They say that what other people think of us is none of our business. Can the same be said for what people do when we are not around; is it any of our business? Should we care whether or not the tree makes a sound in the woods when it falls?
I guess, for me, it matters enough. You see, Goddess Mother Gaia gave me a special gift when she gave me life here on Earth: the power to appear and disappear at-will. Wouldn’t it be a slap in the face to her not to use this special gift just because of some namby pamby moral or ethical ambiguities?
I didn’t realize I had the gift at first. It was discovered when I was about 6 years old, at grandma’s house, with my hand literally in the cookie jar. Grandma had a big dinner in the oven, and she made all of us kids promise we wouldn’t do any snacking before the meal was served. But me, little voracious pudge that I was, I knew she had striped shortbread cookies in the cookie jar – and I had to have one! I went out the front door as if to go out and play and called out to grandma, “call me when dinner is ready, Grandma!” (As if she wouldn’t, without my prompt!) planting an idea in her mind that I would be outside until then.
Then, quiet as a butterfly’s tap dance, I climbed the rain barrel outside one of the kitchen windows and peered in. No sign of grandma. The plan was to sneak in and out so fast nobody would have a clue. I got inside the kitchen noiselessly, lifted the ceramic lid off of the jar with my left hand, reached in with my right, and had just made contact with the roughness of the shortbread and the slipperiness of the chocolate when grandma came charging in, headed to the oven, muttering something about missing the part where Geoffrey reveals his secret to Giordana. In a flash, I dropped the cookie and set the lid down as soundlessly as I could. There was going to be chastisement, and the misdeeds minimized would shorten the length of it. No need to clang the lid down and possibly break or chip it. It made the slightest of tings as it closed; I stood there waiting for it – the chastisement, that is. Grandma’s head swiveled over in the direction of the cookie jar and she got a puzzled look on her face. Then her attention returned to the object of her mission: the contents of oven. She poked and prodded on dinner; the smell of it made my Pavlovian saliva ducts go into overdrive. Then I became puzzled. Why was grandma ignoring me?? As my mind tried to make sense of it, my eyes wandered up from staring at grandma, to the large oval mirror behind her on the wall – my image was not in the mirror!
After pronouncing the yumptious fare still undone, grandma clanged the rack back in, shut the oven door, adjusted the timer, and went back to her soaps in the living room. My heart rate went down and I sighed a big sigh of relief. Noticing movement in the mirror, I looked again and there I was. My six year-old mind registered that when I was calm, my natural state was to be visible, but when alarmed, my natural state was to be invisible.
Over time I learned to control the gift. Once under control came the ruminations of what use I would put it to. Even though my attempted deception at age six might indicate I was of a conniving mind, in reality I was driven by my taste buds much of the time. It was so easy to go blankety – what I called it when I went invisible – and pilfer from the finest kitchens in my home town. It was so easy, especially at rush hour, when so many prepared dishes were completed and ready to be plated, to nimbly dip a spoon in and secret myself into a corner to eat.
Over time I came to know where every piece de resistance across the globe was located. I snagged Wolfgang Puck’s Schnitzel, Thomas Keller’s Smoked Salmon Crisps, Gordon Ramsay’s Scallops on Cauliflower Puree, Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, Daniel Boulud’s Chilled Spring Pea Soup, Mario Batali’s Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Jean George’s Chocolate Molten Cake, Rick Bayless’s Carne Asada with Black Beans, Jose Andres’s Paella with Shrimp and Squid, Gale Gand’s Lemon Meringue Pie, Helene Darrzone’s Squid Ink Risotto, John Besh’s August Chopped Salad, Tom Colicchio’s Braised Short Ribs, Nobu Matsuhisa’s Black Cod with Miso, Tuna Bhel Ceviche by Manish Mehrotra, Soy Paper King Crab Hand Roll by Daniel Son, Fig & Prosciutto Salad by Mette Williams, and so many more.
It was easy to stowaway on flights. Easy to be a world traveler. To hop into cars of unsuspecting drivers in any city or take a hop on a tour bus and see exciting locations. At times I wanted my own transportation in a town. Car dealerships often have all keys hanging from a board for easy access. Simple to go in and snag a set of keys to a car parked outside and come back after they were closed. I’ve driven the best of all makes and models.
By the age of 40, I had become quite obese. So much so that it was draining my energy. Something needed to be done. Blankety and into pharmacy for a bottle of amphetamines to squelch the ol’ appetite. When 24/7 gyms were empty in the wee hours of the night, I’d stroll in as gym members were coming and going and do a few laps in the pool, do the circuit training, often a nice steam sauna afterwards, at times the infrared sauna.
The diet pills and exercise were the perfect cocktail of keeping my weight under control, but the compulsion for the finest cuisine kept me spiritually hungry as well. Food was my life but my soul was empty. I had gotten so used to the blankety lifestyle that I stayed blankety 24/7. It was time for a change. I hopped a cross-country train in Spain and told myself that I would keep traveling the train circuit there until a path opened itself up to me through Mother Gaia’s Grace.
Luckily the first coach car I traveled on had an empty cabin and so there was a cushiony place to rest for the evenings. Over the months of traveling and soul-searching, sometimes all coaches would be full and I’d have to make do in a baggage area. It was easy to sneak food and drinks from the passengers, especially alcohol. When they were in the dining cars, I would invariably find an imbibable packed in a suitcase, but often it was just out in the open in the room.
One day, after walking for hours and hours in the hills of Andalusia I slept in a barn belonging to a young blacksmith and his wife. The livestock, curiously, had no trouble seeing me when I was blankety. In the morning, I snuck a fresh croissant from their kitchen table and ate an orange fresh off the tree. I spent that next day exploring the cafes and museums, feeling like I was the last living person on Earth.
Looking forward to Seville, my next destination, as I wanted to explore the city by bicycle, I climbed into an empty bunk on the train headed there. My body was ready to fall into the mattress and immediately into slumber – when I felt a body laying on the mattress. Turning on the light to the cabin, I saw no body. What was this!?! Another person like me??! Bumping around to get away and not being able to muffle the sounds of surprise, I decided to unblankety. A moment later the other person did as well. We each looked at the other with our mouths hanging open – as we were identical twins. To be continued…