Sunday, April 3, 2011

Palm Saturday

While running a few atypical errands in Queens yesterday, I saw an arresting advertisement for an astrologer. I’ve been to two astrologers in the past decade, my last reading was almost two years ago, and I was due for an update.

I followed the arrows through a door and down a flight of creaky stairs, ending up in the basement of a fabric store. There was a family of four hanging out on some couches. The matriarch asked if I needed some tailoring. “No thanks,” I said. “Where’s the psychic?”

I was hoping that she or one of the smiling daughters would be the psychic. But the astrologer turned out to be the dad, and he led me into a small, ostentatiously-decorated back room. After draping himself with a shawl and lighting some incense, he used some old newspapers to slowly clear off a large pile of uncooked rice from the middle of the table. He asked me how much Hindi I spoke.

The vibe in the room wasn’t one that I wanted. I was terrified that he was going to tell me something really bad about what was in store for me. I’ve been told that no psychic would scare a customer with anything too shockingly distressing, but this guy seemed like a rebel who didn’t believe in standard practices or sugarcoating the truth. He seemed way too much like me, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle it.

There were a couple of fuzzy allusions to God: “God’s around.” Or it could have been: “God’s coming.” Or maybe it was: “God has left the building, but will be back real soon.” He told me to place something on a neighboring table. I thought he was asking for my fist; but he was saying “fees.”

I wrote my name and date of birth on a piece of already-used scratch paper, and he started scribbling underneath the information. He gave me a handful of ceramic cowrie shells and asked me to throw them down on the table. “Again,” he said, after I did. “Again,” he said again. In between throw-downs, he continued scribbling away on the scratch paper. He asked for my left palm. When I showed it to him, his eyes lit up as he half-gasped/half-chuckled before giving me the thumbs-up sign.

That reaction was more animated than what I’m used to, but I wasn’t moved. All fortune-tellers are impressed with my palm – I’ve got good lines. And this one didn’t tell me anything interesting or that I haven’t already heard from the others. One of his first pearls of insight was that I lead a very independent life. Holy crystal ball, we have a Prophet Laureate - his powers really are special. I had just sauntered into his sketchy basement with an unsilenceable American accent, carrying an oversized “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” bag (with the top of a 10-pound burlap sack of basmati rice sticking out of it) over my shoulder in a neighborhood that views the English language as an afterthought. It took the incense, palm lines, and shell-throwing drill to conclude that nobody owns me?

Less than 15 minutes later, I was unceremoniously dismissed. No “thank you for coming” or “have a nice day” or “keep that million-dollar palm clean.” He suddenly lowered his eyes and became uncommunicative. When I turned around to say goodbye, he had come out of his pseudo-trance, graduating to contemplative humming.


  1. I've wasted money on a few "psychics" before. Each of them gave a broad and general reading of "seeing a move" (im a young female, most likely not going to be living in same place forever)or seeing an "older woman spirit" (obviously i have deceased older relatives of grandparent/great aunts).. other than that they probed me by asking questions and gave mumbo jumbo about positive light and energy. I also had a psychic (twice from two different people) tell me that I needed to have my chakras cleansed, all seven of them for $100 a chakra by some cleansing ritual they do. When I declined, I was forewarned that I would be saddled with negative energy for the rest of my life..Maybe I should be a psycic as a side job. Every psychic has also talked about me and "a guy" but always differnt and vague description. Probably 80% of people going to a psychic generally ask about a love life, so they often throw a bone trying to describe a person who may or may not exist.. Never again will I waste my money (at least on a psychic, or "magical" candles or stones)

  2. Ok, I am so gonna try a psychic now just for the entertainment value. I walk past "Madam Sandra" twice daily to get to and from work. I've always wanted to stop, but wasn't so sure I wanted spritual advice from someone operating from the basement level of a building housing a vietnamese nail salon and a bodega. The ladies in the nail salon are kick a** though, best in Columbia Heights. And why are psychics so often in basements?! That's probably the real reason I haven't stopped by. Or maybe it's because I really believe some of them are legit and I'm too afraid to receive anything heavier than fortune cookie predictions.

  3. Maybe try handwriting analysis? I just watched a documentary on Frank Gehry and his mother took him for handwriting analysis before he was ten years old, and he was told that he was going to grow up to be a famous architect!

  4. I would second ggouveia's suggestion of handwriting analysis. Many years ago a new friend at the time, an elderly European female photographer, proved to be an expert handwriting analyst. She analyzed my handwriting, my husband's, and that of a few mutual friends. I was astonished at the accuracy of her analyses.