By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Photo by Issa SharpSHE TOLD ME TO PUT MY HANDS OUT, PALMS UP, and I did that. Then she blinked a thoughtful blink and said, "The $5 special, right?" I said yes, and she told me to drop one hand.
"You will live a long time," she said, not looking at my palm but into my eyes, or what she could see of them through the bifocal shades I wear. I had a big decision to make in a few weeks, she said, and I shouldn't listen to anyone since I had all the information I needed already. I was honest, she said, or tried to be . . . So far, so generic, but what could you expect for 5 bucks? The tarot cards were scattered on a nearby table and I wondered if I'd have gotten a different life out of them, and I wondered if the felt-tip pen marks on one hand would tip something, screw up the reading. Half listening, I wondered this and I wondered that. She was a woman somewhere in middle age, hard to read herself because of a certain wary tiredness. I'd already asked too many questions, such as how long she'd been in this little Hollywood Boulevard storefront (two days, she said) and where she was from (North Carolina). "I'm an American Indian," she said. What tribe? "Cherokee," she said, and, "Say, you want your palm read or you want to ask me questions?"
I'm good at that -- asking people questions so they won't ask me any. (I'd cleverly worked this on a couple of shrinks.) She said I had a younger friend who was jealous of me not because of accomplishments or appearance or whatever but because of my "goodness." She asked me what I did and I told her and she asked if I were famous and I said no and she said I would be, and I was starting to warm to this lady -- both famous and good. Then she zinged me, saying that while I had a smile on my face I was really very sad inside, which seemed to me to be getting just a bit . . . personal. I had as it happened separated from a woman a few months before but this had quite truthfully seemed to be a great boon to both of us at the time. Did the palmist know something I didn't, really?
Still looking into my eyes (I could have had the scaly paw of a monitor lizard and it wouldn't have mattered), she said that I believed in God but didn't pray much. Wrong on the first, right on the second. She predicted a few other things, such as a new woman in my life, and then said that I had a major spiritual breakthrough coming up -- which I already knew about since Rob Brezny had said the same thing that week in his Real Astrology column.
It was a grim and nasty day on the Boulevard, shiny and cold under a light spring rain. The street seemed nearly closed up, with many of its sidewalks buckled and stacked like Kosovo after a NATO mistake in order to complete the subway and other big-deal construction projects, all intended to save the Boulevard from its usual state of perverse disarray. Coming out of the reading, I started to add up the hits and misses. I liked the goodness and the fame, but she missed a couple of biggies on my plate that particular day, including $4,000 in phone bills (as far as I could remember I hadn't actually talked to someone in Honduras for four hours), and what about my damned knee? What about that? I had ripped it doing some sprinting I shouldn't have been doing and the injury was seriously interfering with what I had always called, only half in jest, "my religion." As for the "spiritual breakthrough" . . . This was going to be tough. I seem to have the stoically pragmatic sensibility of, well, a dog. Put the word "spiritual" in front of my nose and I sniff it and can't really identify it. It's a word that seems to take its meaning from the imagination of the person speaking it. Most, if cornered, will offer a definition involving some sort of unusual, exalted state -- anything from an out-of-body experience to good sex, good wine, some sort of emotional transcendence of the ordinary.
"Get them while they're young" is the old saw about one's religious affiliations or lack of them. No one got me, and I've always been a sort of browser at the religious buffet and not a very ardent one. I find that in the many periods of my checkered life when (what, again?) I discover myself dead-ass broke without a dime on the horizon I can become a quite decent de facto Buddhist. When you're trying to make "nothing" palatable, it seems to me Buddhism is definitely the way to go. I also believe the essential truth of endemic "suffering" to be a universal component of life on Earth, caused most often, as the Buddhists suggest, by "craving" whatever we don't have. Yet in the land of everything you could possibly want just beyond your fingertips I'm not sure Buddhism is actually an option, except as a kind of ideal embraced in our worst times and more or less put back under the bed when things pick up.
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