Once again I am very behind on the chronicles of this journey, and once again I am not in the mood to play catch-up, so how about another story?
I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia from Buenos Aires on April 29th. Once through customs I was met by the glorious, smiling face of Mega Shauna who quickly took me under her well seasoned Bolivian traveler's wing, and whisked me away to our very nice hostel, and then to dinner. After dinner we slept, and woke up early the next morning to go to the chaotic, sprawling El Alto Flea Market, where local La Pazians do their thrifty shopping. Besides the very obvious reasons such as credit cards, cash and driver's licence, there is a very special reason why I never want to lose my wallet. Where did that comment just come from, you ask? Bear with me. The reason that I, more than the average person, does not want to ever experience the losing of my wallet is because of the Lucky Hundred. What's the Lucky Hundred? Well...
Shortly after my dad died, my stepmom Caroly handed me a note with a hundred dollar bill wrapped inside of it. The note reads:
"Dear Sam, Your father won this gambling, and carried it after that 'just in case.' It comes to your wallet with lots of love. -Caroly"
I have been carrying this hundred dollar bill around with me wherever I go for close to six years now. There have been a few rare instances when I wondered, "Is this it? Is this the moment to use the Lucky Hundred?" And have always recognized that no, it isn't. I will have no doubt when the right time is, because it will probably save my life, or at least my ass.
So there we were, the El Alto Flea Market. Overwhelmed would be one way to put it. The overwhelm of coming directly from sea level to over 12,000 feet, the overwhelm of a huge outdoor market, more massive and hectic than any I have ever seen, the overwhelm of a brand new currency. So yeah, we'll stick with overwhelming. After about fifteen minutes of meandering past the many booths, we walked through a narrow passageway to get to a new part of the market, and two things happened simultaneously, well actually three. The first thing was that an old Bolivian grandmother walked directly into me, dropping her broad, ancient shoulder into my mid-section, and while I was left wondering why she had done it, someone squirted me in the face with some sort of thickish liquid (please don't ask me what it was, because then I will have to think about the many unpleasant possibilities, and I would rather not). So there I was, wiping my face, massaging my torso, and looking around me to see who had done it, when suddenly it all hit me and I raced my hand around to touch my back pocket where I keep my wallet, and you guessed it, it was gone. A masterfully executed sequence of events had left me totally distracted while the third simultaneous act was carried out, which was to remove my wallet from my pants. I looked around to spot the culprit, and all I could see was an ocean of equally accusable, and equally innocent people. My first thought? Not my ATM card, which is obviously a critical piece to my travels. Not my driver's licence. My very first thought was, "FUCK! The Lucky Hundred!" And accompanying that thought was a complete crumpling of my spirit. I called to Mega Shauna, and told her what had happened, and we hugged, and began looking for an appropriate spot amongst the masses to have a good old cry, when suddenly a man tapped me on the shoulder. I swung around to face him, my nerves all a jangle, and there he was, holding my wallet in his hand. I grabbed it from him, tour it open, saw that everything was in there, including the Lucky Hundred, whose identity was concealed by the dirty, smudged letter written by Caroly in 2003 that it was wrapped in, and then I hugged the guy. Most likely this was the exact man who had stolen the wallet to begin with, and upon opening it, and seeing that there was no money inside (ha!), he decided to return it to me in the hopes of a tip. I didn't care. I hugged him, shook his hand wildly, and yes, even gave him a tip.
This explanation of why the wallet was returned is a likely one, but I don't think it explains it all. More than anything it was because of the Lucky Hundred. I'm sure of it. That goddamn bill has so much mojo on it, and is so dear to me, and came to me through the purest of means, that there is just absolutely no way that I was meant to have it stolen from me on an April morning in Bolivia. That is not the correct ending to the story of the Lucky Hundred. The world can be a cruel one. Many things don't make any sense. But I have to believe in my heart that the world is a better writer than to allow such a crummy ending to a story that was laid out so smoothly, and with such potential. The Lucky Hundred is tucked neatly away in my wallet still, the ending to its legacy still unwritten, the potential for a wild ending still intact. When it happens, could be tonight, could be sixty-five years from now, I'll be sure to help the world write it down. And until then, my wallet will be enshrouded in a force-field far too strong for any thief to penetrate, a brilliant mixture of the mojo from the Lucky Hundred, and my immense paranoia from a lesson well learned.