Happy New Year! Welcome to ’13, the luckiest year of your life! That’s right, lucky ‘13. Let’s reclaim the number and kick that ridiculous superstition once and for all — or at least deaden it with Bloody Marys.
Some background: 13 is the natural integer between 12 and 14; nothing frightening there. It’s a prime number, a Fibonacci number and the age at which a Jewish boy becomes a man; two days later, he goes back to seventh grade.
Yet the number 13 is considered unlucky by many people, except bakers, who continue to forward their pro-13 agenda by branding it as some kind of trendy alternative dozen.
Truth is, no one knows exactly how 13 became associated with bad luck. The most common theory involves the belief that Judas was the 13th person seated at the Last Supper. However, the Bible makes no mention of how the Apostles sat. It says nothing about how they tipped, either, although there was probably a gratuity automatically charged to a party that size.
Triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, may also have its origins with the Vikings, as well as with the ancient Persians, both of whom associated the number with chaos. Also, 13 coils make a hangman’s noose, just as 13 strips of bacon make the outer weave of a Bacon Explosion, although to achieve maximum explosiveness you really need two weaves, so 26 total.
Regardless of its roots, triskaidekaphobia is so widespread companies and manufacturers often avoid using the number 13 entirely—why do you think they only made 12 “Friday the 13th” movies?
But in actuality, it’s just a really old superstition that’s somehow been great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathered into the culture. Also, Wilt Chamberlain wore 13, and he was one of the best basketball players of all time. Plus, according to his autobiography, he slept with 20,000 women. Even compensating for over-reporting, Wilt the Stilt still knew a few things about getting lucky.
Now that we’ve armed ourselves with a little knowledge — and a little knowledge, Alexander Pope once wrote, is a dangerous thing (added Albert Einstein: “so is a lot.”) — let’s begin improving our luck.
Clearly, the best way to stop bad luck is with good luck. Various world cultures symbolize good luck using assorted objects, numerals, plants and animals, some of which they then render into colorful marshmallow cereal bits. Good luck charms include: dice, wish bones, four-leaf clovers, acorns (unless you’re running for President and trying to distance yourself from a community housing scandal), horseshoes, rabbits’ feet and the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google’s homepage.
But to really fight fire with fire, numerologically speaking, take aim at bad luck by using lucky numbers 7, 8 and 9. In Western culture, the number 7 represents good fortune. It also represents a high-end jeans brand. In Chinese, the number 8 is thought to signify sudden fortune, while 9 means long life. Of course, the sequence 7-8-9 remains mystical for another important reason: it provides the rationale for why 6 is afraid of 7.
Let’s also not discount the inherent luck of certain nationalities (although, Irish beware—three reasons you might not be so lucky after all: millennia of foreign occupation, potato famine, Conan O’Brien’s career trajectory).
Still, luck need not be a passive pursuit. Take fate into your own hands by traveling to one of several destinations thought to bestow good fortune (still keep an eye on your wallet, though).
Set high into the battlements of Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland, the Blarney Stone is kissed for luck by an estimated 400,000 people a year, rating it one of the most unhygienic tourist attractions in the world. You probably want to skip the men’s room, too; after a few pints of Guinness, blokes tend to miss the Blarney bowl.
Other lucky itineraries include Seattle, to rub the nose of Rachel, a bronze pig in Pike Place Market; Lincoln’s Tomb, Illinois, to rub the nose of a bronze Honest Abe; New York City, to rub, as bankers and brokers do, the testicles of the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street (no joke). There’s also sculpture of Juliet in Verona, Italy, of which you’re supposed to rub the right breast (again, no joke).
If fondling statuary isn’t your thing, consider visiting the towns of Luck, North Carolina or Luck, Wisconsin, as well as the other Luck, Wisconsin, a separate village within the aforementioned town—talk about doubling your Luck. And no pilgrimage is complete without Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan. Make accommodations early, as there’s only one place to stay, the Double “L” Motel, featuring air-conditioned rooms and free cable TV. Feel extra lucky to find anything worthwhile on Canadian cable.
But sometimes you’ve just got to make your own luck. So get out there and do it by staying home and watching inspirational movies like “Outrageous Fortune,” “Good Luck Chuck” and “Lucky Number Slevin” (note: “slevin” is not a real number; do not attempt to set as ATM pin).
You can also create a playlist of lucky-themed mp3s. Set the proper mood for getting lucky, all day, every day, and it’s bound to happen sooner or later. And if it doesn’t just hit “shuffle.” Try “Lucky Star” by Madonna, “Lucky Love” by Ace of Base, “Lucky” by Jason Mraz, “Lucky” by Radiohead, “Lucky” by Hoobastank and “The Day the World Went Away” by Nine Inch Nails, just to break things up.
At the end of the day, I think Tennessee Williams summed it up best. “Luck is believing you’re lucky,” he said. We can all take heart in that.
If not, consider this: 2013 was the year the film “The Postman” was supposed to take place. How lucky are we not to be living in that horrid Kevin Costner vanity piece?
Last, but not least, we won’t have to deal with this much triskaidekaphobia until the next ’13 rolls around, 100 years from now. By then we’ll all be dead. See? Our luck’s changing already.
• For more of Geoff Kirsch, visit geoffkirsch.com.