Monday, 25 February 2013

All the World's in the Round

Four score and four hundred six days ago, I recognized for post-erity my wannabe recognition of conspicuously coincidental traffic patterns, in which I compared one particular day's trip to-and-fro - a trip that on any other given day might transpire so spinningly as to resemble a meta-conscious journey on a bliss-bicycle, or so arduously as to rattle my brain into tiny beads of blood, sweat, and tears - to navigating the asteroid belt along a voyage from Jupiter to Mars.

The real trip, though, includes each day's adventure, with the stretch from my hometown near Jupiter to my workplace on Earth representational of the aggregate daily commute. It's just that on September 29th 2011, I found myself dodging a meteoric rise in the number of bicyclers addling the streets & paths, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, because unlike the interplanetary passage, you can't see the cluster as clearly in advance.

Six days ago I experienced a morning circuit - or one unique and particularly necessary segment of it - that played out on the opposite end of the circular stage to that of 486 days ago. Firstly, there were no other cyclists to speak of, which in itself is not so unusual, but part of a remarkable hole.

The thing that makes this segment necessary is the inescapability of the route as much as the required transit between two points, though the required transit is the result of my having scheduled appointments such that the route is inescapable. I normally try to allow myself more time; once a week I put myself through changes. Changes perceptible, but not a moment before they confront me.

On a bad day, it might take me as long as public transit's round trip of the same; under typical circumstances I get from A to B ten minutes before the train could.

But last Tuesday morning everything was as if it had already began to unfold when it saw me coming from far afield, as if it had to get out of the way before I saw it first, as if there were a penalty for making me break my stride even mentally. So, unlike lucky occasions past, I witnessed no parting of the seas of obstruction, observed no fortuitous flow of traffic. It was simply a void. Space devoid of atmospheric intrusions.

I looked around and found a world that belonged to me alone. And it's a good thing, too, because I'd quite coincidently been running rather late at the time, though not a coincidence on my part, because I was conscious of my delay as I was doing the delaying. Still, you can't chalk up the thereafter placement of traffic to my having meandered many minutes too long. It was just freak chance in accordance with my need for a little luck.

In the midst of that nothingness, I thought of the asteroid belt and how far away it was from my center of gravity, and, in the midst of that thought, I worried that this might be too much of a good thing, not that it was bloating me then, but would cost me one day when I could least afford it. Fortune would have it that the thought was fleeting. Nevertheless.
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LAM-ELISA stands for lipoarabinomannan (LAM), a molecule secreted by a mycrobacterium known to cause tuberculosis and, as such, a diagnostic for the presence of the same, with Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay (ELISA) being the biochemical technique used in its application.

But if you were to do a web-search for the term LAM-ELISA, you'd find out a few other things. La Melisa is a restaurant in Denmark, for instance - the culprit in this conspiracy being a script written by the Romans, which is all Greek to me.

Anyway (that is, wholly unrelated), there's been an outbreak of TB in LA. As reported in the town's Times, the city's skid row (apparently unworthy of capitalization) is the link in the majority of cases.

Anyway (that is, onto something entirely different & disturbing), 6 blocks removed from Skid Row Central (sec. Google Maps), is the Cecil Hotel on Main Street. It was in the water tank on the roof of the hotel that an employee, who was investigating a problem with the water pressure, found a 21-year-old Canadian woman who had gone missing from the same hotel almost three weeks earlier. Her name? Elisa Lam.

Now that is some pretty crazy shit, like, a concentrated coincidence.
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To state the obvious first: a decomposing body in a rooftop cistern did not cause an outbreak of TB around the corner; though the stories broke within a day of each other, the tuberculosis fatalities in this latest wave date back to 2007, when Elisa Lam would have been a teenager living a couple thousand kilometers up the west coast.

And rendering the denominators less common is the fact that the LAM-ELISA is used to detect TB in advanced cases of HIV infection, for which it is difficult to determine diagnosis. This applies to less than 20 percent of the cases according to city health officials.

Or does that make the coincidence eighty percentage points more remarkable? Like, remarkable in the way that, on a day just over nineteen months ago, there was a cyclist in front of me at every traffic light I got caught by. That never happens, and now only once.

The Cecil Hotel, by the way, was home for several months to The Night Stalker (Ramirez, not McGavin), a guy who is said to have developed his blood-lust from his US Army vet cousin who'd showed him Polaroids he took of a rape and beheading he had carried out while in the Special Forces in Viet Nam.

You may know the Special Forces as home to the kind of people who win hearts & minds, if not by securing their figurative freedom from tyranny, by literally removing them from their hosts. Who knows how many of these kinds of heroes occupy the flophouses and skid rows of the American West and elsewhere, let alone successfully instill in their prepubescent kin an acute appreciation for the awesomeness of gruesome cruelty. My guess is not many. Or a shit load. Like I said, who knows?

When Elisa Lam was still a missing person, the Cecil Hotel elevator surveillance video was released in hopes of finding someone who might have known her whereabouts. It contains a couple of minutes of her on what may have been the last night of her life. I recommend it only for the incorrigibly curious.

I read a discussion about it on a forum frequented by amateur sleuths, the gist of which revolved around the nature of her perceived unusual behavior: psychotic, medicated; self-induced or drugged; was someone else outside the elevator; was she playing around and having fun, or just plain scared?

Which came first, LAM or Elisa?
Like I said, I really believe this to be an extraordinary - or, rather, as I'm trying to understand it, a concentrated coincidence. As fascinating as I find Carl Jung, there is something about his synchronicity that I cannot get my head around.

So I think of clusters of objects in space as a metaphor for a concentration of coinciding similarities in an attempt to grasp why like-occurrences suddenly & inexplicably happen in clusters, or, as Jung would have it, result based upon their meaning rather than their cause. And I am no further along to grasping it than something that occurred to me at least fifteen years ago: Their seeming vastness notwithstanding, the possibilities are so limited that it couldn't be any other way - even if only this once.

Or every single time.

To wit: the simplest & most concentrated coincidence I can think of is the fact that one plus one adds up to two. Every time I've checked, this has been the case. Still, it's only a matter of time, even if we won't live to see it...

And what of the LAM-ELISA >> TB >> skid row >> Elisa Lam ride into the universe? How can one calculate such chances? Sure, there are only twenty-six letters in the Latin alphabet. But there're so many numbers - as many as the allotment of any given unit of chronology.

Yet always so little time.

How long before I have to return the cosmic favor of last Tuesday? How long 'til the next time I have another one of those too much of a bad thing days? How long before last Tuesday's report in Los Angeles happens again upon another archaeological site, to another anthropological entity, the letters of whose name are arranged the same as a precisely chosen acronym for a pathogen infecting the area of the dig?

FOR INCORRIGIBLY CURIOUS CATS ONLY, and with that in mind...

That, I reckon, is what it means to have seen a ghost.

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.. . .or just maybe what inspires this atheist to say,

Rest in Peace, Elisa Lam.. . .