Friday, September 9, 2016

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it."
~Mary Oliver

What the hell is an "accidental psychic"? In my case, it's someone who had an experience in childhood which altered the way her brain processes information.  The terms "near-death experience" and "out of body experience" are tossed around loosely these days, and thanks to the pioneers of the 1980s and 90s who wrote about such strange concepts, we have woven these terms into our social lexicon and tend not to sneer or snicker as much as we once did about this sort of witchy-woo-woo talk. Okay....the snickering and sneering still happen. I, too am guilty of cynical eye-rolling during certain conversations about the "new age".

Being a psychic was not a career aspiration, nor did I invest much time into learning how to read energy or memorizing metaphysical parlor tricks with which to astound friends and family. The realization that I possessed a certain ability was present soon after a near-death experience I had when I was eight years old.   At the time of the experience, my mother was not interested in my new-found ability to tune into the feelings of others or to be able to occasionally "see" what was going to happen in the future. I learned quickly that this topic was dangerous territory, and that it was better to observe silently than to share what I was sensing or "reading" in the people around me.

Around the time I turned 13, my mother discovered Catholicism and its tales of  the long-suffering saints as well as a new-found appreciation of and resonance with martyrdom. Once she had hopped aboard the Jesus train, there were many discussions about heaven and hell ("hell is the punishment for our bad choices", she would intone gravely with pointed looks at whomever she believed might possibly be making "bad choices" at the moment) and the placement of a Virgin Mary statue in the basement where she would kneel, pray tearfully and swear she smelled roses. Before the arrival of the Mary statue, the finished basement was where I would go to listen to records and mope about boys I had crushes on who didn't know I existed (or worse, DID know I existed, but didn't care). There was a telephone down there as well, and many hours were spent giggling and gossiping with friends out of the earshot of my mother. Once she began using my sanctuary as her personal prayer room, I moved the stereo into my bedroom and shut the door on her spiritual suffering.

By observing this particular brand of spirituality (a word I was not familiar with in my teen years), I began to turn my nose up at anything that felt religious or full of dogmatic rules. I was still able to feel or sense things about the people around me, but with Mother Martyr in the house, it was not comfortable to do so. I turned the dial on my ability way down in order to avoid feeling my mother's angst (which was fueled by a steady stream of Franzia boxed wine on ice) and my father's simmering rage (which was doused only by regular infusions of Wild Turkey).

When I turned 40, I was invited by a friend to learn a technique called Remote Viewing which is a fancy term for reading the energy of people, places and events. I innocently walked into that workshop not knowing that it would be the thing that would kick the mental door down that I had locked when I was a teen. As I practiced the technique, it felt like I was waking up to who I really was...which was frightening. I was working at a medical office at the time and began to know things about the patients that the doctors seemed clueless about. If I volunteered an opinion about the true origin of someone's neck pain, they would look at me as though I was possessed by demons and quickly change the subject.  On the occasions in which it was discovered that my intuition had been correct, a new look would cross their faces....sometimes confusion, sometimes fear, sometimes astonishment.

Absolutely none of this was comfortable for me. It felt like a re-visitation of my childhood in which I was either tippy-toed around or brushed aside. Except that this time, the Genie was really out of the bottle, and it wasn't going to be silenced or ignored.

A funny thing happens to folks when they believe you have access to information that is hidden from most people. They begin pulling you aside to have whispered conversations about their very private experiences and asking you what you think is going to happen next. They show you a suspicious mole on their shoulder and want to know if it's cancer. They ask you for the winning Lotto numbers. They want to know if George Bush will be re-elected to a second term. They look at you strangely and treat you differently.

On one hand, it was a magnificent thrill ride. Always a reclusive person with an aversion to crowded places and emotional situations, I was now being encouraged to give readings to people who wanted to know about their past lives or future events. At first, I stuck to the Remote Viewing protocol and refused to speak to people face-to-face. I asked them to email me their questions, and I would write out the replies by hand, which was a laborious, exhausting process as some of the sessions rambled for 20 pages or more.

These hand-written readings were proving to be accurate as well as fascinating, but the labor-intensive protocol I was rigidly adhering to was wearing thin. My fear of speaking to someone in person and answering their questions was daunting. What if I gave them the wrong information? What if they didn't like what they heard? What if I had to deliver terrible news about a health situation? All of these fears nearly brought an end to my blossoming business, and I laid awake at night wondering what I was getting myself into.

Fast forward twelve years. I left the medical office in 2002 and allowed myself to claim my gifts of intuitive knowing. I found that the word "psychic" made me cringe and imagine a wacky woman in a caftan and turban, gazing trance-like into a crystal ball, so I refused to use that word and called what I did "Intuitive Guidance". Nobody complained. As the years went on, I had the presence of mind to collect stories from thousands of sessions which seemed incredible to me, and perhaps they will to you as well, Dear Reader.

I hereby invite you on an anecdotal hayride in which names have been changed and situations amalgamated to protect the identities of people who have shared their stories with me.

(Warning: Fragile flowers, Nervous Nellies, anyone about to enter a convent or seminary, those who are mortified by the discussion of sexual proclivities and perversions, offended by raunchy slang and/or profanity or shocked by frank discussions of the various and sundry body parts and their functions are hereby cautioned to click away immediately.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Narcissus Was Here Part I

“I don't care what you think unless it is about me.” 
~Kurt Cobain

Dear Diary:

Year 6  Naive intentions for guiding people towards solutions to their problems degenerating rapidly into simply holding space while they explore depraved fantasies and describe their unappetizing tendencies and behaviors. Apparently, my input is not of much importance since most people do not heed the common sense advice and go on to do whatever they damn well please, then sheepishly report it all back to me at our next session. Also, I seem to have more credibility when I wear mascara.

It’s been said that if you do something fairly well, you will be expected to do that thing at least 10,000 times. At the beginning of the process, that projection doesn’t mean very much since the theory hasn’t actually gelled into a grim reality yet, so you go about your business with a smile on your face until someone asks you how many sessions you think you've done in fourteen years and you astound yourself with some quick calculations that lead you to a staggering five-digit number. This would certainly explain the compassion fatigue.

There is some compelling evidence pointing to the fact that narcissists are attracted to Empaths like fire ants to a Twinkie. Our kind hearts and desire to help can easily be abused by folks who think only of themselves and what they can get out of others. In this job, I have been challenged continually to establish and maintain substantial boundaries, but even with that awareness, a few energy vampires have managed to sneak through the holes in the screen door.

Monkey business

A new client arrives to our appointment fifteen minutes late wearing a too-tight Planet of the Apes t-shirt and complaining about the long line of hipsters at Starbucks. When I ask him to sit down so we can begin our session, he stares at the chair for a few moments and then in a concerned tone says, "You know, chairs were invented by dictators who wanted to control the populace."

Since I am not certain if he's joking, I sit in a chair to demonstrate the relative safety of the furniture, but he pretentiously re-positions a small footstool and is determined to use this as his perch for the next hour rather than conform to the sinister plot of government-controlled seating.

(Dear God, please help me to squelch the urge to roll my eyes, snicker or verbally castrate the assclown sitting across from me.)

Flying on a high-octane venti Caramel Macchiato and possibly amphetamines, he immediately plunges into the deep end with questions about his recent break-up and the importance of finding a new partner who is into open-minded sexual experimentation, but thanks to his choice of low-quality simian apparel, all I can picture is two impassioned chimps and a tire swing. It is explained to me that humans are not naturally monogamous and that when we force ourselves into the moral constraints of committed relationships, our mental well-being will, inevitably suffer.

Save it for the faculty lounge, Dr. Zaius.

We march on through more smug diatribe peppered by the occasional questions he appears to already know the answers to, and at last, it's time to bring our session to a close. As I begin to wrap up our conversation, he interjects from the footstool, “Let’s both close our eyes in order to join forces during an intention ceremony.” In a moment of end-of-session relief, I play along and close my eyes as he begins to call in "spirits from the unseen dimensions" to bless each of us today. When I open one eye to look at the clock, I am horrified to find him massaging his crotch (over the Dockers, thank God) and immediately terminate his masturbation meditation by standing up and announcing that we are finished. Without any sense of shame, he apologizes for being so forward and asks if I want to get coffee and become better acquainted "as friends". First of all (and perhaps most importantly), I don’t drink coffee. Never have, except for a hellish stint as a breakfast waitress at a diner along the Interstate when I was nineteen years old, and even then, I had to load it up with so much milk and sugar that it was nothing more than melted coffee ice cream. Secondly, exactly how is that "casual" conversation going to go after what just happened?

I make a jokey comment about how my husband frowns upon the notion of me dating other men (which is purely speculation. I know for sure that my first husband was not pleased with my extracurricular social life at the end of our marriage, but have not yet tested my current husband's tolerance levels. I am certain that if I did, however, it wouldn't be with this schmuck) and am beyond relieved when he shrugs his shoulders and heads for the door.

I think it's time to raise my rates.

Mid-life madness

A client I haven't seen in several years calls to make an appointment and finds a way to shoehorn in the important news about his recent separation from his wife which triggers an avalanche of sobbing, clueless questions about why she left. This is the main reason why I never answer the phone between sessions, but "Joe" has caught me at a weak moment and is determined to turn a scheduling call into his therapy hour.

When he arrives for his appointment a week later, Joe has pulled himself together and struts through the door a changed man; a man who is aggressively embracing his newfound single status by wearing three hundred dollar jeans and a fedora. I see that he has also traded in his sensible Prius for a red Camaro (is there any other acceptable color for a mid-life crisis vehicle?) and I cringe through the stench of his cologne at the cliché he has become in record time.

We begin talking and I quickly understand that this session is not going to be about Joe's desire to learn why his marriage failed or how he might become a better, wiser person because of the experience. No, today's conversation will be Joe's forum for a self-absorbed, pontificating monologue, the focus of which is refining (with my "help") the wording of his Plenty of Fish and profiles. Also, I will be shown several recent selfies and will be expected to determine which angle of his fifty-three year old physique in tight shorts will attract the most interest.

I glance over his profile and caution him against opening with demands that applicants be under thirty years old with large breasts and a love of walking on the beach. Suddenly I am a copy editor correcting his grammar with a red pen and pulling out the thesaurus to find alternate words for "lonely" and "horny".

When I reach the part of his profile that lists his typical Friday night activities as polishing his African tribal mask collection while whipping up some coq au vin and stargazing, I make a quick downward glance to see if Joe has grown cloven hooves since our last session. What was once a quiet, mousy accountant with a comb-over has morphed into a bad Saturday Night Live sketch.

Joe is listening intently to my suggestions and scribbling notes in what appears to be an old address book. When we reach a stopping point with the dating profile, I make the rookie mistake of asking him what happened with his wife and their marriage of twenty one years, which is all he needs to launch into a marathon filibuster. On and on he rambles about "not getting his needs met" and "not being a priority" until it occurs to me that this is no longer a session, but a hostage situation. To amuse myself, I keep a running mental tally of how often he says "long story short" which works out to eleven times in fifteen minutes.

I only heard from Joe one other time after that encounter. He emailed me to report that he had found the love of his life, a twenty year old "hottie" (his words) named "Destiny" whose primary objective was to get a leading role on General Hospital. Of course he was going to finance her rise to stardom, and in turn, she was going to be his fashion consultant because he had decided to get into modeling.

Other session tidbits:

~Client named "Brad" who thinks of himself as an untouchable, magical demigod refers to himself in third person for the entire session: "Brad would like to record our conversation." "Brad wonders what the outcome will be to his company's merger."

~ Client in his twenties is eager to discuss a potential investment opportunity that was emailed to him: it seems the Prince of Ghana has recently fallen on hard times and needs our help to reestablish his investment holdings. "This is legit, dude! We could get super rich from this, right?"

~Forty year old client is troubled by the fact that his accidentally-pregnant girlfriend has demanded that he pay for the cost of an abortion. The main question is whether or not he is the father of the baby, and when I tell him that it appears as though he is, he sits back in the chair, pensively nodding his head while looking out the window. A moment later, he has made a decision about his financial responsibility and declares that he will split it with her because "half the roll, half the toll".

Flattery can really turn a girl's head. Here are some of the more charming comments bestowed upon me by male clients over the years:

~"I think it would be fun to have sex with you because you can communicate with extra terrestrials."

~"You're really just a cheap therapist, aren't you?"

~"I’m not giving up bread, beer, sugar or Vicodin. Can’t you just put a spell on me to make me feel better?"

~"I don’t need you…I was just curious about what you would say."

~"How often do you think about me? Can I pay you in advance to tell me if you dream about me?"

~"Can you do a psychic prostate exam on me today?"

“To be most effective, flattery is always best applied with a trowel.” 
~Alan Bradley

Monday, June 13, 2016

Of Crystal Skulls and Ouija Boards, Part IV

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
~George Bernard Shaw

I am frequently asked by clients and acquaintances if I can see the future for myself. I tell them that this is comparable to trying to see the back of my own neck. I know it's there and can feel when there's something wrong, but I do need to ask someone else to take a look at it from time to time to make sure there's no suspicious rash or horrific growth forming beneath my hairline. I have experienced some wonderful readings from gifted astrologers and Intuitives over the years, and I have also had some comical encounters which serve as sobering reminders of the strangeness of my profession.

I recently relocated from California to Washington state for reasons which are not entirely clear to me but probably have something to do with the fact that every seventeen years, the planet Uranus does a devilish foxtrot through my house of bad decisions. I had been feeling a strong pull to the north for years, so when some encouraging signs began to appear (signs which, in retrospect, seem sketchy and half-baked), I threw caution to the wind and leaped into the void of the unknown. As part of my self-imposed assimilation process into this new place, I decide to investigate the local metaphysical scene and happen upon what I assume is a bookstore, but instead turns out to be the office space of Mrs. Eucalypta*, a psychic advertising the following services:

-Clairvoyant Readings
-House Clearings
-Exorcisms (animal and human)
-Curse Removals
-Chakra Clearing
-Pet Sitting

And hand-written in purple ink at the bottom of the menu of services taped to her door:

Ask about our weekly speshals specials!!

Against all better judgment and the wisdom I have supposedly gleaned through the decades, I push open a heavy wooden door and find myself in a dimly lit, hazy (gift shop? museum? opium den?) jammed from floor to ceiling with dusty multi-cultural statues on dirty glass shelves, faded plastic flowers exploding out of mismatched pottery urns and inspirational plaques on the wall urging me to Dream! Believe! Hope! Smile!, some of which I have seen recently in the clearance section at Target.

Mrs. Eucalypta materializes out of the shadows, delighted by the hapless fly who has just blundered into her web. She takes me by the hand, leading me further into the gloomy vortex towards a massive metal desk that appears to have done hard time in a WWII bunker. This is where she does her readings, and it's clear by her iron grip that there is no way out at this point. My fate is sealed and there will not be an opportunity for edging towards the door - and freedom - while pretending to browse through the thousands of paperback books lining the walls or examining the snake skeleton specimens in shadow boxes. I am in the wicker chair and being read at the "speshal special low price" of $45 for Tarot and chakra balancing, the "cash only" terms being carefully explained to me right up front. If I do not have cash, Mrs. Eucalypta points to the front corner of the room where an ATM will provide the necessary funds for our adventure.

Even though the smoldering incense is creating a thick fog, I am able to make out the enormous diamonds this woman is wearing on every finger. I soon learn (because a mere fifteen of the forty minutes spent in this place is about me; the rest is a rambling diatribe about her complicated life) that her father purchased miles of commercial real estate in Malibu back in the 70s at rock-bottom prices and now happily hands cash to anyone in the family who asks for it as long as they are not on drugs. I then hear a little something about each of her seven children before she asks me to shuffle the Tarot deck in such a perplexing and complicated manner that she has to bark at me that I'm "doing it wrong" three times.

Once the cards are shuffled to her satisfaction, Mrs. Eucalypta lays them out and clears her throat as though she is about to make an important speech. She inquires repeatedly if I work for "the government". Each time I say that I do not, nor have I ever worked for any branch of the government. She continues to prompt me, saying that if I was in the military, that counts as government. I assure her that this is the farthest thing from what I do for a living. Switching gears, she asks if I am thinking of signing a contract. I affirm that yes, I am hoping for a publishing contract. She says excitedly, "Are you writing something for the government?"

Now I am casting furtive glances at the front door and thinking of plausible excuses for why I must leave immediately (left the iron on/water running in the bathtub/tea kettle boiling/worried that the dog might eat my homework). She insists, shaking her head and staring at the cards, that I have dark, abusive men all around me who want to control me, which is also the furthest thing from the truth. Finally she asks what I do for a living and I divulge that I also do psychic readings to which she replies with a snort, "Good luck with that. You are much more suited to a government job with benefits."

I can't say for sure if my chakras were balanced during our session, but I can report that her little white dog, which she hastily ditched into the bathroom when I arrived, never stopped barking or scratching at the door, so maybe my annoyance with that situation forced one of my errant energy centers back into alignment.

During the scant fifteen minutes we are speaking about me, I learn the following things about myself while suffocating on Nag Champa fumes:

1. This is the lifetime in which I will be unlucky in love. Probably because I broke so many hearts in my previous life, Mrs. Eucalypta surmises while squinting at the cards and drumming her manicured nails on the desk, this will be my karmic payback. I am told that I may as well get comfortable with the fact that I will never have a satisfactory romantic relationship. It's my cross to bear, she explains smugly, no doubt thinking of her fantastic husband, their phenomenal sex life and freedom from financial burdens and her seven perfectly well-adjusted children.

2. I am a carbon copy of my mother. Like it or not, I am her spiritual twin and will live out my life in the same way she is living out hers, which means I am destined to own a modular home in a retirement community in Florida, hoarding family photos, dying my hair an unnatural shade of auburn and refusing to speak to my adult children. Why fight it any longer! Today I might as well begin drinking boxed wine and collecting small dogs with matted hair that I can fuss over in front of company when I'm not weeping in the bathroom from hurt feelings.

3. I should have been born a boy. This news is delivered with a look one would receive from the convenience store guy who tells you that your card has been declined, forcing you to dig around in the bottom of your purse for enough money to buy the Snickers bar you so desperately need. Apparently, there was some cosmic mix-up with the genetics, resulting in my female attributes which, according to Mrs. Eucalypta, has been the root of most, if not all of my problems in this lifetime (see revelation #1).

Prior to this fiasco, there were other notable encounters through the years:

~During a reading with a woman living and working out of an Airstream parked on rural property, a cow with runny eyes continually peeks in the windows, licking the screens and judging my choices in life.

~At the same reading, it is determined (by the psychic, not the cow) that I must drink a shot of Peach Schnapps to clear my throat chakra of the memory of being decapitated in another lifetime. She takes a shot, too, just in case my bad karma wants to wipe its ass on her dress.

~A Tarot card reading which starts off just fine, but quickly deteriorates when the psychic dissolves into tears and begins a long-winded story with too many details about her cheating boyfriend, an empty bank account and a raging case of herpes. By the end of the hour, I am counseling her, and yet she still charges me for the reading.

~The Sedona psychic who carries on animated conversations with invisible (to me, anyway) entities in the corner of the room who are supplying him with bits and pieces of information about me, all of which are wrong. I bring the session to a halt when he asks if he can touch my bare feet in order to "remove the demons" from my body.

*Not her real fake name

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Spotlight Effect Part I

"Fame exhausts me."
~Alice Walker

People often ask me how I do the psychic thing. I'd love to be able to share a magic formula with them, but truthfully it's a lot like a microwave oven. I have absolutely no idea how the machinery works; I just shove a plate of food in, push a random combination of mysterious buttons and pray to God that nothing explodes in my face. Every. Single. Time.

A little history

I attended a smallish high school in Southern California where the limited number of kids auditioning for plays practically guaranteed that we would all get whatever parts we wanted even though none of us had any real talent to speak of. It always sounded so glamorous at first: memorizing lines, evening rehearsals in the school auditorium/cafeteria, standing on stage emoting with all the subtlety and finesse of a rhinoceros who doesn't know what to do with his hands. But then opening night would arrive and my dry mouth and pounding heart would remind me that I am terrified to speak to groups of people, and that no matter how many hours I spent committing my lines to memory, they would all fly out of my head that dreadful moment when the curtain went up.

In my junior year, our drama class put on a play called Godspell which (for those of you who have been spared the atrocity) is a musical rehashing of Jesus' valiant attempt to teach a ragtag bunch of groupies about the meaning of life in the days leading up to his gruesome demise. In this version of the timeworn saga, Jesus wears a Superman t-shirt and modified clown face paint which gives the rest of the cast permission to dress like homeless beatniks who enjoy shoplifting from Goodwill.

When I nervously tell my mother that I have a part in this unconventional production, a wall of icy silence descends as the significance of my announcement sinks in to her newly-Catholic brain. Reading the warning signs on her face, I scramble to justify the necessity of my participation and that, after all, it's a family-friendly story about crucifixion and resurrection! And we SING! And (the cherry on the negotiation cake) it all comes directly from the BIBLE!!

I tiptoe through two days of the silent treatment and worse-than-usual meals as Mother Martyr "thinks it over" while she tearfully prays for the strength to deal with a teenage daughter who has somehow blundered into the drama club. In her religious reasoning, unless someone is begetting offspring through miraculous interactions with a burning bush, sacrificing a family member or being eaten alive by locusts, it simply doesn't count as a Bible story.

After a lengthy phone conversation with my drama teacher in which he assures her repeatedly that it's all very wholesome and no demonic forces are involved (I know this because I am listening in on the extension phone in the basement), my mother cautiously agrees --"with concerned reservations" -- to my participation in the play. Immense relief washes over me as I realize that I will not need to bow out of the production due to my mother's histrionic belief that I am selling my soul (at garage sale prices) to Satan.  In the weeks that follow, she occasionally asks me to sing one of the songs or recite from a monologue, and when I oblige, she clears her throat and says without eye contact, "that's nice. You should practice more."

It's finally opening night and as I am cavorting across the stage in my absurd costume and greasy stage makeup while the anorexic boy playing Jesus dies a melodramatic death on a wobbly scaffolding, I catch a glimpse of my disapproving mother in the second row of folding metal chairs. She is scowling and already rehearsing in her mind the conversation she will have with our priest to plan the exorcism I'll need the moment this travesty is over. Also, it's entirely possible that we will have to move out of town to escape the embarrassment she thinks this will cause her.

Sadly, this episode sets the tone for all of my future public speaking engagements.

Front-page Folly

The year is 2006 and cable television is engaged in a serious flirtation with shows about paranormal activities. Everywhere you turn, someone is waving a crucifix around attempting to taunt an angry ghost in an abandoned prison, uncovering evidence of alien activity in a pyramid, or wandering through haunted houses with special equipment, debunking footsteps in the hallway as air in the pipes. Also, vampires are considered to be ultra-sexy fringe dwellers (the decidedly unsexy zombie apocalypse is still years away) lurking around in forests and high school parking lots, wearing key pieces from the Hot Topic fall collection and seducing pretty young women with plunging necklines and heaving bosoms. The public's appetite for spooky stuff is growing, and the media is eager to deliver the goods.

By now, I have been conducting sessions for three years and am beginning to settle into a routine with a small client base who find me by word of mouth. I am still mystified to be stumbling around in this career and startled when someone reports that a "prediction" I made came true. I deftly change the subject when anyone asks if I teach workshops or speak to groups, and have no desire to advertise my services to the general public. In addition to realizing for the first time that I am actually an introvert, I find that I'm firmly in the grip of impostor syndrome and shrink away from connecting with anyone involved in the wacky goings-on of the metaphysical community.

As cosmic jokes go, this is the perfect atmosphere for what happens next. A reporter at the local newspaper has been working on a story about the public's current infatuation with the paranormal and my name has crossed her desk three times from different sources. She calls and leaves a message on the answering machine asking for an interview with "Susette-the-psychic". I shock myself by returning her call and agreeing to a meeting with her and a photographer. I wonder why photographs are necessary as the anxious adrenaline begins to course through my veins. Is she hoping that I'll levitate above the coffee table or summon ghosts from the hall closet? I distract myself by worrying about how to conceal the nervous blotchy condition on my neck and chest which presents itself in most photographs taken of me. Almost immediately after hanging up, I regret agreeing to the interview and begin to concoct reasons for why I need get out of it.

Thanks to the intervention of well-meaning friends and family members who believe I should go through with it, I do not cancel the appointment, and the reporter and photographer show up at the agreed-upon time on an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon. I greet them with sweat soaking through my blouse and launch into nervous gibberish, already trying to explain myself and what I do before they're even in the house.

While the reporter and I get settled on the couch, the photographer takes a good, long look at me from head to toe before roaming around the house in search of good light and appropriate angles for the daunting task of shooting photos of yet another woman with double chin challenges.

I should be used to it by now, but the reporter is looking at me with a mixture of skepticism, curiosity and a little fear which sets me on edge. It occurs to me that this thing could easily go sideways; she has the power to write anything, good or bad, and the entire community will accept her words as truth. My mouth goes dry and I become conscious of my every word and movement, imagining how she must be seeing me, given the fact that she is not a believer in any sort of paranormal or mystical event - a tidbit she discloses at the very beginning of our conversation.

As she asks me the usual questions about how I do what I do, what my childhood was like and if I can "see things" like Lotto numbers, I can tell that she is waiting for me to astound her by reading her mind or striking up a lively conversation with her dead Grandmother. Neither of these things happen and I feel as though I am wasting her time with my uninteresting and probably fictional abilities.

After a thorough search of the property, the photographer has finally found a place to take my picture, and as I pose awkwardly on the stairs by the window waiting for instruction from him, he clicks a few shots and then announces that he's finished. While packing up his equipment, he asks with a smirk if I know who will win the 2008 Presidential election. I tell him that I don't, and he makes a sarcastic "uh huh" sound as he leaves the house. The mood in the room is heavy with unmet expectations, and I recall bitterly my mother's hollow advice about needing more practice. It's a dark and somber day when the opinion of your adversary turns out to have merit.

About a week later, an evenhanded, unbiased article featuring my interview runs on the front page of the Sunday "Living" section of the newspaper. It's all very neutral and includes interviews with others from the metaphysical community talking about how psychics can come out of hiding now that paranormal events are being seen as mainstream. The startling part is the gigantic color photo of me that accompanies the article, taking up nearly half the page. By some miraculous stroke of luck, the light and angle of the photo work in my favor and someone has thoughtfully cropped the image to hide the sweat marks under my arms.

By Monday evening, there are thirty nine messages on my answering machine from people wanting to schedule sessions. Some leave comments about the photo, saying that I look "angelic" and "serene", while someone from Arizona (how did she see the damn thing, anyway?) thinks I look "otherworldly". A man with a gravelly voice asks if I would like to accompany him to New Mexico in search of extra terrestrials, and more than a few are tearfully asking if I can communicate with dead animals or help them to find their mother's safety deposit box keys.

Weirdest of all (at least for the moment) is the woman wearing a straw hat and bedroom slippers who recognizes me in the cat food aisle of the grocery store the following week and asks if she can touch my hand so that her migraine headaches will finally stop. I tell her that she has mistaken me for someone else and slink from the store with my head down. My career as a psychic has officially begun.

Monday, November 17, 2014

De-mystifying the Jargon Part I

"Knowledge is like underwear. 
It is useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off." 
~Nicky Gumbel 

We live in confusing times. Just when you're feeling confidently smug about the way your life is going, some cosmic force throws you a curve ball and you find yourself in conversation with a New Age enthusiast who is bouncing weird, unfamiliar lingo around at the dinner table or during your colonoscopy.

In order to provide you with greater understanding of what you may be hearing these days, I offer the following:

Definition of terms for the New Age novice

Age of Aquarius: astrological terminology referring to a blissful period of time when humanity will finally find the balance between cigarettes and tofu.

Alignment: hokey, overused word for being in agreement or alliance with the energy of others or unrealistic delusions of peaceful co-existence with All Beings. Example: "Dude, I was so in alignment with that pile of kale at the Farmer's Market, I began to weep as I felt myself being ripped from the ground."

Astral projection: your spirit leaves your body and travels to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort for the rest and cocktail-driven relaxation you can't seem to achieve while plodding through the drudgery of your waking life.

Astral sex: you direct your promiscuous, wanton spirit to the bedroom of George Clooney and/or Jennifer Lopez and demand that they do the bone dance with you. They must agree to it, otherwise it is classified as astral rape and you will be punished to the fullest extent of the Law of Attraction.

Astrology: the stars and planets had a meeting and decided that this is the lifetime where everything will be completely fucked up no matter what you do. Sorry.

Aura: energy field surrounding all living beings. Yours is probably full of holes and/or being drained by an energy vampire unless you are a victim of the zombie apocalypse and already dead.

Automatic writing: taking dictation from a ghost with an agenda. After writing session concludes, expect to have a sudden interest in overthrowing governments, jumping off of the Golden Gate bridge or making babies with Ashton Kutcher.

Bigfoot: gigantic, apelike creature who skulks around the Pacific Northwest fucking with bounty hunters and camera bugs hoping to capture evidence of his existence. Bigfoot recently posted on Twitter about his disappointment in the Animal Planet television series, Finding Bigfoot, stating, "I think the paparazzi might have chased me out of Los Angeles."

Chakra: the seven centers of spiritual power in the human body. Yours are most likely spinning in the wrong direction, jammed or completely defective, classifying you as the spiritual equivalent of a busted vending machine that appears to be full of Snickers and Funyuns but won't give up the goods when someone drops in a handful of quarters.

Channeling: a technique by which disembodied spirits use your voice to communicate opinions, predictions and directives while you are in an unconscious trance. When you awaken, you will discover that you spent two thousand dollars on a whole-house air filtration system and have volunteered to teach a group of effeminate young men to pole dance. Not to be confused with Ambien-induced insanity.

Clairvoyance: a form of extrasensory perception in which a psychic person "sees" (sometimes while appearing to watch a fascinating movie playing inside a crystal ball) terrible events that will be happening to you at some undetermined time in the future. There will be no way to avoid these tragedies, and you will live your entire life waiting for the other cosmic shoe to drop.

Crystals: pretty, overpriced rocks believed to have magical healing powers. Example: "Holding an amethyst in your mouth for a week will heal your abscess." You will choke on this crystal as the dentist is draining the puss-filled cyst you should have dealt with a week ago.

Déjà vu: the feeling that you've made this same stupid fucking mistake before.

Energy balancing: an alternative-care practitioner attempts to fix your energy field which has become severely damaged. Circumstances likely to cause mangled auras include:
~living with bitter, alcoholic parents in a mobile home in Florida after the age of 35
~the video of your drunken night with three frat boys and a horny Rottweiler named Toby goes viral
~your husband's new-found interest in moving to Utah and exploring polygamy with high school-age girls
~discovering that your elderly father has stolen your identity and opened a massive line of credit in order to help a sweet young lady by the name of Cherry through "beauty school"
~addiction to alcohol, Internet porn, ice cream, online shopping, stalking ex-boyfriends, opiates, masturbating in public places and/or gambling away your life savings at the casino while your spouse is out of town.

Energy vampire: someone you are required to interact with at family functions and office Christmas parties who drains you of your life force and diminishes your will to live. In addition to sucking your energy from you, may also want to "borrow" your money, car, clothing, jewelry and spouse. Will want to tag along on all-expense-paid vacations, shitting all over your good time and probably need to be bailed out of the pokey at least once.

Feng shui: harmonious placement of furniture and accessories in the home. Example: triangulating the vector between the recliner, refrigerator and television in order to optimize your sloth-like tendencies and eating disorders.

Intuition: that little voice in your head that tells you what a bad idea it is to do whatever it is you are thinking of doing (particularly Internet-related activities). Going against your intuition is likely to result in any or all of the following:

burning urination
insomnia or night terrors
fainting in Costco
painful or prolonged erection of the penis

dancing with wolves
sensation of spinning
spiders living in your ear canal
blurred vision
Oscar Meyer wiener

compulsion to wear a dashiki and join drumming circles even though you are white
projectile diarrhea
unplanned pregnancy
gasping for air

eye crabs
pounding or irregular heartbeat
jock itch
belief in a race of intelligent reptilian beings subliminally controlling planet earth through messages encoded in rerun episodes of The Golden Girls
large, hive-like swelling on the face, legs, feet or sex organs
oily discharge leaking from anus
sudden interest in arson
oozing sores in the mouth or on the lips
sweating onions
searing pain in the genital region
court-ordered community service at the Naples, Florida DMV
unusual tiredness or weakness

Karma: destiny resulting from your previous actions. Example: Mary has 18 fish in her fish tank. She transfers 12 of the fish to her brother's fish tank. How many fish are left in Mary's tank? Answer: None. Mary was the Captain of the Titanic in a previous life, so now everything that she loves will die a terrible, watery death right before her eyes.

Law of Attraction: metaphysical boomerang covered in Krazy Glue. Example: you talk shit about your ex to anyone who will listen and post obsessively on Facebook about what a gigantic pain in your ass he is...three days later you have a raging case of hemorrhoids.

Meditation: that thing you can't do no matter how hard you try even though you dropped eight hundred dollars on incense, hemp floor cushions, Buddha statues and elastic-waist harem pants in three different colors. And let's not even talk about that infected-looking "om" tattoo on your foot.

Medium: "I see dead people."

Namaste: Hindu greeting offered in conjunction with "praying hands" which is meant to convey peaceful wishes but winds up making you want to smack the patchouli stink off of the person saying it. When seen as a bumper sticker, is usually on a Prius driven by the biggest jackass on the road doing forty miles an hour in the fast lane admiring his dreadlocks in the rear-view mirror while listening to a CD of dolphin mating sounds.

Ouija Board: occult oracle magnet which attracts every single degenerate spook in the universe. Once they have gained entry into your home, these demons will wreak havoc with your electronics, steal your car keys and rape your dogs. Not to be confused with unemployed drug addict son living in your basement.

Palm reading: an excuse for a hermit with bad breath to hold your hands and pretend that the lines on your palms indicate your tragic daddy issues and that you will have a heart attack when you are 45, which you will probably live through. But try not to worry.

Past life regression: in which you hope to confirm your belief that you were Cleopatra or Mary Magdalene but learn that you were actually a hideous witch who was burned at the stake or Adolf Hitler's event coordinator.

Positive affirmation/mantra: short phrases used to shift thought patterns from negative to positive. Example: (during agonizing root canal) "I love myself too much to eat entire bags of Rolos and Smarties before bed."

Psychic: person with freakish ability to know many embarrassing details about you including sexual preferences and bathroom habits. You will pay cash money for this person to tell you all the things you are doing wrong in your life and how the situation will go from bad to worse unless you get your shit together now. This psychic person will likely go to extraordinary lengths to avoid you on the rare occasions they leave their house to gather supplies or try on harem pants at the mall.

Reincarnation: appallingly grim belief that your soul is reborn in different bodies throughout eternity. Thanks to that punishing bitch, karma, you will keep coming back to earth, trying to fix your idiotic mistakes until your soul finally gives up and moves on to a different galaxy to try its luck in a fresh venue.

Séance: when you and a few of your drunk friends decide to make contact with the spirit of Marilyn Monroe but instead conjure up the ghost of Mickey Rooney who won't shut up about the glory days at MGM. Always attracted to inebriated women while alive, the soul of Mickey will linger around the house long after the séance is over, rattling wine bottles and groping your breasts in the middle of the night.

Spirit guide: the entity in charge of watching over your dumb ass while you blunder your way through life, screwing up everything you touch. Similar to a guardian angel but bossier and judgmental in an annoying know-it-all way. May ride in the car with you and dick around with your radio.

Tarot card reading: someone wearing too many jangly bracelets pulls cards from a deck and tells you about your pathetic mommy issues and that you should eat more carrots to avoid colon cancer. She may assume a crestfallen look as she informs you that your spouse is having intercourse with a blonde he met at the gym.

Third eye: refers to the (hopefully) invisible eye in the middle of your forehead. Symbolizes an enlightened state of consciousness and the ability to "see" what your spouse is doing on the Internet at 2:00 a.m.

UFO: unidentified flying objects from outer space linked to conspiracy theories, government cover-ups and poorly-faked alien autopsies filmed in someone's garage with an 8mm camera found on eBay. Currently a trendy way to get national attention on the History Channel after being anally probed by a short, grey fellow with long fingers and dead eyes.

Vibes: the atmosphere created by someone's emotional state. Example: "Did you feel the bad vibes coming off of Dirk when he found out he has cancer in his nut sack?"

Yeti: large creature resembling a peevish albino Chewbacca residing in ice caves of the Himalayan mountains. Distant cousin of the reclusive Bigfoot, but more likely to make appearances at Disneyland on the Matterhorn bobsled ride.

Yurt: a glorified tent used by self-proclaimed gypsies and nomads who need to be able to pack up and leave town quickly when the "healing treatments" (comprised mostly of mushroom spores and cow poop) they are selling backfire and clients experience violent allergic reactions such as believing they can jump out of a fourth story window and fly to Paris naked.

Yoga: your downward facing dog pissed on my tree pose.

Zombie apocalypse: belief that zombies (a corpse brought back to life through witchcraft, voodoo or Black Friday sale at Walmart) will somehow band together to engage in an assault on humanity, feeding on the brains of the living and creating more zombies as they make their way from town to town. Possible metaphorical ties to the downfall of western civilization, voracious consumerism and the Bush administration. Discuss.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

De-mystifying the Jargon Part II

“It's funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands 
 and they'll do practically anything you want them to.” 
~J.D. Salinger

More definitions for those who are seeking guidance during these puzzling days of the New Age:

Atlantis: a fanciful, utopian ideal, once smiled upon by the gods and blessed with prosperity and the love of all mankind, becomes morally bankrupt and attempts world domination through force (see: Justin Bieber).

Coffee enemas: highly-addictive practice of injecting espresso up your ass, ostensibly to clean out your large intestine. Side effects include a strong desire to cram biscotti into your rectum and shitting your pants every time you pass a Starbucks.

Conscious uncoupling: closure counseling for couples who can no longer stand the sight of one another and have enough extra cash lying around to work through a 5-week process of harmoniously slashing the zip ties of marital bondage. Works well with soul mates. Fails drastically with twin flames.

Crop circles: complex patterns mysteriously appearing in grain fields since the Nixon administration. Theories of their origins include the following:
1. Two drunk British dudes using a plank of wood and some rope have been traveling around the world for forty years, proudly defacing the crops of innocent farmers.
2. Psychic people who have grown bored with gazing into crystal balls are broadcasting their brain waves onto farmlands of the English countryside in an effort to demonstrate cerebral superiority.
3. Vigorous sexual activity of horny hedgehogs produces precise, mathematical designs, especially near Stonehenge where their passionate frolicking creates artful motifs of multi-cultural symbolism.
4. Bigfoot's preferred method of communication.
5. Random wind gusts can create the face of Elvis in less than 45 minutes.
6. Punk-ass extraterrestrial kids are doodling on our walls.
7. Team Satan.

Crystal skulls: controversial carved quartz artifacts believed to be imbued with mystical powers. Certain legends say that these skulls were created by prankster extraterrestrials (with access to a drill press) visiting planet earth in the pre-Columbian era. When all thirteen skulls have been found and are gathered in the Hyatt Regency conference room, it will be revealed that God is actually a Catskills comedian by the name of Morty who really loves dirty jokes, mindless groupies and one too many vodka martinis.

 heralded as the wise, interdimensional mascot of the New Age and generally thought of as compassionate, smiling, volunteer healers who want nothing more out of life than to help humans fix what ails us. Disturbing current research shows that dolphins are actually the gangsters of the sea, killing and maiming for pleasure when they are not involved in vicious gang-bangs, masturbating with decapitated fish and credit card theft.

Doomsday preppers: folks who are confident that the world is coming to an end are preparing for the arrival of the Antichrist by stocking up on firearms, duct tape and hard cheeses encased in wax. Oh, and sugar. Don't forget this essential item, because when the shit goes down and you are sequestered with your repulsive family in an underground bunker for a year, you are going to need some goddamn sugar. And nudie mags. And maybe a few gallons of morphine to distract you from the dismal reality of your new life.

Dream catcher: Native American crafty doodad that catches more dust than dreams. Large, enterprising spiders see it as a ready-made web (with bonus feathers and beads!) and move right in, happy to drop mosquito carcasses into your open mouth as you sleep.

Family bed: contentious issue also known as co-sleeping. You either believe in keeping the kids in your bed (and sneaking out to the tool shed to have awkward sex bent over earwig-infested bags of mulch) until they graduate from high school or insisting that they sleep in their own rooms (and sneaking in every twenty minutes to make sure they are still breathing). Whichever way you choose, there will be judgment from smug Earth Mothers, shame, fear that you've made the "wrong" choice and misery. Welcome to parenthood!

Global warming: ongoing cage match between Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh about the validity of climate change. Al states that too many decades of carelessly tooling around in our fossil fuel combustion machines while spraying Aqua Net and Glade into the atmosphere has produced a situation in which we are all slowly cooking to death in our own toxic waste. Rush disagrees and contends that global warming is a hoax manufactured by the Democrats, giving him carte blanche to pollute our environment even further with his own brand of noxious gas.

GMO: stands for genetically modified organism and is the current axis of evil/Death Star piloted by the Monsanto syndicate. Example: "What the fuck, dude! I knew that tomato was GMO when I cut into it and found a fish head."

Indigo children: refers to the deep blue color of certain children's energy fields. These are the obnoxiously precocious tykes who aren't afraid of consequences and refuse to follow your "rules", insisting that you think of them as magical superhumans who are encouraged to get away with murder. Indigo children gravitate towards starring roles in television sitcoms and/or tyrannical dictatorship of blended families and small countries.

Inner child therapy: your damaged, egomaniacal nine year old self is still calling the shots in your adult life as is evidenced by the way you eat like an unsupervised kid at a birthday party, shoplift nail polish from Walmart and fly into a tearful rage when you are even the slightest bit inconvenienced. You are likely to attract a similarly unstable partner who is emotionally frozen in a troubled childhood and unable to make rational decisions. Examples: Billy Bob and Angelina, Courtney and Kurt, Lindsay Lohan and anyone. Seek help now.

Justin Bieber: gender-confused Hobbit escapes Canadian Shire, visits fancy salon, attempts to take over world with catchy pop tunes, promptly implodes before a live audience. File under cliché.

Personal growth: the practice of spending most of your time examining what's going horribly wrong in your life and feeling pleasantly relieved when someone else is screwing up worse than you.

Quinoa: a gateway grain substitute used by trendy-disease-following glutenphobes and those who actually experience explosive diarrhea after ingesting wheat. It has been proven that consuming quinoa leads to experimenting with amaranth and buckwheat, escalates rapidly to bean flour and culminates tragically with the uncontrollable compulsion to score millet from overpriced health food stores and neighborhood bird feeders.

Soul mate: the Simon to your Garfunkel, the nut to your bolt, the binge to your purge. Basically a kindred spirit who shows up to make your life more interesting while annoying the shit out of you. Does not usually end in homicidal rages or theatrical suicide attempts (see: Twin Flame).

Space clearing: removing the negative energy imprints left on your home and work environments by ass-clowns, creeps and hostile shrews. You will need to gather a variety of tools to clear the contaminated space in question: bells, chimes, gongs, sage bundles, mirrors, essential oils, sea salt, brightly-colored fabrics, candles, incense and an assortment of crystals and stones. You should dress in loose clothing, wear way too much jewelry and try (at least for today) to be in a pleasant mood when you order the bad vibes to leave your space through the open windows. If you have acquired Jeffrey Dahmer's cardigan or the throw rug from Ted Bundy's house during your serial killer/eBay fascination phase, now would be a good time to let those items go.

Sweat lodge: a dome-shaped hut made from natural materials for the purpose of ceremonial group steam baths where you will eventually pray for your own death. Even though you join in the Native American ritual with a jovial sense of adventure, you will soon want to claw your way out of the oppressive, airless enclosure. Escape is not possible because there will be an obese white man calling himself Iron Snake wearing only a skimpy purple loincloth blocking the exit and reminding you of the "sacred commitment" you made to the sweat. You will become acutely aware of your level-ten Caucasian claustrophobia, but your sniveling requests to be excused will not be heard above the chanting.

Tantric sex: the ancient art of forcing yourself to be in the present moment so completely that you experience blissful, luminous sexual ecstasy and orgasms that last for three weeks. This will never actually happen to you because you are thinking about the past-due water bill, the busted hinge on your bathroom door or why the dog keeps humping the couch cushions as you are going through the motions of tedious, obligatory sex with someone who smells like a bean burrito smothered in ass sauce.

Tofurky: a symbiotic relationship between processed soy and wheat protein formed into a dense loaf and served as a vegetarian alternative to the delectable Thanksgiving turkey the rest of the family is enjoying. Devout vegans will gasp, cringe and perhaps shed distressed tears as the electric carving knife saws into juicy breast meat and crispy-skinned drumsticks and wings are ripped off of the bird. The vegans at your table will choke down their sad little meal of fabricated mock meat while glaring self-righteously at the carnivores.

Twin flame: best case scenario: "you complete me." Worst case scenario: "I will take great pleasure in murdering you while you sleep and burying your corpse in the desert." Erroneously believed to be the pinnacle of romantic relationships, but only if you enjoy living with an unrelenting, full-length mirror reflecting your broken, ludicrous self back to you every day of your miserable life.

Vegan: the arrogant buzzkill at your bacon-themed holiday party. This wet blanket will pull out his iPhone to display a ghastly slide show of slaughterhouse nightmares to your cornered guests making them lose all interest in the delicious pork goodness you have painstakingly prepared. Will make sure everyone sees him chomping on the homemade granola he brought with him in a burlap sack, explaining in sanctimonious tones that gorillas don't eat meat, but seem to be surviving just fine.

Wicca: neo-pagan nature-based religion which has nothing to do with summoning demons into your bedroom (unless you are also using Those who choose to join a coven should brace themselves for the following:
1. You will cease wearing undergarments and learn to speak elvish.
2. There will be no shaving or waxing of body hair. Plucking eyebrows to resemble a startled wood nymph is encouraged, however.
3. You will immediately invest your life savings into Stevie Nicks-inspired hooded capes and swirly skirts, pentacle tattoos the size of dinner plates, crystal wands and black eyeliner.
4. Once a month naked twirling under the full moon as someone plays an autoharp is mandatory.
5. You agree to engage in lively group discussions about your "moon blood".
6. It will be necessary to modify your uninteresting spelling of mundane words to include the telltale "k". Example: "I ckonstructed a magickal ckauldron for mystickal inckantations."
7. Trading in your PT Cruiser for an enchanted flying broom and ill-tempered black cat is a non-negotiable requirement.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Of Crystal Skulls and Ouija Boards Part III

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” 
~William Shakespeare

When you are in the psychic business, weird shit happens all the time. I am regularly spooked by myself and others, although I have trained my facial expressions to be calm and neutral. Clients often ask with a wink if I play poker, assuming that the supernatural combination of clairvoyant knowing and inscrutability would provide me with everything I need to win million-dollar tournaments. I suppose I could give it a try, but my aversion to card games has deep roots in early childhood when my insane grandmother, Alice would pull me to her side during Canasta marathons and attempt to teach me the rules from a cloud of cigarette smoke. My nervous attention was drawn more to the ash of her cigarette which would grow to incredible lengths before falling into her lap where it would burn little circles of melted polyester or onto the carpet where the dog would come to lick it up and then sneeze spasmodically. When it became clear that I had no aptitude for cards, she put me to work fetching cocktails and chocolate covered peanuts for everyone at the table.

Since that time, well-intentioned folks have tried without success to teach me various card games which hold no appeal for me. I have been to Las Vegas a few times and tried my luck at the slot machines, but to no avail. Except for dining at some questionable Mexican restaurants, I'm simply not a gambler.

Back to the weird shit.

Tales from the crypt

I'm rather neutral about the undead. The stories told by Stephen King, Anne Rice and Dean Koontz entertained me in my youth, I was undaunted by the zombie apocalypse craze and never pledged allegiance to either Team Edward or Team Jacob.

Perhaps it was my nonjudgmental attitude that made my service attractive to fringe dwellers and alternative lifestyle advocates; I truly do not harbor animosity about any group or belief system (of course I laugh at the outrageous antics I hear about in sessions the same way that I laugh at myself when I drop an open carton of eggs in the grocery store or choke on my own spit during a wedding ceremony). Maybe it was just a cosmic joke test to see how compassionate and accepting I am, but a few years ago, several new clients called for sessions and through the course of our discussions, revealed themselves to be practicing vampires, werewolves and witches.

Case #1
Client named Disturbia* begins our telephone session by informing me that she is a vampire/werewolf hybrid and that if I am afraid of those kinds of things, we should not work together. Boom. There it is. Out of the coffin in the first thirty seconds of our call. I assure Disturbia that I can handle whatever it is she wants to talk about and her defensive energy calms immediately. I learn that Disturbia is an assistant manager at an Applebee's restaurant in the Midwest and for the most part, leads a fairly ordinary life during daylight hours. We talk about her challenges with certain employees at work, an upcoming vacation to Disney World and the breast augmentation surgery she is considering. It's all very mundane, but forty minutes into our session, the conversation takes a weird turn when Disturbia tells me that she has been feeling uncontrollable urges during the full moon to prowl around the woods at night hunting and eating small animals. She feels as though she is "becoming" more of a werewolf and is wondering what the future looks like should she pursue this path. I ask about her childhood and she tells me that she was adopted from an orphanage by an older couple who are now both dead ("of natural causes", she is quick to add). The upshot of our session is that Disturbia is considering leaving her human life behind to join a community of hybrids who roam the backwoods, sleep in caves during the day and hunt forest animals at night. She is attracted to one fellow in particular who is more of a vampire, but she's certain that they can work out their cultural differences in time, and she can sway him towards the way of the werewolf. At this point, though, Disturbia is not quite ready to abandon her familiar routines, so we explore some less-exotic potentials and she seems confident about going ahead with the double D implants. 

Case #2
New client by the name of Leandro* arrives for his appointment dressed completely in black, sporting the arrogant goatee and fedora costume that is unfortunately popular these days. When combined with painfully snug jeggings and opaque gothic sunglasses, I realize that I am in for an...interesting...hour.  (Larry David once commented that blind people and assholes wear sunglasses inside. Leandro is definitely not blind, so that's a pretty good indicator of what awaits.) When he pulls a comically long black vapor cigarette out of his vest pocket, I draw the line on the pretentious affectations and ask him to refrain during our session. He says nothing, but slowly puts the cigarette back in his pocket and crosses his legs. I can't see his eyes because the stupid glasses are still on, but I get the distinct feeling that Leandro is already unhappy with me and my "rules".

With an exhausted sigh, the Grim Reaper begins talking about himself and how much he hates this world we live in. It's so fake. It's full of morons and liars. People are afraid of their dark side. The government is a joke and Obama is an animatronic replicant sent from the future to kill us all. When I attempt to speed up his peevish monologue by asking how I can be of help, Leandro discloses that he is the leader of a local vampire community and that he wishes to write a book about the "real vampires" in the world as opposed to "that Twilight shit" that most people believe. Warming to his subject, Leandro begins to share details of the rituals he and his cohorts enjoy, including the consumption of human blood (cutting, not biting, I learn) as part of the nightly group sexual frenzy over which he presides (I imagine sweaty, bloody bodies thrashing around on a black shag rug while Haunted Mansion organ music plays from someone's iPod).

As he drones on about the cutting and blood-letting protocols (I gather that a feeble human like me can only consume one ounce of pure blood before vomiting, but a Real Vampire such as Leandro has a much higher tolerance and is therefore a Superior Being), I am more than ready to ask him to leave. How the Prince of Darkness found me and why he would seek my counsel is a mystery, but here we are. Sensing the shift in my energy, he stops himself mid-sentence and a silence fills the room. As if on cue, Leandro begins crying and produces a black silk handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his tears and blow his nose.

What sort of fuckery is this?

Through his tears, Leandro confides that the responsibilities of community leadership are weighing heavily on him and that he simply cannot keep up with the demands (no elaboration, thank God) that are being placed on him by the clan. I attempt to shift the energy of the conversation by asking if he is writing about his experiences as a precursor to the book he has envisioned and the tears abruptly stop. And then this:

Leandro: "Do you think I'm fucking stupid?"
Me: "No...just wondering if you had an outlet for the emotions you're feeling."
Leandro (with withering contempt): "My 'outlet' is perfecting the art of black magic and genuine vampirism."

I now have a mental image of Leandro busying himself during daylight hours rigging up and refining an elaborate torture camp in a dank basement where hapless delivery people, innocent children walking home from school and Jehovah's Witness peddlers are lured to their doom. My next thoughts go something like this:

1. Get this miscreant out of my living room.
2. Fumigate house.
3. Establish a more rigid screening process.
3. Change my name and move out of state.

I have had root canals that were more pleasant than this half hour. I give Leandro my standard speech letting him know that I cannot be of help to him at this time and the upstairs smoke alarm starts screeching. Leandro touches his index finger to his cheek displaying a huge ruby-eyed devil ring while arching an eyebrow as if to say that I should proceed with caution or worse things will happen.

Oh, it's like that, motherfucker?

I can clearly see the outline of his cramped gonads through the skin tight jeggings and imagine myself delivering a well-placed kick to the nut sack if it comes down to it. Even a vampire can be temporarily disabled by excruciating pain, and seeing as how I probably outweigh the delicately-framed Leandro by seventy five pounds, I might have an opportunity to actually do some damage and prevent him from polluting the world with his future offspring.

But before I have a chance to cripple this jackass, there is a loud knock on the front door. It's the brawny neighbor from the adjoining townhouse checking in to see if everything's okay since he can distinctly hear my smoke alarm and is concerned that the entire complex is about to burst into flames.

Leandro chooses to exit the house after the neighbor, not bothering to say goodbye or wish me a good day. As he speeds away on his flashy black Ninja motorcycle I wonder who's been running Hell while he was here contaminating my couch.

Case #3
I can trace most of my decisions to participate in group events back to a toxic combination of being a compulsive people-pleaser and not having the mature self-confidence to just say no. It's certainly an indicator of mushy boundaries established in childhood when my mother would deliver passive-aggressive emotional punishment if I dared to challenge her or refuse to participate in the things she thought I should be doing. It was not unusual to find her weeping in her room after a disagreement, and when asked what was wrong, to hear that I had "disappointed" her and/or "broken her heart" which was dramatically out of proportion to the situation (not wanting to attend a birthday party for a snotty girl I hated or refusing to join a church group for teens who needed to know more about the sacrifices Our Lord made for the sins we may be thinking of committing in the back seat of someone's car). Then there were her epic silent treatments that would last for days, punctuated only by tears and murmuring to no one in particular, "to whom much is given, much will be expected" while trying to establish eye contact with the framed portrait of Jesus hanging in the dining room.

What horrific karmic injustice must I have committed to be doing hard time with Carrie's mother as a cellmate?

Here we go again. I have been invited to a gathering of women for a "Drawing Down the Moon" ceremony which is not fully explained to me initially, nor do I have the presence of mind to ask for details before agreeing to attend. I imagine that it must have something to do with menstrual cycles, and as I am driving to the event, I'm already cooking up an exit strategy and kicking myself for saying yes in the first place.

I arrive at the house where the moon magic is set to occur and calm my nerves by noticing the attractive landscaping and fountain in the front yard. Nothing bad could happen here! She even has a pretty heart wreath on the door! This is going to be just fine! (Note to self: invest in anxiety meds if group meetings are going to continue.)

The woman who invited me answers the door dressed in a black gown under a purple velvet hooded robe which I pretend to admire. "I got it on Etsy," she chirps as I am ushered into her home lit only by clusters of candles and resembling a Moroccan Pottery Barn. Other women are already here, and right away I see that I am woefully under dressed for this hoodoo extravaganza. Capes and robes in somber colors are worn by all but a few of us, and I observe pentagrams everywhere in the form of tattoos, jewelry and hair ornaments.

It turns out that these are serious Wicca practitioners and this is a solemn ritual in which the Goddess energy will be invoked through a High Priestess named Fortuna*. Gone are my notions about this being a silly slumber party with everyone telling period jokes and giggling at the penis-shaped ice cubes in our drinks. Nope. There is some legitimate sorcery happening here, and I begin to worry that Fortuna plans to summon a demon with essential oils and candle wax.

We are asked to remove our shoes and step outside onto the patio where we gather in a circle under the full moon. Most of the women are really into it, and I see that some are already crying, others are holding hands, swaying and om-ing various tones. Fortuna stands in the middle of the circle, raises her arms above her head (I note that she is not wasting any of her hard-earned cash on razors and shaving cream) and begins to invoke mystical entities I've never heard of, but everyone else is nodding and smiling about.

Some other weird shit gets chanted and repeated, but I'm not paying much attention because of three intense distractions:

1. The urgent need to pee
2. Next door neighbor looking over the fence and making the devil horn sign with his hands. Moments later, Black Sabbath is blasting from his stereo and a dog begins barking frantically
3. One of the women has taken off her robe and is standing naked in the moonlight while her friend (?) whirls around her waving a huge feather.

When the ceremony shifts gears into free-form dancing, stripping and singing, I seize the opportunity to slip back into the house to find the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet wondering how long I can hide, I glance around the room and notice a collection of sinister-looking gynecological instruments from the Victorian era displayed on a dusty glass shelf and surmise that no men will ever live here. With death metal blasting, dogs barking and twelve women singing in unison, I understand that I have blundered yet again into a place I don't belong.

Someone knocks on the bathroom door and I realize I must give up my hiding spot to mingle with the moonlight merrymakers who are now back in the house excitedly babbling about the powerful spirits who were part of tonight's ceremony. One of the women swears she saw an elf by the palm tree and another says that the neighbor's music actually gave her the courage to be naked in front of other women for the first time ever.

I casually saunter over to the refreshment table and begin chatting with a young woman who shares that this is her first Wiccan moon ceremony after being shunned by her vampire community three weeks ago. As she picks the nuts off of a vegan brownie, she tells me that her name is Thana* which means "death" in vampire clan-speak, but that she is waiting for Fortuna to bless her with her new Wicca name as soon as it comes to her in a dream. I nod and act as though this is all very ordinary while trying not to stare at the nipples of one of the naked women who went a little crazy with the piercing gun.

The woman who invited me comes over to ask what I thought about the ceremony. I tell her that it seemed to be a powerful experience for most of the women, but that I didn't think it was my cup of tea. She gives me a dreamy smile as I continue stuffing my face with bean dip and shooing the standard-issue black cat off the snack table.

When Fortuna strikes a large metal gong and announces that we will now be making magical dolls to ward off hexes and curses, I decide to thank the hostess for a lovely evening and take my leave. Nobody seems to care that I am bowing out of the second half of the full moon festivities, and I feel extreme relief as I walk to my car knowing that I escaped being jumped into a witch gang tonight. I am positive that the Daughters of the Night will get along just fine without me.

Session Smidgens

~Client believes that all ancient artifacts in Egypt are part of a movie set the aliens left behind after filming a documentary.

~Client's grandfather eats at Chinese buffet and dies of food poisoning, later communicates with her through the Ouija board about her boyfriends.

~Client believes Al Roker is the incarnation of Satan and is actually controlling the weather in the United States so he will have something dramatic to report.

~Client asks if I would babysit her enormous crystal collection at my house while she goes out of town. She instructs that I must talk and sing to the crystals every day, and if at all possible, refrain from scheduling sessions with unhappy people.

~Client brings new Ouija board to our session for me to "bless", asks that I receive messages and spell out names of spirit guides through the board only to "get it working".

*Not their real fake names