Monday, July 7, 2008

BEST OF: Exchanging karma

“Hello, Karma Assignment Desk? I’d like to request a change of destiny, please. Whaddya mean, you can’t do that? You gave me this karma by mistake, and I want a new one.

“Why would I want different karma? I’m a community reporter and photographer, you see. No, no, sir. That’s very different from paparazzi. Thank heavens.

“So, what’s my problem? Somehow, you got my karma mixed up with somebody else’s, and I want my own back again.

“Why would I think that? Because the strangest things keep happening to me, stuff you wouldn’t expect in a nice, small town like Cambria. Just ask the tourists who visit here: Things are supposed to be placid and calm on the North Coast, even though they rarely are.

" I’ve checked the employee manual, sir, and these kinds of situations simply are not in my job description.

“Yes, I can explain myself. First there was the calf. Yes, calf, as in bovine.

“How many reporters do you know who have had a hip head-butted by a recently branded-and-neutered, 500-pound, bucking and basically ticked-off calf? Came up behind me in a rush, lowered his head and tossed me tail over Nikon, he did.

“I’d have gotten a 10 for that somersault if I been on a balance beam instead of at a round-up. Why, I was so black and blue and pink and yellow, I glowed in the dark for a week.

“Then there was that sneaky, mean gopher hole. Gopher. G-O-P-H-E-R. How could a gopher hole hurt me? I was taking pictures of a downed airplane. In San Simeon. No, not at the Hearst air strip (Hey, for a karma dude, you know a lot about the North Coast!).

“Anyhow, this pilot had problems with his gas supply and tried to land his little plane on Highway 1. He missed. Landed in a field. Scrunched the plane a bit.

“To get the best picture, I had to go down this little slope … no, I know better than to run down something like that. Too much dry grass on the ground. Too slippery. So I sat down and scooted on my, um, butt.

“No, I didn’t get my butt stuck in the gopher hole! You’ve never seen my butt, sir. (Peals of laughter from Karma Central). Hummph. Well, maybe you have.

“Anyhow, as I slid down the slope, I’d just gotten going at a good clip and my heel got caught in a gopher hole that was hiding out under all that grass. My body kept going, but my foot stopped, and my ankle twisted six ways from Sunday. That was years ago, and I still limp every time I think about it.

“And then there was the time I got run over by a Zodiac.

“No, not the astrological signs. Yes, I know that’s more up your alley. But this was one of those big, inflatable boats. There I was, minding my own business, watching the glassy-smooth ocean, getting ready to climb into the boat to go take some pictures of a bigger boat.

"Well, without a howdy-do, along came this itty-bitty wave that nobody was expecting. That Zodiac, it just hung 10 on that wave, slid over and clonked me on the knee. Not only that, it tossed me face-down at the surf-line, and then — get this — that nervy boat ran over my leg!

“Yes, sir, it’s the same leg that’s attached to the ankle. No, I’m still not walking straight.

“What did I do? I got up, checked to make sure my camera wasn’t wet, limped over to the boat and got in. Yes, I got some good pictures. Thank you for asking.

“What? You say I don’t need new karma? What I need is a new job? But I love my career, sir.

“You’re telling me if I want to stay in my line of work, the only thing you can do is exchange the karma I have with one of my associates who also want to trade? Which one do I want, you ask? Do I want to be a photographer in Iraq or a reporter in Zimbabwe? Or I could be a political writer in Washington D.C. or Sacramento? In an election year? Not a chance, Charlie.”

Pause. Pregnant one, at that.

“Sir, can I change my mind and just keep my own karma, weird as it is? Yes, I’ll learn to deal with the cows and wayward Zodiacs of life. Even in the world of karma, I think Dorothy Gale was right. There’s no place like home.”

This column ran Oct. 2, 2003, in The Cambrian.

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