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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 01/31/2005
Vol. 2, #157

Snake Eyes

So we're on a dice rampage on the Round Table, with Sam coming up elevens and Art suggesting maybe twelve. "NT", or its twin, perhaps, Snake-Eyes. It's this last that intrigues me, supposedly the worst odds, along with the twelve. But Snake Eyes, well, they really glare at you. "You've had it, man."

Yep, better give up and get out while you can. Snake Eyes ain't the kind of luck you need to win in this game. That's precisely what intrigues me about Snake Eyes. Things couldn't get any worse. So as I see it, what have you got to lose?

Tell you the truth, I say this because Snake Eyes is an old familiar of mine. And one of my greatest teachers. I must have been about 28 years old. I was doing comics at the time. Superman and Batman dailies mostly. Things had been going well, but Mort Weisinger was beginning to take power over at DC and it was going to get harder and harder. Bad enough, I wasn't getting anywhere with my novel, The Blowtop. Dial Press was blowing apart just when they were supposed to publish my first novel. And the love of my life, at least that's what I thought at the time, was dumping me. Also, I had lost the rent on my Greenwich Village one room apartment and no one I knew could help me out just at that moment. What's more, I was having a bad brush with asthma. I was looking at Snake Eyes.

When I say today, what else could have gone wrong, having lived long enough to know better, I can answer, plenty. You can never get to the bottom if you're headed that way. I could have been locked out of my room. I could have had no money to eat. I could have been too sick to help myself in any way. It was never that bad. It never really gets that bad. Believe me, there are always worse possibilities. That's the thing about Snake Eyes. It has no bottom. Which makes it even scarier. But this time, I still remember that strange little room I had, a sink, a bed, a fireplace, and every stick of wood painted flat black by the last unfortunate who had occupied it. Cheery, like a witch's cavern.

I was lying on my bed, and the more I thought of my immediate prospects, the worse it looked. No chance of getting free of comics anytime soon and escaping the Weisinger mesh. No idea whom my love was seeing now that I'd been thrown out of her life. The room was icy cold but I couldn't use the fireplace because the fumes would aggravate my asthma and I'd probably choke to death. So, by one step and another, I found myself toying with the idea of suicide. Not grimly, mind you, but as the more rational choice of sticking things out the way they were. Poof, and I'd be gone. No problems. No nothing. Hassle free. I had absolutely nothing to lose.

It was that last phrase that struck me. "Nothing to lose." I turned it over and over in my mind like a shrewd gambler. "If I had nothing to lose," it struck me, "then why bother with suicide?" I played with that idea for a few minutes and gradually it seemed to expand and fill the room. "Nothing to lose, means, well, come to think of it, everything to gain!" I thought about it some more. My heart began to speed up a little. Soon it was racing with excitement. "Everything to gain." So, I knew. Don't do anything. Stay right where you are. And wait. Just wait.

Actually, it was a little bit like my experience with the doldrums that I tried to describe in recent columns. Something was going to happen which could only be for the best. And suddenly, I made the connecting leap. I had the power of the universe in my hands. And all by dint of doing nothing. After that, there trickled in, slowly at first, then as the realization increased, a great rush of joy and a sense of total freedom.

Things often got a lot tougher than they did on that particular day in my twenty-eighth year. I've gone on for decades since then, always protected by the certainty that unfolded on that strange morning. And believe me, what I was experiencing was the elation of success, which in one small way or another, I"ve since experienced many times.

Just thought I'd mention it. Don't let Snake Eyes get you down.


<< 01/24/2005 | 01/31/2005 | 02/21/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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