Totemic Property

May 15, 2009

posted & written by Caroline Picard


I just picked up my coffee from the floor of the Jacksonville airport and noticed a fingernail clipping beside the cup–unmistakable–abandoned on the carpet. And, for the record, not mine.

My cab driver was an old man, maybe in his seventies. I asked him about Jacksonville: What’s the history? I said. He said there was none. I asked him what people did here and he said nothing. He said people used to fish but thirty years ago paint companies dumped too much waste in the St. John’s river and now it’s polluted with mercury. He said the blue crab (I’m confused by this because its a bottom feeder) is now safe to eat.

I asked him what he did. He said he wanted to move to Miami, only his friends were trying to persuade otherwise. He was an older man, early sixties I’d say, with thick gold-rimmed glasses and a clean white polo shirt and khakis. Kind of stout. He went on to tell me about his Tibetan Healing Bowl business (I just saw found another fingernail clipping on the other side of the cup–it looks so delicate against the industrial carpet) and in the process reached between his legs in order to pull out a copper-bronze bowl and pass it back to me, in the backseat, along with a wooden mallet.

I was to hit the bowl with the mallet, he said, while holding the bowl in my open palm. The vibrations would travel through my body and heal things. The bowls are manufactured by a German man, peter hesse. He has a factory in the Himalayas from a precious collection of sacred metals. The bowls are then shipped to Germany, where they are tested for quality control before being shipped directly to YOU. The cab driver has one bowl five feet in diameter. It’s especially useful for autistic children, he said. They can sit inside of the bowl while the perimeter is struck over and over and over again and it jiggles (my word, not his) the autisim right out of them.

He gets a lot of business out of his cab. He used to leave his card around the hotel, but his name (If you can believe it, it is Roxy) led to too many gentleman callers who assumed the bowl thing was a front. (And there again: another fingernail clipping. There is a whole collection down there. Evidence of someone else’s work and, even, mortality…i.e. the passage of time, the necessity of grooming. I just studied the carpet more: I can count eight half-moon clippings, scattered haphazard around my chair. The person who sat here before must have done that. Perhaps just before me. They look so vulnerable.)
Roxy got into the bowls about a year ago after a slew of bad years (4) which had led him to question his faith. His life (though he did not go into detail) had fallen apart. He’d lost all his savings, property etc. He started driving the airport shuttle. He felt pretty grumpy, I guess. Hard up. One day on a lark, he offered to mow a neighbor’s front yard. The neighbor is the Mr. doctor in the Mr and Mrs doctor couple (she acupuncture, he reike) and they eventually gave him lessons and accreditation in singing bowl therapy (in exchange for carpentry on their house).

A few months ago, Roxy had a dream that Hesse (bowl manufacturer) died and Hesse’s kids exponentially raised the prices of the bowls. On that tip, anytime Roxy saves any money, he buys more bowls, as an investment. He’s thinking about becoming a teacher, accrediting students and then leasing the bowls to prospective students. He could get $10/lesson, he figures, which would work out pretty well paying the bills. Especially if his dream comes true.



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