IT MUST BE A SIGN
I was stopped at this red light the other day… that just wouldn’t turn green. As I sat in traffic I wondered maybe if this was a sign that there was something there that I should see. Why else wouldn’t the light turn green after several minutes? I looked around and discovered I was in front of the entrance to the largest flea market I had ever seen.
Since turning right on red was legal in my own personal traffic rule book, I turned into the massive lot filled with cars and booths. It was a bit overcast and windy and I took this as a sign that a storm was brewing. I quickly parked, got out of the car and began a quick trek through this make-shift mall.
The first booth I came to was a guy selling wooden signs. I thought this was a sign too… or a whole booth of signs actually. “Who are these people who buy these signs?” I wondered. This set me on a journey, to be open to the signs to come and to follow the signs as I passed through one person and place to the next.
I didn’t know where the path would lead but I was eager to see where I would end up.
If a guy was to buy a wooden sign that says, “Jack’s Shack”… I imagined this fellow below would be Jack. One time long ago, he was instrumental in putting up phone lines in your neighborhood. He worked day and night and replaced those wires when the lines went down in a storm.
He would measure the distance between places by how many beers he would drink as he drove his pick-up truck from here to there. From his mobile home to the supermarket was two beers. From the supermarket to the Walmart was a beer. From the Walmart back home was three beers.
A couple who would buy a sign “Mary and Bob Taylor” would be visiting Florida on vacation. They would be escaping the cold of some northern blue-collar town where they lived. In this town Mary was a well-known masseuse who led healing circles. She would get together with friends and if you were sick… she and her lady friends would pray for your recovery… for a fee.
Bob was of Greek descent, a carpenter by trade who had a musical talent. Secretly, Bob had always wished he was a Native American Indian. When they would come to Florida on vacation, Bob would set up his booth where he would dress as an Indian and sell his home-made CD‘s of him playing the flute and mumbling some indistinguishable chant that remotely sounded like some southwestern medicine man was curing a member of his tribe.
These two healers were chain smokers, who wreaked of Marlboro Red and coughed often. Long loud big phlegm type coughs.
The disguised hippie below is John. He would have bought the sign that says, “John’s Man Cave.” John used to be a Creative Director at a large advertising agency. All the female interns would flock to his office den to marvel at his long white beard and matching long blonde white hair.
He did sit-ups often because as he approached 60 years old… his abs started to sag. He didn’t want the young ladies to think he was too old for them. When he would speak, he would deliver everything he said in the tone of a punch-line or head-line… always out of context and no one ever knew what he was talking about. But the way he said things made it sound important.
He liked to drink beer and let the frost from the malt head sit on his mustache for as long as possible. These days he dresses in Tie Dye frequently and spends a lot of time remembering the old days when he was king.
The clouds grew darker and the wind started to blow and I took that as a sign to leave the Flea Market. I traveled down the road a bit and found myself close to the beach but stuck in traffic. As I sat once again pondering the significance of this next pause, the clouds blew past and so did the quick shower.
I got out of the car to look ahead of the traffic to see what was holding us up and could see that a draw bridge was up letting tall yachts pass through the channel slowly. I took this as a sign too. Over to my right there were a bunch of tents pitched in a parking lot. Apparently there was a craft fair going on… and I pulled over to join in.
As I strolled through the little event, I looked for the hidden messages I was meant to find. Naturally because I had my camera on, I was drawn to the booth filled with TV and Movie Star marionettes that had a sign that read, “no photos please”. I saw it as a sign that a photo must be taken.
I thought for a minute about the irony of performing talent being controlled by sponsors and entertainment executives and thought that the maker of these puppets might have either been the executive pulling the strings or perhaps one of the performing puppets.
Next to puppet booth was a booth filled with restored bicycles. This guy would take old bikes, restore them, paint them in all kinds of crazy colors and then sell them for 3 times the cost that they would have cost if they were purchased new. As art they could be sold for a lot more.
More importantly I was taken by the attraction of the tall mirror amidst the display. Merchants spend so much time trying to figure out what kind of device will lure customers into a space and I thought this idea of a fancy mirror on a pole was just brilliant. Who can resist looking at themselves… if not themselves…looking in a mirror to see who is behind them.
I envisioned a field of mirrors that resembled large tall sunflowers but instead of the flowers …they were many different types of round and oval mirrors on various types of poles like stems. I thought a field of floral reflection like this might be the coolest thing anyone has ever seen or done.
Deeper into the fair was an amazing craftsman who made the weirdest stuff out the weirdest stuff. I was taken by the crowd being dazzled by this guy’s work, most of which was bizarre metal type sculpture. That’s when I noticed the guy on the left with the metal prosthetic leg.
For a second, I wondered if he was real or did the sculptor not only make the works of art in the booth…but also the gawking pedestrians standing in front of his booth! I imagined an artist sculpting real people to suggest his own personal crowd to build attraction to his art.
Among this guy’s great works of art… was a Dragon Fly that was made out of an electric guitar!
After strolling through this little craft fair… I could see that the traffic was starting to move again. So I returned to the car and continued on my way to the next destined stop.
I found myself parched after a while and just happened to be driving through one of the many sleepy resort villages near the beach. I pulled into one of those angled slots right in front of the shops and decided to get myself a cold one. I walked past the bizarre tall wooden directors chairs which bracketed the entry and reeked of cigarette smoke… and entered the dark den.
I bellied up to the bar and got a cold bottle of beer. As I looked around I noticed a collection of dollar bills stapled to the wall. I wondered what Feng Shui book this bar keep was reading to come up with that idea. I wondered if anyone ever pulled those bucks off the wall in hard times to finance a drink.
After my beer I left the smokey hole and meandered further into my day. Across the street from the bar was a dead theater. I wondered what would happen to these places as well as what could happen to these places. How can structures once intended for one thing… be re-purposed for something else?
I once heard of an old Synagogue that was converted to a tavern that was called Bar Mitzvah. Maybe an old movie theater can turn into a store that sells all kinds of pop corn or more obviously… movie posters, movie memorabilia and DVDs.
So I got back in the car and kept driving. I had lost track of where I was and had truly begun wandering into the unknown. Once again I got caught into traffic but this time it was the moving kind of traffic. The kind where you have to go where everyone else is going… so I just went along.
Everyone was going to this mall apparently, so I went too. I parked the car and carefully noted the location because I can never remember where I park my car in those places. I entered through the first large department store door and this is what I saw. Everyone frozen in time, standing there in black and white.
Even the sales ladies were posed in frozen position as if they were arguing about something.
I walked out into the mall where a little girl was getting her ears pierced. All still frozen in black and white… but I just went with it.
That’s when I entered a ladies clothing store because I had seen a beautiful woman from the side. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and the color came back to everything, the people started moving and I could hear the drone of mall echo sounds and smell the baked dough from Aunt Annies fresh-baked pretzels.
I blinked again and it all went black and white again as people froze all around me.
I turned 360 degrees around and found myself staring at myself in a mirror. Apparently I had been transported to some type of beauty parlor. I thought to myself if I clicked the shutter maybe the day would return to motion and color, but it did not.
I looked around this frozen hair place and saw the strangest vision. A bald guy was sitting in the chair getting his hair cut! He didn’t have any hair to cut…but there he was. I took this as a sign of something. I started to think about how bald guys don’t cut their hair any more. They don’t shampoo right? They don’t have anything to comb or brush.
I wondered why some bald guys’ heads are shinier than others. I marveled at how everyone’s head is shaped differently with their hair off. Why do some guys have a flat back of their head that draws a straight line down to their neck while other bald guys have a sweeping curvy crown on the back of their dome?
I blinked a couple more times and found myself out in the mall with things moving again back in color. A man was talking on his cell phone while his amazing dog stood guard on his lap. The man was calling someone who worked for him on a Saturday to find out what time the sun was going to set on that day… so he could determine if he had enough time to go play some golf.
He would often play by himself because no one else was as good as him and he was hard to get along with. On these evenings he would drive four balls and play 9 to 18 holes as if he himself was a foursome. Each morning he woke up and ate the same thing… a toasted bagel with peanut butter.
Angela has always searched for love. She found it a few times but life was difficult for her. Her father who led a successful career as a pimp taught her the strengths and weaknesses of men. Her particular challenge was that she preferred men outside her race. Something about Caucasian men turned her on and she didn’t know why.
On this particular day she took a break from her routine of caring for the sick and elderly to surround herself with children that she had never had. Her huge breasts helped to attract men but she has always had trouble trying to secure a traditional relationship that would last.
Surrounded by the children that she adored, she read about romantic vacations in Jamaica that someday she would take with a white lover.
The little mall playground was close to the exit so I took it as a sign to leave that mall and that the end was near for this adventure. I drove and drove and waited for my next sign to signal the end of this story… the end of the lessons learned and people discovered during this chapter.
I crossed many roads that went nowhere and could see bridges in the distance but I couldn’t get there from here.
As I drove down the road with my window open, going nowhere in particular, I heard flapping in the distance. Ah hah… it was sign… a sound to follow. It kept flapping and flapping and I pulled over to follow the noise. Tucked between a car and a curb was a fish fighting for its life.
It tried as hard as it could to breathe and get back into the water but that would no longer be its destiny. It finally surrendered and took the form of an inanimate object that could be seen in a grocers freezer case.
I lifted my head up from where this once living being flapped… to see its brothers and sisters stuffed into a dry wall mud bucket. Miniature whale tales pointing to the sky like half a dozen crashed airplanes filled this pail. I think I will call it “tail’s in a pail”… and maybe someday I will be famous for this photo that I found from following the signs.
Resolved, I looked around and there was nothing else to see and nowhere else to go. A bird stood and posed for me and I smiled, exhausted. I saw the signs, I followed the signs and every coincidence confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly when I was supposed to be there.
Somewhat okay with completing a story that had no real end and possibly no point in particular, I just let it all go.
When I went back to edit and proof this story… I took a closer look at the signs… the wooden signs in the beginning that I shot completely at random and realized that only one of those wooden signs had a location on it. “The Carlsons – Greg and Karla… from Troy, N.Y.” and a chill came over my whole body… as this was the town I came from before I moved to Florida!
In shock, I examined that first picture once again more closely, because I couldn’t believe the only town indicated was Troy, N.Y.. Upon even closer examination… I found another sign fading off to the left… also from Troy, N.Y.! Even more amazing was that this second, tiny, faded, fuzzy, hard-to-read, angled back, hidden sign, contained within a picture taken completely at random, was burned in wood for a guy named Barry from Troy, N.Y.!
One incident of serendipity can be explained as a coincidence. Two unexplainable coincidences at once is usually called a sign. But three impossible and unrelated segues, colliding at once, in a single random photo, not even noticed at the time of capture… what does one call that?
It must be a really significant sign that I was where I was supposed to be at that exact moment. What if we all are exactly where we are supposed to be all the time and these convergences are just the evidence of that universal truth?