Good Gods

I was writhing around in bed last week, alternating chills and sweats as an imaginary vice torturously churned, slowly penetrating the thin flesh that insulates my brain. With ammo consisting of Extra Strength Tylenol, Theraflu and Pellegrino, there was no way for me to win. And though most of my circuits had shorted out, I noticed during one brief lucid moment that my sense of smell was still full-on. I knew this because I thought the house was on fire. Yet my mid-day delirium was such that I couldn’t be bothered to vacate the comfort of the bed. I figured the wife would find me if it got out of control.

After a few hours of restless sleep, the smell remained. Maybe it’s our neighbor’s house, I wondered. She’s been ill of late… maybe I should check on her. Naaaaaahhhh. I could barely stand up, and the moment quickly passed. If I was to be swept away in a torrent of flames, so be it. I certainly didn’t have the energy to fight it, let alone rescue the neighbors.

Sadly, the one thing that always does get my sorry ass out of bed, no matter what my state, is checking email. And when I staggered over the child-proof gate into my office, I came face to face with the stench – a veritable forest of foul-smelling incense blowing into the faces of my newest best friends, Guan Gong and the Earth God. They are my home’s uncaped crusaders, porcelain deities banding together to ensure the well-being of my finances.

They’re quite the odd couple. Earth God is a benevolent sort. He sits on the floor, peacefully basking in the fumes. Guan Gong, on the other hand is a deity of rage. With his sword at the ready, he is prepared to fight to the death to ensure that my business does not go awry. They both, however, like bananas.

You may play the lottery, but I don’t gamble. I’m instead banking on Earth God and Guan Gong to help us raise the dough we’ll need to put young Emmett through preschool.

I’ll admit, I’ve come a long way in a short time. Through raised vaguely Jewish, I wasn’t much for worship; closest I got was forming a fake band with high school friends that we called Cantor Groveman and the Bar Mitzvah Boys. We wrote songs (“First Day of Hebrew School” was a particularly smoking selection) and created merch (World Tour 1981 T-shirts, replete with a yarmulke atop the globe), but the concept was just an adolescent goof. In retrospect, perhaps Cantor Groveman was my cry for help.

Fast forward many handfuls of years: I found what I was looking for in my wife, Carrie. Thanks to the always good vibes of her and her mom, Shelley Sparks, my home is filled with positive energy and imagery, and has received the feng shui seal of approval. It doesn’t hurt that my mother in-law is what we call in these here parts a Jewbu. She’s actually the one who suggested the deities in order to increase our fortune for the coming year.

And who am I to doubt her. What could they hurt? “In a lot of places like Chinese restaurants, you’ll see one or the other,” Shelley says. “In my business I’ve got both. They’ve helped my business. I like having them around me. They’re right behind me and they’re always protecting my business.”

Her Valley Village company, Harmony Gardens, specializes in landscape architecture, with an emphasis on feng shui in the garden. Having studied buddhism and other eastern philosophies, she fully understands the majesty of my two banana-loving pals. “Guan Gong is fierce and he is a deity that protects your business. So if you’re having troubles, he’s supposed to fight for your business.

“Earth God is really does a lot of things. He protects your money. He protects the actual ground your home or business is on. He keeps bad spirits from coming into your home.”

The incense, she says, is their nourishment. ”It's like thanking them for the help they’re giving you." Bananas are the business fruit, apparently.

But what if you neglect them, if the bananas start to turn brown? “They’re not wrathful if you don’t feed them. They don’t take business away. It’s like a friend. If you’re not treating them well, the relationship languishes.”

I think Earth God and Guan Gong are going to be members of the family for a long time. In fact my wife and I have already delegated authority: I’ll continue to feed the cats, and she’ll make sure our deities are fat and happy.