3 - Good Fortune

I woke up disoriented, half dreaming that I was locked in a cage but nevertheless laughing about the idea of a messiah named Johnny. I devoured a big breakfast in a neighborhood restaurant, then I navigated the city subway to fulfill a childhood dream, to see the view made famous by King Kong. I was delighted to finally be on the road, to be a tourist, to break in my new camera, and to stand atop the Empire State Building pretending to be the greatest of all apes ever.

I walked to Wall Street where I admired the grand fa├žades, then I sat to watch businessmen buzz as if their buildings were hives filled with money instead of honey. I was curious to glimpse inside this capitalist culture by meeting some locals, but the money bees all seemed too busy to buy me lunch.

I bailed in the direction of the Statue of Liberty.

The tourist ferry also stopped at Ellis Island, the point of arrival for immigrants in the time before airplanes, so I disembarked to explore the museum. One exhibit made me wonder why Gramps changed his surname upon arrival from Syria. I always assumed he wanted to avoid prejudice (certainly Love sounded more American than Alzahabi), but I never asked him. I wished that I had asked him.

On the ferry back to Manhattan, I stood next to a man wearing a diamond-studded wristwatch, and I could tell by the fancy cut that his suit was also top quality, a garment of power. With Lady Liberty dominating our view, Mr. Suit spoke with his companion about a business issue. By eavesdropping I learned that the smaller man's name was Budi, he just arrived from India, and therefore I inferred that their touristy voyage was the boss's way to welcome his new worker to his new job and new country.

Budi beamed optimism, an unshakable belief in the American Dream. I welcomed him, then I told him I was poised to visit his country. He replied by passionately describing Darjeeling, the tea, and the benefits of yoga.

Mr. Suit introduced himself as Robert. We shook hands. He said he was going to India soon also, "to expand the Bangalore office." He said, "Why don't you join us for lunch? I'm buying. Do you like Chinese?"

I said, "I like free. Thanks!"

Over lunch we discussed my travel plans, Budi's new job, and Wall Street's capitalist culture. Finally Robert glanced at his wristwatch, he said that time was money, then he asked our waitress for the bill. He gave me his business card.

Along with the bill, our waitress delivered three vanilla cookies individually wrapped in plastic. Budi looked perplexed so Robert explained that if Budi cracked a cookie open, he would find a prophecy inside.

Budi cracked a cookie open then proclaimed, "If I work hard, I will be justly rewarded!"

His boss agreed that sounded right, then he read his own fortune with a smirk. "I will be extremely successful in my next career," he said.

I cracked my cookie open then read aloud, "You will travel far and return with great riches." Then as I contemplated the nature of those riches (spiritual wealth perhaps, or maybe a hidden stash of gold and jewels), I munched that cookie, and it was good.

Robert asked rhetorically, "Did you know the ancient Chinese used to add the words 'in bed' to the end of their cookie fortunes? They were wise. Yours, for example, should read, 'You will travel far and return with great riches in bed.' Budi will be justly rewarded for his hard work in bed. And we all know what my next career is supposed to be."

First I laughed, then I thought of Sasha. I said, "Maybe your next career should be politics. Don't you think improving schools in Brooklyn, say, might provide a more impressive legacy than working as a porn star?"

Robert answered with a smile, "Please don't underestimate my talents in bed."

Soon thereafter, my companions got into a taxi and sped away. I was mindful that travelling alone meant being alone, a lot, so I took a deep breath and walked in a random direction, straight to the site where terrorists destroyed twin towers with airplanes. I paused to watch workers prepare a new foundation, then I walked to Times Square, then to my favorite Irish pub.

There was no sign of Sasha, so I rested my feet while pondering the nature of life, luck, and love. Sasha, Robert, and Budi were all smart people who rolled life's dice. Robert was the wealthiest but Budi seemed the happiest, because like me I figured, he was embarking on a grand adventure.

In Central Park the next morning, I reclined under a giant oak where I closed my eyes to imagine exotic possibilities. There was no need for Pedro's joint. I imagined my heroic return from far away with great riches in bed.

On the subway to the airport, I listened to musicians playing the blues. When they passed the hat, I gave them a dollar. I was never more excited. I was on my way to India!

My check-in agent informed me that I was "on the list" and thus flagged to be searched. He didn't know why, so I went through the process then I sought out a manager. She said, "The system says you're a security risk, a person of interest. That's all I can say."