Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lucky Afternoon

  Last Thursday, I had a pretty normal day. As I do most Thursdays, I worked from 7am to 3:30 so I could go home and get to chess club at the Salvation Army at 5pm. I had a pretty normal day at work and when it was time to leave, I walked to the bank of 6 elevators, pressed the down key, and waited for one of the elevator doors to open. After a few seconds, I heard a familiar ding through the music from my amazing iPod’s headphones, walked through the doors and saw a dollar bill lying flat on the floor inside the elevator. I walked to the back of the elevator, reached down, and snatched the dollar bill with the speed and agility of a man half my age. I checked out the bill to see it perhaps another bill was stuck to it, but this dollar bill was all alone. Then I stuck the bill in my pocket, pressed the button to take me to the second floor and had a happy walk all the way to my car in the parking garage.

  I consider myself a very lucky guy. I have a great wife, good kids, awesome beagles and other nice pets, and have a good job, But this dollar was the first bill I had found since the magical Tuesday in 2007 when I found a 10 spot at 5 in the morning while walking Queenie and Tuffy. Queenie and Tuffy and I found a five dollar bill outside the Jiffy convenience store one weekend morning walk years ago, but except for those instances the only money I ever find is spare change laying on the street and the phone booth down the street (before someone ripped the phone out of it a few weeks ago). I’m not especially worried about money, but I think finding money is a sign from Jesus to let me know that there is always money waiting for me and there is no reason to ever worry about money. My dad used to walk all around where we lived in New Jersey and he would tell me when he found money on the street or in a phone booth he knew that times were good because he never found money lying around when times were bad.

My favorite neighbor -
An empty house!!
  I had a happy drive home and noticed that there was a police car in the driveway we share with the people that live next door. Since their garage faces the driveway and my garage faces the alleyway out in back, they tend to share the driveway more than I do. I used to like my next door neighbors and would do favors for them until they started driving through my fence, gate, and bushes. When they drove through the fence the first time on a cold winter day, they told me that they would fix it when the weather got warm. We waited until May and I fixed the fence myself. After that, when they would drive through my stuff, they’d pretend they didn’t know anything about it. I put some metal posts up along a row of evergreen bushes that run along the driveway and a guy drove over the post when he was delivering some old cement from a busted up highway (don’t ask me why). The neighbor and this guy told me they would fix the post but I called the cops to get a police report. Maybe the cement guy wasn’t supposed to be there or maybe he didn’t have a valid driver’s license, but he started begging the cop to let him fix the post instead of making out a report. I went along and I did get a new post that night along with 2 other posts that were promised to me when my neighbor drove through my gate in order to get somebody to stop leaving pieces of a broken gate (with nails sticking out) in the driveway. They aren’t the worst neighbors I’ve ever had, but I don’t like them and I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

  I got in the house, but there was no one home and Kathy left a phone message saying she was stuck at school waiting to pick Ben up, so I let the Daisy and Baxter in the backyard to go to bathroom and also to see if I could find out why the police car was in the driveway. I saw there was a lady with a camera taking a lot of pictures. I didn’t see any signs of a car accident, so I asked her if the house next door had gotten robbed and she said yes. There have been lots of burglaries all over town this summer. The police say they are investigating, but after a few months you’d think there would be some progress. You can read about the burglaries here, here, and here. There was an open meeting in the city council meeting last month where the police said that burglaries were down 14 percent from last year and that over half the break-ins were due to unforced entry. This is the same police department that claimed crime was down by 30 percent one year when what really happened was an increase in the amount of damage needed to automatically require a police report. The police recommended that people lock their doors, and photograph their items so when they are stolen, they can be recovered easily. I recommend that the police stop hiding patrol cars at the bottom of hills looking for speeders and start driving around town looking for burglars and suspicious characters. My neighbor must have taken some of the police's advice, since the thief broke a window and let themselves in to steal a game system and who knows what else. Now I’m not saying I’m glad my neighbors got robbed, but I felt pretty lucky it wasn’t me. I don’t think Daisy and Baxter are much deterrence to a burglar, but they get so loud and yappy that it would probably be easier for a crook to find a quieter target.

  A few minutes later, I was off to chess club. Matt is at college in Ames and Jaleb is busy doing other things on Thursdays so I‘ve been the strongest Marshalltown player at our weekly chess tournaments and managed to win it the last 2 weeks. 2 weeks ago I tied for first with Joe Meyer who came over from Waterloo to check out the competition. I drew Joe and he beat semi–regular Dave the barefoot chess player from Des Moines. Last week I drew Dave, but Jon beat him in the last round to give me a clear first. This week we had 5 Marshalltown players, the barefoot chess player, Steve Jacobs from Des Moines, and a new guy who came with Steve named Hunter, who tied for first in the Iowa Reserve (U1600) championship last month. Hunter is in his 20’s and is a student at the Drake Law School. Steve thought I’d get a kick out of meeting Hunter since he is from New Jersey. Sure enough, even though Hunter is from South Jersey while I am from North Jersey, when I listened to him I heard myself half a lifetime ago. Spending the last third of my lifetime in Iowa has taken the edge off my accent but the people I talk to in Iowa still know I’m not from here (When I get back to New Jersey the people I talk to there know I’m not from there) and it was great to hear a familiar voice.

  I beat local high school player Chandler in the first round and then took on Steve in the second round while Hunter played Dave the barefoot chess player. I beat Steve in a tough game and Hunter beat Dave so Hunter and I sat down to decide the winner of the blitz tournament and also decide who was the unofficial best New Jersey transplanted chess player in Marshalltown, Iowa this day. Hunter attacked like a caveman, giving me a pawn to keep my king in the center and my pieces from developing off the back row. I defended well and got my king to relative safety. Hunter then gave me a piece to get his Queen and Rook in menacing positions. I had 2 minutes and Hunter had less than 20 seconds and then I unleashed the following howler.

  I just moved my Queen from e6 to d7 to protect the rook and also stay in contact with the checkmate square on c8. Moving the Queen to d6 protects the rook and also allows me to head to b8 if Hunter tries to checkmate me on c8. The only problem with the Queen on d7 is that Hunter can just take my queen and if I take back, I get checkmated on c8 by the rook. But with only a few seconds on his clock, Hunter missed taking my queen and I ended up winning the game with my extra piece for my third stoke of luck for the day. When I told Hunter about taking my queen, he realized it immediately and smacked his head. I know we’ll meet over the board again but for now SCOREBOARD, NORTH JERSEY!!

  When Kathy and I walked Daisy and Baxter after the tournament, I stopped in the liquor store and bought a 99 cent Cranberry Sierra Mist with the dollar I found earlier that day and spent another dollar on a beef stick treat for the beagles. I wanted to see if my luck was holding out so I bought a $5 scratch lottery ticket. I went home, scratched the ticket off, and won.....nothing. But I was really, really close to winning $5,000. I mean close like one number away close. Not close enough to get me to buy another ticket, but really close...really.

  By Friday morning I knew that my lucky streak was really over when Kathy called me to say the minivan wouldn’t start and was making some indescribable noises when she tried to start it, but it was nice to have an afternoon where I was the luckiest guy around.