Sunday, April 1, 2012

The church at the corner of Gloria and Lloyd

I have a relationship with the unknown.

I mean the unknown unknown. I mean the what-the-hell-is-this, why am I experiencing all these strange coincidences (also known as "God's way of remaining anonymous"), all these strange happenings and feelings that make me wonder if there is indeed an Other Side.

My most laden experience, the one producing the richest vibrations, has been with Harold Lloyd. Since I began to research his life for my novel The Glass Character (just lately accepted for publication, to my delight), or even before that, I felt a weird sort of resonance with him. It reminded me of one of his funniest early films, Haunted Spooks, in which his thick black hair stands on end (a running gag created with electric current - I don't know how he survived it) when he sees a flour-covered little black kid running around like a baby ghost.

I suppose I should start at the beginning and recount the whole thing, all my experiences from early childhood, but I'd be here all day so I can only talk about last week., or at least the last few years. And that feeling, that feeling that "someone" is there, almost always on my left side, outside my body, in a sort of person-shaped bubble. Does he say anything? Not really, but I feel his presence or vibes or whatever-it-is I feel about people before I even see them.

In these visitations, he's always the older Harold, the never-mellowed Harold who remained fiercely interested in life, in women, and in a thousand different activities, some charitable, some just plain weird (such as taking something like half a millon 3D photos of naked women and paying them $50 each, which often included sex).  But when I feel a presence like this - and believe me, I realize that this could be my imagination - it's pure essence, as if I am sipping the person through a straw.

So what was/is Harold like? Hard to explain. A complex man who seemed simple, even thought of himself as simple. Was he interested in this sort of thing, in the other world? He was too practical for that, a Midwestern boy raised and baptised in fundamentalist Christianity in the Bible belt. And yet, and yet.

I don't know much about masonic orders or Shriners or any of that stuff, except that it involves funny hats and go-carts. It's mainly, as I see it, benevolent, but there are always rumors. Not only was Harold involved: he rose through the ranks of masonry (if that's what it's called) all the way to Imperial Potentate of the Shriners: and he looked decidedly un-silly  in that hat. 

But there are other things apart from Harold Lloyd, lots of things, hard to describe. Not just knowing when the phone will ring, but who is on the other end and (this is the signifcant part) what they are going to say. "Guessing" the name of my newborn niece before anyone told me. I'm not a psychic, don't get me wrong, and most people who call themselves psychics vastly overestimate their abilities (or are outright frauds, like that sickening, grating Long Island Medium on TLC, the biggest display of phony producer-driven "magic" I've ever had the misfortune to half-see before I bailed).

There's another part of it however. Though we're out of touch now, I was once close friends with a professional spiritualist medium, a university professor with two masters' degrees and a PhD in anthropology. I saw him perform his mediumship in a spiritualist church, a rapid blur of connected images that, to be honest, didn't make much sense to me, though the audience was quick to pick up meanings that may or may not have been there.

Then there was my violin teacher, a psychic healer steeped in the ancient, spooky traditions of Eastern European mysticism. This is strange territory and seems to tap in to things like werewolves and homunculi. He did healing on me, and it felt good, but I wonder now if it was really as transformative as it was supposed to be. He was a loving figure however, benevolent and eager to help people,  so I was never afraid of him or of his unusual ministrations. And yet, and yet, when I experienced a huge personal crisis in 2005, he wasn't there for me, and later on he accused me of abandoning him. This hurt me more than I can say.

I ran into a bulwark of belief that has always confounded me. Everything has to be a "lesson", everything has to  happen for a reason, even if in truth things are  just one big appalling blob of adversity. This is a subtle way, I can't help but feel, of saying "it's your fault", or, at very least, "you needed the lesson."  I won't even go into how inhuman this belief system is for people who have lost a child or otherwise experienced nearly-unbearable grief.

Are psychics and mediums and the like really in touch with some other dimension? Am *I* sometimes in touch, or is my imagination making my scalp prickle like Harold? I've seen auras, or certainly sensed them. No matter how phony someone's public act, I see through it in two seconds. This may just be the human sense that gives us a nose for these things, a survival skill.

And yet.

They say there are no coincidences, but the Lloyd synchronicity, which at one point was so thick I was getting four or five examples a day, seemed to be smearing butter all over my skepticism. I watched a little movie, a British comedy called The Wrong Box, and saw four examples of Lloyd - maybe five - in the credits, the names of the actors, the Tontine list which was the backbone of the whole thing. Face it, Lloyd is just not that common a name. Another time we were driving along the highway to somewhere and bisecting it was a road called Lloyd Avenue.

"That's stupid," I said to my husband. "There can't be a road just sitting there in the middle of nowhere. And especially not a Lloyd Avenue."

But then came the topper. I turned my head to the right and saw a huge brick building, also just sitting there, butted right up against the busy highway, totally out of place. I looked at the sign and "kvelled": it said Gloria Evangelical Temple.

Gloria was the name of Harold's first child. And there was her temple, right at the corner of Gloria and Lloyd.

Another time I was watching an old Twilight Zone episode and looked at the credits and saw  the name Suzanne Lloyd. That's the name of Harold's granddaughter, now CEO of Harold Lloyd Entertainment. It wasn't her, of course, but it was someone with the same name.

Just a coincidence? I! Don't! Think! So!

Things don't levitate by themselves or rise in the air, at least not so far,  but reality is sometimes a weird mobius strip playing endlessly and curving back on itself. Harold was an accomplished professional magician from boyhood (made money off it as a kid), even after he lost half his right hand in an accident. He could make things disappear, then reappear with an enigmatic smile.

There were the three gold beads.  A stupid story, really, but I've come this far, so I'll tell it anyway. I had a necklace made of tiny figures that were meant to represent my four grandchildren, and the beads were used as spacers. I had never owned anything like them. When I decided to mount the figures on a gold hoop earring and put it on a chain, something happened. One of the beads was missing. It just vanished. I don't remember dropping it. I got down on my hands and knees - it was doubtful I'd be able to match these, so I needed it back badly - and stayed down there a long time, going over every fibre of the rug.

Then I vacuumed the entire surface of the bedroom, sifting through all the dirt and fibres, then vacuumed again. Nothing.

I had to give up and try to find something else to use as spacers, but as so often happens in cases like this, I forgot about it and put the whole thing away.

Months went by, and though I was still pretty obsessed with Harold, I was shifting a bit, starting to move on. I was in my walk-in closet at the far end of the bedroom, as far from my jewellery case as possible. I felt something on the bottom of my foot.

It was the gold bead!

Seemed weird. Yes, weird, but. . .OK, somehow it got transported over there, on my foot? But wouldn't I feel it?

I went to put the bead back with all the other necklace material.

Wait a minute.

There was only one gold bead.

Even including the newly-found bead, I still had only two. I felt this phantom laughter, this twitting of my seriousness, this slightly nasty magician's satisfaction (for I have a theory that magicians are a little nasty, which is why I don't enjoy watching them perform) that seemed to say Harold was toying with me.

Fine then! I did it again! I put the bead back! I forgot about it! It was over, as far as I was concerned, and I could forget about the whole thing.

Months went by. The carpet was vacuumed several more times, and I obsessively checked in all the globs of filthy fluff for the lost bead. Nothing.

Then one day, getting dressed, just minding my own business, I saw something in the middle of the room, on the other side of the bed from my jewel case.

It shone a little. Jesus, no, it couldn't be!

I thought to myself: if I have only one bead in that case I will throw this sucker out the window, even get rid of the whole necklace. I opened the case and sighed to find there were two. My set of three was now restored.

Months went by. . . no, weeks I guess, when I was changing the lightbulb on a lamp in the other corner of the bedroom (I don't need to tell you how far away from the case). Then I felt something small and cold and hard under my foot.

For some obscure reason Harold wanted me to have four. A good trick on me. Things can't materialize out of nowhere, can they? But what about the loaves and fishes? Were they merely prestidigitation, or something infinitely more mysterious and profound?

I have a relationship with the unknown. I do not understand it and don't even want to go there, most of the time. Like a mirage, it can disappear if you pursue it. You see it in your peripheral vision, but when you turn your head. . .

When you turn your head, those three gold beads might just dematerialize, un-be, as they surely once were. As we surely all were, before we "were". And wherever that strange place is, there is no stopping us: we are all heading back there. Who knows when.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book
    It took me years to write, will you take a look