In Laos, when people see Good Luck, they’ll touch you on the arm and ask your name and where you are going. They’ll want to be there when the snake crosses the road, when the monk anoints their wrists with a saffron thread fragrant with sandalwood. Once I saw a rickshaw driver (who’d seen too much of life) flirt with the waitress, the palmist’s daughter, (who was dismayed by his hands). She told him: “Don’t blame your bad luck on migrating gypsies.” There were days I dreaded, those I-feel-disaster-coming-on days. We blamed the curse of the bargain Ukrainian icon I’d bought for a silver coin in Budapest. My wife turned it to face the wall. I remember when the Beachside Good Life Prophesy paid cash-in-hand, when the club boss stepped out of his Porsche, a veritable polar bear turbo-charged in shiny white acrylic moccasins. The turtles would get up from their vodkas and form guides. Three kisses for the Boss! Those were the days, before the sunburnt rioters clogged up the train in spring. I remember how Fotini would dance the dance of smashed plates. For good luck she said. Rickshaw Man remembered when school prawns came wrapped in newspaper. It has remained to this day a luxury in the Andes.
So history’s been superseded by a grey funk. The lack of factual reportage in schools, the drought we had to have. It’s bad Feng Shui. It was the Huguenots with their obsession for punctuality. And she was right, always right. It’s 10 years of bad economic management. Too many bad bets on bad folks who can’t pay back. Is it? When they say ‘have a great day’ in the New American Church Bazaar you expected it: Jesus in a Mexican Tortilla, aglow in the shape of a fencepost five minutes before sunrise on November the 12th. If you escaped the tomato factory they called you a diaspora, a lucky migrant. Once, I was lucky to see the Catholic Youth group taking up all the bunks in the Glebe Backpackers and commandeer the PA for a very long weekend. Now I wait in hope. It’s those marble islands, those three garage temples and the Cantonese charlady shouting at me when I was five. We were terrified by the unseasonal gale. But we loved that place before we stared at the future. She foresaw beautiful grandchildren. She saw a Trifecta of arranged marriages so perfect and magical and necessary. Then the missionaries arrived. Where their dark shadow fell, they built their temples of stone. Good fortune wasn’t luck, they said, it was a piece of bone they’d locked in the cellar. It was a glass of blood and a cracker.