the people I've come across all over the world - from movie stars and billionaires to a burglar I was friends with in Jakarta, a liquor-store stickup guy I knew through an arts organization, and any number of sex workers.

I am just one plain lucky guy. Not to lord it over any of you. My guess is that most, if not all of the people reading this blog are pretty lucky in their lives, too.

But since I don't pray. Since I don't make offerings to any of the gods I don't believe in. Since I don't tithe or regularly engage in the sort of public service that I probably ought to. I don't have kids, or want them, so I can't leave better people to create a better world after me. (I do give to charity. I am kind and helpful, when I can be, to other people. I do my best to do no harm.)

But since I'm here in what I think is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Drinking a scotch, sitting on a verandah overlooking the Tirtigangga Water Palace, listening to the kids splashing in the water as dusk creeps in across the Indian Ocean having now covered the island of Lombok in the distance in cloud and dark. I feel so incredibly lucky in so many ways that I feel I need to acknowledge it and be thankful for it in my own secular manner.

And there are plenty of you out there reading this who I have to thank for all this remarkable luck.

And if one of you happens to be someone who shot some white people in a McDonald's in 1972. Thanks for showing up a few minutes after I left.

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