30 Days of Thanks – Day 7: My Lucky Penny

Yesterday a series of events occurred which reinforced my belief in serendipity and magic. Before I begin there are a few things you need to know.

Earlier this year the corporeal Earth lost one of its best creations. Scott McKinley. He was an angel on earth and as of yesterday I’m even more convinced he continues to be an angel of the universe.

I think about him often, and most often in scenarios where I ask myself “what would Scotty do?” You see he was the kindest and most loving man I’d ever met. No matter what troubles befell him or what mood he found himself in on a given day, he made everyone feel special when he saw them and he greeted them with the most warm and loving “Hey there.” I often think that he played a part in my life to teach me about kindness, to be a living example of what the Golden Rule is really all about.

Now here’s another thing you need to know before I tell the story. There was this thing he and I had with pennies. One evening at Theatre of NOTE Scott handed me a penny. I was in a grouchy and cynical mood and guffawed. I told him half sarcastically that I thought pennies were stupid and lucky pennies just perpetuated their ridiculous use in society. Of course, magical love creature that he was, he was shocked and appalled and insisted I take the lucky penny, while he proceeded to school me on their magical attributes. It all made such perfect sense. In a moment of cynicism and grumpiness, here is Scott to remind me that beauty and goodness is a better choice. From that moment on every time I saw a “lucky” penny on the ground I picked it up and thought of Scott. And the pennies have reminded me that I always have a choice, to be good, or to be a grouch. To be like Scott, or not.

The night before last he visited me in a dream. It wasn’t just a dream wherein he made an appearance. It was one of those conscious/aware dreams where I knew I was dreaming and I knew he was visiting me. I said to him “Scott! Thank you! Oh my God it’s so good to see you!” And we caught up a little, and he smirked his Scotty smirk. And then I woke up.

So that’s what you need to know. Now here’s the story:

Yesterday evening I was walking to my car after work. Traffic was heavy downtown, as it often is. I’m waiting on the corner of 8th and Olive to cross the street. It was one of those situations where cars were pulling into the intersection because they had a green light, but the traffic was so backed up there was no way they were going to make it all the way through before the light turned red, and thus the cross-traffic wouldn’t be able to make it through their green light, causing even worse traffic. This is a pet peeve. I feel like there’s a special circle of hell reserved for those who block the intersection. Back to yesterday. There is a minivan stuck in the intersection obviously hoping to get through, but her light turns red and MY light turns green to walk. What I could have done was wait a minute before I started walking and let this poor woman in the minivan who’s probably late to something important just pull through so she wouldn’t feel like a jerk for blocking the intersection. But I don’t. Like I said, I’ve got a beef. I want to teach her a lesson. The moment I walk in front of her car and grab a glance at her distressed face, I think, “This isn’t right. What would Scotty do?” i.e. what is the kind thing to do? Once he enters my mind I realize instantaneously that I should have done the right thing. I make it to the other side of the street feeling a bit like a jerk and thinking about how I failed the Scott test today. For whatever reason I look down briefly. What is the first thing my eye catches?

I’m stunned. The exact moment I’m thinking about him, there he is. I stoop down to pick up a lone penny. To make sure it’s real. I don’t know what compels me, but I check the year of the penny thinking, now THAT would be weird.


The penny was from 1957.

Same year Scott was born. This penny and he came into the world the same year.

I stand there on Olive and 8th under the lamplight and start to cry. At once sadly reminded that such a good soul has parted, and joyfully reminded that he never truly left. Serendipity. Goodness. Magic. It’s real.

lucky penny

I want to keep the penny. I want to make it into a necklace and wear it next to my heart every day. But I wonder if I shouldn’t send it back into the world. Leave it on another boulevard for the next person who needs it. I don’t want to be greedy. I do, but I don’t. What would Scott do? My heart’s desire is to take this little sign of him and hold onto it with all of my might. Should we keep such tokens? Or send them down the river? I haven’t decided yet.

Everyone slips away into the cosmic dust. Maybe when we do we get to leave little signs of ourselves around the ol’ neighborhood. Little bread crumbs that we’re still there.

Thank you for being my lucky penny Scott. For being everyone’s. I’ll keep following your bread crumbs. I love you. I miss you.

Rebecca and Scotty 1



the magic of magic is that it’s not actually magic

Last night a lovely friend invited Brad and me to one of my absolute favorite Los Angeles treasures, The Magic Castle. Perhaps because it reminds me of The Haunted Mansion, perhaps because it feels like stepping back in time, or perhaps because at every turn you encounter someone who has dedicated their life to illusion. Whatever the reason, I simply adore The Magic Castle.

Magic. What makes it awe-inspiring is knowing that it’s an illusion. Knowing that what appears before your eyes is impossible and yet despite exhaustive analyses, the magician in front of you has made it appear possible. The art and corresponding wonder lie in the excavation of the illusion, and the true beauty lies in not being able to explain: How did he do it? When your mind simply cannot come up with a reasonable or even unreasonable explanation, then this person has inspired wonder with no limits. But it must be illusion to be beautiful.

 If it were actually magic, meaning, a different set of scientific laws that actually occurred in the world, a la Harry Potter or Middle Earth, then it would not be as magnificent, because it would be science. If people flew, we would just live in a world where people flew. Somehow somewhere through some scientific analyses there would be an explanation. Just like there is an explanation for how birds fly. There is an explanation for everything, whether we ever uncover it or not.  BUT, when it only appears that someone flies, knowing that in truth he cannot, and we cannot for the life of us figure out how he did it, the magician has reached beyond the tangible world of science and to our eyes, against all common sense, made something impossible occur. Illusion. Theatre.

Here is where I get heady. And probably a little pretentious sounding. Forgive me, and bear with me. Art is all illusion. Art is not real, but a reflection of reality constructed by an artist to give an appearance of our world outside of the confines within which it actually exists, and through that reflection the artist allows beauty to emerge in a way that it has difficulty doing so outside of art’s comforting embrace. 

 This phenomenon is perfectly exemplified in good theatre, is it not? Our ability to be moved and to feel a sense of wonder lie in knowing that what we witness is an illusion. There is a safety in illusion; a buffer that gives us the ability to reflect. If in watching a production of Hamlet, the actor playing the Dane actually died onstage at the end of play, we would run in horror. We participate in the illusion and thus it sinks deeper in to our souls than the terrifying mystery of actual death. We leave the theatre perhaps a little less afraid of the unknown because, behaving as a life-preserver, our imagination has allowed us to navigate scary uncharted waters.   

 Thus is true of magic. Stripped of what the theatre gives us in the way of storytelling and precise commentary on various elements of the human condition; magic is illusion boiled down to its core. Illusion for illusion’s sake. Perhaps it is not necessarily a form of art but rather a depiction of the very definition of art. We know it’s not real, and we marvel at it all the more. Magic exercises our imagination.

 In a world choked of beauty with every news story of a school shooting or crooked politician, our imaginations need love and care to not get snuffed out by the fear surrounding us. The endless process of status updates and instantaneously seeking whatever information we want through the click of a mouse has almost voided the world of mystery. How much mystery can there be in the Great Pyramids when you can see them for yourself after taking 10 minutes to download Google Earth? I’m not knocking modern technology. I recognize that it’s amazing and I know there’s a difference between viewing an ancient pyramid on your computer screen and touching one; but will that always be the case depending on how good technology gets? It’s important to not have all the answers. We need to maintain some sense of mystery in the world or we’ll stop exploring and imagining.

I find it interesting that whenever I walk into an establishment that feels like the type of place you’re not supposed to have food or drinks, I also feel like I’m probably not supposed to take pictures. As if taking a picture would have the same damaging affect as spilling a soda. I’m so grateful they don’t allow you to take pictures inside The Magic Castle. It’s a relief to be in a place where you know that what you experience will happen in that moment alone, for you and you alone, and won’t be “shared” by 1,000 followers on Instagram. Like a play, only the audience of that particular night gets to see it. This makes it, what can I say, a magical place.

 At the Castle last night a magician from Kansas City performed an age-old illusion. He brought a girl from the audience up on stage, had her lay down on a table, removed the legs of the table and made her levitate before our very eyes. I was awe-struck. I could not figure it out. I still can’t. I know there are thousands of people out there who could explain to me how he did this trick. Magicians have been doing this since there have been magicians. It’s a very famous illusion and I know there is an explanation. Of course there is an explanation. But I don’t want to know. I want to keep wondering. I confess that in not knowing how it was done a little part of me will always wonder if perhaps it was real magic. And I want to believe in magic.

Brad and I in front of the castle for my birthday two years ago
Brad and I in front of the castle for my birthday two years ago
At The Magic Castle last night
At The Magic Castle last night