A New Yorker Trapped in Los Angeles
“What’s your sign?” he asks, as he’s asked people a thousand times before.
“No parking,” I reply, as I’ve replied a thousand times before at Los Angeles parties.
“Very funny. So what’s your sign?”
“You should be able to tell me what my sign is, if that stuff means anything.”
“You probably didn’t believe Nostradamus’s predictions when you lived in the middle ages,” he continues unfazed.
“Oh, so now we’re into reincarnation,” I say. “Perhaps I’ve been inflicted upon you because of your bad karma.”
“I was a dog in ancient Egypt,” says a woman munching on a carrot stick.
I look at her to see if she’s grinning or something. She’s not. There seems to be no escaping these people in La La Land. I can see the Statue of Liberty waving at me to come home where I belong, and escape the clutches of California Metaphysical Fruitcakes (CMFs).
“I’m not quite sure what kind of dog I was,” adds the Carrot Lady. “But I’ve been doing research on what kinds were common back then.”
Others in the group nod wisely and sympathetically, while I resist the temptation to ask her whether she had been housebroken, or whether they had canned dog food in ancient Egypt.
“That stuff about astrology has been disproved by science time and again, honest to guru,” I venture to Horoscope Man. “It’s all a bunch of Taurus.”
“Science can’t prove or disprove anything with absolute certainty,” he says. “The very act of examining a phenomenon changes it.”
“We all create our own reality,” a lady nursing a Perrier chimes in. “I’m creating you right now. I created the medium. I created the spirit entities. So therefore I’ve created everything.”
I look around for a little man with a big net. When I turn back to the Perrier Lady, I suddenly realize she bears a striking resemblance to Shirley MacLaine.
At this point, perhaps sensing a soul in need of saving, the Carrot Lady offers to read my palms, my tea leaves, my aura, my horoscope, and my tarot. As a wave of utter disinterest washes over me, I reflect on the fact that Los Angeles has 15 metaphysical bookstores and is the place you can get your car repaired through an “Astral Mechanix” that will do a full astrological profile of your car based on the time it left the manufacturer (using the engine block number). You also get a set of instructions on psychic healing exercises for your car.
Girolamo Cardano would have been at home in L.A., he being the 16th century mathematician, doctor and astrologer, whose faith in astrology reputedly led him to commit suicide so that he might die on the very day predicted by his horoscope. Hmmm, could that possibly catch on here?
The Perrier Lady now delivers a lecture for my benefit on aromatherapy, colortherapy, ayurveda, hypnotherapy, meditation, sound therapy, candles, crystals, hot-sesame-oil massages, herbs, herbal steam therapy, astanga yoga, spas, yantra yoga, acupressure, tao yoga, scrying, kundalini yoga, venus kriyas, tantric yoga, goddess worship, angi yoga, numerology, bokomaru, vegetarianism, tai chi chu’an, tai chi qi gong, circle dances, Indian sweat cabins, mantras, zen sheshin, ESP, precognition, and other sacred shrines visited by spiritual hypochondriacs.
As I fade in and out of consciousness, I hear the word “oneness” five times, “unity” six times, “spiritual” eight times, “healing” and “holistic” eleven times each, and “energy” twenty-one times. I am promised that I’ll unlock my inner awareness, harmonize my chakras, make the mind-body connection, open up to my higher power, heal internal organs and emotional problems, be elevated to another astral plane, and achieve Nirvana.
The Perrier Lady is smiling, the smile of a saleswoman who knows secrets that are good for you.
What did I do in my previous life to deserve this?
I am already half out the door, heading for LAX … any flight destination Big Apple, as long as the pilot doesn’t believe in reincarnation.
This is a chapter from Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire by William Blum.