Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dollar Store Douche

"A good scare is worth more to a person than good advice."
 ~Edgar Watson Howe

Most of the time, it seems that this job was made specifically for me. My fascination/amusement with bizarre human behavior coupled with my compulsive need to make all things right for the people around me led directly to a career in which I hear the outrageous stories and confessions of those who have gotten themselves into a pickle and then search the psychic landscape to find the "fix". It helps that I have developed massive reserves of patience and good humor as well as an understanding that frequently, people don't really want help, they just need someone to listen.

Sprinkled in with the legitimate concerns of folks struggling their way out of life's emotional sandpits are the incredible situations and questions that seem to defy the science of rational thought.

Go directly to fail: worst ideas ever

Drama #1
Client and her female roommate engage in three-way sex frolic with a shady stranger they pick up at a downtown San Diego bar. Afterwards, they offer him a ride home, but once he's in the car, he becomes threatening and demands that they take him across the border to Mexico so that he can "do business" with someone named Julio. In a moment of what can only be divine intervention, they manage to ditch this thug at a gas station when they go in for snacks.

Drama #2
Fiftyish married male client brings twenty-something chick he's having an affair with to our session (unannounced) in hopes that I will help him break up with her on the spot. 

Drama #3
Common sense takes yet another holiday when middle-aged idiot husband of client decides to add some spice to the old sex routine by hooking up a car battery to metal nipple clamps and jolting himself into a heart attack. Paramedics arriving on the scene seem unfazed as they load yet another jackass onto the gurney.

Drama #4
Forty year old client wants to know which man at the swingers party knocked her up. None of the men were using protection that night, and she really hopes it's not the overweight fellow in the Darth Vader t-shirt.

Drama #5
Florida client's fiancee incurs horrific injuries taking selfie with alligator who blunders into kitchen through the doggie door.

Drama #6 (a personal tale)
Where haircuts are concerned, red wine and enormous sewing scissors should never mix, as my elementary school photos clearly illustrate. Proud of her ability to save a few bucks on things that were better left to the professionals, my mother would get excited about trimming my bangs after a few glasses of wine (poured from a gallon jug over ice) and reach for whatever cutting implement was handy. The terrifying dressmaker shears and a black plastic comb with missing teeth were her go-to barber tools, neither of which could facilitate a decent trim once the wine was working its magic in her brain. When I miraculously survived until middle school, I took control of the situation and began cutting my own hair, leaning over the bathroom sink and washing the evidence down the drain before my mother got home from work. I can't say that the results were significantly better, but at least I felt as though the destiny of my appearance was in my own hands and not shaped by someone else's blurred vision and unrelenting determination that I resemble a mortifying hybrid of Shirley Temple and Beaver Cleaver.

We put the "no" in innovation

Somewhere along the line, people started engaging me as a one-woman focus group with the alleged ability to discern the success or failure rate of new products, ideas, businesses and and investment schemes. Some went on to have international success. Here are a few that didn't:

~Entree and dessert-flavored sex enhancers. Taking the old adage "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach" to a peculiar new place, innovative female client with an oral fixation envisions passionate romps with curious partners who wish to experience a buffet of taste sensations. Her feeling is that once he's gotten a taste of the bacon douche, he will want to come back to dine on the blueberry pie body paint and won't mind wearing a chocolate truffle condom.

~Foam board with which to hit others (and potentially self) "upside the head with a 2x4". Client imagines lively mock battles in which friends whack one another while viewing football games on t.v. or during rambunctious cocktail parties.

~Interactive spider farm (like an ant farm but with frightfully aggressive wolf spiders). Purchase price includes six months of live cricket shipments so you can be sure that your precious companions are getting adequate nutrition.

~Battery-operated "purring" cat carrier. Female client modifies a baby carrier in an effort to keep her elderly, disabled cat with her at all times. Bonus points when client discovers that the vibrating "purr" function can provide sexual stimulation (for her, not the cat) when worn in just the right position.

Good luck getting that visual out of your head.

~Disposable-yet-fashionable adult bibs in a plastic carrying case for those who tend to slop tomato sauce and gravy on themselves while dining out.

~Musical dog leash. No explanation on that one.

~Female client has a dream in which the Virgin Mary shows her an electric tablecloth which keeps food warm during the meal. Problems arise when the prototypes set fire to the dining room table and people continually trip over the cord. Client speculates that Mary was just messing with her and refuses to attend church after the fifth prototype fails and her husband leaves her for the receptionist at his urologist's office.

Social repulsion

I'm a world-class introverted recluse who does not enjoy wedding receptions, drumming circles, barbecues, Bible studies, clambakes or shindigs. I feel anxious at Pampered Chef/Mary Kay/Tupperware parties and make naughty, inappropriate comments in an effort to be the funny person everyone likes. I dread shopping at Costco. Crowds drain me. I'm the person who cheerfully agrees to attend your event and then finds a way to back out of it at the last minute. There. I've said it.

Against my better judgment, I occasionally consent to engage in group activities, telling myself that I'm turning a new leaf...opening myself up...fully participating in life and all of its glorious festivities.

And then shit happens.

Ladies who lunch

~ Invited to lunch with a client who claims she would like to connect with me as a friend. I arrive at the restaurant about five minutes early, but see that she is already sitting at a booth, eagerly waving to me. As I approach the table, I notice that she has a tape recorder set up and a yellow legal pad with a list of questions that she must have been working on as she waited for me to arrive. She quickly assures me that lunch is on her if she can just ask me "a few questions" while we eat.

~ Join four other women for lunch at a lovely new restaurant overlooking the ocean. As we wait for one of the women to arrive, we chat pleasantly while drinking iced tea and commenting on the view. It's all very civilized. About fifteen minutes later, "Pam" wobbles in completely drunk, her boozy breath wafting over the table like an incoming fog bank. Nearly falling off the chair as she sits down, Pam frantically signals to the waiter and orders a bottle of wine for herself. She asks if we would like to do some shots before lunch and we decline. The mood at the table is tense as Pam talks loudly about how shitty life at home is with her asshole husband. We all get it. Times are hard. Our lunch progresses with Pam tearfully disintegrating over her tuna salad. She keeps her phone on the table so that she can text various people to tell them what a cocksucker she's married to. We hurry to finish our meals, but Pam is using our gathering as a group therapy session. This is no longer a lunch...it's a hostage situation.

Nightlife nightmares

~ After a lively meal and a few Margaritas at a local Mexican restaurant, eight of us make our way to our cars, assessing which of us is most able to drive the rest home (this usually turns out to be me). One of the women in our group thinks she sees a man she dated briefly who stopped returning her calls. There are few things more unsettling than hearing a 65 year old woman holler across a parking lot, “suck my dick, you asswipe!” Any idealistic preconceptions about senior citizen gentility fly right out the window and one is left with a vague sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think back to my own limited experience with my grandmothers and try to recall a similar scene in which they cut loose in a public place. With the exception of my bipolar (called “manic-depressive” in those days, assuming that a medical exam and diagnosis had actually taken place) grandmother, Alice who was prone to over-the-top theatrical behavior at unpredictable moments, there was nothing much to draw from in terms of relatability. I do not believe that Alice ever called anyone an “asswipe”, or requested that someone pleasure her phantom phallus, but who knows? I only saw her twice a year.

~ While out of town attending a bachelorette party I couldn't get out of, we pay a visit to a popular local bar called The Caboose, but after three minutes inside, I mentally rename the place Whiskers and Tits. As I slowly suffocate on the stench of cigarettes, piss and desperation, it is obvious that I am out of my element and I begin imagining ways to abandon this putrid purgatory. Until I can come up with a convincing exit strategy, I observe my surroundings:

1. Hairy, dwarf-height dude with a “Bunghole” t-shirt making the rounds asking women if they would like a mustache ride…and then quoting prices based on attractiveness.
2. Lead singer of 80s cover band botches the lyrics to Beast of Burden and heated argument ensues among those on the dance floor attempting to sing along. Someone hurls her Lemon Drop at the drummer, which does not seem to impede the band’s laborious march through the Rolling Stones catalog of hits.
3. Sixtyish woman wearing a cowboy hat giving a vigorous hand job to a man barely able to keep his eyes open in a shabby vinyl corner booth.

It seems as though the entire population of the local trailer park had agreed to converge upon The Caboose tonight, and I am the self-conscious interloper completely at odds with my surroundings. I pull out my phone, pretending to text a nonexistent friend and successfully avoid the advances of Mr. Bunghole who is shouting encouragement to the classy dame pleasuring her drowsy date in the corner.

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
Bewildering questions and statements:

~ Client who has apparently relinquished all ability to think for herself calling from the produce department of the grocery store: "should I get the red or the green apples? And while I have you on the phone, which brand of tampons is most in harmony with my chakras?"

~ “There’s a horsefly in your bathroom. I know it’s the ghost of my father because he liked horses and worked for United Airlines.”

~ "Is it wrong that I keep my mother's ashes in a root beer bottle?"

~ "I'm worried that my dead father is watching me have sex with my husband."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Cowgirl and Mr. Pickle: In which we are presented with far too much information Part II

“I couldn't possibly have sex with someone with such a slender grasp on grammar!” 
~Russell Brand

With sex issues and bodily functions being the number one topic during sessions, it seems only natural that at some point I would attract clients who work in the adult entertainment industry. Like a giant nooky magnet, the more I talked about sex, the more people wanted to talk about sex with me, and nobody seemed to care that I was not licensed, credentialed, certified or in possession of astounding first-hand knowledge.

As the demand (?) for guidance on sex-related issues grew, it seemed wise to read up on physiology, disease, anatomy and psychology in order to acquaint myself with the geography in question. I haunted online forums where people were candidly discussing everything from torture bondage to the pros and cons of anal penetration to intercourse with silicone love dolls. No topic was off limits and by the end of my "research", I was up to speed on a variety of things I once thought of as bogus antics: having sex while dressed in furry costumes (called "yiffing"), boinking balloons, cake farts (look it up), people who enjoyed being locked in tight places while wearing a diaper, fecal fantasies and folks who were aroused by amputees.

Following are a few of the noteworthy sex workers I've spoken with over the years:

Kitty Hart* (star of Saturday Night Beaver and Romancing the Bone)
Main focus of medical intuitive sessions centers around the physical damage she fears she's incurring with preposterous sex positions such as "the piledriver" or anal sex with a certain well-endowed cast member's member. Also needs to address the possibility of leaving porn to explore an edgy new "intimacy therapy" called Orgasmic Mediation. Kitty explains that for $15,000 she can become a certified coach, helping paying customers learn how to precisely stroke a clitoris (while wearing surgical gloves) for fifteen minutes in a classroom setting. She is quick to add that this is a therapeutic practice but she's worried that people will recognize her from her porn films and won't take her seriously.

Lucy Lewd aka Lucy Lipps* (phone sex operator)
Lucy prefers to be called an "adult conversation specialist" and asks me to "tune in" to why she repeatedly agrees to meet her phone clients in person (believing that each one is her potential soul mate), but then being disappointed when they all turn out to be married and/or skeezy. She tells me about setting up a special Amazon wish list so her clients can send her gifts and then desperately falling in love with anyone who does. When I suggest that she take down her wish list to avoid some of the drama, she becomes an eight year old girl who really, really wants that pony and I'm the stingy mom who won't give it to her (it seems that we have unwittingly begun role playing at this point). As we wrap up our session, Lucy wants me to analyze a recurring dream in which she has three-way phone sex with George Bush and Jesus.

Ginger Wood* (freelance Vegas escort)
Telephone session begins with Ginger requesting past life information, wanting to know if she has been a prostitute previously because she's "super good at it." We discuss centuries worth of sexual exploits and mishaps, much to her obvious delight. Ginger asks if her dead Grandfather will be angry if she writes a book about the information discovered in our session, but before we can delve into that compelling topic, her noon client arrives early. As we are ending our call, Ginger provides one of the most excellent doorknob confessions of all time by asking, "do you think I became a prostitute because I was molested by my art teacher in middle school?"

Rocky Wilder* (Miami male stripper/gay escort)
Rocky has issues. Deeply embedded issues that are not going to be resolved during a one hour telephone consultation. For starters, 28 year old Rocky wants confirmation about George Clooney being his biological father. There is absolutely no evidence of this except that Rocky's mother owns all of George's movies on DVD which she plays on a continuous loop and only smiles mysteriously whenever Rocky asks her who his birth father is. I ask if he resembles anyone in the Clooney clan and Rocky says that he really looks more like Eddie Murphy but his mother owns none of Eddie's movies, so (according to Rocky's logic) it can't be him. Since I cannot confirm that either of these men are his biological father, we move on to other pressing concerns such as Rocky's addiction to plastic surgery and if his upcoming testicle implant procedure will deliver the results he wants.

But the icing on the cake (see previous cake fart reference) is when a male sex therapist from Sedona contacts me for a series of readings so that he can get some fresh perspective on his life and career path. His "professional" name is Himeros* which he borrowed from the mythological Greek god of sexual desire. I learn that his birth name is Emmet (hence the need for an alias) and that he was born in the year of the rabbit which he considered to be a sign from the gods that he was meant to pursue a career as a "Sexual Healer". I can actually hear the emphatic italics over the phone as he makes certain that I understand he has been doing "Serious Work" with the women who seek him out.

You know. Just in case I was thinking he was a man-whore who was banging anyone with a credit card.

Himeros is not particularly concerned with psychic forecasts or messages from his spirit guides, but prefers to use our session time to bounce business ideas around and see what I (as a member of his target demographic) respond to.

Most of our first conversation is taken up by a well-rehearsed explanation of how his service works while proudly reporting that he has trained himself to shout out his intentions in the throes of orgasm, and that it is perfectly acceptable for him to manifest a new BMW or a cabin in the Berkshires this way. His sexual partners, I learn, are quite eager to assist him with his manifestation magic while getting pounded doggy-style on an organic straw bale bed. It is good to note, however, that from a therapy standpoint, Himeros prefers the woman to be on top in "reverse cowgirl" position since he feels that it empowers her to simultaneously be in control and not have to look at the face of her sexual partner.

As Himeros continues to share his philosophies with me, I become acutely aware that he is a world-class manipulator who has tapped into a gold mine by selling his services to lonely, well-to-do women of a certain age and calling it Sexual Wizardry (cheesy tagline: casting spells of love). A one hour "copulation encounter" costs $500, more if you want Himeros to escort you to a restaurant or night club before or after your sex session (you drive AND pay for all meals, cocktails and incidentals because it empowers you and is part of the "therapy").

When I make the mistake of asking if he is willing to minister to women who are morbidly obese, disfigured or disabled, Himeros becomes hostile, stating that he prefers to use his magical healing gifts on women who are alluring enough to go forward from his "treatment" to attract a loving, attentive partner. Thankfully, since this is a telephone session, Himeros cannot see the expression on my face, nor is he aware that I am furiously scribbling notes about his arrogant remarks. As he continues his defensive harangue, I wonder if this is a prank being pulled by a diabolical friend. But sadly, as our session continues, I come to understand that this is the real deal, and Himeros is living in a universe all his own in which I am but a visitor, being paid to help him reorganize his practice in order to attract new victims clientele.

I feel like a mafia consigliere; the Tom Hagen to Vito and Michael Corleone, assisting this emotional sinkhole with his rotten strategies and promotions of fictitious sexual sorcery. I decide to pull the plug on Himeros' original request for once a week sessions which is all the incentive he needs to turn his charm on me by asking if I would like to trade with him for ongoing spiritual support and business consultations. In exchange, he says, I am welcome to come to Sedona and experience the bewitching gift of his sexual prowess. Himeros is certain that I would benefit from a little Sexual Wizardry ("what woman wouldn't", he chortles) and I consider telling him that I would sooner juggle rabid weasels in front of Caesar's Palace than partake of his overworked clam hammer.

I choose, instead to keep it professional and say that it feels as though I cannot be of any further assistance to him at this time. Himeros is disappointed and asks if I know of any other female intuitives who are taking on new clients. I give him the toll-free number to California Psychics and wish him well on his honey wagon hayride.

*Not their real fake names.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Walk-ins Welcome

"All a skeptic is is someone who hasn't had an experience yet." 
~Jason Hawes

When I first began conducting sessions, I imagined that I would be doing a LOT of spooky stuff involving disgruntled demons in basements, extraterrestrial abductions and visits to cemeteries in the middle of the night. Turns out that some of those situations do come up on occasion, but not nearly as often as the mundane issues surrounding relationships, money and health. My initial fantasies of being a famous ghost hunter starring in her own wildly popular television show were dashed a long time ago mostly because of two significant issues:

1. Fear of being possessed by hobgoblins looking to hitch a ride around town in my body
2. Horrible on-camera presence due to the unfortunate tendency for stress-related blotchy redness on my face and throat and appearing to be roughly the size of a silverback gorilla.

There have been some fascinating paranormal events and eerie encounters over the past ten years. Of the times I have been contacted to deal with unruly entities roaming around various houses and places of business, about ninety percent of situations turn out to be nothing more than electromagnetic fields (EMF), air in the pipes, faulty construction, noisy neighbors and/or overactive imaginations. But the other ten percent truly defy all logical explanation.


Case #1~
Evidence: Client is awakened frequently between 3:00-3:30 a.m. by loud thudding sound coming from undetermined location in the house. Assuming it is a restless ghoul meandering the halls, she lies awake for hours with the light on so that no entity can assault her in bed (it's a common belief that ghosts only wreak havoc in the dark and mostly in bedrooms. Turn on the lights while brandishing a Bible and they flee like cockroaches, supposedly).
Debunk: Morbidly obese Labradoodle named Scotty prefers early morning hours to lick his balls on the wooden floor of the dining room, his hefty tail thumping in such a way as to resemble footsteps.

Case #2~
Evidence: Client arrives for session dressed in Civil War-era attire. She has been watching Somewhere in Time repeatedly for the past month and has convinced herself that, with my help, she can transport herself back to 1863 to meet up with a certain Lieutenant in South Carolina with whom she feels she has unfinished karmic/romantic business. When I question her about her expectations, she tearfully divulges that she had a reading with another psychic who told her that she needed to reunite with her One True Love...who exists inconveniently in another time/place/dimension.
Debunk: Never having launched anyone through an interdimensional wormhole before (but thoroughly impressed by her costume), I go along with her request and do some light hypnosis and past life regression as she reclines on the couch. At the end of the hour, she sits up looking at first disoriented and then shocked at the realization that she is still in 21st century California. As she stands up to leave, she realizes that she is wearing shoes from Macy's which (of course!) makes time travel back to the 1800s impossible.

Case #3~
Evidence: Client living in rural area sheepishly reports that she has had two recent encounters with extraterrestrials while walking her dog at midnight. According to her, the aliens have somehow altered her libido which was pretty much dead before the first event but now has come roaring back to life, much to her elderly husband's surprise. She notes that there are strange markings on her inner thighs and she is craving fried okra which must surely mean she has been probed and/or implanted with foreign DNA by creatures from another galaxy.
Debunk: Paranoid doomsday-prepper neighbor has invested in a flying drone camera which he uses to survey neighborhood activities after dark. Drone has an exceptionally bright light and hovers over moving objects as it transmits images to neighbor's computer. No explanation for libido surge or desire for fried foods, but "markings" on inner thighs turn out to be mosquito bites.

Case #4~
Evidence: Client is convinced that her house is being haunted by a malicious spirit. She details highly unusual events such as coming into her kitchen first thing in the morning to discover all of the cabinet doors standing open. Another morning she finds that the stove burners are on and the refrigerator door is ajar. Personal belongings, food and cash are going missing even though she lives alone. Her first panicky thought is that her dead father is terrorizing her as payback for not coming to see him before he died (she can smell cigarette smoke in the house occasionally and for sure that must be his ghostly calling card). She wants to know if an exorcism should be performed on the house and if that will prevent dear old Dad from murdering her in her sleep.
Debunk: Neighbor observes young man sneaking into basement window late one night. Turns out that methy homeless dude has been systematically ransacking various houses in the area for months. Police take care of the exorcism for free.


Case #1~
I receive a message from a very distressed woman asking me to call her back as soon as possible. I return her call that evening and she asks me why I keep calling her cell phone and hanging up. I have never met this woman before and have been in sessions all day, so I assure her that I was not playing games with her phone. She asks me my name and I tell her. She asks if I know her sister "Sandy", and I tell her that I have many clients, and am not sure if I know her or not.

We do this wary back-and-forth thing for another few minutes and just as I'm getting annoyed and ready to be done with the conversation, she tells me that the cell phone number my land line is calling repeatedly belongs to her sister who passed away the day before from unknown causes.

Now I'm interested.

I tell her that I provide sessions of intuitive guidance and frequently speak with people about their loved ones who have passed over. We make an appointment for a session the next day. That night, I dream that a young woman is sitting across the table from me showing me hypodermic needles and looking very sad. Even though clients frequently ask me to alert them if I should dream about them, I don't usually receive information this way. My dreams are more along the lines of me being the only waitress in a restaurant full of angry people yelling their orders at me, but I don't have any way to write it all down. Plus I'm wearing the hideous yellow satin dress I made for my senior prom and the zipper has busted out of the back so my underwear is showing.

"Ann" arrives for her session looking very skeptical, as though I planned this elaborate charade in order to capture a new client against her will. She shows me the cell phone in question and indeed, my land line was busy making frenzied calls to Sandy's phone the day after her death. I show her my appointment book and she sees that I was in sessions the entire time, but is still not understanding why all of this is happening. I tell Ann about my dream, but she shakes her head and says that her sister was a preschool teacher who loved life and never did drugs of any kind.

Not knowing where to go from there, we chat for a bit longer and Ann leaves, promising to call me when the results from the autopsy and toxicology report come in. A few weeks later, Ann sends me an email detailing the findings of her sister's death due to heroin overdose.

There really is no explanation for that bizarre series of events, and I wonder frequently why any of it was necessary if the reason for Sandy's death would have come out eventually, anyway.

About a year after this incident, I have another dream in which Sandy tells me adamantly that Ann needs to meet one of my male clients. I try like hell to shake the dream and ignore the request because it sounds so ridiculous to cheerfully call both of these people out of the blue and try to explain that a dead sister is pulling matchmaking strings from the spirit world.

I finally worked up the courage to introduce them to one another at a local coffee shop by the name of "Sandy's" (seemed appropriate given the circumstances). They got married about six months later.

Case #2~
As a rule, most people like to know what to expect. There is something comforting in the unchanging routine of our daily lives as we pretend that we have everything under tight control. If we want excitement, we leave our safe environments to bungee jump off of skyscrapers or have affairs with married Senators or sell off all of our belongings, grow some dreadlocks and join Greenpeace in the ongoing war with the Japanese whaling industry.

When spine-tingling events begin happening on our home turf, we tend to get a bit skittish.

In the very early days of conducting sessions (back when I was still entertaining fantasies about starring in my own television show), a new client asks if I would come to her condo to investigate the paranormal events which have been taking place for over a year. She reports that she and her mother are being greatly affected by the "dark energy" and negative forces she feels are conspiring against them. My first thought is that I am about to assume the role of the hapless priest who gets swarmed by flies in The Amityville Horror. Should I pack some holy water and a rosary? Should I bring some assistance or at the very least, a camera crew? Nah. Let's just step into a stranger's haunted house with absolutely zero knowledge of how to deal with demonic forces and see what happens!

I am greeted at the door by a disheveled woman who looks like she's been on a rough two-week cocaine bender. I instantly regret my jaunty, self-assured agreement to take part in this nightmare, and for a brief moment, I consider pretending to be a Jehovah's Witness, force-feeding copies of The Watchtower to people unlucky enough to be home during the day.

"Rosalee" invites me in to a living room which looks about as welcoming as Saddam Hussein's spider hole and smells like a nauseating stew of old bacon grease, Vanilla Febreeze and dirty ass cracks. I am introduced to a depressed Pit Bull named Mother Teresa curled up on a plaid couch. She barely raises her head to acknowledge me; the look in her sunken eyes conveying that there is no longer any hope for her, but I should leave while I still can, and by the way, what the fuck do I think I'm going to accomplish here?

From a shadowy corner of the room a voice growls, "I...know...you..." and my insides turn to liquid at the notion that the apocalypse has officially begun. It turns out to be Rosalee's ancient mother hunched over in a wicker rocking chair looking a lot like the Crypt Keeper but by now I am so spooked, her appearance is not as amusing to me as it normally would be.

Rosalee and I converse for a moment and she tells me about the back bedroom where strange things happen. Indeed, the atmosphere in the condo is one of sustained menace and I feel as though I am being suffocated by a tar-soaked blanket as we walk down the short hallway to the room in question. Every so often, Rosalee's mother eerily intones from the rocking chair, "I...know...you...." which adds plenty of extra spice to the ordeal.

Shit gets real in the Doom Room:

~Greeted by stench of rotting meat upon entering room. As we stand just inside the door, the curtains begin to blow around, even though the window is closed.
~Rosalee dissolves into tears which does nothing for the growing sense of panic I'm feeling. As I reach out to hold her hand, the closet door begins to rattle as though someone is trying to get out. Rosalee bolts from the room and I resist the urge to do the same.
~Now that it's just me and Satan's little helper squaring off, the energy in the room seems to stand still and observe me, speculating about my intentions (the DVR in my mind pulls up the scene in Ghostbusters when Gozer orders the guys to "choose the form of the Destructor" and Ray thinks of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man). From the other room, I hear Mother Crypt Keeper continuing her declaration, "I...know...you..." and I envision myself forcefully stuffing a filthy sock in her mouth and sealing it with duct tape. Now where did that thought come from? I do have a mischievous streak, but binding and gagging senile old ladies is not usually at the top of my to-do list.
~I look to the left and catch a reflection of myself in a floor-length mirror. I stifle a scream, not because of anything paranormal, but because my sweater makes me look like a pastel walrus. As I'm making a vow to throw the sweater away if I get home, I see a reflection of a man standing behind me and nearly lose my shit right there on the spot. Whirling around with heart pounding, of course there is nothing there. When I turn back to the mirror the man is gone.
~Not knowing what else to do, I close my eyes and call in every angel and saint I can think of in a loud, trembling voice. Seconds later, the mirror crashes to the floor and I hear Rosalee shriek from the other room.
~My heart is hammering louder and faster than I've ever experienced, but I manage to hear the name "Donald" in my right ear. Assuming that this is the name of the ghostly dude in the mirror, I shout his name into the room, commanding him to leave. Moments later, I receive a firm push on my right shoulder and that's it for me. Twyla Tharp would have been impressed by the new interpretive dance steps I invent in my terrified haste to exit the room. I let Rosalee know that this thing is way out of my league and offer to help her find someone else to take care of this stubborn spook.
~Mother Teresa looks up from the couch with an expression that says, "see? I told you it was fucked up" and we all jump as the bedroom door slams shut.
~Quite a bit older and unfortunately wiser, I never offer to do house clearings of this nature again. When I call Rosalee a week later to check in with her, the recording tells me that the number is out of order.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
~Shakespeare Hamlet Act 1

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stupid Cupid Part I

"The desire to get married, 
which - I regret to say, I believe is basic and primal in women - 
is followed almost immediately by an equally basic and primal urge - 
which is to be single again." 
~Nora Ephron

The second most popular topic of sessions is romantic relationships: current partnerships with impossible problems, past unions that won't go away and dreamy, idealized hopes of future couplings with a mystical creature called "The One".  In heterosexual women born between the years 1955 and 1995, there can be a wistful tendency towards Disneyfication where the belief in Prince Charming reigns supreme. A startling number of women sincerely believe that when the "Right Man" arrives, there will be peace in the valley at last. All of their problems will evaporate, they will lose that last 20-50 pounds, their judgmental mothers will suddenly express approval, the perfect job will manifest and they can finally put their decorating talents to use in the beautiful house he will provide for her.

Gloria Steinem is vomiting her breakfast into the kitchen sink right now.

Following are some memorable moments from past sessions:

Marital Theatrics
Even though I know better, in a weak moment I agree to conduct a session with a married couple. Our discussion begins with polite banter and gentle questions about the future. They are sitting next to one another on the couch, holding hands and nodding as each takes a turn speaking. I feel confident that the three of us can work together as a team to clear some old energy and forge a bright, shiny path into the promising future. Thirty minutes later, the stress fractures become apparent when she refers to him as a man-child who will never be able to support her. Also, she is sickened by the skid marks he leaves in his underwear which she feels is passive-aggressive behavior since she does his laundry. The mood in the room takes a turn and now feels like the ghastly moment right before an overloaded septic system backs up into the house. He pops up from the couch as though he is spring-loaded, and with an enraged "fuck you AND your mother" stomps out of the house, leaving her whimpering on the couch. "See?" she says, wiping away tears with the sleeve of her sweater. "This is what I deal with every day! I should have left him five years ago when he banged that eHarmony whore!"

Which leads us to:

Husband Shenanigans
~While wife is out of town, husband has daily in-home massages from people he finds on Craigslist who suggest that "happy endings" can be part of the "healing therapy".
~Wife on extensive business trip comes home to find her belongings boxed up in the garage. Husband has initiated divorce proceedings and also ordered a Russian bride who will arrive next week.
~Wife discovers once-healthy joint savings account is now down to $67. When pressed for answers, husband admits to purchase of car and condo for the woman with whom he's been having an affair for two years. "I don't want a divorce" he insists. "She's helping me to find out who I really am so I can be a better husband to you."
~Husband opens secret credit card accounts to pay for phone sex and dating site addictions. When wife discovers evidence, he claims that these companies are falsely charging him for services he has never used.
~Husband arrested for masturbating in the Walmart parking lot during his lunch hour.

It Ain't Over Till It's Over
Stalkers. Cheaters. Pedophiles. Dog haters. Thieves. Compulsive liars. Gold diggers. Addicts. Extreme hoarders. Ex cons. Current cons. Psychopaths. Abusers. Violent control freaks.

You might like to think that if one of these demons blundered into your life, you would swiftly and with firm resolve show them the door. You are far too self confident to allow such scoundrels to drain you of your emotional and physical resources! You deserve better!

But you would be surprised by how challenging it is for many people to eradicate the villains from their lives.

~Extremely anxious female client "Jane" arrives for her session already in tears.
Me: "How are you?"
Jane: "Why? What have you heard? What are your Guides telling you?"
(side note: one of the occupational hazards of being an Intuitive is that you must choose your words and facial expressions with extreme care. Clear your throat or raise your eyebrow at the wrong point in a session and the client will lose her shit thinking that a prognosis of death, dismemberment or financial ruin is forthcoming.)
As our conversation progresses, I learn that Jane's husband of thirty years wants to explore his new-found interest in any (or better yet, all) of the following adventures: wife swapping, making sex tapes to share with friends, casual sex with other men and/or regular visits to a bondage sex club in San Francisco. Up until three weeks ago, this man was as lifeless and stodgy as an overcooked rump roast, spending most of his time migrating from the couch to the bedroom to the computer chair to the refrigerator and back to the couch again, barely speaking except to insult whatever she made for dinner. Jane and I had spoken several times over the past few years as she worked up the courage to leave the marriage and create some small measure of happiness in her life.

But suddenly this man has sprung to life like a voracious sex-starved zombie and is making radical changes everywhere. Jane comes home from a weekend away to find all of his old clothes stuffed into trash bags heading for Goodwill. He discovered Just For Men hair dye and has gone from gray to an alarming jet black, including his eyebrows and newly-sculpted pubic hair (which he gleefully pulls down his velour sweat pants to reveal). Somehow, he has stumbled upon the thrill of online shopping and UPS deliveries begin arriving daily with clothes, shoes, bedding, porn DVDs, vibrating butt plugs, scented candles and testosterone replacement supplements and creams.

As Jane struggles to understand this astounding turn of events, her husband makes it clear that he is going to have some fun whether or not she approves or participates. "And by the way", he casually tosses into the conversation as he's shaving his chest hair and arm pits, "if you are interested in swinging with a few other couples from the golf club, you'd better work on losing some of that weight you've packed on, Porky."

Now at this point in the story, you might be thinking that this is all the incentive Jane needs to pack her bags and leave the madness. After all, who in her right mind would stay seated calmly in her deck chair as the Titanic begins its slow and inevitable decent to the bottom of the Atlantic?

But humans are a mysterious bunch and there's no accounting for personal choices. Jane chooses to stay and suffer through the next two years of her husband's gruesome metamorphosis. She comes for sessions about every six months, each time asking hopefully if her husband might die so the nightmare that is her life can end. I gently remind her that she is able to leave the situation anytime, but the fear of doing so is so huge that she dissolves into tears and changes the subject. At our last session, Jane dejectedly reports that she has taken to watching Sleeping With the Enemy frequently and is using it as a training film of sorts as she contemplates faking her own death and moving to Iowa to start a new life.

Some Day My Prince Will Come
The Majickal Interwebs. Where one can find anything their heart desires with nothing more than a few specific keywords and a willingness to hand over bank and credit card information to total strangers. Over the years, I have been asked hundreds of times to intuit the efficacy of various dating websites in hopes that the client can cut down on some of the time spent combing the Internet for "The One". The most absurd outcomes have arisen with three websites in particular:

Plenty of Fish~ female client begins dating clean-cut man with a full time job and his own house. Everything seems to be progressing well except for the fact that this guy is never available to get together on the weekends. When she does a little online investigation, she finds that he is also active on Craigslist as Gregory, the golden-shower-loving werewolf.
Christian Mingle~ male client begins promising relationship with lovely, age-appropriate woman in another state. They spend hours on the phone getting to know one another, and even though Jesus probably wouldn't  approve, they indulge in some raunchy phone sex as part of the courting ritual. Problems begin to surface when he suggests that they meet in person to see if what they have is the "real deal". She puts him off with lame excuses for months but continues to engage in telephone trysts with him several times a week. As his suspicions grow, he hires a private investigator to dig up information about his beloved. Turns out "she" is a "he" (with an unusually feminine voice, apparently) using photos of another woman he found online (called"catfishing").
 Farmers Only (tagline: City folks just don't get it)~female client in Kansas finds cowboy/farmer of her dreams in Texas. The usual phone/email/text communication goes on for a few months until they decide to meet in person. He pays for her to fly to Texas and puts her up in one of the guest rooms in his immaculate, professionally-decorated home. A vague sense of unease is creeping up on her, but she can't seem to put a finger on what's not feeling right about this guy. They spend several days together and he pays for everything. He's a gentleman. He compliments her on her hair and shoes. He makes no sexual advances towards her until the third day of her visit when they attend a tractor pull at the fairgrounds. He certainly knows a lot of sweaty cowboys in tight Wranglers! And did he just giggle when one of them made a joke about greasing the gears? As they watch the main event from the bleachers, he places her hand on his raging erection, never taking his eyes off of the men in the arena. It all becomes crystal clear in a flash: his keen interest in accessorizing her outfits each day, his half-joking suggestion that they get pedicures before lunch, his crying jag as they watch Bridges of Madison County, all of which seemed charming at first but now is a deafening announcement of his true orientation.

"Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake that, you're in."
~Richard Jeni


Friday, September 19, 2014

Of Crystal Skulls and Ouija Boards Part II

"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? 
In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet."
~Woody Allen

I am one of those people who like to think that I am an astute student of life, quickly learning Valuable Lessons from my mistakes, and never making the same error in judgment twice. But then there are times when I do not realize the gravity of the situation until I am waist-deep in some social event with no way out. Case in point: my visit to Mt. Shasta to attend a woo-woo workshop in which I will potentially learn how to heal myself and others with crystals, chimes and chanting.

What's that you say? I should have known that this would be trouble when I first heard of it? That the mere mention of chimes and chanting should have tipped me off? That Mt. Shasta is a well-known haven for New Age seekers and Birkenstock-wearing kooks? Oh, what the hell. What's the worst that can happen?

Try to ignore that ominous music you are hearing right now.

The city of Mt. Shasta is located at the base of Mount Shasta which is the second highest volcano in the United States. Historically, villages and cities positioned around volcanoes do not tend to fare very well when the lava gods awaken and decide to render mayhem and destruction upon all living things. Even if the volcano has been inactive for centuries, there is an unsettled sense of needing to be on alert while in its presence...like tip-toeing around a cantankerous giant troll who appears to be napping at the moment, but is guaranteed to be in an extremely foul mood when he awakens. Damn trolls.

I am attending a three-day workshop being held in a sweltering sweat box disguised as a hotel conference room with eleven other menopausal women (project your own judgment here). Not that being in some phase of the menopause process is a requirement to participate, but fortunately for storytelling/comedy purposes, that's how it worked out. If you haven't noticed yet, the universe has a very saucy sense of humor.

The first day of the workshop begins with the unavoidable and detestable (to me) custom of going around the circle introducing ourselves. For an introvert, this part of the process is a jaw-clenching exercise in endurance, and even though I am supposed to be listening with rapt attention to what the others are saying, internally I am stewing about what I am going to say. I recall attending another gathering of spiritually-minded women a few years ago, and as we made our introductions which included speaking briefly about what we did for a living, one of the women began weeping. When asked what was wrong, she launched into a sobbing diatribe about how sad it was that women could only identify themselves by what they do or where they work and that she did not wish to be labeled in that way. She gathered her belongings and marched out of the coffee shop where we had met that day, leaving the rest of us sitting in stunned silence. That was the first and last meeting of that particular group, and an awkward situation that always comes to mind during every circle introduction ritual in which I find myself participating.

The Shasta workshop introductions prove to be less emotional, but more fascinating as I note the disproportionate percentage of attendees who have chosen to ditch their Christian birth names in favor of colorful new titles:

*Rainbow Tree Frog divorced her husband of 30 years to oversee an organic mushroom farm with her lesbian lover in Northern California.

*Favilla Dragonstone, lesbian lover of Rainbow Tree Frog, organic fungus farmer and recent graduate of Wicca school in Oregon.

*Lady Morgana makes her living reading the soles of people's feet (she proudly announces that she is willing to be paid in goat cheese or rabbit pelts if any of us are open to trade).

*Aynjelle (pronounced Angel, but spelled in a way that makes me think she was being paid by the letter), a tiny woman with a gigantic butterfly tattoo covering her chest and upper arms claiming to be the reincarnation of a wood elf.

*Fallopia, a self-taught mystical healer of the female reproductive system, specializing in infertility issues and sexual dysfunction in men and women.

*Wounded Wolf practices aromatherapy out of a yurt in Idaho.

*Jupiter, a mixed-media artist who renamed herself after the largest planet in the solar system in an effort to make peace with her weight.

By comparison, the rest of us have mundane names and professions, and I avoid outing myself as a "psychic" lest I be pressed into service by any of the women seeking guidance and/or predictions during lunch breaks (an occupational hazard I learned about the hard way).

Day 1: hit the ground running

Now that the compelling introductions are behind us, it's time to get down to business. "Patsy" is a no-nonsense facilitator determined to pack as much information into our limited time as possible, and so the rambling lecture begins. We learn about ancient Egyptians, extraterrestrials, Atlantis and crystal domes. A rousing discussion ensues as many of the women feel called to share stories about their personal encounters with alien life forms (my own twisted sense of humor nudges at me to make snarky comments about my parents being from another solar system, but after the chilly reception to that sort of playful banter in Sedona, I decide to keep my jokes to myself). Patsy pulls us back to the task at hand by suggesting that we take turns singing solos so that she can assess our "vibrational healing abilities".

This is where my blood runs absolutely cold. Nowhere in the syllabus was there any mention of singing! I can chant in a group all day long, but warbling solos is not what I am here to do. My heart begins to pound, my mouth goes dry and I feel my hands and feet tingling...sure signs of an impending faint. Can I hide in the bathroom for this exercise? Can I convincingly fake the sudden onset of situational laryngitis? Is it close enough to lunch time to be able to avoid it altogether?

Several eager women raise their hands to volunteer and I relax a bit. These mid-life overachievers are ready to get into the meat of this thing, and I'm still thinking that I can wiggle out of my turn if we can just move the clock closer to break time. But instead of choosing from the willing live wires, Patsy zeroes in on me and asks if I would like to lead the exercise.

Dear sweet baby Jesus mother Mary God in heaven Lord Vishnu help me now! Let lightning strike the building. Let a fire alarm go off in the room. Let someone (besides me) vomit, shit her pants, have a heart attack or create some other distraction so I can wake up from this nightmare.

None of that happens, of course, and it appears that at the undignified age of 51 years old, I am going to serenade a group of ridiculously-named women in a room that must be baking at eighty degrees by now. Patsy gives me a short mantra to sing, and so I close my eyes and wish for death. When that doesn't happen, I sing the words (eyes tightly closed, voice trembling, sweat cascading through my cleavage and down my back) three times in some tune that comes to me between the urge to flee and the feeling that I might dramatically collapse. I finish the mantra and open my eyes. The room is completely silent and Patsy has tears streaming down her round face. What happened? Did she receive a text with terrible news about a family member? Was my performance so horrendous that she is going to have to kick me out of the workshop and refund my money?

I gather that unintentionally, I hit a combination of notes that resonated with a deep well of emotion, and I am immediately catapulted to the top of the class. I hear someone half-jokingly whisper "teacher's pet" and I am right back in high school, reminded that I have never been able to blend in to any group or situation anywhere. The minute I open my mouth, it is glaringly apparent that there is something "different" about me which tends to make people do one of two things: try to get away from me as quickly as possible or glom on to me as though I am in possession of the last lifeboat off of a sinking ship.

The day continues with everyone having a turn to sing as I sit back and enjoy the giddy relief of being done. Assessments are made, more information is disseminated about healing with sound and vibration, and we end the day with Patsy informing us that tomorrow, we are going to start class bright and early by conducting healing sessions on each other, so we should all get a good night's rest.

Easier said than done. Apparently, the energy in Mount Shasta is such that visitors unaccustomed to the vibrations coming from the volcano masquerading as an innocent mountain generally do not sleep well. When I do manage to doze off, my dreams are disturbing and intense. I am awakened at 5:00 a.m. by what sounds like twenty enthusiastic gorillas doing Zumba in the room above me. It's going to be a long day.

Day 2: reality is relative

Memorable moments:
~Paired with Aynjelle the wood elf for first practice session of the day. Try not to snicker as she clangs a chime next to my ear while chanting "heal, Suzanne!" At first, I think that she is directing me to send healing thoughts to someone named Suzanne, but then I realize that she has mistaken my name. When I gently tell her that my name is Susette, her eyes well up with tears and she runs out of the room.

~Re-paired with Jupiter. Attempt to create soothing sounds with castanets while humming a nondescript tune. The treatment table is far too small for Jupiter (imagine trying to balance a tennis ball on a popsicle stick) and she continually shifts from side to side, nearly rolling off twice. Resist urge to suggest that we escape this thing and go out for ice cream.

~Learn that Lady Morgana has a crystal skull named Candace which she uses as a ventriloquist dummy to speak to the woman on her treatment table. Candace is balanced on the victim's patient's stomach area, supposedly conveying information and messages as Lady Morgana sporadically toodles notes on a flute.

What the fuck is this all about?

~After lunch, we gather in a circle and sing tones to a quartz crystal bowl positioned on the floor in the middle of the circle. At some point, to everyone's surprise, the bowl shatters and we fall silent, looking to Patsy for guidance on this startling development. All she can say is that the bowl cost $250 and that we should consider making a group field trip to the local crystal store where everyone can chip in a donation towards a new bowl.

~Consensus is that we should have a pot luck dinner followed by a Wicca ceremony tonight. Favilla Dragonstone will lead the pagan gala on the shore of Lake Siskiyou where we will all learn who our animal spirit guides are and offer energy to the extraterrestrial beings living inside Mount Shasta. I send up a silent prayer that this "ceremony" will not awaken any irritable trolls or curious aliens. After hearing how many of the workshop participants have been abducted and probed against their will, I feel we are at something of a disadvantage as far as good luck is concerned.

~Pot luck food inspired by Satan's catering company:

1.Hawaiian pizza abomination with discolored pineapple and soy "ham"
2.Gas station guacamole and stale corn chips
3.The culinary Hindenburg of a tuna casserole in a brownish sauce (side note: wheat germ, it turns out, can't be shoehorned into just anything)
4.Fruit salad that tastes like a scented candle (I learn later that essential oils and a package of strawberry sugar-free jello are the magic ingredients)
5.Vegan brownies (dry and bland) and gluten-free pound cake (disturbing sand-like texture) from the local grocery store. Certainly the most edible of all the offerings.
6.Wine. Lots and lots of wine.

~Wicca ceremony proves to be an exercise in endurance. Favilla has overindulged in red wine and is slurring her invocations and long-winded "blessings". I learn that my spirit animal is the skunk because I have terrible boundary issues. At this point, I can only nod and agree, seeing that I am standing knee-deep in murky lake water holding hands with sweaty, drunk women as mosquitoes drain me of my blood supply.

Day 3: tore up from the floor up

More memorable moments:

Wounded Wolf practices her newly-learned techniques on me as I lay on the treatment table, bloated and gassy from the previous night's "meal", the waistband of my jeans slowly strangling me around the midsection. I steal glances at the clock on the wall, praying for the session to be over (FYI: sound healing does not affect intestinal gas) and resisting the urge to scratch at the hundreds of itchy bites all over my body. Peace treaties have been hammered out in less time.

It is decided that we will make a trip to one of the many local crystal shops to check out the merchandise. I am hesitant to join this junket because Patsy is still dropping hints about how meaningful it would be if we could all contribute to the purchase of a new crystal bowl to replace the one we demolished during the previous day's exercise. A few of the women glance at me, and I imagine them thinking that my personal and particular vibration (the one that brought Patsy to tears on the first day of our workshop) is responsible for the damage and I should be the one to make reparation.

We arrive at the crystal shop and are greeted by the musical stylings of Yanni being piped through an ancient speaker system. I am reminded of my parents' love affair with all things Radio Shack back in the seventies and have a strong flashback of myself sitting alone in the so-called rumpus room of the house where we lived when I was in high school, listening to hours of Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Heart on a crappy, cheap-ass record player as I pored over photos in the school yearbook of boys who would never like me. Even though I knew the odds were not in my favor, I prayed for a miraculous intervention from the popularity gods while mentally willing the phone to ring.

The women go their separate ways in the shop, each looking for something specific: Lady Morgana is interested in finding another crystal skull so that Candace has a friend to converse with in idle hours. Aynjelle (still not speaking to me after our debacle on the treatment table the day before) needs a new pendulum and dowsing rods since her former partner sold most of her belongings on eBay when she was out of town for a week. Rainbow Tree Frog is determined to find a good deal on polished quartz pieces to bury amongst the mushrooms. My main goal is to stay as far away from Patsy as possible just in case she finds a replacement bowl and starts pressing for donations.

As I am perusing the gigantic amethyst geodes in the back room and sweating through my blouse, I hear a commotion in the main part of the store and go out to see what has happened. It appears that Fallopia has fainted near the Tarot card section and everyone is gathered around her, fanning her with books and asking each other if they should call 911. The jaded (rock humor) clerk behind the counter tells us not to bother; that the last time someone passed out in the store, it took twenty minutes for the paramedics to arrive and grudgingly administer treatment. I gather from her weary tone that fainting is a common occurrence here and that there is no need to panic.

Fallopia does recover and goes on to purchase the deck of Tarot cards she was looking at when she lost consciousness, believing that it is a sign from the universe to take these cards home and give readings to her sexually dysfunctional clientele.

Ever the opportunist, I use the distraction to slip out of the shop in order to avoid Patsy's crystal bowl purchase. I sit on a bench in the sweltering heat and count the men with pony tails passing by. It is a staggeringly high number.

Back in the conference room, we wrap up our workshop by once again sitting in the dreaded circle and practicing our intuitive skills by "reading" each other's energy. We are told that it's fine to provide guidance or to channel messages from invisible entities if we feel it's appropriate. Patsy puts on a CD of chanting monks and we all stare at each other for ten minutes until Favilla steps up to the plate with a message from Aynjelle's animal guide (an extremely chatty rhinoceros) about needing to make better choices when it comes to bosses and romantic partners. Aynjelle and several other women are crying by the end of the mini reading thanks to the talkative rhino who struck some chords of truth with our group.

Jupiter announces that she has a message from one of her spirit guides about my weight and that I should stop eating so much when I am stressed out. I certainly don't disagree with the assessment, but if we are correlating body weight with planet size, Pluto being the smallest (astrophysicist-types may now begin debate about whether or not Pluto is an actual planet) and Jupiter being the largest, I could perhaps be classified as a smaller, curvier Neptune or a 2XL Earth. As she drones on about my food choices, I feel my face flushing and my heart beginning to pound. Jupiter outweighs me by a buck fifty at least, but somehow feels qualified to lecture me about potato chips and ice cream. The herculean effort it takes to not say what I'm thinking creates a massive headache and a renewed vow to avoid any and all workshops in the future.

*Not their real fake names

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wizards Don't Need Computers Part I

"I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge."
~J.R.R. Tolkien

I generally do not accept invitations to attend group activities. Maybe it's a mild case of social anxiety disorder or simply an aversion to participating in gang religious ceremonies brought on by too many childhood years spent immersed in Catholic church rituals.

My mother was a big fan of Sunday mass, and usually wept during communion and certain organ solos. My dad had understood long ago that church was mandatory weekly (more often during Lent) duty, and volunteered to be one of the guys who passed the offering baskets so that he had an excuse to be away from my tearful mother who would wear her sunglasses indoors to hide her puffy eyes and smudged mascara. The basket guys were responsible for counting up all of the money collected, so he was able to hide out in the back office with the other husband defectors for most of the service every Sunday. It was my job to sit on the hard wooden pew next to my mother and try not to melt into a pool of mortification as she sniffled and sang hymns in a weepy vibrato, drawing glances from others around us. I do believe that my dad felt badly about ditching me to shoulder the burden of my mother's religious fervor, so every Sunday after church was over, we would go for ice cream. All of my anxiety and embarrassment were immediately soothed by a double dip of mint chocolate chip, consumed right there in the cool sanctuary of Baskin-Robbins. My dad would always get one scoop of rainbow sherbet in a cup, and even though we never discussed the recurring church drama, somehow it was understood that this was the payoff for the emotional heavy lifting we had to do on Sundays. Being on a perpetual diet and fearing that somehow, the delicious, sugary fat in the ice cream would magically leap from the freezer and attach itself to her hips, my mother refused to cross the threshold of Baskin-Robbins, preferring to sit in the car and watch us through the window as we enjoyed our refreshment.

Semi-related side note: my parents were fond of collecting dogs in hilariously mismatched pairs such as a runt Yorkshire Terrier with a skin condition and a comically overweight German Shepherd, throwing them together and then not understanding why there was canine drama around the food bowl and sleeping arrangements. Long after I had left the house, they finally adopted Lhasa Apso puppies from the same litter and things settled down considerably. (By the way, don't ask what happened to all those other clashing pairs of dogs they assembled over the years. There never was a believable explanation for how/why one team would disappear and the next comedy duo would arrive.) It was this last pair of dogs that brought out the disturbingly over-protective and nurturing side of my parents that their children never experienced. On one visit, I witnessed an apparently well-rehearsed routine in which my dad would hold both dogs on his lap while my mother fed them strawberry ice cream from a baby spoon. As if this was not bad enough, she went into high-pitched baby talk, asking if the dogs "loved 'ikeems' in their tummies". Sweet Jesus. Who are these people?

Every spiritual gathering since then is somehow a variation on the original theme. Someone is droning on about God. Someone is crying. Someone wants to collect money. And I try to come in to close, personal contact with mint chocolate chip ice cream as soon as humanly possible.

A few years ago, I was invited to attend a group meditation in which a mystic named "Jonathan" would go into a trance, calling in angels and various ascended masters to answer personal questions from the audience. Jonathan was something of a local celebrity at the time and had an impressive following of middle-aged women who swarmed around him wherever he went and jockeyed for positions in the front row of his meditation events.

The night I attend, my friend and I arrive about 15 minutes before the ceremony is scheduled to begin, but the regulars are way ahead of us and no folding chairs are available. A metal bench is dragged in from another room to accommodate us, and we are relegated to the back row where the view is not optimal, but still affords me the ability to witness the spectacle.

There are about 60 of us packed into an uncomfortably warm room, all women with the exception of two flamboyantly gay men wearing Lycra bicycle shorts and leg warmers. At the appointed hour, Jonathan wafts into the room clad in a white caftan with many strands of beads around his neck. His hair is long and loose around his shoulders and I catch a glimpse of Roman sandals beneath his gown. My first thought is that Jonathan has just come from a New Testament costume shindig, but nobody else seems amused by his apparel, so I keep my observations to myself.

A hush falls over the room as Jonathan takes his place on the small stage and graces us with an ethereal smile. The women who have scored front-row seats are looking up at him with wide eyes and high expectations. One woman in particular is already dabbing away tears with something that looks like a dishrag while her busty friend in an extremely low-cut blouse is taking pictures of Jonathan with her cell phone.

Jonathan welcomes us and then promptly gets down to business by closing his eyes and entering into a trance. As he sways from side to side, he begins to invoke an exceedingly long and alphabetical list of angels and archangels, saints and entities. My mind starts to wander as I shift on the bench in this unventilated room: am I the only one finding the caftan and sandals absurd? Did I remember to lock the door when I left the house? What is that terrible stench (steamed broccoli? unkempt vagina?) emanating from the woman sitting in front of me? Do I hear someone snoring already?

My attention is drawn back to Jonathan as I notice what appears to be a sizable erection blossoming beneath his man muumuu (this being my first time attending the meditation, Jonathan's obvious arousal and lack of undergarments may be a perfectly commonplace, weekly occurrence and something that the devotees are entirely accustomed to seeing). I look around the room to see if anyone besides me is noticing that Sergeant Stiffy has arrived on the scene, but with the exception of the gay fellows who are nudging one another and tittering, almost everyone else has their eyes tightly closed as the spirits are summoned.

I am barely able to contain my giggles as I imagine Jonathan's erection as a fleshy dowsing rod, pointing to the lucky lady who will get to ascend the stairway to heaven with him in the back seat of his Nissan Pathfinder. I immediately feel guilty for having such lurid thoughts during what is meant to be a sacred gathering of spiritual seekers. Then it's back to staring at the front of his caftan again and wondering what could possibly happen next as he nears the end of the list of angels to be called forth into this room of admirers.

Anti-climatically (!), Jonathan and his boner sit down as soon as the twelve minute invocation ends. As the women open their eyes, hands shoot up in the air with questions for the angels/Jonathan to answer. We hear inquiries about dead cats, missing jewelry, cheating husbands and a raging yeast infection which is resistant to all western medical treatment (that explains the stench). Someone wants to know if the angels can tell her when to purchase a new car. Someone else wants to know if her parrot is the reincarnation of her mother. One of the front row women asks if she can get pregnant during menopause. Jonathan replies to all the questions, and then noticing that an hour has passed, stands up and announces that the angels are finished talking for the night. As he steps down from the stage, the women closest to him reach out to touch his caftan and his hand. I notice that the erection has subsided during the question and answer period, but that a few of the women are following Jonathan out of the room as though they are being led by some invisible force. The rest of us exit through a different door, passing by the "donation center" (a wobbly card table with an angel cookie jar open to receive checks and cash) as we leave the stifling room and spill out into the parking lot. Walking to my car, I see Jonathan speeding away with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and two of the front row women in his vehicle.

There is not enough ice cream in North America to subdue the icky feeling I have at this moment.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Cowgirl and Mr. Pickle: In which we are presented with far too much information Part I

"My reaction to porn films is as follows: After the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. 
After the first 20 minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live." 
~Erica Jong, Playboy Magazine, September 1975

Prior to entering my career of providing intuitive guidance, my job history reads like a short list of haphazard forays all leading to dreary dead ends:

The restaurant years: snarky-but-lovable waitress (cocktails and food), inadequate prep cook, unfit banquet manager, clueless bakery manager, reluctant server at a dinner theater
The administrative years: unqualified secretary to the County Clerk, laggard event coordinator, ill-equipped manager of medical offices
The lost three months: misguided employment with a house cleaning service. Don't ask.
The fuck-working-for-other-people years: transcriber, pet/house sitter, crafter and baker

In thirteen years of conducting sessions, I have never been asked to list my qualifications, proudly point to a framed diploma on the wall or speak about courses I've graduated. Nobody appears to be concerned with my history, but I often find ways to shoehorn in the anecdote about my near-death experience as a child which altered the way my brain functions. I guess I offer this as some sort of explanation/mystical credential for how I know things.

When I first started giving readings, I felt as though I was fumbling around in a dark room, tripping over furniture while looking for doorways. All that was really clear was that people had questions, and by using the Remote Viewing technique, I could come up with answers. I bristled at the word "prediction" and corrected people on the spot, insisting that it was more of a forecast based on the way energy was moving for them at the moment. As time went on and these forecasts proved to be accurate, my client base grew so large, I joked that half the county had been to my house to cry on my couch. It wasn't unusual for me to have sessions with all three members of a love triangle without any of them knowing the others had spoken to me.

And there were a LOT of triangles.

Little did I know that this linear question and answer dance would soon work its way into heavy therapy sessions in which I was advising people on every topic imaginable. Up to that point, the only experience I'd had with counseling was tuning in to Dr. Ruth's Sexually Speaking radio show in the eighties and the one and only marriage counseling session my then-husband and I attended in which an exhausted therapist spoke with us for a few minutes, then turned to him and told him that we should divorce. As soon as possible.

The subjects that come up in my sessions most frequently are sex and bodily functions. On any given day, I am likely to spend at least a few hours discussing vaginal discharge, erectile dysfunction, best positions for conception, how to give oral sex to someone with a gigantic penis, the best way to have a secret affair with someone else's spouse, and nipple sensitivity. There are no psychic predictions during these excruciatingly frank consultations, and there are many days when I wonder how and when I morphed myself into an amateur sex therapist. Is there some kind of award for keeping a straight face during outrageously disturbing discussions? If so, I must be in the running for it by now.

For your reading pleasure, here are a few riveting highlights from past sessions:

~Seventy year old woman comes to our session with an impressive dildo collection in a Nike gym bag. Her favorite appliance is the hefty green vibrator she has named "Mr. Pickle", but she would like me to intuit which of these gadgets is "most in harmony with her aura" (bonus points when I manage to make it through the consultation and recommendations without actually handling any of the devices).

~Married male in the throes of an honest-to-God midlife crisis gives in to his compulsion to have an affair with a saucy Internet "friend" who happens to be a crack cocaine addict. After being cautioned against such risky behavior, he goes ahead and does it anyway. When panic sets in immediately following the encounter, he rushes home to soak his penis in a beer stein full of Listerine to "kill the germs".

~Same male decides to throw caution to the wind and continue hazardous escapades, this time inviting a male friend of the crack addict on board for a three-way. While it satisfied a secret desire to engage in uninhibited sex with a dude, his backside was sore and throbbing for a week (since the stakes were significantly higher this time, he decides to douche his rectal cavity with diluted chlorine bleach). Dejected comment at our next session: "It really wasn't anything like Brokeback Mountain at all."

~Fortyish woman comes to session wearing floral leggings and a tee shirt which announces, "It's only kinky the first time!". About ten minutes in to our conversation, she pulls a can of beer out of her purse, apologizing for not bringing one for me.  When I ask her to abstain during our session, she becomes agitated and gets right to the point which is wanting guidance about having sexual liaisons with her Standard Poodle (whose name, inexplicably, is Peter Marshall) and an economy-sized jar of peanut butter. Her questions are not so much in the vein of morality, ethics or common sense, but how she is ever going to be able to have sex with a man again after this. Also, she wants to know if Peter Marshall was her husband in some other lifetime because of the way he gazes lovingly into her eyes and really seems to care about her feelings.

You can't make this shit up, folks.

~Long-time client whose marriage has been on the rocks for several years reports that she has jumped into an affair with the brawny FedEx man who makes deliveries to the medical office where she works. At first it's all fun flirtation and meaningful glances, but the situation takes a salacious turn when he invites her to explore the back of his delivery truck one afternoon and they wind up screwing between some tall cardboard boxes and a wooden crate. Now that a precedent has been set, they begin a series of rendezvous at various points on his delivery route (which, she admits, is a fantastic turn-on to have rough and hurried encounters bent over a box in the back of an airless delivery vehicle in the August heat) and she has invested a significant amount of money in crotchless lingerie and short skirts in order to accommodate their hasty liaisons. Her request for guidance is not about the future of her marriage, but how many other women the FedEx guy is boinking on his route because, honestly, he's just really good at speedy sex which means (in her mind) that he must be getting a LOT of practice. She begins stalking him on the days he doesn't make deliveries to the office and becomes obsessed with his whereabouts which is severely impacting her performance at work (she is questioned by her boss repeatedly about why she is ordering so many unnecessary office and medical supplies). Pen poised over notebook, she pleads with me to "tune in" to see if I can come up with the names of the other bitches she's sure he must be nailing during office hours. I gently remind her that this is not the purpose of a session and she springs into action pulling twenty dollar bills out of her wallet and arranging them on the table, hoping that she will hit the magic number and I'll begin spewing information like a telepathic slot machine.

More-common-than-you'd-think complaints: discovering husband's pubic hair in the keyboard of the laptop while looking up recipes on the Internet. Trouble finding quiet places to masturbate at work. Having a hard time saving up enough money for that vaginal rejuvenation surgery everyone's talking about. Husband's penis is the size of a thumb. Wife hates morning sex (and are these inconveniences grounds for divorce or at the very least, an affair?). Husband only wants to do it doggy-style and/or in the ass. More than one woman winds up needing surgery to repair extensive damage to her back door. Horrific vaginal odors coming from co-workers sharing cubicles. After a bout of furious lovemaking, husband/boyfriend/casual hookup collapses and dies. Alarming addiction to coffee enemas.

Perplexing questions:  "Why do I fantasize about Prince Charles when I'm having sex with my boyfriend?" "Will my wife find out that I got a hand job from my secretary?" From both a man and a woman in unrelated sessions: "does masturbating during Keeping Up With The Kardashians mean I'm gay?" "Is Oprah Winfrey gay?" "Is it wrong to put a tracking device on my husband's car?" "Can I really go blind from masturbation?" "How can I get Keanu Reeves to notice me?" "Is it true that the FDA is going to approve a birth control pill that also helps you lose weight?" "Why do I become aroused by the smell of garlic?"

"Oh, I've heard everything. I'm going out to get some popcorn and pink lemonade. I've just seen a three-ring circus."
~Cary Grant in The Awful Truth 1937


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Doorknob Confessions
Part I

"There's a reason it's called 'girls gone wild' and not 'women gone wild'. 
When girls go wild, they show their tits. 
When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub."
 ~Louis C.K.

A doorknob confession is a term used by some clinicians/therapists to define the phenomena of the client divulging something incredibly important or critical in the last few minutes of a therapy session.

I stumbled upon a sobering realization recently. It appears that I am prone to making myself the indispensable font of all wisdom/take-charge manager of any and all crisis/hand-holder extraordinaire/provider of comfort and inspiration, and in doing so, encouraging people to become dependent upon me, which I promptly find a way to judge as "needy" and resent the hell out of. This has become a sticky tangle of codependency which stinks up the room and leaves a trail of broken relationships as far as the eye can see.

After a few years of immersing myself this job, I decided that I could no longer socialize because there was no lunch, dinner, party (Tupperware, Mary Kay, cocktail, etc.) or gathering that did not involve someone cornering me and picking my brain for input or reassurance. My tendency towards erratic (read: nonexistent) boundaries created the perfect storm for me to hide in my house and screen all calls. Fun fact: I have not spontaneously answered the phone in ten years.

Recluse level: Hobbit

Sample schedule for any given day:

6:00 a.m. email at least one person up my ass about a court date/finding mother’s ring/husband’s whereabouts/stomach pain/smell of pot coming from son's room/fear of upcoming blind date with an Internet acquaintance/ominous dream/alarming rash, lump or bowel movement.

7:00 a.m. breakfast often interrupted by phone call from client freaking out because I did not respond to email (see above).

9:30 a.m. work day begins client 30 minutes early for her 10:00 a.m. appointment because she needs to use the bathroom to poop/change tampon/floss teeth and/or get a few extra minutes of time because she has a LOT of issues to discuss today (one of the hazards of working from home rather than an office is that people see the situation as more of a casual meeting between friends, and the "friend" with the house probably doesn't mind at all if people just show up whenever they feel like it). I have put sticky notes on the door indicating that I am in another session, I have ignored the doorbell until our session time, I have opened the door a crack and asked that they come back at our scheduled time. Sometimes it works, but often, I am greeted by someone who is already crying, panicking and/or on the verge of wetting her pants and the urgency is difficult to ignore.
Of course I am at my fresh and optimistic best for the first sessions of the day. Once the bathroom desperation is behind us, we visit the usual Stations of the Cross: relationships ("where is my soul mate/how can I get rid of the guy I thought was my soul mate?"), health ("does this look like cancer to you?"), family ("I dreamed that I killed my mother. What do you think that means?") and money ("I need to win the Lotto to pay rent. Can you give me the numbers?").

12:00 p.m. the day continues some snippets of pressing issues to be addressed:
~Food (?) Addictions - entire tub of Cool Whip consumed every night at 11:00 p.m., toilet paper, chalk, raw meat, packets of Sweet-n-Low, potting soil, red wine and Gummy Bears (just the green ones).
~Frequently-heard past life concerns - client believes she was either Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Mary Magdalene. Fear of choking/flying/drowning/bridges/worms/vomiting and what lifetime are these from/is demonic father figure involved?
~Haunted spaces and/or interactions with ghosts - disembodied spirits who show up around 3:00 a.m. wanting to have sex, flickering lights, televisions which spontaneously change channels, coffee makers percolating on their own schedule, missing keys, slamming doors and strange smells.
~Doorknob Confessions (startling revelations in the last few minutes of a session) - "Could all of this have anything to do with the fact that I was molested by a priest when I was nine years old?" "I think I’ve decided to get that sex change surgery after all." "Maybe it's a good time to tell my daughter who her real father is." "I think I'm in love with my uncle."
~Beauty Consultations -
Client: “Do you think this eye shadow works for me?”
Me: “What color is it?”
Client: “It’s called smoky plum parfait.”
Her eyelids look like two fairly serious subdural hematomas to me, but I had been reviewing autopsy photos earlier that week, so what the hell did I know? Me: “Well, it’s really more of an evening look, I think” (this from a woman whose ham-handed experiments with eyeliner make her look as though she’s peering out from a charred log).

Same client wants a read on whether or not she should schedule an appointment for anal bleaching. I am struck by the absurdity of her desire to darken her eyelids and lighten her asshole.

3:00 p.m. trying to end the day find a type-written list of questions and $50 stuck to the front door with masking tape (this Internet-resistant client thoughtfully includes an envelope in which to place my replies and mentions that she "will just keep driving by the house to look for the envelope on the door"). Four back-to-back telephone messages from someone calling in a panic from the candle room of a Catholic church. Between the cell phone static and her hushed tone, I gather some sketchy information about her mother's unexpected death three months ago and that Mom is now communicating scary messages through this woman's iPod. "I must speak to you NOW. I’m not crazy…I swear!" I have absolutely no idea who this, nor does she leave a number so that I can return her call.

5:00 p.m. after work observations I learned long ago that my workday is never really "done". I seem to be some sort of a mystical magnet for people's struggles and often find myself conversing with strangers about the troubling aspects of their lives. These impromptu mini-sessions can happen with the waitress at Denny's, a cashier at Home Depot or in the produce section of Trader Joe's. My ears are also tuned to the interesting conversations of other people. Here's a fragment of one I happened upon while waiting in line for a smoothie at Whole Foods:

Mid-Life-Redhead: "Did you hear that Jane's husband dropped dead in the bathroom at LAX last week?"
Mid-Life-Blonde: "Yeah. Wish it had been my husband."
(both women chuckle)
MLR: "I think that's called 'widow envy'."
MLB: "Well, I have got a bad case of that right now."
MLR: "I thought you guys were okay after your trip to Cancun."
MLB: "Yeah, we got home and all I could think of was that we just don't have anything in common anymore. He's a cat person and I want to see him drive off a cliff or better yet, die in some way that involves a wrongful death settlement."
MLR: "I think that when you start fantasizing about all the ways your husband could die, it's a sign the marriage is over."
MLB: "Whatever."

Just like a cookie full of arsenic, inside every "whatever" is a little bit of "fuck you".

I return to Whole Foods the following week when I have some time to linger in the vitamin and supplement aisles. This section of the store never fails to disappoint when it comes to people watching. On any given day, you might observe someone swinging a pendulum over the probiotics or using homemade dowsing rods to search for the best natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.

On this visit, I witness a woman in overworked yoga pants and Hello Kitty slippers cornering a male employee to show him a photo she's taken with her iPhone of a bothersome rash on her inner thighs. As she is yammering through the accompanying symptoms, he interrupts her with, "sorry ma'am...I work in the produce department." She seems unfazed and lunges toward another employee to begin her tirade anew.

Over in the shampoo aisle, I happen upon a heated debate about the environmental impact of "lather, rinse, REPEAT" and how the "repeat" part of the shampooing instructions is creating a massive footprint from which we, as a society, will never recover. Polar ice caps are melting because we are being ordered by the beauty product cartels to lather up twice! When will the madness end? Where is Al Gore when we need him? Is this the Apocalypse?

Namaste, assholes.