Cosmic Connections

There are things you don’t know, truths you have yet to understand. You may think what you’re experiencing is just a series of events, but there is no such thing as coincidence. The world has a plan for each of us and it’s all in the connections. To become englightened, simply take note.

For instance, in winter 1991, I was a recent college graduate and the mother of two baby boys living in Duluth. My husband was a small contractor, there were three feet of snow on the ground by November, and we were going broke. So I called up the News-Tribune and offered to write for them from home. I’d give them humorous columns about what it was like to be young and impoverished and scrappy: the joys of shopping consignment and milling your own baby food. That kind of thing.

Strangely, they bit. It must have been a slow news season. In any case, January ’92, my debut column appeared. It was about how we’d sold our home without using a Realtor before moving from Iowa to the Iron Range. I was paid $35 for this master work. Then all hell broke loose.

The Realtors, it turned out, bought about a third of all the advertising in the Duluth News-Tribune. . . .up until the day of my column. That afternoon, they pulled all of it, every cent, and went to the local shopper with their business. The newspaper fired me (very publicly), and the editor ran an apology for my work, which he claimed had slipped through the editorial process unchecked. My husband mysteriously lost the part-time job he’d picked up. We got strange, threatening phone calls at all times of the day and night.

The Columbia Journalism Review covered it. Then-Star Tribune staffer Doug Grow interviewed me. Everyone was on my side. It didn’t matter. Eventually, we went under. And then, of course, we couldn’t sell our house. It took us six months and cost us everything we had (and then some) before we finally got out of town.

Years later, I would sit in a theater in late December [also winter, if you’ll notice], watching the Lemony Snicket movie A Series of Unfortunate Events, and hear Meryl Streep (as Aunt Josephine) confess her deathly fear of Realtors. I tell you, I had a little shiver of empathy right there in the Willow Creek 12.

And just last night, I found myself around nine o’clock feeling a familiar possibly-paranoid-but-potentially-founded fear: of Scientologists. My article on the local Church of Scientology, the one in which I very much implied that it is a cult based on the cunning ravings of a pulp genre writer, had come out roughly seven hours before. This time, I trusted the publication completely and knew the editors would stand by me. But other elements of my situation were eerily similar to Duluth.

Three readers had sent me the same news story in which a reporter told about how she wrote an article critical of Scientology and then was sued into ruin. There were several hang-up calls. Now, mind you, this could have been my daughter’s fellow 13-year-olds, bored with MySpace and looking for something to do. But every time the phone rang, my son would lock eyes with me and say in a Bela Lugosi-like voice, "Oh Jesus, it’s the Scientologists." (He is known for mixing his metaphors.)

It unnerves a woman, you know? Like Realtors. So I opened a bottle of Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel. This is my comfort wine. It’s a tiny bit sweet and juicy and peppery; it tastes the way pot roast smells, not fine so much as homey. But it’s better than pot roast — even my Mom’s, which is awfully good — because it has 14.5% alcohol. And do you suppose it was just luck that I happened to have this wine on hand? I think not.

So around ten, after a glass or two, I called my ex-husband, the former marine and hardcore addict who served a little time for some Robin Hood-like crimes and once stole my furniture back from the Israeli mob in Providence. "You’ll watch out for the kids?" I asked.

"I’ll kill anyone who even comes near ’em," he said, and I felt even more comforted by the fact that he was 100 percent sincere.

But I still haven’t gotten to the really freaky part — the part that makes me have faith. So here it is: Today, after a couple hours of answering e-mail that contained various things including threats and accusations of yellow journalism and one message from a very good friend with the subject line, "You are SO not a Thetan," I received a note from someone offering me tickets. . . .completely out of the blue. . . .to the Minnesota appearance this week of Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket — the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and creator of Aunt Josephine.

And if that doesn’t make you believe in the cosmic connectedness of the universe, I just don’t know what will.