"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." – – Abba Eban
Here's a story I've been wanting to tell for a while now but just figured people wouldn't believe it – – either that or they would think I was nuts. But I'm beyond caring about that anymore and I believe it really is something interesting to consider. So here goes; readers can make of it what they will.
This took place in Austin, Texas, just months before my crime – – the robbery. It happened twice; and both times had everything to do with me eventually coming to prison.
But first, a little history: I've driven all over this country. Prior to Austin I'd lived in Seattle for many years and could find my way anywhere without a problem. I'd driven all over Los Angeles and San Francisco and Houston and Chicago and many other cities and towns, and if ever I lost my way it was only for a few minutes before I quickly found my bearings. I'd lived in Austin for about a year and had driven all over the area, looking for work, exploring, etc. – – never once getting lost.
So anyway, anyone who's read "My (too long) Story" knows that I initially purchased a handgun in order to kill myself – – or at least that was the plan. I went to pretty much the biggest gun dealer in Austin and had a look around. I'd never owned a gun before. And after shooting a few different kinds in their gun range for a while (something new to do), I settled on a shiny cool looking one that the guy behind the counter assured me was used by FBI agents as their backup weapon. I figured that no matter what I was getting it for, I might as well get something James Bond would appreciate. (Right? See the logic in that?) But first I had to fill out the necessary paperwork and wait three days for a background check.
So now fast forward to a week or so later: I'm driving back to the gun shop to buy the gun – – a place I've been to before and had absolutely no trouble finding. I mean, the place is HUGE, with a giant red billboard right off the highway.
But I can't find it.
I keep driving the same route I did before, recognizing all the same exits and traffic signs, the same overpasses, the same shops and buildings lined up along the way. But no gun store. It's nowhere to be found.
And after about a half an hour of this, going back and forth, up and over the same stretches, circling around and through every possible place this shop could be, I start to lose my cool. I start to doubt my sanity. And more than a dozen times I come this close to saying the hell with it, to forgetting the whole idea and just going home.
But I couldn't give it up. I'd never in my life been lost like this, unable to get back to a place I'd been just days before. So now it was a matter of principle, of pride, and more than anything now, solving this mystery. The gun didn't matter anymore. I had to convince myself I wasn't losing it, or that I wasn't a complete dumb- ass.
Finally, after close to an hour, I had to pull up to the hotel lobby and use a pay phone. Yes, the gun store told me, they were still in the same place, they hadn't moved across town recently. Yes, they could give me directions. And yes, it was exactly where I'd been driving in ever more frustrating circles all morning
But I still couldn't find it.
At least not until I parked the car and had me a good long think. What was I doing? Did I really want a gun? Isn't there a better way to kill yourself? Was someone "upstairs" trying to give me a message?… But, in the end, like I said, it wasn't about the gun anymore – – I couldn't go home defeated.
So once again, after a quick lunch, I set out again. And this time found the gun store almost immediately. Right where it had always been. Right where I had already been searching.
And I bought the damn gun.
So, you say, what's the point of this tale? Well, hold on; there's still the second part to come; and this is what made all the difference.
All right: now it's about a month or two later and I'm on my way to a job interview – – in sales, of course, as always – – another "big money" opportunity for a deluded "go-getter" like myself – – selling cars, of all things, but in a new and revolutionary way (!). I'd spoken to the owner of the company a few hours before. And although I've never been a car guy (give me something to haul the camping gear and that the dogs like, and I'm fine), I figured I could learn the ropes and maybe generate enough enthusiasm to get the job done. Needless to say, I wasn't too excited about the whole thing, and I probably wouldn't take the job anyway.
The place I was looking for was a cluster of buildings in the middle of a large used car lot. A big lit up sign out front: Auto Solutions. You can't miss it, the guy had said. Plus, it was a major thoroughfare I'd been on many times before.
Except I couldn't find it.
Once again, it was back and forth, around and around, pounding the steering wheel, cursing up storm – – for only the second time in my life. And again, after maybe an hour of this bullshit, at my wits end, I stopped and parked and had a talk with myself:
"Just. Go. Home", was the general theme. "You don't even like cars. What is your freakin' problem?"
But even more than that was the thought, "What in the hell is going on?" And: "I'll be damned if I'll let this kick my ass." So of course, just like before, I made one last attempt.
And found the place almost immediately. Right where it always was. Right where I had already been searching.
And I took the damn job.
Where I learned everything I needed to know about placing a classified ad for a car that didn't exist and having it billed to some temporary voicemail phone number. (However, I should say that the whole scam/robbery idea was mine alone, unfortunately.)
So now what can we make of these two incidents together – – two unprecedented instances of my not being able to reach somewhere in plain sight to anyone else – – two undeniably major factors contributing to me coming to prison for the rest of my life? Some may say it's simply coincidence. Some may say it was my subconscious trying to prevent me from doing things I really didn't want to do. And some say that it could've been divine intervention of some sort – – higher, wiser powers, spiritual beings, giving me a chance to change my self-destructive path, my as–yet–to–be tragically sad and completely wasted future.
If you believe that divine intervention saved my life later, in prison (see previous blog "Volunteers Wanted"), then you might fall in with the latter group, as I do, myself.
I've only told this story to a few people but I've given it a lot of thought over the years. I can remember those two days most vividly because there had never been any like them before. And unless my subconscious has magical predicting–the–future abilities, I'm left with the conclusion that "someone" – – some force – – maybe my higher self – –was keeping me from both those places, both those situations, those choices. That is, until I took the firm stand that I wasn't going to give up trying.
Call it my "guardian angel", if you will, if that's more palatable to you.
Anyway, I'm a firm believer these days. And it's a comforting thought.
If only I had just gone home on both occasions. If only I hadn't been so damn hardheaded. Then I would never had that stupid gun (at least, not that gun – – the suicidal urge can be pretty strong), and I certainly wouldn't have even thought of that crazy car scam, without that job.
But there's really no way of telling how things would've been different. After all there's that whole other possible future where I didn't confess to the crime, were I didn't get caught. And there are countless other futures based on a myriad of choices I did or did not make.
So much of life in prison is spent wondering "What if – –?" It's not bad enough to suffer from the constant remorse of every mistake you've ever made, no matter how small, but, also, the thought of all you've missed out on – – what could've been – – is an even greater torture. Which is why so many of us in here, I think, try not to think at all.
You are your own worst critic, as they say.
Which sort of leads me to why I wrote my latest novel, "Vengeant". We are the sum total of our choices in life. But what if we refused to remember them? What if there was an infinite number of other realities – – other lives – – based on different choices we made? What if there was an infinite number of other selves?
So many times I've entertained the notion, "Well, at least there is one version of myself who's not in prison, who's leading the life I should be living." And according to quantum physics and some of the best minds on the planet, that's not just fantasy. It's even a spiritual teaching in some circles. So you never know…
Anyway, I think the thing to keep in mind is that were always just one choice, one decision, away from altering the course of our lives forever – – be it for better or for worse. Or, at least, that potential is always there. And I think we all have made choices we'd like to make over again.
I know I certainly would.