Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fleeting and Fickle

Delay not; swift the flight of fortune's greatest favours.
-Seneca

So a month ago, February 21st, I had this life. I was the reasonably proud owner of one the biggest tattoo studios in Christchurch. I was booked out for a month and struggling to find time to keep up with my other commitments.

I had stopped smoking. Spent four nights a week swinging fists and sticks at the gym. My waistline thanked me.

My book Poison Door had somehow climbed to #23 on Amazon.UK's bestseller chart for 'Female Sleuths'. I still have no idea how that happened. Just, overnight, the Brits started buying the hell out of my book.

The next day, everything changed.

Ten minutes to one, I was waiting for the mobile espresso van to bring me my midday shot of Brain Enhancer before I went to bank the month's rent.

A minute later I was standing behind the counter, surfing one a floor that wouldn't hold still. The sounds were deafening: the building rattling, glass crashing, one of my artists screaming.

When it stopped I got the upset girl outside, went back in to start cleaning. Enough equipment was broken or damaged that I knew we'd have to close for the day.

More people started yelling. Something about 'flooding' and 'trapped'. A dark wet line appeared through the carpet. I went out front, pulled the sidewalk-sign in and locked the door. Brown water was rushing out from between sidewalk and building. On the other side of the wall, it was filling my front room. The building was still rumbling. Aftershocks made cracking sounds in the roof.

Out back, more water gushed from under the building. In the time it took to lock the front door and leave through the back, the nose of my car had been buried in wet brown mud.

I snatched a cigarette off the first smoker I saw.

I got three weeks off work. Unpaid.

Poison Door sank like a stone from the UK charts.

Now, it's a month later.

Zyban's cutting the smoking habit- in just over a week I've gone from a pack and a half to five. My gym's reopened, now almost an hour from my house. I'll travel that distance, just to lose the results of four weeks of fried food. (Most nights I'd just stare at the fridge, stare at the stove, and go buy fish and chips.)

My new shop is open. The new place is smaller, more intimate, and the rent isn't such an incredible stone around my neck. I can't help but be aware that in a city where half the storefronts fell down and competition for those still standing is fierce, I was wise to hustle and a little bit lucky too.

And in the UK, Poison Door has sold two copies. That's right, two. I don't know why, any more than I know why it sold so many in February. Sales in the US are steady and growing, but that weird spike in England... just baffling.

In times of trouble and times of joy, I read the Stoic philosophers. They help me 'meet with fortune and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.' And seeing as I opened with a quote from one of my favorites, I'm going to go out with him too. Especially poignant in light of the tragedy in Japan:

In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life.

We must be able to accept death and go from its presence better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others.

Out of our sorrows should come understanding.

Through our sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so.

Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows.

Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts.

Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death.

Seneca

8 comments:

Angie said...

It's great to hear from you, hon. I'm glad you found a new shop, and that some things are improving for you. Best of luck -- you deserve it. [hugz]

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

It's good to know you landed on your feet

Melanie Webster said...

So pleased to see you are alright, you didn't answer my text! Sad to hear about your shop,I look forward to seeing your new space, when I am not sure as I think I will be too depressed if I go back to Chch. Strong quit smoking vibes coming your well, you did so well to quit before! AAAAnndd well done your book, that is AWESOME news!!! Can we buy it here? xxx

Kia Kaha Otautahi said...

Well my dear its been a shit house time i agree, but looking back at it all you must take heart in the good things that have come from this experiance...I told you just the other day "everything happens for a reason"...give it time and those reasons will be clear as. But for now just know that loyalties run deep, and it must be a two way street or else whats the point?

Here for you always...ex-client, now friend :)) xx

cs harris said...

Sounds like you've landed on your feet in a remarkably short space of time. Was your house okay? Did the car recover?

Just think about what wonderfully authentic touches you'll now be able to add to whatever future earthquake scenes you write.

As for the effect of stress on diet...I gained 20 pounds in the 11 months after Katrina. Good thing you have your gym back.

Erik Donald France said...

Jesus~~ good luck, man! And salud~~

Steve Malley said...

Angie, Charles, thanks. :)

Melanie, were you texting my right number? It's oh-two-seven, eight-five-eight, one five 7 four. I'll get in touch soon, promise!

Fiona, you're too sweet... :)

Candy, funny you should say that-- the sequel to Poison Door originally had one of the godawful epic wind-storms we get here, but once I started thinking 'earthquake' a bunch of plot points fell into line!

And Erik-- Salud! :D

Kate Sterling said...

Goodness. I'm glad you're getting back to "normal." May the sales gods smile upon you. :)