THE call from my father went something like this:
“Paul, this is your father. Are you sitting down? I won!! I won the lottery!”
My brother knew my father was a devoted lottery player for years. He knew that he took this as seriously as Canadians at a hockey game. Paul also knew my dad would meticulously match up the numbers on his stubs against the winning numbers in the newspaper. And, he never hit the jackpot.
Convinced, he left work and drove to my fathers house. When he got there, he noticed my father was reading the wrong ticket it was last weeks ticket. He hadnt won anything.
To me, the lottery is more nightmares than dreams. It is a world of unfulfilled expectations, where wishing on a star leaves your eyes so full of stardust you cant see straight. Where longing for riches replaces healthy pursuits, such as learning to play the guitar or piano, going back to school and getting an advanced degree, or planting a vegetable garden and waiting with anticipation for those first green shoots to poke through the soil.
Not only is the lottery a waste of time, it is based on luck, something that doesnt exist, like leprechauns and pots of gold. That, and very, very long odds, about 1 in 18 million.I bring up this story because today is July 7, 2007, or 07-07-07 or 777. Since some people believe triple 7s are lucky, theyve gone out and bought SuperLotto Plus tickets (the jackpot at this writing stood at $24 million). Theyre heading for Indian casinos or Vegas gambling halls and hoping to hit the three sevens on the slot machines.
No matter what the date, your luck remains the same.I think my father truly was fortunate, however, but not at the lottery. It was as a 19-year-old fighting for the allied forces against Germany during World War II. After a fierce firefight, all the other soldiers in his regiment were killed. Wounded, but still alive, he played dead among the corpses while Nazi soldiers came through using bayonets to stab each fallen soldier in the heart just to make sure.
They missed him, or mistook him for dead. For that he was very glad. So am I, or I would not be here writing this. I cant call that luck. Maybe good fortune. Or just circumstance. Perhaps that was the reason my father never won the lottery. He had already used up all his good luck.
Flash back to July 7, 1977 or 07-07-77. It was a hot day in New York where I lived. I was going to my car and saw glass on the street. Someone had broken in and stolen my tape deck/stereo.
Birds of a feather
I received several responses to last weeks column on the de-listing of the bald eagle from the federal Endangered Species List.
Ann Croissant, one of the San Gabriel Valleys leading conservationists, wrote that recovering the bald eagle numbers across the United States is really a great tribute, not only to coordinated conservation efforts, but also to stewardship and teamwork of a caring America.
Birder Milt Blatt of Covina said he had seen a bald eagle at Bonelli Park in San Dimas but that was more than 10 years ago and had not seen one there since.
Others spoke of declining bird populations. The Audubon Society reported from its national Christmas Count that the populations of about 20 common North American birds had halved since 1967. The evening grosbeak, which used to crowd backyard feeders in the 70s have declined 78 percent, from 17 million to 3.8 million.
Urban sprawl and large-scale farming are to blame. Some are also saying the West Nile Virus is thinning bird populations. Kelly Middleton, information officer with the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, said crows, sparrows and finches took huge hits during the 2004 WNV epidemic.
Other bird species skated by, even thrived, but bird varieties are dwindling. Backyard survivors include jays, cardinals, robins and in the SGV, the infamous wild parrots.
At precisely 5:43 a.m. outside my bedroom window in Temple City, the noisy green winged creatures are on the seen, loud and clear. Even on my morning run, the Pirate companions whoop and holler as they dive down from higher lofts to lower branches of parkway trees, not a black crow in sight to bother them.
Yup, the parrots are back, the crows and raptors (hawks, eagles) are dwindling. Im not sure this is a good thing, unless you happen to be a pirate.