I’m still working out the details for my plan to add audio stories to this site or somewhere else. In the mean time, here is a new written story… not exactly a travel story but it does have a tenuous connection to my world wandering. As usual, I present it as fiction… but it just might be a little bit true.
The Coyote Strikes…
I don’t really believe in my medicine cards… But, I sort of do. Actually, I feel pretty much the same about all “spiritual games.” A long time ago, when I was but a young aspiring writer, I learned how to read tarot cards because a character in one of my novels was a tarot card reader and I wanted to understand the conceptual framework so that I could properly write the character. I even made my own deck and began doing readings for people at parties and social events. It was fun. Kind of like juggling metaphors and using your “client” as the main character in a spontaneous story. After a while though, things got kind of strange. My spontaneous stories were eerily accurate. My “clients” started to take my readings way too seriously. On several occasions, “clients,” burst into sobbing tears and unloaded deep dark personal family secrets on me. Totally bizarre situations. I was reading the cards for fun. It was a free service. I never charged any money because I really enjoy story-telling for a captive audience. But then, I started to feel like a psycho-therapist. I was practicing without a license and was way unqualified. When I came to understand this strange power I had over my “enthusiastic clients,” it sort of freaked me out. So I just stopped doing readings for other people.
Nowadays, I still read the cards on occasion, but only for myself personally or people I know and trust to be light-hearted about such stuff. I also like to read Nordic Runes and toss the sticks for I Ching combos. Astrology is fun in every culture. And once you understand the game… the principles of dynamic opposition. You only need to know the names of the characters and you can tell a story in any religion/metaphor. The question is; do you believe the story to be “true” of do you realize it is just a story?
What I call “subjective truth,” is believing that your reality is the reality. If you believe in the validity of tarot cards or runes or your astrological charts, or even your lord and savior J.C., your belief in those stories will cause those stories to have a significant impact on your day to day experience as a human being. In other words, the stories are subjectively true for you because as a variable they impact your consciousness. If you don’t believe, it’s not true… if you do believe it is true.. But what if you are somewhere in the middle? You kind of sort of believe all of it but you don’t really believe any of it? Which brings me to the coyote…
Some years back, the lovely Ms. B. gave me a deck of Native American medicine cards for my birthday. There are fifty two cards in the deck. Each card has a picture of an animal on it and a story or metaphor that explains its meaning. It’s possible to do multi card lay outs and elaborate spreads to tell complicated stories with multiple characters interacting, but that’s not what I do. I just shuffle the cards once each morning while my coffee is brewing and pick a single card to “find out what kind of day I’m going to have.”
I’ve been playing this particular “spiritual game,” for more than several years now. It is always amusing to see if the events of my day will somehow match up to the animal story I read in the morning. I have now read the stories so many times that I have them, more or less, memorized. Indeed, I now add my own details and elaborations to flesh out their meanings. More to the point, I now associate specific events that occurred in my life with certain cards I pulled on the morning of those events.
The story of the coyote is the best example I can think of to illustrate this concept. According to the books, coyote is the trickster card. And he frequently gets caught by his very own tricks. One image that invariably comes to mind is that of Wile E. Coyote chasing after the road runner. The coyote is also the number 13 in a 52 card deck. Some think the number itself is unlucky but it also holds a transitional spot in the cycle of meaning. 4 x 13 = 52. There are four suits in a normal card deck and a tarot card deck as well; clubs, hearts, spades, diamonds; fire, water, earth, air; wands, cups, pentacles, swords; spiritual, emotional, physical, mental. Metaphorically speaking, you might say that the coyote is at the top or yang of fire and the bottom or yin of water. But it manifests in the every day world through a physical presence or unusual event that messes with your mental. It is kind of a mixture of the fool and the hanged man in tarot vernacular. In other words, the universe is about to play a trick on you in order to teach you a valuable lesson. Hopefully, it will make you laugh… And teach you to stop taking yourself so darn seriously.
But all that is complicated. And really, it’s hard to believe. For me, however, the very first time I pulled a coyote to start my day, it was The Fourth of July, the cops pulled me over for a broken taillight, and busted me for driving without a license. Total crashing drag.. So that is what Coyote means to me. When I see his cockeyed grin staring out at me from the coffee table in the morning, I shake my head in dismay and feel a slight tinge of anxiety inside. Oh no, it’s gonna be one of those days.
In reality though, my altercation with “authority” on that long ago “Independence Day,” was no big deal. My drivers license expired while I was out traveling and I never bothered to renew it. It’s not as if it was taken away for bad driving or illegal behavior. The political anarchist in me just likes to avoid government paperwork so I neglected to make the necessary trip to the dreaded DMV. I was trying to avoid fossil fuel burning as much as possible anyway so I usually went everywhere on my bike or on foot. I didn’t even own a motor vehicle. So I practically never drove. But I did drive sometimes. Once in a while. I was always a good driver. I know how to drive. I just prefer not to. And not having an official driver’s license gave me some good revolutionary vibes. A simple little way to say “f… U. To the Man”.
But Ms. B.and I were on a date. We were on our way to the fireworks from her house. On our way out the door, she tossed me the keys and said, “why don’t you drive tonite, honey. I feel like being a passenger right now.” This was the early days of our courtship so, of course, I caught those keys and said. “No problem Beautiful. My pleasure.” And it would not have been a problem… in a sane world. I was driving very carefully, within the speed limit. But I was served up a coyote with my morning coffee and a tail light was out and the local authoritarians were out raising revenue. There go the sirens. Oh shit. “Ms. B.,” I say, as I pull over and shut down the engine. “You have a migraine headache and are slightly nauseous, that’s why you aren’t driving.”
I wasn’t exactly super worried. I knew the legal system rather well and understood my relative bargaining position. At the very worst I might get a AUO in the third degree with a small fine and if I played my cards right, I might even get off with just a warning. But dealing with authoritarians is always a bit risky. They are armed and are usually a little short-tempered. You really have to try hard to humanize them. I rolled down the window and heard him speak. “License and registration please.”
“Here is the registration officer, it is my girlfriend, Ms. B.s car. But she’s not feeling well at the moment so I’m driving.”
“I will need to see your driver’s license,” he says.
“Did I do something wrong? Was I driving bad? Speeding? I’m sorry but my license is technically expired at the moment. It happened when I was living outside the country. I just got back recently and haven’t had a chance to square up with motor vehicles yet.”
“Your back left tail light is out. You have no driver’s license? Do you have any other form of picture I.d.”
“I have a US passport,” I say.
“Ok,” he says, “let me see it.” So I hand it over and he takes it with him to his squad car computer. This right here, is my classic coyote moment. Me, sitting paranoid with crazy thoughts while a cop looks over my passport in the squad car behind me.
How much information will he pull up about me on his little computer? Will he just search my driving record to access the status of my expired license? Or will he access my website and read about the imaginary revolution? Will he access my tax records and determine my relative financial wealth. I like to think of my self as a metaphorical revolutionary. I am opposed to the war and conquest based economic system. My views are clearly expressed through stories and essays. The broken system is becoming more oppressive and more authoritarian each and every day. If the government has a list of annoying dissidents, I am probably on the list. Will they take the opportunity of my expired license to haul me away in handcuffs and torture me in a CIA dungeon?
No, probably not… of course not. I tell this truth to anyone who asks on a fairly regular basis. I believe in non-violent revolution by way of non-compliance, general obstruction, and alternative system creation. I do not believe in confronting the empire. Accordingly, the government probably does not even know I exist. I have a small bank account and no tangible assets. Very few people read my stories or essays. In the grand scheme of things, I am so damn irrelevant it doesn’t matter what I write or what I do. And besides, I’m a white guy, a citizen, and I’m driving a family car and I just handed the officer a legal US passport full of stamps from thirty or so countries. The uniformed little authoritarian may even think I’m CIA. Nothing like a little ambiguity to throw a wrench into the machinations of empire.
“Are you Pat Ryan of 43 Elm Street, Oneonta, NY.?”
“That is a very old address,” l say, “But I used to live there a long time ago. Before I went overseas.”
“You’ve been away a long time.,” he says.
“Yeah, more or less.,” I answer.
“We have a warrant for you based on your failure to turn in license tags. I’m supposed to arrest you and take you downtown.”
“But that’s ridiculous,” I say, “I haven’t even owned a car since the 90s. I sold my last one to a junkyard and turned the plates in my self. That was so many years ago. Before I went away.”
“It’s from 1997” he says, “13 years ago.”
“Oh please, officer, arresting me would be so unfair… So absurd… So ridiculous… So Unamerican. It’s the Fourth of July for God’ sake. I’m finally back in the land of freedom celebrating independence with my Iady; I’m only driving because she’s not feeling well, you only pulled us over for a tail light. I didn’t do anything wrong. My license is just expired. I promise to go down to DMV and get it straightened out. Please officer. I don’t deserve to be arrested.”
The little authoritarian actually laughs. “You’re right,” he says. “It would be ridiculous to arrest you. You seem like nice folks. I will just give you a ticket for AUO in the third degree. You can plead guilty and mail it in for a fine. But you will have to go to the DMV anyway and get this outstanding warrant on the missing license plate sorted out. I also cannot permit you to drive away from this scene.” He leans in a little through the window to address Ms. B. She is playing up her part a little too dramatically… Hunched up in fetal position in her seat, moaning like a pregnant lady. “I’m sorry Mam, that you are not feeling well,” says the authoritarian, “but if you are the only licensed driver in the vehicle, you will have to be the one to drive.”
“That’s okay,” says Ms. B., “I may have a migraine and be on my death bed. But I had no idea this man was an outlaw. Of course I won’t let him drive my car. I will take over immediately.”
The officer seems quite proud of himself as he oversees our movements. We have to get out of the vehicle and walk around it to switch. He stares at us as if he expects us to pull a Chinese fire drill and go back to our illegal positions. But we don’t. Ms. B. takes over the wheel and l am a passenger again. We drive off into the sunset with the smiling coyote in our rear view mirror.
That was six or seven years ago now. Today is the winter solstice of 2017… the astrological New Year. This morning, I pulled the coyote again. What does that mean for the day… and the year ahead?
To be continued…