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« April 2003 | Main | June 2003 »

May 30, 2003
for entertainment purposes only

First thing's first: I am a sucker when it comes to otherworldly matters. I read my horoscope, I play with Ouija boards, I enjoy a good tarot card reading now and again. Whether I actually believe in this stuff is another matter, and it could take some time to explain exactly which bits I believe and which bits are bollocks. I mean, horoscopes are all bollocks, and Ouija boards do call up spirits, but the spirits always lie. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but believe in the Ouija and it will deliver. It will deliver lies, but lies, at least, are entertaining content. I could go on, but that isn't where the story is.

Last weekend I visited Atlantic City. I had planned to get a $1 palm reading from the psychic who told me two years ago that I was "poor in school" (sorry, no), but the timing was never right.

Today, though, I had my chance to satiate the desire for the parapsychological. I drove down to Baltimore to visit Becca, and we decided to stop in at a psychic shop in Hampden (she had a coupon). We were first offered "full readings" -- Tarot plus palms! -- for $20 a piece, but we declined. The large barefoot woman smoking a cigarette in the tiny and sparse front room told us we could do it for $30 total, and we agreed.

The lady went back to fetch another psychic so that Becca and I could have our readings at the same time. I sat down in the "reading room," and the big lady put out her cigarette, put on her shoes, and sat down across from me. She was young, probably around 30, Hispanic, with chipped front teeth. She was difficult to understand. She told me to make a fist with one hand, make two wishes, and tell her one. I told her I wanted to find a good job in New York. Then she told me to place my hands up with palms facing her. She spread her Tarot cards down on the table in no particular formation. Our conversation then proceeded like this:

PSYCHIC: I see a lot of negative energy here.
ME: Okay.
PSYCHIC: Your heart has been broken three times.
ME: No, it hasn't.
PSYCHIC: It has been broken in love, family and success.
ME: Okay...
PSYCHIC: Do you find that when you're going through a tough time and need support, your friends aren't there for you?
ME: No, they're very supportive.
PSYCHIC: Someone in your family who you loved very much broke your heart, and now they are dead.
ME: No, that didn't happen.
PSYCHIC: Your heart was broken by this person a long time ago.
ME: Okay.
PSYCHIC: Is someone in your family sick?
ME: Not really.
PSYCHIC: But someone in your family must be sick.
ME: Well, a distant aunt is sick.
PSYCHIC: It is telling me you are worried about this person.
ME: No, not really.
PSYCHIC: Well, you are worried about this person. I also see that you are going on a journey. Are you going on a journey?
ME: Well, I'm going to move soon.
PSYCHIC: Moving is a type of journey. Where are you going to move to?
ME: Uh, New York? (Duh?)
PSYCHIC: This says you will have luck in New York if you cleanse your chakra. You have to remove the negative energy from your system. This stone will help you [from a box on the table she removes a small blue stone, the kind that you get at gift shops at science museums]. It is twenty dollars and I can perform a ritual that will balance your chakra.
ME: No thank you.
PSYCHIC: You need to rid yourself of the negative forces around you. This stone has powers that will help you.
ME: That's okay, I don't want to buy anything right now.

And that was it. The whole $15 experience lasted fewer than five minutes. Then, since Becca's reading was not quite finished, I had to sit in the front room with the smoking lady while Becca and the other woman went into the reading room. My psychic tried to make small talk at first, and then fed me the best lines of the day:

PSYCHIC: You have so much negative energy. You need guidance to get through the tough times ahead.
ME: Thanks, but that's okay.
PSYCHIC: I will pray to God for you and things will work out, if you allow me to give you special spiritual guidance.
ME: It's all right -- I can pray to God myself.
PSYCHIC: I have a special connection with God. God listens to me more than he will listen to you. I have many friends who I have helped who come to visit me and thank me for what I have done.
ME: Really, thanks, but I'm okay.

We then sat in awkward silence waiting for Becca to finish. I could overhear how it was going -- the other psychic was telling Becca about her dirty chakra and showing her a stone. Once she emerged from the reading room, the older psychic told us not to "share your readings, girls." Yes, then we'd learn that they were exactly the same.

You'd think I would know better. But let me tell you something about most psychics: in my extensive Jersey Shore Boardwalk Psychic experience, almost all of them have made an effort to take cues, to assess character by sight, to actually look at the palms they are allegedly reading. And when they haven't done that, they've at least made up good stuff. I've been told I'd become a doctor (picture it now: surgeon Beth), I'd live in Japan (hey, it could happen), and that I'd have two, three, and four kids (two and three are on the way to four, after all). Some of them even seem to believe what they're saying.

I can't help but be fascinated by the fact that so many psychics are able to keep shops open, that people are so concerned with what might happen to them that they need to find out before whatever it is does, even when they won't be able to do anything about it. I mean, sure, it makes sense. We don't want to fear for our futures. We want to prepare ourselves mentally for the bad parts and gain comfort in knowing about the good parts. In a sense, palm readers are among the last storytellers around. An entertaining, worthwhile psychic reading takes creativity and perception; it's a craft. It doesn't need to be true to be good.

Becca and I didn't expect much from our psychic readings. We just wanted to hear a few meaty details about things that probably wouldn't happen to us. Appalled by our experience, we discussed reporting this shoddy psychic outfit to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB would get a good kick out of that.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM

May 28, 2003
dear mom and dad

I try to eat dinner with one or both of my parents at least once a week. Usually we go to the Boat House, a dark, cheap, popular place with greasy food and a big old boat plopped in its center that serves as a bar. The wine tastes like vinegar, the fries are often soggy, and the burgers, while satisfying, are nothing to write home about. But no matter what I consume at the Boat House, I always leave feeling much healthier than when I walked in.

Tonight I dined there with my mother. We talked about her history of writing scathing letters to people like teachers who criticized her kids when we were in school, clueless parents of kids she teaches now, and bigwigs who tried to challenge her authority when she was the front end manager at a local supermarket. Piss off my mom, and you'll get a letter telling you about it. I would love to have copies of these impassioned letters, but some of them were written by hand in her neat but loopy scrawl, and some were composed on old computers we can't access anymore.

Some people don't like the idea of keeping letters, of looking back on their personal history, of reliving emotions or events they think they've conquered. I don't hold on to the letters I send out, but I've tried to keep most of the letters I've ever received from people I care about, as well as those from strangers who've had interesting things to say. So if you know me and you ever want to glimpse into your past, drop me a line. Just don't ask me to dispose of anything you've written; letters are gifts to the recipient. I promise not to sell them when you become famous.

So really I was writing about my mom. I'm sure I'm going to miss more things than I realize when I move, but one thing I know I'll miss is the weekly dinner out with my folks. I'll have to find another regular source of cheap food and restorative mental health. Let's hope it isn't as hard as I fear.

File under DAILY. Posted at 12:00 AM