Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Valuable 1941 Nickel

Somehow -- I don't want to give away too much about how I got it -- I came across a valuable old coin, a 1941 Jefferson nickel. I had change in my pocket, I emptied it out, and there it was, a genuine 1941 old coin, just like that. I didn't do a single thing, knowingly or unknowingly, to end up with it!

Before I got it I was feeling perfectly normal. After discovering it I pulled down the shades and started googling it. According to a site called "Cointrackers," there were hundreds of millions of these made. But since it's from 1941, there aren't a lot of them left in circulation.

As to the coin's value, the Cointrackers site said it ranges from 35 cents to $7.00, which is a damned lot for a nickel. $7.00! Meaning, I wasn't going to put it in a parking meter. And actually, except for this blog post, I wasn't even flashing it around willy-nilly. Only to certain people who could be trusted.

I took it around to some of the coin shops of my town. I moved all my ordinary change over to my left pocket and kept the '41 nickel alone in my right pocket. I went to Todd's Used Coins first. Todd was out for lunch, but the girl at the counter, taking a quick look at the nickel, immediately paged him, and he came right over. He looked at it, verifying for me that it was indeed a 1941 nickel, and that the visage on its face was a picture of Thomas Jefferson. He looked it up in a book, then wrote a number on a slip of paper and passed it to me. I looked and he had made me an offer of 25 cents.

I thanked Todd for his time but went on. Another place, right next door, is called the Universal Coin Emporium, or U.C.E. I went in and the owner -- the oldest guy in the shop -- met me. I asked if I could share my find with him, and he was amenable to it. He was very nice, in fact. He asked if it would be better to have a small black cloth for a background, which he provided. The nickel looked great on the cloth.

He said, "Ahhh, yes," in a very satisfied way, and checked it out carefully, front and back. He also was able to verify its province in time and place, that it was an American coin, to be precise a nickel, from 1941, with Jefferson's visage on one side. He pulled down a coin guide off the shelf and referred to it, announcing that the "tails" side was a building having to do with Jefferson called "Monticello." It looks like it has a dome on it. Very curious!

This guy -- I didn't catch his name and he didn't say -- offered me 75 cents for it, American money. I thought, you know, that's definitely a step in the right direction, but far from 7 bucks. On the other hand, he said, being a coin shop, he's buying things for resale, so he needs to make a profit. Anyway, he said, he would probably price it at $5.00, because there's some wear, and it might take him a while to sell it. When I turned down his offer, he said he might go $1.25, but not a penny more.

I wrapped it up in the black cloth and left, wanting to try one more place. A place called Dick's Coins, "If It's Money, We Want It!" emblazoned on his window, door, and even a bumper sticker on the car out front. Dick was very busy and really couldn't be bothered. But still, after I waited for an hour, making myself very conspicuous, through a lot of heavy sighing and tapping my watch, he made time for me. He came over and was very nice, "Let me see the damned thing..." He looked at it, and acted like they were a dime a dozen, to coin a phrase, and tossed it back at me.

I went slinking back to the guy at the Emporium, proudly, and told him I'd take the $1.25. And he was happy to pay it. I asked for the payment in coins, hoping to score another collectible, but they all turned out to be regular 2010-12 quarters. Nothing valuable. But enough for a couple cans of soda, pretty good for a nickel!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Halloween, Thanks To A Payday Loan

We want everyone to have a Happy Halloween, which should go without saying. But of course there's always a few folks who won't be able to, due to the bad economy, or perhaps just because they're naturally poor.

Everyone's story's a little different; people's situations and circumstances vary, so you're likely to see anything. There's folks who are filthy rich, easily able to afford to hand out entire boxes of Whitman samplers to Trick or Treaters. Then there's medium-wealthy folks, going for the premium chocolates, only not by the entire box. A larger group is the middle class, giving away decent enough candy, but strictly limiting it, to say maybe one or two candy bars. You go on and people get progressively poorer, all the way down to the folks who steal apples just to have something, anything to hand out. Then worse, those who are so dirt poor, they not only don't give anything, they steal from the kids when their backs are turned!

In there somewhere, probably with the dirt poor and the apple stealers, you have a few well-intentioned folks, who really feel the embarrassment of poverty, and the shame that is theirs that they can't participate fully in the holiday. So kids egg their house, or tent, or what have you. Halloween can be a very dangerous holiday when you have disappointed kids. I remember when I was young. There was a couple of old folks. Their excuse was they lived on a "fixed income." So the old wife made this crap that we hated, called "Divinity." Big mistake.

So me and some of the bigger kids cut down a telephone pole, and muscling it as a gang with quite a bit of force, drove it right through their front door like a battering ram. Our momentum was so fierce we went right through the opposite wall, leaving their place a shambles. One or both of the old folks later committed suicide in their garage. And the story doesn't end there. Later some other people moved in, and I don't know what it was -- the bad vibe? the karma? the possibility that it was haunted? -- but the husband of the later couple also committed suicide in the same garage.

Obviously, it's important to get Halloween right. And now, finally, poverty isn't an excuse. Because you can take out a payday loan, or get a title loan on your car, to make Halloween as good as it should be! I got the flier above in the mail today, and I thought, Finally! What great news! If you need a costume, they've got money to lend. Or candy, decorations, and party supplies, they've got you covered. With payday loans up to $500.

Yes, you can get a good start doing Halloween right for $500. Although if you want to get one of the deluxe Kiss costumes, they're actually $499.95, so that might not be the costume you'd get. For that you'd probably need to take in the title of your car, because you could get up to $5,000, which naturally would be enough to cover quite a bit more celebration. Sure, your car's in hock, and you'll play hell getting it out with what are presumably fairly high interest rates, but at least you'll have the fun of that one day. If you're really lucky, or really diligent, you might get it paid off just in time for a new loan next year!

But just imagine, you really could have quite a bit of fun. A genuine Batman costume is also $499.95. Get one of those, a few Kiss costumes, a bunch of big tombstones for your yard, and some of the expensive animated ghouls that jump out of their caskets, plus candy, etc., etc., and you'll be the hit of the block. What kid wouldn't love you! Of course it's also nice to have a car, but as trade-offs go, giving up your car for a decent Halloween, it's a no-brainer.

Don't let your empty wallet scare you! Have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This Halloween You Die!

'Tis the season of monsters, ghouls, evil witches, and zombies. Halloween is once again upon us. They all want to be scared. Well, I've got a prophecy for you, and a very reliable at that ... this year everyone's going to have something to be genuinely scared about. Mark my words!

We used to walk through the graveyard and always think how cool it'd be if it really opened up and ghosts were chasing everyone around. We always thought that's the kind of world we need to live in. Every year we'd lose X number of people to the ghosts. The authorities would try to forbid Halloween, of course, through their constant misguided desire for "public safety," but naturally we'd rebel and go out.

What a wild night it'd be! That was our fantasy. To be in actual spooky danger and not just the tiresome danger we normally get, from neighborhood psychos, depressed mass murderers, etc. No one thinks that's any fun, for whatever reason. We wanted ghosts, monsters, real ghouls.

To have actual supernatural phenomena, that's different. We can't fight them on equal footing. They've got powers beyond our own, the ability to recompose decomposed bodies, to become invisible, and to throw fire, etc. They rise up, maybe with a mouth ten inches tall and very narrow. They're melting before our eyes. They're embedded in someone and clawing their way out of someone's stomach. There's no end to the danger.

OK, here's my bold  prophecy: This is the year it happens! This year the lid of hell is coming off!

Mark it and mark it well, heed it! It's happening this year! It's starting this year! Halloween will be a terrific mess all over the world. Children, teenagers, and adults who've never grown up will not be coming home! Big steam pits will open under their feet! The dead will rise this year, on Halloween! Monsters will roam the land. There will be all kinds of misty fog over cemeteries, even in places whether there isn't the slightest humidity. Spirits will materialize and drag the living to their demise.

Halloween -- starting this year -- is going to be as terrible as anything we've ever heard of. The fires of hell will erupt, and the devil himself will be flying over our cities. I've already seen it in vision. And as for the monsters, just to elaborate, there won't be anything to stop them. And this includes some of the classic Universal monsters -- Dracula, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, and others -- they will literally be out in force.

The terrible thing about all this is that no one will likely heed my warning. I expect people to think Halloween is going to be the usual bit of "fun" that it always is. Going for a bunch of candy, like always, even though it leads to diabetes. We still look at it as harmless.

How terrible, that you will not listen. Those who invoke the spirits will be destroyed. Please, please, stay home, and keep your doors bolted.

If there's any good in Halloween at all -- and it's small -- it's this, that the ones consumed this year -- our children, our loved ones -- will reappear next Halloween. We the living, those left behind, those missing them, will be able to catch one more glimpse of our loved ones, just before they attack us and drag us, as well, to a hideous death.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You Got Anything To Say?

Please tell me, is anyone out there having good conversations anymore? I'm wondering if it's just me, but I'm not generally even overhearing good conversations anymore, let alone being a participant in them.

Maybe this is something that just requires a certain setting that's outside my lifestyle as I'm living it these days, such as a bar and several pitchers of beer. Since I don't do that, I wouldn't know if that's still happening. Still, like I said above, I'm out and around, and I'm not overhearing anyone else really into it either.

My mouth used to work. Used to. I remember it flapping all the time, with big crazy laughs and flights of imagination. I was thinking of this a while ago, some of the big ambitions we came up with in conversations, like making video documentaries. But none of it ever happened. I still think of it when I'm watching a video documentary: "We could've made this!" Big stuff, big plans. Now what is there? Everyone's snipping funny pictures of dogs and sharing them on Facebook. Conversation these days is, "Pray for me, I've got a disease."

There's work conversations, of course, as short and sweet as possible, just to get it over with. And conversations with your doctor, who's always in a great hurry and can't be held back. Beyond that, waitresses seating you, the guy at the grocery store, nothing. I got into a tiny conversation with the guy at the grocery store. It turned out that he and I were born the same year.

As for anything, though, if I'm not reading a book, nothing's getting through. Authors have a lot to say. The actual in-the-flesh encounters aren't yielding much. Leading me to think, indeed, there is really nothing left to talk about. Which doesn't sound entirely convincing.

It must really have something to do with aging. We already know, whatever our ambitions are, they're crazy, as well as our opinions. So to preserve what reputation for sanity we have, we've just shut up.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Three-Fold Hallelujah

As part of my spiritual regimen, in meditation, I've been chanting the Three-fold Hallelujah. It goes like this: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah," then a pause.

I know, just seeing it in print like that doesn't tell you much. But here's how it sounds: The first Hallelujah is said in a strong voice at a particular pitch. The second is completely identical to the first. Then the third drops the "-lujah" part down a note, making it lower. Followed by a pause that is silence.

Whether this does me any good, objectively, I don't really have the standing to make that determination. However, subjectively, I know it does. In recent days, I've seen the sky ripped in half and great visions of heaven. But enough about that.

So, I was describing all this to my minister, who listened carefully and respectfully, then tried it himself, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah." He paused and did it again, and said, "Yes, that sounds like a very good thing to say. I like it."

Then he asked me a strange question that I wasn't expecting: "Which Hallelujah of the three do you like the most?"

Hmm, that's really a tough question, isn't it? because I think each one has its good points. And I'd hate to have to pick just one, because what would be the point? It's the Three-fold Hallelujah, not a chant with only one Hallelujah. I looked at him, searching his face for a clue; was he putting me on? But his face, as usual, when he sets it in a determined way, was stolid, unflinching, unwavering, and, I hate to say it, without a hint of mercy. I felt a trickle of sweat burst forth on my forehead, and knew I was probably flushed, and suddenly seemingly vulnerable under his piercing, unrelenting stare.

Since I couldn't escape, I began reasoning it out: The first and second Hallelujahs are identical. The third is the only one distinctively on its own. So what it comes down to is this: Do I prefer of the ones that are doubly pronounced or the one standing alone? And beyond that fact, what of the sound? Do I prefer the first and second's tone or the third's? Does doubling make the first and second tones less precious, playing on the third's distinctiveness? Or is the third somehow inferior because it does stand alone? The first and second seem like they're being said as a progression worthy of eternity, with a single focus of concentration, and even bliss. The third, one might argue, in its denouement is something of a let-down, even an unfortunate claim that eternity is not real, and an expression that only finiteness (it being the third of three) is real. That would be depressing, although I'd have to argue, every good thing has to end, except, of course, eternity itself, presumably.

So I'm thinking, thinking, thinking, worrying, stewing, busting a vein over my answer. I look over and, in the meantime, Pastor has turned away and is filing a bushel basket of old sermons. He sees me return to life, and I tell him my choice: I prefer the second Hallelujah. Even though it's identical to the first, still it has a place in the order. It repeats the first, true, but it also leads to the third. And even though the third is the third, with all the problems that might suggest, without a third you wouldn't have three. And the fact that it is the denouement and with its lower note is something of a let-down, it does make a legitimate third, whereas a third identical to the first and the second would simply terminate the sequence ambiguously. As it is, in relation to the third, the second is the last note of real strength. So the middle one, for me that's where it's happening.

I urge you to consider this as part of your own spiritual life, the Three-fold Hallelujah. But it might be best not to tell anyone, so they don't put you on the spot.