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  • Robert Farago

Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?

The best laid plans of men on motorcycles often go awry.

Last week, I traded my Triumph Speedmaster and Honda Gold Wing for a BMW K1600 GTL. Result! The Bimmer’s smooth-spinning six replaced the Wing’s aural assault. My Travels with Charley Ridiculously Random Motorcycle Tour is go! And then I broke my toe.

Toemageddon arrived the same day I bought the Bimmer. When a college chum attempted to light a bud in a steel pocket pipe with my three-flame cigar lighter, he torched his finger, recoiled and sent the pipe flying.

Not wanting to give a fellow Tufts alum the third degree, I hunted for a wooden pipe I’d stashed… somewhere. Maybe it’s in the humidor on the top of my built-in bookcase!

As I pulled the box from the shelf, the shelf came along for the ride. Until it didn’t. A hunka hunka lacquered wood landed on my foot.

When the adrenalin wore off, the pain summoned my old friend crying red face. Not the double tear “Worst Pain Imaginable” emoji. Who can imagine the worst pain imaginable? Who wants to and what do they wear in public?

Where was I? Downing a spare Tramadol filed under “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.”

The next day’s X-rays revealed that the breakfront shelf broke my braking foot’s big toe, putting the brakes on breaking-in the Bimmer. A real Bimmer bummer.

Looks like you met your match, Doc Garrett opined, examining my damaged digit. No Doc it’s only a scratch! I protested, hoping to retain my vacuum-cleaner-uglified toenail (#notmyfirstrodeo).

Doc Garrett shook his head, punctured my nail, drained the blood and wrote a script that put a smiley face in my future. “Bad break,” he pronounced, predicting a four to six-week recovery. As they say, them’s the breaks.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

Pre-injury, I’d decided to abandon Austin in April, to escape the balcony-repair afflicting my building from 8:30am to 5pm every weekday.

A cacophonous catastrophe that’s rendered my condo unsellable, demolishing my plan to hit the road footloose and mortgage-free.

My predicament reminded me of John Lennon’s aphorism: life is what happens when you’re making other plans. Specifically, how a small toe can ruin big plans. A sterling example of…

The Effect gets its name from a dry-as-dust scientific paper published in 1963 with the unintentionally medical title Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow.

Meteorologist mathematician Edward Lorenz argued that small atmospheric changes have enormous effects, making weather prediction a total bitch (paraphrasing).

In a rare bit of poetry, Lorenz posited that a butterfly’s wings flapping could change the atmospheric conditions controlling a typhoon’s trajectory. Chinese lab that!

Whether or not Lorenz “borrowed” the example from Ray Bradbury’s 1952 time travel story A Sound of Thunder is an open question. Whether or not small events can alter the course of human history is not. To wit:

How Duct Tape and a B-Movie Sank a Presidency

On June 17, 1972, Watergate security guard Frank Wills (above) noticed a piece of duct tape covering a latch in the parking garage, preventing an entry/exit door from locking.

Wills removed the tape and continued his rounds. When he returned, the taped had too. It’s not known if Wills repeated Gomer Pyle’s catchphrase, but he definitely called the cops.

The Watergate burglars being professional spooks and all, they had a lookout. Unfortunately for Richard Nixon’s presidency, FBI Agent Alfred Baldwin was engrossed in a B-movie called Attack of the Puppet People.

Normal protocol for a burglary-in-progress: uniformed cops respond, siren blaring. As luck wouldn’t have it, the officers hot-footing it to the Watergate happened to be plainclothes cops running silent in an unmarked car.

When Agent Baldwin spied the baseball cap-wearing cops, he was confused. He raised the alarm – too late. What happened next is history, begging the question…

What if G. Gordon Liddy hadn’t replaced the duct tape? What if Puppet People had gone to commercial when the DC cops arrived?

A Dicey Proposition

What if’s are the main reason people wrestle with the idea of fate. Are our lives the result of random chance or directed by the unseen hand of a deterministic deity? Maybe God does play dice with the universe.

In 1985, I put the theory to the test. That’s when I “happened” to purchase Luke Rhinehart’s The Dice Man while wandering Europe and Scandinavia on my first ridiculously random motorcycle tour.

I bought a set of die, listed 12 traveling options and let the die decide my future. It was a revelation.

I discovered that my expectations were a straitjacket. When they’re weren’t realized, disappointment. Which blinded me to the random possibilities that are always present.

In no small part, that’s why I’m compelled to hit the road on BMW tourer 4.0 with no particular destination in mind. To re-embrace randomness. Surrender myself to fate? Same diff.

lt’s also why I don’t consider my toe injury bad luck. Things will happen that wouldn’t have happened if I’d blown town in April. Good things or bad things? Both.

The trick to dice therapy: realizing that there’s only one sure thing about luck. Whether it comes from God or random chance, it will change. The bigger trick: look for unforeseen opportunities.

If you’re moping around, grieving for the death of your plans and expectations, cursing fate for the crap into which you’ve landed, you miss the chance to find the good. To “turn you luck around.”

The Joy of Zero Fucks

On one hand, the Butterfly Effect is depressing. As Dr. Lorenz concluded, you can’t predict anything with certainty.

On the other hand, it’s a blessing. It frees you to to stop stressing about the future and be present.

At the present moment, I’m staring at a wondrous new motorcycle I can’t ride. Wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t broken my toe.

Good luck, bad luck? Who knows?


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