Friday, March 13, 2015

What's luck got to do with it?

I can’t stand this phrase, but that’s because I don’t believe in luck. I believe in things happening or not happening. I mean, what is luck, anyhow?

According to, it’s:

the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities:


good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance:

Meh, not for me. Reading the definitions, however, makes it clearer why people like to use the term. Everyone loves to believe there are magical forces out there making sure bad things don’t happen to us. I’m not even talking about religion; I’m talking about something mystical that’s never seen and nobody can explain that has our best interests in mind. Okay, sounds a lot like religion.

Luck, to me, alludes to something taking up the slack of our own laziness or low self-esteems. There’s no luck; there are only good and bad decisions, knowledge or lack thereof, good or bad odds, and strong effort or weak effort.

This blog post was actually inspired by a facebook status from an author friend. She said she was entering a short story contest and to wish her luck.

Image result for luck

If I entered a writing contest and someone said good luck, I’d be offended. Wishing me luck suggests that I cannot win said contest unless a force that “seems to operate for good” is on my side.

The story I submit is either strong enough to win or it isn’t, but please, don’t wish me luck. I don’t want it. I want skill. Wish me skill.

Good skill!

Damn, that actually makes more sense. I’m a geenyus.

That being said, do I believe chance/luck actually exists in any form? Maaaaybe. Not really. Possibly the tiniest bit. I believe in odds, I believe in what happens or doesn’t, and I believe in extraordinary things occurring that are almost beyond belief. But luck? No. Not as it’s accepted and believed in today by most. Definitely not.

In the chess circles, I hear the word luck being thrown around quite often, and that’s the last arena in which it should exist!

Man, I blundered in that game against the expert and he didn’t even see it! I won! Talk about luck!

Ummmmm, no. Thing A happened, which is the mook making a blunder against a stronger player. Thing B happened, which is the expert missing an opportunity. Then Thing C happened, said mook won the game. It’s literally as straight-forward as a math equation, no luck whatsoever. I know it seems like the expert missing the opportunity is the ‘luck’ portion of this example, but it isn’t, at all. Maybe the guy was tired; maybe he underestimated his weaker opposition; maybe he’s just human and fucked up. But it isn’t luck, it’s something happening as a direct result of something else happening.

In chess, there are moves and plans that are made or moves and plans that aren’t made. Period. How the heck does luck exist in chess?  Odds, yes. Chance, yes, to an extent, especially when referring to tournament pairings. Luck? Well, it can't exist in chess because it doesn’t exist anywhere. 

Image result for chess player

I know it seems arguable that luck exists in casinos, and maybe to some tiny extent it does, like at the roulette wheel but even then, you are simply playing odds and nothing more. If gambling was all luck, there’d be no high-rollers, there’d be no card-counters banned, there’d be nobody making a living at poker. No, just as with anything else in life, we either understand or we don’t; luck has nothing to do with it.

Let’s say three vehicles are careening out of control, all headed toward me, all spinning wildly. Now, let’s say they all miss me narrowly and collide with a building behind me. Luck? NO! I was simply standing in a spot none of the vehicles were going to occupy. It’s real easy. 

Image result for car misses person

I know I’m making myself seem terribly bleak and unexciting, but those who know me fully understand I’m totally the opposite. I’m outgoing, I like to laugh, and I enjoy life immensely. While I do take a lot of risks, they are all calculated and all in my favor. Most people think I’m the luckiest sumbitch alive but really, I’m just decent at playing odds.

Even the most remote and unconnected circumstances aren’t luck to me. For instance, let’s say I buy a ticket, it’s one of ten thousand tickets available, and all ten thousand sell. Someone in another state is told to pick a number between one and one and ten thousand, and that person picks my number. I win!

Not luck.

Sure, it’s awesome that those astronomical odds played in my favor, as they were slim odds, but luck? No. Now, play that same game ten times and win all ten of them and I’ll start believing in luck. Actually, I wouldn’t. You would be a wizard and I would ask for training.

Hey there, sloppy-sleeves, tell me how you did that. 

Image result for wizard

Now, before you decide I have no clue what’s going on and don’t understand the human psyche even a tiny bit, let me say that I completely understand luck is fun and it’s easier to say that luck was on your side than to explain the mathematical odds of that good thing happening to you. In fact, that would be weird. Don’t do that.

Anyhow, if you think I’m rambling and don’t believe a word of what I just said, good luck.

Hah! I kill me.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who am I?

I don’t know why, but at work the other day, I was thinking about my life in general and how complicated we actually are as human beings. While it’s relatively easy to sum someone up in a few words, e.g. nice, edgy, Type A, big hearted, and etcetera, it really and truly is impossible to answer the question Who am I? in just a few words. Can't be done.

My answer to the above question would look something like the following and even then, it’s ridiculously abbreviated. Note: There is no real order to my list; it’s more stream of conscience bellowing than structured thought.

Who am I? Who the heck is Derek Odom?

  • I’m the kid who likes to spend time alone, playing with Hot Wheels cars and reading books.
  • I’m the kid who learned at a very early age how to become invisible, how to sink inside himself when there was trouble, how to cope using positive energy instead of anger.
  • I am a chess player, but more than that, I am chess. The game has shaped me in a way very few other things have.
  • I’m on stage at the Roxy, playing with an original band, angry at myself because I’m drunk once again and cannot play well. At the actual Roxy.
  • I’m hammered at the river circa 1996 or so, looking out over glass-smooth water somewhere in the ballpark of 4 a.m. Everyone in camp has long been asleep/passed out, and I’m leaning on the door of my ’68 Fury, drinking and drifting. On the other side of the cove, someone has brought a generator and a huge house stereo. Sublime is traveling across to me like messages in the wind, and I’m happy. I’m truly happy in that moment.
  • I’m the old-books-and-clothes smell of thrift stores.
  • I’m riding a motorcycle for the very first time on the freeway, knees hugging the tank in a death lock, scared shitless of the traffic and the speed.
  • I’m trying desperately to start my Plymouth after having sex at the drive-in movies, fully realizing we’ll have to spend the night where we sit.
  • I’m in love with Shannon Reid, an infatuation that lasted seven full years in my childhood. She hated me.
  • I’m avoiding conflict.
  • I’m one of the luckiest sons of bitches alive.
  • I’m at Lake Okoboji in Iowa, the faraway sound of motorboats comforting in a way I cannot describe.
  • I’m getting beat up by a large fat kid named Renee in seventh grade. I was beat up a lot that year.
  • I’m on the roof of a Chevy truck that’s careening through cornfields at eighty miles an hour, half crazed on Mad Dog 20/20 and experiencing zero fear.
  • I’m at a garage sale, wondering what wonderful prize I’ll find.
  • I’m meeting my birth family for the first time at thirty-five years old. I’m crying on Eliza’s shoulder because I realize I came from trash.
  • I have eerie knowledge of things I shouldn’t. Because of this, I’m very seldom afraid or wholly surprised.
  • I’m reading psychology books, one after the other, until I break down one afternoon after realizing my mother was terribly unfair to me and I hated her for it.
  • I love my mother.
  • I’m in the bathtub, desperately hoping the water stays hot awhile longer so I can continue playing with my boats and action figures.
  • I’m terrified of failure, not of being poor. My worst fear is I’ll look back and see I’ve done it all wrong.
  • I’m an AutoZone manager.
  • I’m highly sexual and wonder what it’d be like to have no testicles so I could finally be free of the prison that is hormones.
  • I am music.
  • I’m in my Fury, it’s 1994, and I’m crossing Nebraska on my way from Iowa to California; the engine is purring, the bass is thumping, the sights are gorgeous. I am truly happy in this moment.
  • I’m a law student. I’m a cop. I signed up for badminton four times in college because I like the game. I’m an English major. I’m a writer. I’m failing math class because I can't understand anything. I have the credits for two degrees. I have no degree.
  • I’m on my Huffy, knobby tires kicking up dust on some dirt trail or other in CO, cares gone entirely.
  • I owe the IRS over thirty grand; the day I found out about this, I cried until I couldn’t anymore and hated everything about me. In that moment, I was truly unhappy; a failure.

I am experience, and that’s all I’ll ever be. The more I do and see and hear and love and hate, the more I become me. I’m the sum of everything I’ve done and wish to do. I’m changing, little by little, based on massive amounts of life experience. I’m a wise forty-year-old who still wishes to do unwise things.

And much, much, much more.