Monday, November 13, 2006

There is a house in New Orleans

Guinness Girl has been writing about psychic visits lately, and it reminded me of my own one and only psychic encounter a few years back. I was in New Orleans with two friends for a girls-only, last-hurrah sort of weekend prior to my friend Julie's wedding, and we decided to take a ghost tour carriage ride through the French Quarter. At one point on the ride, I noticed, on an adjacent side street, a small storefront with a pink light emanating from it and a wooden sandwich board advertising palm, tarot, and aura readings and other psychic services. It was like something straight out of a movie, and I was immediately intrigued.

Psychics and tarot card readers are not hard to find in New Orleans. At night, Jackson Square is lined with table after table of supposed clairvoyants trying to cash in on New Orleans' spooky voodoo heritage through the tourists who come in search of it. Some may be authentic, if you believe in that sort of thing, but if the card reader my friend Kristina sat down in front of is representative of the whole lot, then the insights offered there aren't much more helpful or in depth than those on the page-a-day horoscope calendar my mother stuck in my Christmas stocking last year. The place with the pink light seemed different, however. Maybe it was just the creepy dark, narrow side street and the fact that my head was freshly filled with ghost stories. Maybe the woman in that storefront just had all the right props, and I am a hopeless sucker for buying into her persona. Regardless, when we found ourselves wandering down that same side street later, I felt compelled to go inside.

As we stepped beyond the beaded curtain, we were greeted by Catherine, a tiny woman with dark skin and eyes who wore a scarf over her thinning hair and spoke in an accent I couldn't attach to any particular locale. I asked if she would read my palm, and she instructed me to sit down while she explained her rates and the sorts of things she could and couldn't tell me. Unlike the buskers in Jackson Square, who aren't legally allowed to charge for their services and therefore can take only voluntary donations, Catherine is an "official" psychic, paying taxes under that career title and everything. She keeps regular hours, and all major credit cards are accepted.

I held out my hand, and Catherine placed her magnifying class over it. Her first words, as she examined my palm, were, "You speak your mind. Some people don't like you for that." Julie and Kristina, both well aware of the number of times the word "blunt" has been used to describe me, immediately burst out laughing. I hadn't said more than ten words since I entered the place, so at that point, I just looked back at Catherine in wonder, thinking, "Holy Shit. She is actually for real. I had better listen up."

Not only did I listen up, but I took notes in my journal as soon as we left, so I wouldn't forget what she had said. This weekend, I dug up that journal to refresh my memory and see how much of what she said panned out.

Some of it was pretty dead-on, but could also have been just a pretty simple guess. She told me, for example, that I'd felt restless and frustrated recently, as though I was searching for something and not even sure what it was--only that I hadn't found it. That was just as true at that reading four years ago as it is today, but you might not need to be a psychic to make that call. She could have just looked down at my ring-less ring finger and thought, "Aren't most single 20- and 30-somethings searching for something?" Maybe single isn't even a factor. Maybe we're all a little directionless. Or maybe that's just me, and Catherine does, in fact, have a gift.

She also told me about a couple upcoming potential business ventures that, in retrospect, I don't think ever materialized. There was the mysterious prediction that a tall, gray-haired man with a name starting with "R" would have an opportunity for me a few months later, and I don't recall ever receiving that offer. She told me it wasn't a good move for me, however, anyway, so I suppose that's just as well.

One thing that was eerily accurate was a prediction about money. "You'll come into some money soon," she said, still holding my hand. "It won't be thousands, but it will be hundreds, and it will be shared among you and some other people." She said I would find out about it via a letter or phone call. Just a few days after returning from New Orleans, I got a call from my mother (who never calls me, by the way), telling me about how she'd closed my recently deceased great-aunt's accounts and was handling the remaining details of the estate. She had already sent pretty large checks to my dead aunt's grandchildren, and she mentioned that she planned to give me and my sisters a few hundred each as well. A month or so later, we each received checks for $300.

Realizing how accurate that prediction was made me a little leery about her relationship-related insights. It still does, actually. Here's a sampling of the things Catherine said in this area...

  • She pointed out that I don't have very good luck in relationships, and that I often wonder what I'm doing wrong or what I did to deserve this. I'm pretty sure I've asked, "What is wrong with me?" at least two hundred times in the past 15 years to my friends or to the mirror, so that one was pretty damn true. She didn't have any better answer than my friends have given, though. "Obviously you're intelligent," Catherine said. "You're not ugly; you're not obese..." Um, thanks, Catherine. Thanks for noticing, I guess.

  • Catherine also said that the men I'm with often seem kind of messed up or "broken," and I feel as though I'm fixing them and sending them off so they can be with someone else more successfully. That wasn't even remotely anything I'd felt in any of my prior relationship attempts at that point, but it is pretty much exactly how I feel about my last boyfriend, who I was already friends with at the time and who I started dating several months later. I am over that relationship, really I am, but I still think his new [near-teenaged] girlfriend owes me a thank you.

  • The last thing she said is the one I still think is too out-there to be at all valid, but given the pretty accurate statements before it, I can't help but wonder about it nonetheless. Catherine told me that my lack of luck in love is not my fault... that it's nothing I've done and is nothing personal against me (which basically blows that bad karma theory I'd been working with for a while). She said it has to do with the women in my father's family, specifically something that happened generations back that is somehow connected with Indian blood. I didn't ask which Indians she meant ("Dots or feathers," as Robin Williams's friend said in Good Will Hunting), but I figured it didn't matter, as I know of neither in my family's past. We are German and Irish people, as white as they come. Even if there was some Indian connection, I doubt I'd be able to track it down now. But since it is, according to Catherine, affecting me pretty significantly, perhaps I should be at least trying to look into it.

Then again, if Catherine was so good, maybe she could have predicted that this trip to New Orleans would be one of the last times I really bonded and had a great time with my now long-lost friend, Julie. Perhaps Catherine could have told me that soon Julie would disappear with her new husband to the farthest reaches of the suburbs and I'd pretty much never see her again.

Or maybe Catherine knew that and just decided to let us finish our weekend together having fun, rather than casting a gray prediction like that on our time. I guess I have to give her credit for that as well.


Anonymous said...

I hope that I did not change and disappear when I got married. I am pretty sure I didn't, although I do think I stopped calling long distance friends as much, but that is due to my billion hour a week job (maybe I'm exaggerating a little) and not due to being married. I still love to hang out with people on the weekend. Which makes me ask, when are we going to meet because if you have met Darren and I am going to meet Grumpy Frump in a few weeks, I feel like we should meet each other since we live much closer than those other bloggers? (That was the longest question ever.)

stefanie said...

Oh, R. I certainly didn't mean to imply that all my married friends vanished when they tied the knot. I do see most of them less than when they were single, but that's to be expected. This friend was the only one I'm a little bitter about. (Obviously we're not in touch much these days, and I am hoping and assuming she will never find this.)

As for your other question... I don't know why neither of us has suggested that yet! We should square something away offline... (I'll send you an email later, OK?)

Guinness_Girl said...

Fascinating! ;) As for the last bit...I dunno. This seems strangely similar to my friend Ashley's reading once, when the lady told her her "romantic aura" was "black" and that she needed to spend $200 cleansing it. Ashley left without paying another dime, but was DISTRAUGHT...and then she got married. You'll find the right man, I promise. Ooh, you should come to philly and see what Psychic Jackie says about all this. ;)

stefanie said...

Oh, that sounds like an excellent plan, GG. I have actually always been curious what another psychic might say...

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can go skating! (That was a joke, in case you can't tell.)

Simone said...

Well that wouldn’t be much better, would it, to have some reason hundreds of years in the past as to why you are unlucky in love. (Although interestingly I discovered I’m directly descended from an English woman who was kidnapped by the French Canadians/Indians and was brought to Quebec where her English surname was Francized - I know that’s not the right word - and she married a French Canadian man…I had no idea there was any English in there.) ANYWAY, I think you should just go with strictly there’s nothing you’ve done and leave the craziness of the past out of it!

stefanie said...

You're right; I know. Wouldn't it make you wonder, though, considering how many other things she said were dead-on??