Karma: destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.

I find karma very confusing. Simply put, it’s supposed to be a cause and effect thing. The masters paint it as a pool of water, and if you toss in a tiny pebble, you get tiny ripples back. If you heave in a brick…well, you can imagine. Big splash, big noise, big waves…

That makes sense to me. I guess we’re supposed to live our lives only tossing in pebbles whenever possible, in order to keep the resulting ripples down, and probably throwing in nothing at all is even better.


Although you may need to maybe hurl a brick or slab of concrete in once in a while as a humanitarian gesture, because pebbles won’t do it.

Like I’d say Richard Painter’s lobbing pretty big boulders into the pool all the time as he shouts his outrage to the stars regarding the insane clown posse that’s taken over the White House these days.


Because sometimes silence or indifference or inaction equals death.

On a smaller scale, here’s a few things that happened to me recently.

They’re tiny but left a semi-large question mark in their wake.

Incident number one:

We’re always really careful when getting in and out of our car. My husband and I hate when dings show up in our doors or somewhere along the side of the car, and we’re very careful not to do it to other people.

So one day when parked in a public garage on a slight incline, I opened the door, it started to slip, due to gravity, from my fingers, and I lurched after it, my fingers stretching. In a movie it would be that typical scene where important papers fall and one begins kiting away in the wind, and you’re running after it and reaching for it but it’s always yanked away, just out of your reach.

Or even worse, the opening scene of “It”, when the paper boat sweeps down into the gutter and the kid’s on his knees in the rain peering into that dark hole. And, no, he doesn’t reach into the storm drain to try to get it, but he’s leaning precariously forward, staring into that blackness when It suddenly appears, evil incarnate, heralding the end of his life.


And that’s what kind of happened to me.

Except there was no paper boat, no rain, no monster. And I didn’t get yanked into a storm drain.


No, instead–car door slipping, fingers reaching, reaching, close-up of fingertips swiping at the handle but missing by millimeters…and then bang! It thumped into the car next to me.

Exactly at the same time that It emerged from the darkness. Rounding the back of the car.

Or, in actuality, not a murderous alien monster but simply a woman.

She rounded the car just as my car door thumped into hers, and that was all she saw. Only that. Not the valiant effort beforehand. Only the epic fail afterwards.

As I yanked the door back, too late, and then also saw the woman a second later, I said something like, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” and was rewarded with, along with a super-loud, deafening silence, the nastiest look I think I’ve ever received in my life.

Nastier than the stuff the people in the back of the train were forced to eat every day in “Snow Piercer.”


Nastier than the looks Melania gives Donald as she walks past him from her seat on the other side of Air Force One because there’s no way she can stand being in the same space with him.

If I went around banging doors willy-nilly and not giving two craps about other people and their cars, finally being caught in the act and getting a look like a loaded gun from someone would make sense, right?

Incident number two:

I ride my bike to work. It’s not very far, so don’t be impressed. I’d love to say I lived at the beach and rode to the Valley every day, but that would not only be absurd, it would be impossible. As it is, it’s just a few blocks.

But I DO ride on the sidewalk as often as I can, because I’ve had too many “close calls” in traffic, so it’s just not worth it to share the road with cars.


When I get to parts of the sidewalk where people are actually walking (most sidewalks in L.A. are deserted, you understand, because everyone’s in their car, trying to run over pedestrians and bike riders) I always slow way down, often just stopping entirely to let them pass, or just ride behind them slowly until I have room to get by.

So the other day as I’m riding slowly by the bus stop, a petite woman holding the handle of a small suitcase on wheels turned around and screamed at me at the top of her lungs, “NO BICYCLES ON THE SIDEWALK!”


She screamed this so loudly right in my ear as I passed that my immediate instinct was to leap off the bike and wallop her in the stomach. Then after that yell, “WHAT?”

You know, similar to that old joke about L.A. cops who empty their entire gun into someone and then yell, “Freeze!” afterwards.

If I hadn’t recognized seconds after the screaming started that she was probably homeless and mentally ill, I think there might have been an undignified cat fight at the bus stop that afternoon.

I know these are small examples, but I don’t get it.

Am I not tossing tiny pebbles into the pond?

What’s with these tsunamis coming back at me?


The answer may lie with Christopher Walken, one of my favorite actors, who had this to say about cats:

“I like cats a lot. I’ve always liked cats. They’re great company. When they eat, they always leave a little bit at the bottom of the bowl. A dog will polish the bowl, but a cat always leaves a little bit. It’s like an offering.”

Have cats—and, indirectly, Christopher Walken—stumbled across the middle way? Have enthusiasm, but don’t overdo it. Be conscientious, but self-flagellation is so Middle Ages. Dogs are great, but they get over-excited. Existence is ineffable. Leave a little behind you for the hungry ghosts.

Thank you, Mr. Walken.