Archive for the Lucerne Village Category

Next Kiss

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami looked around in desperation. What was the best test for knowing if you were dreaming or awake? Asking another person was the best test he could think of, so he asked the man lying in his arms, smiling, staring up at him, dead. “Guru Baba, am I dreaming?”

The smile seemed to broaden, or was he imagining that?

All around him, people stood open-mouthed. There were hundreds of people, maybe thousands. He realized where he was. He was in Lucerne’s Transparent Temple at Guru Baba’s darshan – holy viewing. He recalled the holy man saying he was going to “change into somebody else”. Had he been talking about Sami or himself?

Guru Baba lay in Sami’s arms with his eyes wide open, as if seeing everything, but Sami knew he wasn’t. A minute ago he had kissed Sami on the lips, and said, “It is you,” before falling away.

Sami heard people chattering. He didn’t look up at them, just stared at their shoes.

“He is not dead. He is resting immaterially.”

“The Guru will never die; he lives forever in our hearts.”

“Did he appoint a successor?”

“We must find his reincarnation. What are the signs?”

Sami’s mind could not acknowledge the situation. It was too strange, too much to handle. Guru Baba had said to him, “It is you.”

He thought back to when they had first met, on the New City bus to Lucerne. He had noticed a strange brown man, with long black beard, orange robes and ASICS trainers, and smiled at him, prompting the man to leave his seat and sit next to Sami.

Their sudden intimacy was surprising. The strange brown man had talked non-stop for three hours, and Sami had developed a headache, mainly from laughing. The guy’s main topic was sports shoes.

“I thought that modern life is all running around. I am an Indian holy man, yes, but I am also a modern citizen, so I must also run around. I did research. I tried sneakers in many sports shops. They said to run in them to test them, so I ran twenty-six miles to see if they were suitable for marathons. I tried Reebok, Puma, Fila, New Balance, and ASICS. ASICS were the best ones. I tried Nike too, but they have a bad reputation among spiritual people, you know, since the Heaven’s Gate people wore them and killed themselves. They also name shoes after Irish terrorist groups. They really make killer shoes! And Adidas, with the rubber shackles, made a joke of slavery. I know, all sneakers are made in sweat shops, but what can we do?”

Sami was stunned. How did a seventy year old Indian holy man know so much about sneaker culture?

Guru Baba said, “There are many kinds of sneakers – high tops, low tops, mid cut, sneaker boots, trail shoes, running shoes, basketball shoes, but they all share one quality. They are humble. They cover the lowest part of the body, touching the ground. They take daily pounding, and don’t mind getting dirty as long as they save the feet.”

At the end of the bus journey, when they separated, Baba kissed Sami on the lips. He had had found it creepy and pulled back, but then had a change of heart.

He realized that this kiss, all true kisses, were far deeper and more lasting than any erotic connotation. They showed loyalty, affection, gratitude, compassion, sympathy, joy and sadness, and held the redeeming power to cast off spells. Princesses were changed back from dragons, and Beauty’s Beast into a prince. People kissed the Pope’s ring, the Torah, The Kaaba’s black stone, Krishna’s feet and Buddha’s bones. A reciprocal kiss was a greeting and farewell, and a blown kiss went straight from your heart to heaven.

His meeting Guru Baba was as surprising as his parting. Both sneaked up on him unexpectedly.

He removed the old man’s robe to reveal Road Runner boxer shorts, draped the robe around himself, and called forward the next person to kiss.

Last Kiss

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by javedbabar

Guru Baba had said he was going to “change into somebody else.” Sami wondered what he meant by it.

Sami had studied economics at university, and worked in financial marketing. He knew about product personalization and brand relaunches. Was it something along those lines? He had seen how banks had changed their mission from “someone who looks after your money and gives you some extra to say thank you,” to, “someone who helps to improve your lifestyle and charges you for it.” The first implied that it was your money and you were in charge, albeit with scary bank managers as guardians. The second had friendly customer services assistants who let you do whatever you wanted, ensuring you were drawn deeper into their embrace, till they had the power to strangle you – not that a parasite generally kills off its host.

Economics is essentially about demand and supply; which was it? Guru Baba didn’t have a demand side issue – hundreds of people came to every gathering; there were four thousand expected in Lucerne’s Transparent Temple today. Maybe it was a supply side issue; that Guru Baba was bored and tired, and wanted to end his mass spiritual activities. That must be it. During a break, Sami asked him whether this was the case.

Guru Baba said, “You will see.”

Having planned many gatherings, Sami was good at crisis management. There had been some hiccups with external queues, internal crowd management, demonic possession of a marshall, and an investigative journalist’s sexual harassment claims, but things were now running smoothly at this one.

Something wasn’t right though, he could sense it…

Sami looked around for fallen objects, sniffed for smoke, listened for shouting or screaming, but there was nothing alarming.

He had a sudden headache, focused between his eyes.

Guru Baba stopped those queuing for darshan – holy viewing – and called Sami over. Sami ran towards him. Something was wrong. What was it?”

“It’s your turn,” said Guru Baba, stood up and held out his arms.

Me? Now? Here? What for? thought Sami.

He shouldn’t refuse. He held out his arms too. Guru Baba grasped his wrists and pulled him forward and kissed him on the lips.

Every kiss he had ever had flew though his heart.

His first kiss with his teddy bear, Fuzzy.

His test kiss with his sister.

His first date with Lisa; their silly kissing in her porch.

Making out with Sandra, then others, in parks.

Kissing games – Truth or Dare, Spin the Bottle, Post Office, and Wink.

His hot desire for Martha.

Intoxicated feelings with Debs.

His infinite happiness with Charlotte.

The courage he felt when kissing Nina.

The maturity, happiness and health kisses brought.

A kiss holds everything and gives everything, when lips and hearts collide.

And now he was kissing an old man with black beard, brown skin and saffron robes. In his head he heard Guru Baba saying, “It is you,” before falling away.

Sami opened his eyes to find Guru Baba staring up at him, smiling in his arms.

Guru Baba wasn’t moving. He was dead.

Lips Kiss

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2012 by javedbabar

“I am a dealer of the world’s most popular drug,” said Guru Baba, “and it is entirely legal.”

The journalist continued writing. She was very fast indeed. It must be shorthand, thought Sami.

Guru Baba continued, “Many drugs are becoming legal – I know the pharmacy now sells cannabis, and forms of heroin – but none of them can match its power. I deal in the drug of love.”

“Guru Baba, that’s good,” said the journalist. “Any final words?”

“Yes, of course. My customers come in their thousands; they are addicts already or want to become so. They know our world is built on loving relationships, which activate complex brain chemistries whose effects are like cocaine, but they are not toxins, they create long term positive change.”

The journalist looked away for a moment. She was paying attention but there was something on her mind.

Guru Baba continued, “Not just our world, but our whole universe, is built on love. How else to make sense of our tiny lives in the incomprehensible vastness of space? It is said that the universe began with a seed, and will continue to grow forever. As worlds continue to fly from its centre, the essence of our lives must surely be attraction.”

Sami was surprised that Guru Baba had agreed to the interview. In this half hour break during the Great Gathering, it was best if he rested. The journalist hadn’t even booked a slot; she had asked for the interview this morning upon arrival. She had said “Don’t you know who I am?” flashed her press card and walked past the queue.

She said, “Please tell me about the Enhanced Trance Dance. Will we be performing it at today’s event?”

“Yes, of course we will! Why not? People perform it all over the world, every day. Why shouldn’t we do so here!”

“I’m not sure I understand. Is it a well-known dance?”

“Shall I show you?”

“Well, I don’t have the best shoes for dancing, but we can give it a whirl.”

What is he doing? thought Sami. She may not have the right mindset for this. She hasn’t read any of his teachings. Cultural connotations differ. She won’t understand.

Guru Baba stood erect and held out his arms. The journalist realized she was expected to do the same. She held out her hands and he pulled her towards him and kissed her on the lips.

The journalist was shocked. She jerked back her head and pulled away. “What the hell are you doing?”

“The Enhanced Trance Dance. You asked for a demonstration.”

“What! It’s an old man getting his rocks off with a young woman?”

“Not so young,” said Guru Baba.

“Not so young! Are you for real? You grope me and then insult me. And you call yourself a holy man! Shame on you!”

That didn’t go well, thought Sami. A kiss can mean many things; it represents love, passion, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, devotion, and good luck. It involves all five senses – touch of the lips, smell of your perfume, taste of the skin, a smacking sound when joining or pulling way, and seeing whatever you desire with your eyes closed. You are in a trance, enhanced by the dance of love. Hence the name.

Guru Baba had kissed millions of people on the lips. He knew the romantic kiss had evolved from the first and greatest kiss – the maternal kiss. When lips joined with the kiss of life, the powers of the universe activated.

Thousand Names

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by javedbabar

Guru Baba had said, “This is a very special gathering so please remember the thousand names.”

Sami had spent an hour a day memorizing the names. After a week, he knew them all in order.

It wasn’t as hard as he’d imagined. With a combination of the favourite place/person method – where you imagine persons embodying specific qualities, sitting in spots around your house – acronyms, and rhyming, he was set.

He imagined Marilyn Monroe soaping herself in his shower, Groucho Marx pacing about in his garden shed, Boris Karloff lumbering around his cellar, and Barack Obama mowing his lawn, making the names fun to remember. These attributes of the Divine Creator were now unforgettable. The official list began with:

The Great – The Not So Great – The Funny (Groucho) – The Pretty – The Clever – The Cultured – The Spiritual…

The Great Gathering in Lucerne’s Transparent Temple was progressing well. There had been an issue with external crowd management, then a problem with internal crowd control, but both were resolved. There was a steady flow of people performing darshan – holy viewing – whilst the holy names were chanted continuously by a group on stage, accompanied by banjo, bongos and harmonium.

“There is no point in being too serious,” Guru Baba had said. “People should enjoy singing holy things.”

People who hadn’t memorized the names tapped their feet if they were Westerners, and nodded their heads if they were Easterners. They eventually picked up the names; by the fourth round they could anticipate the next one. Sami was right to not project them on screen, which would have changed the aural dynamic to visual, diluting the names’ holy vibrations. The chanting grew louder:

The Brave – The Scared – The Powerful (Obama) – The Powerless – The Beaten…

Sami saw people he knew – Sophie, Shama, Bobby, Dimpy and others – looking different somehow. Their faces were brighter. Their voices were lighter. Their postures were straighter. Their heads held higher.

Were they absorbing the names?

Joining with the names?

Becoming the names?

Sami had a flashback to the film HUMANITY; he had acted as local project manager for its global launch. It was filled with eye-popping visuals transporting you to ethereal realms, but being at this gathering was the real thing – the cameras, lights and action!

`           The Friendly – The Open – The Loving – The Nervous – The Monster (Boris) – The Murdered – The Killer…

An agitated marshall approached him and said, “All these names. Some of them are pretty fearsome. Do we need to be careful with them?”

“Sorry, I can’t hear you,” said Sami. “Can you repeat?”

“Do we need to be careful with these names? They could be dangerous.”

“Let’s go backstage. It will be easier to talk there.”

As soon as they were behind the curtain, Sami grabbed the marshall around the neck and wrestled him to the ground, shouting, “What’s your name? What’s your name? Tell me!”

The marshall struggled and grunted. He tried to break free but failed. He gave up and said, “Astra.”

Sami shouted, “Astra, be gone from here, and never come back!”

The marshall fainted, and a wisp of smoke blew from his nose.

Demons sometimes inhabited humans, filling them with negative energies. You had to be tough with demons. They were always trying to diminish God’s names and never wanted to reveal their own names, because once they were known to you, you could command them to be gone.

The Beautiful (Marilyn) – The Regal – The Legal – The Buyer – The Seller – The Three – The Two – The One.

Bhakti Banquet

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2012 by javedbabar

“What do you think they are queuing for?” asked one of the marshalls, eying the long line of people that continued around a corner. A good proportion of the five hundred people at Guru Baba’s darshan were in it.

“For food, I think,” said Sami.

“But the food stands are over there, and they are moving in the other direction.”

“So, what are they queuing for?”

The marshall nodded drolly. “They are queuing for food, and they are moving in the other direction. That’s the problem.”

Sami had been busy for the last half hour behind the scenes, fixing security and technical problems, and hadn’t noticed the queue building up. The queues to get in had been well managed, and there was a steady flow of people going in and out of the Transparent Temple, but there was pressure building inside. He went to take a look.

Guru Baba had often said that the right to food was a human right, and people here were taking him literally. There was an unbelievable queue for free Street Snacks, but none at all for the Bhakti Banquet, a set of ten delicacies in a jewel-edged palm leaf, costing a hundred dollars a plate.

Bhakti means love. The money earned from sale of this food of love would subsidize snacks and fund Baba’s charity projects. This notion hadn’t worked though, and the Bhakti Banquet’s servers were lined up, chatting, themselves looking like a queue.

Sami returned to the marshall and said, “This is a disaster. The queue is so long it has wrapped around itself completely. That’s why it seems to be moving in the wrong direction.” He silently joined a mantra for two verses, and continued. “I’m sure that’s why you came to tell me.”

The marshall nodded.

“So what should we do? I wanted to do something special for this event. I thought the two different meals would balance each other, but it looks like we’ll run out of snacks and have hundreds of banquets left over.”

The Bhakti Banquets would all go to waste. The Authority’s health and safety regulations banned distribution to volunteers, poor families and homeless people. The event would be a black hole. It was meant to pay for itself, not suck money out of projects for widows, orphans and disaster relief victims. Food is meant to produce energy, maintain life, and stimulate growth. The Bhakti Banquet was wasting people’s energy, maintaining servers’ boredom, and creating waste. It was anti-food.

The marshall said, “I was helping my son with his homework last week. It was about the history of food. The earliest method to secure it was hunting and gathering, then agriculture, and now most people rely on the food industry. It’s amazing how things have changed. Once everybody was responsible for sourcing their own food, and now people think potatoes grow on trees. How did that happen?”

“That’s it!” said Sami. “Thank you!”

In the same way that darshan affects individuals, slowly changes society, and eventually improves the world, so modern media affect everything too. A commercial conspiracy has been created. Excess war chemicals are sprayed on fields to accelerate food growth. Lotteries boost the economies of modern nations. Everyone is told they will be happier if they buy stuff. Men use cosmetics. Women drink beer. The medium is the message. The medium does the massage. We have no choice but to partake of it.

Sami announced on the intercom, “Anybody buying a Bhakti Banquet will be entered into a draw to win Baba’s robes.”

People broke from the Street Snacks queue and ran to the other side.

Divide and Rule

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2012 by javedbabar

“Our method will be divide and rule!” said Guru Baba.

“Divide and rule – are you serious?” asked Sami.

“Yes, why not? It worked for the British in India. Why shouldn’t we learn from their methods?”

Divide and Rule was the opposite of everything that Guru Baba stood for. To Sami colonialism seemed a scar on human history, with a clutch of European countries ruling most of the world. It had destroyed cultural diversity, traditional power structures, local industries, and stable societies. The colonizers had stolen priceless treasures and in their place left artificial boundaries that ruined untold lives. And Guru Baba quoted this as a successful methodology?

Sure, the British had left a positive legacy too, of roads, railways, government buildings, a police force, civil service and judiciary, but that was a different matter. Sami shook his head and smiled. He returned to the problem in hand.

The thousand people present here, and thousands more coming, would need careful managing. Their queue had already become a sprawl, and bad feelings were building. People were letting in their family and friends ahead of people who had queued for hours, even overnight.

He recognized regulars near the front of the queue, people who came to every darshan – holy viewing – in Arcadia, whenever and wherever it was. He appreciated their enthusiasm – their donations paid Sami’s wages as Guru Baba’s assistant – but it seemed unfair. Other, older, weaker or busier people, simply couldn’t wait that long and went home.

Maybe Guru Baba was right in a way. How could he implement divide and rule?

Sami’s first job in the City, selling cell phones, had taught him negotiation skills. That’s what they needed now, a negotiation strategy, where rules were agreed, not imposed.

Sami called the marshalls over. “To earn their place at the darshan, I would like each person to negotiate.”

There were blank faces all round.

“We must gauge people’s spiritual needs, rather than granting access simply because of their habit of getting up early. People sleeping in are doing it for a reason. They indulge in night because they can’t handle day. Their need of darshan is greater.”

A marshall asked, “So how do we assess their spiritual need? By checking their karma?”

“Good idea, but I’m not sure we are qualified to do that. We will ask if they must see, want to see, or would like to see Baba.”

The blank faces looked blanker. They were tabulae rasa, empty slates.

“Those that must see Baba receive priority. Those who want to see him come next. Then those who would like to see him. It is a hierarchy of need with their words providing the clues. Don’t get into deep discussions, just ask them that question and direct them based upon their answer. Persons will have earned their places, and the lines inside will be prioritized accordingly.”

The marshalls’ strategy led to some unexpected responses.

A boy said, “He wants to see me, for I am the One!”

A woman said, “Oh, I thought this was the queue for pakoras.”

A man refused to speak anything other than Sanskrit.

A girl said, “None of them. He is an illusion, as are you, and us all.” She knew that in the cosmic context, that of an imperishable whole, it was impossible to divide and rule conscious beings.

Great Gathering

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami wondered what Guru Baba had meant by saying he was going to change “into somebody else.” He’d also said, “I have done so before.”

Maybe he’d changed his name when he became a holy man. It was common to break the bonds of your gross life when undertaking a more subtle one. Or was it his family name, in an attempt to elevate caste? Guru Baba had told Sami about his misguided youth, where despite coming from a wealthy family, he was always getting into trouble with the law. His family may have used their influence to wash his police records clean.

Guru Baba’s utterance had struck a chord with the public. Some people had come the night before and camped outside the Transparent Temple, and many more had come at dawn. There was a seated queue of four hundred people by 8 a.m., and doors wouldn’t open till twelve.

“Hello Sophie,” said Sami. “I didn’t know you were coming today. Why didn’t you tell me? I could have got you a pass.”

“Thanks, but I am happy waiting. It’s like a long meditation.”

He saw that Shama, Dimpy and Bobby were in the queue. Shama and Dimpy sat next to each other, chatting. Perhaps they had moved beyond their divorce. And Bobby was a strange fellow, otherworldly; well suited to the spiritual realm, and certainly not suited to this one.

Sophie asked, “How many people are you expecting today?”

“It’s always hard to say. My rule of thumb is ten times the number queuing at eight a.m., so maybe four thousand.”

“You can’t fit that many in the Temple, can you? It’s only got room for four hundred.”

“Up to six hundred,” said Sami. “We’ll keep the queue moving. We’ll ask people to perform their darshan, take refreshment, and leave. They are welcome to rejoin the queue if they want more time.”

Darshan was the act of seeing a holy person – in this case Guru Baba, rather than Siva or Krishna – and absorbing their power through your eyes. Participation in this sacred act brought good fortune, wellbeing and grace.

By midday the queue had grown to two thousand. People must have taken the day, or at least part of the day, off from work. He saw the Lucerne Valley Hotel’s part-android receptionist, TJ, the Seniors’ Centre manager, Mr Amin, veteran Dr Bungawalla, Bobby’s niece Naomi – had she skipped school? – and the founder of the Botanical Gardens, known only as The Gardener. They all waited patiently.

The first four hundred people were allowed in. While they waited for the ritual to commence, a large screen showed a film of Guru Baba’s life.

The small, black-bearded, saffron-robed sage, though retired, was still thought of as one of the world’s leading holy men. His origins had not been humble. He was the son of an Indian dynasty whose businesses made airplanes, cars, computers, smartphones, spirits and soft drinks, and lived in a one billion dollar home in Mumbai.

The young Guru Baba saw how obsessed his family had become with money; it affected their physical and mental health, relationships and manners. They had the burden of wealth. He left the family home and lived in the slums, yet found that the lot of poor people was no happier than that of rich people. Poor people had the reverse burden of poverty.

He realized that the essence of life was not what you had, but what you did; how you used your time on earth. He felt that gatherings of like-hearted people were energizing and humanizing. In this way, he had brought over thirty six million people together, which was good enough for a lifetime’s work.

He could leave now.

Celebrity Cult

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Rather than New York, London or Mumbai, auteur Manish had decided to have it in Lucerne, where the idea had been sent to him while mountain climbing.

The village was packed with people wanting accommodation. Lucerne was an easy day trip from the New City, but the 3 hour film started at nine p.m. and people didn’t want to drive home at midnight. Being realistic, with all the cops, diversions, and remote parking lots, they wouldn’t leave till one a.m. and would reach home after three.

“How about we rent one of your rooms?” a young father said to Bobby.

“I am sorry sir, we can’t do that.”

“Why not? This is a free country. We can do what we like.”

This was the tenth conversation like this he’d had today. To cut it short, Bobby decided to be brutally honest. “Sir, this is a halfway house. We are all losers in life here. Some are drunks, some are drug addicts, some work as prostitutes, and some are prone to bouts of psychotic violence. We would love to have a nice family of professionals stay here, but can’t guarantee their safety. That’s why we always refuse. Still, if you’re feeling brave we could…”

“Erm, okay, I see. Maybe we’ll drive home after the movie.” The man stood there, stunned.

“Do you actually have tickets?” said Bobby. “I heard there were only two hundred available, and most were going to VIPs. There seem to be thousands of people in town. What are they all doing?”

“If we are lucky, we’ll catch the film. There are fifty walk-in tickets available. But we’re mainly here to see the celebrities. My wife and kids really wanted to come. You don’t often get so many famous people together in one small place.” He reeled off a list of names, none of which Bobby recognized.

When he reported for work that night, the situation changed. Many of those names were guests at the Lucerne Valley Hotel, which was packed with VIPs. It seemed that Bobby was the only one who hadn’t heard the names before. Crowds outside were silent for spells, and screamed uncontrollably when beautiful folk entered or left the hotel.

Bobby learnt from other Executive Floor workers that these people were sports heroes, film and rock stars, billionaires, prominent chefs, famous explorers, those known only for their extravagant lifestyles, and cult figures from Arcadia, such as the midget-sized hugging saint, naked tightrope walker, and acid-disfigured belly-dancer. These local figures tried harder to please the crowds, but the international elite received bigger cheers.

Some of the celebrities looked familiar. Bobby recognized them from magazine covers at the grocery store, waxworks he’d once seen in Florida, and from DVD covers. Stuff forgotten during his drug haze years seemed to be returning.

He met many of these celebrities in person on the Executive Floor. Most were warm and gracious, and gave good tips. He could see why they were successful. They were good with people.

When he returned home at 6 a.m. he was ready to drop, but his housemates wanted to hear all about the celebrities. He told them a few stories which made them laugh. One of the girls squealed in delight and said, “Come on Bobby, tell us more!”

He said O.K. and told more stories. He enjoyed being surrounded by adoring people.

Executive Floor Executive

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby couldn’t believe it. He had applied for a job at the Lucerne Valley Hotel and got it, and not only that, it was a job on the Executive Floor. Was it a mistake? Had two people with the same name applied, and they’d mixed up their applications?

A resident of the halfway house getting a good job was not a regular occurrence. At any given time, no more than six of the thirty-six people living there were working, mostly in short-term menial jobs. As far as he knew, no one from the house had ever worked at the Lucerne Valley Hotel. It was run by the fearsome Mr Kazantazkis who was said to be a fascist, believing in survival of the fittest.

Bobby’s letter confirmed his position as Executive Floor Executive. He would earn twenty-five thousand dollars plus tips, which he’d heard could exceed the basic salary, so this was a fifty grand job! He’d earned this kind of money before, but that was a long time ago when he was a different person in a different world, before the curse of drugs, but he was clean now. Why shouldn’t he make a fresh start?

Bobby wasn’t sure whether to tell his housemates. He didn’t want to seem like a show-off, but he couldn’t help mentioning it.

“What?” said Shama. “When was that job available? I didn’t see it advertised.”

“It wasn’t advertised,” said Bobby. “I sent them a letter mentioning my background, and the troubles I’d had, and how I had overcome them. I told them I would love to work again at a meaningful job, something I could take pride in, that would help to develop good daily habits.”

“What’s the job exactly? Executive Floor Executive. Is it a fancy word for cleaner? Will we see you leave the house wearing a frilly apron, carrying a feather duster, and bending over for businessmen to tickle your…”

“Don’t be stupid!” said a girl entering the kitchen. No one knew what her name was. “He’s got a good job. We should celebrate. Hang on.” She went to her room and returned with a bottle of cheap vodka. She poured them each a measure.

They downed them in sequence, the girl saying “Executive,” Shama saying “Floor,” and Bobby saying “Executive!” They laughed together and did it again, this time with the girl saying, “Floor”, and then finally, Bobby. Spirits were high at the halfway house.

Bobby’s first week went well. There was some cleaning involved, but the job mainly involved concierge and security duties. He got great tips, and the pile of cash under his mattress grew rapidly. He was so busy at work that he wouldn’t have had time to go to the bank, even if he’d had a bank account. The pile became huge.

One night he awoke, inspired. He counted out his cash: there was $7,200. He divided the money into thirty-six lots and walked around the house, putting $200 beneath everyone’s mattress. People were sick or drunk, and none awoke. It was enough for a month’s basic groceries.

He could use this money to get out of here himself, or he could use it to make everyone’s lives a little better. He had an additional role here: Forgotten Floor Executive.

Mattress Mortgage

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Paying rent is wasting money,” said Bobby. “We should get together and buy our own place. At least then the money would count towards something.”

“How do we do that?” asked Shama. “Shall we all bring the money from beneath our beds and build a mattress mortgage?”

Bobby thought, there are ten rooms in the halfway house’s ground floor apartment; four male dorms, four female dorms, and two double rooms. There are four people in each dorm, plus four more in the double rooms, making thirty-six people in total. Combining their income and assets could really add up.

The problem was that residents of the halfway house were generally not working, and those that were didn’t earn much. But thirty-six people working together could surely do something. “I’m going to look into it,” said Bobby and went off to do so. He didn’t have much else on today.

The lady at the bank said, “Are you an existing customer of this bank, Mr Law?”

There is no chance of that, he thought. The residents of the halfway house had zero, or even negative, credit scores. “No, but I am considering it. I would like to discuss mortgages first. Please assume I know nothing, and run me through the basics. What does the word mortgage even mean?”

“Mortgage is a French word meaning death contract. Don’t look so shocked. It’s not what a gangster offers to an assassin.”

It was a joke, but Bobby was sobered by the thought.

“It is a pledge which ends when the obligation is fulfilled, or the property is foreclosed. Of course, everybody hopes for a successful transaction, the loan paid off and the house fully your possession. But I am legally obliged to tell you the other possibility. If you do not repay the loan in the prescribed manner, you can lose the house.”

This sobered Bobby some more. He said, “You mean a bank can take your home away if you miss a payment. That sounds…”

“Technically the bank owns your house till you repay the loan. It is only yours upon the loan’s fulfilment.”

She spoke of the 3 E’s: Evidence, Existence, and Encumbrance, and the various kinds of loans available: direct and indirect, partial and complete. She mentioned intermediaries, size, maturity, interest, payment method, fixed and adjustable rates, interest only and repayment loans, debt ratios, and time-money value formulas.

What to make of all this? Bobby’s head felt like a spinning coin.

When it finally landed – he wasn’t sure if on heads or tails – she was speaking of MOST mortgages – Multi Occupant Strategic Tenure – where you somehow owned and didn’t own your property at the same time.

The numbers looked good though. If they paid all their rents into the MOST fund, they would own the house outright in twenty-five years, possible via the 3 M’s: Multipliers, Matching, and Magnetic MoneyTM, the latter a financial technology patented by the bank, which involved “attraction and integration of negative-positive cash flows.”

Bobby didn’t understand the details of the mortgage. He didn’t understand its essential purpose either. They would spend twenty-five years repaying the loan, and when they finally owned the house, they would be old and alone with no one to pass it on to.

The residents of the halfway house were mostly strays, who had been abandoned or lost. Life held little promise for them, and they lived day to day. Maybe renting was better.