Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pennies from Heaven

     There are very few Austinites in Austin.  Don’t know the statistics, but everyone except the dude at the used bookstore near the U of T campus, was born somewhere else, came to visit, seek luck and fortune and never left.  I can see why.
Austin’s cool.  A blossoming ‘prickly pear’ in over 263,000 sq miles of dusty, redneck weeds.

     The day I met Pamela Gray was the same day I found a penny, tails up, on
The Driskill lobby floor.   There’s a feeling of unexplainable ecstasy when that happens; like in that very quiet, private moment, all the magical beliefs of your childhood suddenly come bursting up through your skin and out your smile. 
It’s like believing Disneyland is truly the happiest place on earth or the guy you carved your initials with in the oak tree that summer will actually be your husband…
Finding that penny is everything.  You think to yourself, “I found a ‘lucky penny’ and making that contact with Pamela Gray is going to not only ensure she reads my screenplay, but she’s going to want to direct and produce it as well.”  The high is wordless; so you pick up that penny, secretly place it in your right pocket and walk, in your Tony Lama, squared-toed, shit-kickin boots, on the top of the world for the rest of the day. 

     The next morning, while standing sleepy-eyed in the crowded, perpetual line at Jo’s Coffee, you look down and through the sleepy crud in your eyes; you notice a penny on the sidewalk.  Not as impressed as yesterday, you move to the “pick-up” counter to retrieve your coffee with 2 ‘shots’, happen to look down again at the wooden deck and notice another penny.  As your stir the cream in your cup, you realize that you will never be that child again; that child who believes in magic and “happy-ever-afters” and that Austin is, in facet, filled with pennies on the ground.

     When one travels alone there’s always that call of “Should I ask a stranger to take my picture? Should I just shoot the cool neon signs and old buildings? Or should I set up my camera, set the timer, and hope no one is watching?”

     Talking to strangers is always a crapshoot, but Austin’s a pretty friendly town. 
It becomes friendlier, especially in the pubs, saloons and jazz halls, as the night progresses. 
You could be asking some big-time director, producer or filmmaker to take your picture; even an internationally acclaimed artist or publisher…Or you could be asking some crazy person who didn’t take his meds that morning and has been living on Shiner Bock for the last four days. 

     There’s a certain population here that is reminiscent of the trailer park crowd. 
They all hang out on the eastside of Congress Ave.  Why the f@*!k is it always the “eastside” in every single town, city, whistle-stop?  That’s where you always find the misfits, the riffraff, the impoverished pathetics who’re just trying to make their way in this world.  I met a guy that reminded me of Tommy from Space 7 the other night; born and raised in the “hill country” of Texas and damn proud of it. 
Like Tommy, he loves honky-tonks, tee shirts with large American flag emblems and flirting with anything that has mammaries.  He drinks beer like water.
This dude, let’s call him Tommy 2, tried to pull me out on the dance floor like a machine pulls saltwater taffy…thing is, it wasn’t happenin and fortunately for me, there was this Harley couple, who just rode in from San Antonio, standing next to me. 
There also could’ve been a penny on the floor, ‘cuz that Harley dude scared the hell out of Tommy 2 and I felt a sense of security for the remainder of the evening.
Of course, I’ll probably never find a producer on the eastside, but there is a slice of life there that intrigues me, ropes me in and usually doesn’t spit me out. 


8:00 a.m. Saturday morning.  The revving VRRRM VRRMM sound of Tommy’s
3-wheel sparkly pink trike outside my trailer window. 
I peer through my blinds hoping not to be seen.
With Keystone in one hand, Tommy’s in front of my carport waiting for me to come out.  
His expression tells me he is excited to share some news.
Dressed in my sweats, coffee in my hand, I open the door, “Hey, Pinky, you’re up early.”
Yea…up before the crack-o-D-O-N!  Get it?!!”

He laughs at his own perception of humor.

I don’t think Tommy’s from Austin, but it’s certainly possible he grew up in Texas.

“Hey, listen, it’s Kimmie’s birthday and we wanted to invite you and yur…yur…
yur frr…”

“…my partner?”  I help him.

“Yea…yea…to our place for some cake, ice cream and beer this afternoon.”

I love that combo.

“Yea…she’s turning 45 today and you know what they say…the ones ending in 0 or 5 are the lucky ones…I hope y’all can make it…say ‘round 4:00?” 

“Hey, thanks Tommy…we’ll try.” 

We didn’t go that afternoon, but you know what? 
I remember being told that too: the ones ending in 0 and 5 are the lucky birthdays. 
I remember it like I remember the whole penny on the ground thing. 
There’s something to it…. Believing you could actually be in the right place at the right time; 
that a Pamela Gray could in fact read your screenplay, that a stranger would defend you against the evil bad men of the world, that a birthday ending in 0 or 5 could be a lucky one and, yes, that finding that penny could mean a door of opportunity will be opened.  I don’t necessarily think that pennies fall from Heaven.  I’m not that far gone yet, but I do think of myself as this child who’s comfortable in the company of those who believe in luck.  Whether they’re from the eastside, a trailer park, a city or way yonder on the rural back roads…anywhere that people believe in Possibility.
I just can’t do cake, ice cream and beer all at the same sitting.

Tommy 1 and 2 are just making their way in the only way they know how.
Whether it’s magic, luck or a chance encounter that happened after a night of wishing on a falling star; it’s ours to cease…or not.

Keep looking for that magic, people, and it will find you!


  1. Well Ms. Fern, your blog is my magic penny of the day......had (mmmm.. it's only 6:20, guess I'm still having...) a shitty day. Tired of studying, worried about my vomiting dog, tired of my tired 51 yr old body hurting. So I go to my computer to email my therapist and VOILA! Here you are with your insight and humor, your courage and willingness to speak truthfully. A precious combo of heads up tails up pennies scattered, an honest offer of connection from the heart......

    With appreciation and a renewed smile,


  2. You really do write from the heart and it is worthwhile time spent reading your commentary on life...keep it up!