November 18, 2011

Walking though the Loop. Ear-buds jammed in tight. Tunes cranked. My music shuffling through songs chosen to conjure up feelings and times from my past – like photos in an album, err.. I mean on my screen saver.

Eyes in the present.

Ears in the past.

My mind somewhere in-between, integrating it all.

Unlike LA, downtown Chicago is a great walking city. Reminds me more than any other place of my hometown – NYC.  I love to experience the crush of people, architecture, commerce and theater. Even in the cold.

I once knew a therapist when I lived in LA – a wonderful man who used directed visualization to help his clients alter their future. Joseph Shorr’s book – Go See the Movie In Your Head – was ground breaking in its day.

And his commandment – to wisely choose your own role – and then try to stay in character – struck me as profound.  Until that time, I never though of observing my life while living it. I certainly never thought of myself as playing in a movie – let alone starring in one.

Over time I have found that observing doesn’t necessarily make decisions in the moment any easier. You just get to watch yourself choose. Cue the music…

It turned cold overnight in Chicago – we were heading into the deep freeze and this was a taste of things to come.  Not an Alaskan winter.  But certainly not an LA winter either.

On my way to a morning appointment, I stepped inside one of those chain drugstores that has opened on every corner.

And I found myself standing next to homeless man.  It was apparent he was homeless because of the number of layers he was wearing. And the plastic bags over his shoes. And the fact that he radiated cold as though he were a block of ice.

And this man was shoving food items into his pants.  First a can of peanuts.  Then a package of muffins.  And who knows what all else.  He grabbed something else from the shelf.

What to do?

The music in my ears playing Shattered – by the Rolling Stones. Really loud. Coincidence?

As he continues his shoplifting ballet, I try to figure out what to do? What should I do?

Turn him in? Tell the clerk that a guy a few steps from her was ruining the same store profit projections her manager had just pitched to corporate for the fourth quarter?

Or get into the Christmas spirit – as suggested in the store’s windows – and give – what was admittedly not mine – by just walking away.

Life’s just a cocktail part on the street…. this town’s in tatters.

This is not the worst crime I have ever witnessed. I covered news in LA for goodness sake.

But stealing is a crime.

And then for some reason, I thought of Steve Jobs. The hero of the technorati, who began his career pranking the Man with a contraption he and Wozniak built to rip off the phone company. It allowed users to make free (steal) long distance calls – back when long distance was a term that had some economic meaning. Look what he became.

I thought of the federal, state and city tax breaks the chain drugstore was probably getting to employ the clerks, or keep its headquarters somewhere, or for its ability to write off the shop-lifting losses and reduce its tax liability. Look how we depend on these companies.

All rationalizations, I know.

What I saw more clearly than anything saw was a frozen hungry man trying to stay alive.

And I decide to walk out the door without saying something, even though I very plainly did see something.

And he will sit on his cardboard, eating his peanuts in the cold, and I will wonder what the karmic payback will be for me, as my action, or lack of action, sifts through the cosmos.



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