Posts Tagged ‘Psychic’

I think I’ve mentioned before that Mom got deeply involved with psychics. Like a lot of things in her life, it went in cycles – sometimes she’d be very into it, maybe for months or a year. Then she’d decide (seemingly randomly) that they “didn’t know anything” and she’d quit going. But when she was into it…she was into it. Weekly sessions, the whole nine yards.

We were driving through town, and Mom noticed a building with a sign out front: Readings by Ann. She practically pulled the car over right away.

Mom: That’s the psychic from the beach! The one that knew everything!

I was skeptical. The psychic Mom had met so many years ago (see this post) had grown to legendary proportions. Mom had difficulty keeping most conversations straight – she would frequently add stuff that wasn’t said or didn’t happen, citing it as fact. Almost everything that happened since, Mom would nod to herself in affirmation.

Mom: The psychic said this would happen.

Me: Oh, really?

And then I’d hear Mom repeat (supposedly verbatim) a long conversation between her and the psychic – such conversations were usually cryptic and vague. I could often tell when something she was saying had the ring of truth to it – which was rare. The things Mom reiterated to me were not things normal people would say, at least outside of movies or something. Anyway…if you compiled all Mom’s stories from this psychic, you’d probably have easily 3 or 4 hours of material. And the session itself lasted probably 45 minutes. I wasn’t even sure this psychic’s name had been Ann –  I hadn’t paid that much attention, though.

We were met at the door of the office by what I can only describe as a decrepit gypsy woman. She had a head scarf, a cane…the whole works. I remembered the psychic Mom had seen before as being much younger. Still, she was convinced.

We sat down in a sparse room at a small table. This lady was laying on the schtick pretty hard – she even had an accent and a crystal ball. I had researched psychics of course – had read several books about the hustles that are often played on unsuspecting victims (a segment of the population my mother was about to join). She didn’t have to work her game very hard, though…Mom was so open and suggestible it wasn’t even funny. After talking with us some, and gazing into her crystal ball (I almost cracked up here, but somehow I kept a straight face) she sat  back, apparently exhausted by her efforts.

Psychic: No guuut.

Mom was sitting on the edge of her chair.

Mom: What do you see?!

Psychic: I haff berry bad noos.

Mom: Bad news…?

She said something that even I couldn’t follow – it sounded like Foot Woman. I couldn’t imagine what she could be talking about, but with her fake accent, it could have been anything. Mom asked her to repeat it.

Psychic: A Futona. A curse. You haff a curse.

I could see the panic in Mom’s eyes.

Psychic: Is why you no successful. Is why you fail. Someone curse you, you see?

I half expected her to fork her fingers and spit through them. Meanwhile, Mom was practically beside herself.

Mom: What do I do!? How do I get rid of it?

Psychic: Is berry powerful. But I know how to do. But I must meditate. Come back later tonight. I tell you what to do.

The psychic refused payment from Mom – something I was initially impressed by, but which I later learned was just a “hook” in a confidence scam. At home, Mom was practically pacing.

Mom: Do you think she’ll really know what to do? What if the curse is too powerful?

Me: I dunno. I don’t know that we’re cursed, Mom.

Mom: But it explains so much! And didn’t she say…

And then she spun off into a whole part of the conversation that the psychic most definitely did not say. I was sitting right there. Still, I knew better than to argue – she never listened. When we returned after dark, the place was obviously closed. The gypsy lady unlocked the door and led us in.

Psychic: I haff seen what I need to do. You must bring me four white candles. A red scarf. A lock of your hair. And $20, all in 5’s.

I wanted to laugh, but Mom was enraptured and the gypsy lady was so freaking serious. Even I was a little taken in.

Psychic: Bring to me tomorrow, at dusk.

Still, she refused actual payment from Mom – she claimed she was doing this out of good will. We were so bad off, evidently, that she just wanted to help.

When Mom returned the following day, the meeting was short. The gypsy insisted that she had to do her “work” in private. Days passed, and we heard nothing. As per usual, Mom left countless messages on her machine – pleading for an update. Finally, we got a call…she wanted to see us.

Psychic: Is difficult to break, this ting. I try very hard, but I no can yet. Is more difficult than I ever imagine.

Mom: What do we do?

Psychic: Is another way. Give me again four white candles, a red scarf, and $40, in 10’s.

This hit a bit of a nerve with Mom – spending money usually did. I don’t think she picked up on the fact that she was being had, exactly, but I think she understood that the price for fixing the “curse” had gone up.

Mom: Why did the price go up?

Psychic: Is not price. You must understand, I give as offering. I do not keep.

Mom: Why can’t it be $20, like before?

Psychic: Because the denomination must increase, to show our sincerity.

Somehow, this washed with Mom. I had no illusions that this woman was sacrificing the money or giving it to charity.  We left to buy some candles and a scarf, and Mom forked over the money. This time, the psychic asked for payment.

Psychic: Is berry difficult, dis work I do. I giff you all my attention, no time for other clients.

Mom peeled off another $20, and handed it to her. The gypsy gratefully accepted it.

We had to wait, but not as long this time. The gypsy needed to see us urgently – could we come right away? Mom, of course dropped everything and booked it to this lady’s office.

Psychic: I haff good news. I am almost done. There are only a few more steps to complete. But things are getting more serious…

I knew where this was going, even if Mom didn’t. Four white candles, a red scarf…

Psychic: …and $80, in 20s.

Mom wasn’t terribly happy, but after further assurances that this would break the curse – along with a generous donation to the gypsy herself, of course – Mom went along.

I could bore you with details, but it was all so similar – the same thing happened again and again, until we started to hit the $400 mark. Mom was getting visibly agitated, and the psychic asked to see her immediately – urgent news from the spirit world.

Mom: I’m not doing this. This is too much.

Psychic: It must be done! We are so close…

Mom: How much more expensive is this going to get?

Psychic: I only do vat spirits tell me. Close, berry close.

Mom: Isn’t there some cheaper way to do this?

Psychic: It is berry powerful curse. It takes great sacrifice to undo.

Mom reluctantly forked over the cash.

Mom: This is it. That’s all there is. I want it broken this time.

The psychic nodded, and then had the cajones to ask for another “donation”. Mom angrily refused, which started a minor shouting match between the two of them (mostly it was Mom yelling, and she quickly quieted down and apologized. Evidently she didn’t think it was wise to piss off the person who held your spiritual well being in her hands).

We got absolutely no word from the gypsy lady, and Mom was getting nervous and pissed. She started staking out the office, looking for a chance to talk to her. When it finally came, the results were unsurprising – the psychic wanted yet more money. This was the worst and most difficult curse she had seen in her long and illustrious career. For a mere $1,000 (and a generous donation) she was sure – absolutely sure – it would be broken for good. Mom practically burst a vein. I feel the need to reiterate that it wasn’t that she didn’t think this stuff was real – she most definitely did – but she felt it ought to be able to be done cheaper, if not more efficiently. Mom refused to fork over the money. They shouted at each other, but I did my best to extract myself from the situation. I walked out of the office into a small living room, where I waited for it to be over. I noticed that the gypsy’s accent disappeared when she started yelling. I can’t say I was surprised. She probably wasn’t even as old as she pretended to be.

For months, Mom brought up things that I am positive the psychic never said. In fact, she insisted that the psychic cursed her for not giving her more money.

Mom: She said she would trade places with us! She said she would become successful and we would become poor! Is that even possible?

Me: I doubt it, Mom.

I wasn’t sure I even believed in curses – at least not ones delivered by fake gypsies. But Mom fretted, and the conversation that they supposedly had elongated like taffy. We eventually returned to the office, but it was closed. We discovered that she owed taxes or something, possibly even had committed some crimes. We also heard conflicting stories regarding her fate – she was either arrested or skipped town. My money was on the latter.

Mom: She said that the only way to undo it would be to find her again. And she said I’d never find her!

She scoured the phone book, and even went driving to different towns, hoping to find a sign with this woman’s name on it. I pointed out that “Ann” may not even have been her real name (I was convinced now that this person was a criminal) and besides…how many people in the world are named Ann?

I tried to assure her that it was bullshit, but it was like sticking my finger in a leaky dam. I knew that my words had no effect on whatever waves were boiling inside her brain. And I knew that, eventually, she’d get caught up in another psychic – or at the very least pursue another exhaustive search. I had to address the issue on and off with her for quite a while before she dropped it. I was hopeful that it was over, but I knew that could never actually be the case. That’s the thing about being right in a case like this – when your suspicions are confirmed, it’s neither a surprise nor a cause for smug celebration. It’s like a doctor trying to find a cure for a disease, and he’s all too aware that what he’s working on is definitely not it. He hopes, yes, because hope keeps you going. But when the results come back as another failure, he meets it with a wry smile and takes cold comfort in having his theory validated after all.

Special thanks to Bad Books for inspiring the title.


When I was about 10, we went on our first (and last) actual vacation as a post divorce family. I’m not sure what prompted it, exactly, but I think Uncle Carlo’s death had something to do with it. Mom was having a hard time adjusting and needed to get away – she felt that our only ally in “The War” was gone, and we would never get accepted by the Mafia. What do sad, confused, mentally ill mothers do when worried about such things? They go to Disney World.

Uncle Dave lived down there too – he was my mom’s half brother. He was a cool guy, and to me is a last link to my Grandfather. He looks a lot like him, and even talks a bit like him too. We decided to make it a nice, 2 week trip.  I had been very successful and we could afford to take some time off (granted, this whole shindig was on my dime – even though I got to make very few of the decisions about the trip itself). We loaded Grandma, Tim, Mom and myself onto an Amtrak train and went down. It was decided that we would visit MGM Studios – this is what Disney’s Hollywood Studios used to be called back in the day. Now that I think about it, that may have been a big reason for the trip – Uncle Carlo used to be a bigwig at MGM, and Mom may very well have felt she might find a “message” there. She certainly seemed to feel we were related to Arthur Freed – a famous producer from old Hollywood who helped get the Wizard of Oz made into a film (he did Singin’ in the Rain, among other things). We may very well have been – there was a whole set of cousins who shared his last name. She seemed to feel that she might get some more information about him from the theme park. Yeah. I know.

Anyway, almost as soon as we hit town, Mom starts cruising the main drag to get the lay of the land. All of a sudden she pulls over. I notice she’s thinking intently and gripping the steering wheel. My first thought was that Dad had somehow followed us – I checked behind us and saw no one. I shook Mom’s shoulder because she seemed to be trancing out.

Me: What’s going on, Mom?

Mom: Stay in the car.

She pulled into a parking lot and hopped out. She walked to a building that had a lot of neon signs out front, as well as arcane symbols. What do upset, confused, and mentally ill mothers do when they’re worried about the future? They go to psychics. It was just some $5 palm reading place, but she took it so serious. She popped her head out and gestured for me to follow her in. I did so, and sat patiently in the waiting room. I believed in the power of psychics – or at least the supernatural – because Uncle Richard and I had multiple conversations about such things. He assured me that there were more things in heaven and earth than I could possibly conceive of. I agreed. Still, I didn’t think any answers would be found from a $5 palm reading, and I didn’t like how serious Mom was being about the whole thing. During the course of our stay, she made several appointments – I think she went back a total of 4 times. I don’t know what was talked about – for some reason I wasn’t entrusted any further than the waiting room. Mom talked a lot about what the psychic told her, but the conversations were fluid and constantly changing. One minute, the psychic said only such and such a thing. The next, entire dialogues popped up. As usual, Mom was “adding” stuff to the conversation in her head and thinking it was real. I started catching onto this phenomenon rather quickly – she did it all the time with Russ, after all. Whenever I called her on it, though, she got really pissed off.

The other eventful thing about the trip was that Mom insisted I go to this acting seminar. I thought that was totally asinine. You got to audition in front of a “real director” for Nickelodeon who gave you tips on what to do. You’d learn all about improv and the acting business as well. I protested – why in the hell did I need this? I was already working. Mom thought it might land me a “break” – God knows why – and plunked down the few hundred dollars that it cost to get me in. Somewhat amusingly, the director didn’t seem to think I had what it took to be an actor.

Mom was always looking for an angle – whether it was trying to get me into ridiculous seminars like that one or pyramid schemes. She was always looking for a quick way to make money or to hit the big time. I told her over and over again, even as a kid – there’s no quick way. It’s a myth. Work hard, do your best, and you’ll be successful. If she spent half the time working hard that she did on trying to find ways to get rich quick, she’d have been very well off. While we were down there, she attended several seminars  that were clearly pyramid schemes. She drug me along, and I was bored as hell. I tried to read, but she would nudge my shoulder and make me listen. I could see the speaker was bullshit from 10 feet away.

Speaker: Do you want to live the life you’ve always dreamed? Have money in your pocket? Travel the world?

The crowd shouted it’s affirmation.

Speaker: I can’t hear you!

The crowd shouted louder.

Speaker: Well on my plan, you can do all that! It’s a simple system – it’s so easy to learn that anyone can do it. If you’re willing to work just one hour a week, you can quit your job and be rich!

I’m still unclear as to what exactly he was peddling. For all I know, he was selling the secret of turning lead into gold. Mom was one of the first in line after the speech, trying to get more information. Turned it out was some package – I think it might have been a book or some tapes – that showed you how to get money. She started arguing with him.


Speaker: Yes ma’am, but it’s not just a book. It will change your life!

Mom: Can’t you just tell me what to do?

Speaker: Well, the nice thing about this is, you have the full support of my team. If you buy the book, we’re always available to answer any questions you might have on your journey to riches.

Mom: Is there a cheaper plan?

Speaker: Well, I can offer you a $750 plan, but it doesn’t include the help.

Mom: How am I supposed to do it without help?

Speaker: Then you need the $1,500 plan.

Mom: But that’s stupid. I’m not paying that much.

Speaker: The advice is invaluable!

Mom: Do you know how much we make?

The speaker was getting annoyed.

Speaker: How much?

Mom: Thousands. A lot. He acts for a living. We don’t need this shit.

She grabbed my arm.

Mom: Come on, Dan, we’re leaving. He was rude.

I’m not sure what she expected – nobody gives away get rich quick tools for free. That’s how they get rich.

After maybe the 4th or 5th day there, we got a call from my agent. Evidently a client had called and wanted to book me directly, no audition. The commercial was for Chuck E. Cheese – it was a voice over, but it was going to be national net. It was expected to run very well – I’d make thousands. There wasn’t much of a discussion – we flew back early the next day, ran into the city, and did the job. When I was a kid, flying used to mess with my ears horribly and by the time we landed in the city I had a sore throat and messed up ears. Even sick, though, I knocked it out of the park. Looking back, I wonder if it was actually worth it from a financial standpoint to buy last minute plane tickets and jump through all the hoops we did to get back for the booking. I guess it was. I was kind of pissed that we had to cut the vacation short, though.

Mom: You can have a life or you can be successful. You can’t have it both ways.

Me: So this means we don’t get vacations and stuff?

Mom: You’re on call 24/7. That’s how it works.

And it’s true – I was almost like a doctor. Checking my pager, calling my agent from payphones to check in or (later, when the technology was there) having my phone on all the time so I’d be available for that last minute call.

One thing I am happy about though, is that I did get to go to Disney. I spent some time with Mom there, of course, but I also got to hang out with Grandma. I’m happy we did this, because it’s still one of my fondest memories of her. She had a heart condition and couldn’t go on most of the rides – she sat on benches a lot and waited for me to get off the rides. We did go on the Jungle Cruise together, though, and we had a great time. She had a blast looking at the hippos and whatnot. Even some two decades later, I still remember her clearly in her green sun dress and oversized granny glasses while we waited for the boat. To me, that’s worth the trip.

I’ve always been intrigued by Arthurian Legend – I sometimes imagined that I was a child Arthur, destined for greatness. If I was Arthur, though, Uncle Richard was my Merlin. He probably would have demurred at the thought had I spoken it aloud to him, but it didn’t make it any less true – not to me, at least. He consoled us when Uncle Carlo passed – offered encouraging words, and thoughtfully quoted Shakespeare.

Uncle Richard: Golden lads, and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers come to dust.

I understood, and appreciated it. It just pissed Mom off – possibly because she didn’t understand it (most art was well out of her intellectual reach). Russ was the polar opposite. When we told him of Uncle Carlo’s passing, he scratched his chest and shook his head.

Russ: Pretty big bummer, huh?

Mom panicked in the weeks and months after Uncle Carlo’s death – she was concerned that The Agreement wouldn’t come to fruition. She constantly called Russ and fretted – left obscenely long messages on his machine, or gave him ridiculously long letters. That man had to go through answering machine tapes like water. I remember her calling back after leaving a long message (maybe a 20 minute message) and being dismayed that the machine ran out of tape in the middle of her second one. Such was life. She insisted up and down that I was the Chosen One (not her words, exactly, and not how she would have phrased it – but essentially that’s what it meant) and that I was going to be backed if The Agreement went through.

She began to seek out psychics for advice. Not that I necessarily disbelieve that psychic power exists, but I am well aware that the field is well populated by charlatans and frauds. Particularly if you were to walk off the street and pay $25 for a palm reading. If I ever get a psychic reading, I want to know the person is legit – I want good references. Anyway, we went to the beach one month and Mom decided to stop in to one of those boardwalk places. She decided to do so because the intersection where the psychic was located had the same name as the street Russ’s studio was on. Surely, this was a sign. She went in, paid her money, and I sat in the waiting room reading. It was a typical place for that sort of thing – lots of beads and crystals and strange looking artifacts. I nodded politely to the psychic when she emerged with Mom, who looked positively thrilled.

Mom: She said that R.P wants to come back to me, and he’s really trying. And that Uncle Carlo’s spirit is in transition – and that he’s going to help us as soon as he gets to the spiritual plane.

Me: Uh huh.

Mom: And she said that you’re going to be huge. She said if things happen one way, you’re going to be a Garth Brooks. If things happen another way, you’ll have a band and be like a John Lennon.

Me: Really?

Mom: Yeah.

I took it in stride, but I would be lying if I told you my ego wasn’t at least a little inflated. I was not only a Boy Genius, but going to be the next John Lennon – who wouldn’t get a big head? I knew, of course, that a lot of psychics make general pronouncements (“Do you know anyone that has died?” etc) and we attribute meaning to those things which gives them something to work off of. I even bought a book once and tried my hand at “reading” people – it’s actually rather easy. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure I believed everything the psychic had supposedly said (besides…it came from Mom who misheard, misinterpreted, and misremembered conversations on a regular basis), but Mom believed. And I wanted to believe. Besides, it was nice to think Uncle Carlo was looking out for us. I guess, in a way, that’s kind of what faith is. You know there’s a possibility – even a probability – that it’s all bullshit. But you believe because you want to, or you don’t have a choice. Back then, I had a lot of faith.