Monday, March 12, 2007

Jbeeky has asked that I blog about my former work as a psychic reader. And since it looks like a slow news day in Grassy Fork, I'm happy to oblige.

I was nearly late to the gig thanks to the complicated and uncomfortable costume I'd had to throw together at the last moment. Of course, I had a standard set of costumes that I wore to such gigs. I favored lots of flowy silk things and turbans with big dangly earrings. I'd once had to put together a sort of futuristic gypsy get up that was really popular.

My kit box banged against my knees as I impatiently waited for the escalator to get to the next floor of the big Dallas convention center. In it I had my light box, an electrified platform I'd made of Plexiglas, that made my crystals glow with an eerie blue light. I carried several sets of tarot cards that had been ritually purified by my sleeping with them after burying them in the earth for two weeks and then carefully wrapped in China silk. Just in case, I had my bag of runes that I'd carved into river rocks with my dremel, but it was the many pounds of quartz crystals that were really weighing me down.

The events company manager had called me in an angry panic.

"Juwanda the goddamn Root Woman has the Goddamn flu...or so she damn well says...and we already have the goddamn tiki hut up on site. I need you to get over here pronto and throw the goddamn bones looking like you belong in that goddamn tiki hut."

I hadn't actually met my competitor, Juwanda the Root Woman. I had seen her "medium" shot. That's what a head shot is called for psychics who are represented by an agency. I was, at that time, in talks with Juwanda's agent who was interested in representing me. Juwanda was a really large and beautiful black woman who dressed up as a Caribbean voodoo priestess. She looked great in her get-up.

"I don't throw the bones. I read cards and runes." I said calmly...knowing this would further send him into a rage, but also knowing the level of his desperation. Because, though I didn't know it entirely at the time, I was beginning to suspect that my true "gift" was an uncanny ability to sense the obvious.

And this was how I ended up strolling into this particular corporate special event looking like a Caribbean pirate's whore in blackface wearing a ratty black wig pulled from the Dallas Theatre Center's stock of wigs, a poofy long ribbon skirt and an obscene number of bangles. Every visible inch of my lily white skin...so perfect for my usual Celtic persona...had been liberally smeared with Light Egyptian Max Factor. It was clogging my pores and I hated wearing so much make-up. Freakin' blocked my aura. I was sure of it.

The events manager came up to me with a relieved look on his face. The clients were already starting to wander in. I saw a handwriting reader I'd worked with before and smiled at him. That was a sweet gig. All he had to do was walk around in his business suit with a pen and pad. The freak mime was there, the little ponce.

The events manager points toward the tiki hut and hands me a Styrofoam container.

"What's this?" I say as I open the container.

Inside are a collection of chicken bones left over from someone's lunch.

"It's the bones." He says, "Just throw the bones."

I firmly hand the Styrofoam lunch container back to him.

"I don't throw bones. I don't know how. And I'm certainly not throwing somebody's leftover lunch."

He slyly looked at me and said, "Come on...it's just an act, right?"

"Yeah, well, call somebody who does improv." I say and start to march out.

"Wait, wait! It's okay...just try to make it look more like Juwanda...just do whatever you have to!"

I knew there was no danger of me losing the 150 dollar an hour fee with the three hour minimum. Because I was there, in costume, and people were starting to line up. Again, my mysterious gift of the obvious.

The truth is, you do have to believe it to be any good at it. You have to wrap your mind around that New Age space and embrace it. When you do a reading for someone, or as I often did, hours of reading many people, you always have dead-on hits. Especially, if you are, as I am, a natural cold reader.

I was completely unaware of the concept of cold reading when I was working as an occasional psychic for hire. I'd fallen into it innocently enough. I was highly educated in the liberal arts like most followers of "new age" thought. Basically that meant that I had little to no experience in critical thinking. Unfortunately, most of the US public has little knowledge of critical thinking skills, making us an extremely gullible nation. It hurts us in a myriad of ways.

A friend in Atlanta taught me how to read tarot cards and as I did readings for people and moved about, word got around that I was very good at it. Before I knew it, I was being asked to do large special events readings. I had a code of ethics I followed. I took money from the large events companies. I never asked for anything from individual clients. I wasn't out to defraud anyone. I really believed I was doing something special.

And based on the number of people who broke down in tears in front of me, called me later to tell me about something that I'd "predicted" had come true, or just ran away frightened from my readings...I did seem to have something going on. I received constant validation and "proof" of my "gift". It's nice to be appreciated.

I think it's a very seductive trap. I think some people with my gift do take it one step further to become charlatans. Perhaps they hang on to the belief that it is something special that they have because it pays so well if you know how to market it. And if you look at it with the same searching eye that you use to look at the people you read for...well, then you wouldn't be able to do it anymore. I guess that's what happened to me. I looked at myself with the same eyes I used to gaze at others.

My gift isn't anything supernatural. I have the gift of paying attention. Of empathy. Of being aware of body language and seeing minute changes is behavior. It's a gift that might have benefited from a PhD in psychology. I know how to put people at ease and how to channel their own thoughts back into themselves. It's not anything special and it's something everyone can do. All you have to do is listen. Really, really listen without involving yourself in that process.

My conversion to skepticism came gradually. My attraction to "mysteries" became less conscious and I became more interested in the great and terrible beauty of the universe and truth. And that is something very tangible if you let it be so. I became more at ease with the fact that just because something can be proven empirically doesn't make it any less wonderful or fantastic. I started to educate myself in critical thinking, because I was tired of wasting money on things that didn't work and blindly believing everything I read. I read Carl Sagan, who so eloquently and poetically described science as the wondrous thing that it is and taught me how to look at claims and beliefs with healthy skepticism.

If I had to put a date on when the worm began to turn for me from new age to skepticism, I suppose it would be sometime during the dawn of August 17th, 1987. I had gathered with about twenty other dedicated "Rainbow Warriors" on a distant hilltop about an hour outside of Dallas. We had spent the night around camp fires drumming, chanting and smoking lots of marijuana. Nothing really happened that dawn.

Damn you! Harmonic Convergence!

6 Comments:

  1. BBC said...
    Hey !!!

    My fudge arrived today.

    It's good, it sweetened me right up.
    :-) :-) :-)

    Well, maybe not, I'm still pissed at the world... LOL

    I like the peanut butter fudge the best, now hand over the rest of it and no one gets hurt. :-)

    I would never use a psychic reader, I have my own connection with the cosmos.

    Back to cleaning up the yard.
    Anonymous said...
    Yes it did- that's why I know you now- the big quartz crystals that were used at the HC celebration in Chaco Canyon that day in August were taken from there directly to here- right next door to me- in my neighbor's woods.....I'll leave the rest for later.....goat yoda
    Hayden said...
    August 17, '87 my x and I were on vacation - don't remember where, near some mountain - couldn't find a room to save our lives that night. We asked a old guy at a diner why there were so many tourists, why it was so busy - he lifted one shaggy white eyebrow and with a knowing smile said "this is a power spot they say. bunch of people all in town for a harmonica convention." he shrugged "guess a power spot makes a mouth harp sound better."
    Jbeeky said...
    True, I guess the line between and psychic and really good therapist are blurred, yes? Thanks for a great post.
    johnieb said...
    Lots of marijuana and American critical thinking seems like a recipe for success to me.

    Dogs, goats and Smokie mountains are better, huh?
    Carolina Event Planning said...
    Ran across your blog when searching for event planning info. Beautifully done! Both sides of my family are from your area, and they always called it "God's Country."

    Ed

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