Admit One

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ProjectorI love movies. There are some I could watch over and over. The way they make me feel is hard to describe. But sometimes, during certain moments, they have an ability to bring me to a point where everything just feels right. Movies are able to awaken old feelings, old memories. Some are able to pinpoint an emotion or an event or a moment that is so relatable or reminiscent, and it allows me to relive it in my heart and mind. Sometimes while I’m watching, I become self-aware that I’m caught up in the moment and I think: I LOVE this feeling I’m having right now…this sublime moment…and wish I could live my life in it forever. I wish I could somehow bring that moment into my real life and genuinely live it that way, feel it, revel in it… to keep that feeling around. Perhaps maybe learn a way, at the very least, to recall it at will. That short segment of make-believe feels so good. And I just want the movie to continue indefinitely, despite knowing the end is coming…but, please, not right now. Just let me have a little bit more. *sigh* But in order for the it to be fulfilling, the story must progress to its denouement. As must we all.

“I hope they call me Henry when I die.”  — James Brennan (Adventureland – 2009)

My Relationship With Religion

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wallup.netMy parents enrolled my sister and I in a parochial school in Las Vegas called Saint Christopher Catholic School. I was a student there from second grade until eighth grade. I remember having Religion as a daily class. Then I recall that on Fridays the teachers would line us up, arms-length apart, and march us from the school, across the parking lot to the church. Learning religion and going to church was just part of my life. I never gave it a second thought. God was all around: omnipresent, keeping watch over our deeds, words and thoughts. After finishing 8th grade, my parents gave my sister and I the choice of continuing a religious education at Gorman High School, the only Catholic high school in Las Vegas at the time. I don’t remember my reaction but I do know one thing: I did not want to go to a Catholic high school. So public school it was.

Our household growing up wasn’t particularly religious, at least that’s how I remember it. My mother, being Filipino, was raised in a very devout Catholic family. My father however, didn’t bring any sort of religious leaning to our family of four.

Once I was no longer affiliated with St. Christopher’s or any other church, I pretty much never went back. For a few years my mother was able to convince us to go to church on the big holidays: Christmas and Easter. But that didn’t last very long as working full-time while going to college and participating in whatever other interests and activities I had at the time really left little to no room for church. And to be completely honest, I had no interest in pursuing a religious lifestyle. I’d had eight years of religion classes and church…that was enough for me.

Fast-forward through young adulthood and my 30s. I was busy with work, college, dating and miscellaneous other things that kept my life occupied enough that I didn’t think about God much. More specifically the existence of God. I just cruised through my life, distracted from religion but in my default mode: God existed.

So when did I begin to question religion and the existence of God? It’s hard to pinpoint. But it might have gotten its roots back when I was a student of fine art at UNLV. For me, the two most important things that I learned from studying art were: 1) critical thinking, self-reflection and honesty were the best ways for me to create meaningful images; 2) find my own answers to whatever questions I may have. I was actively painting and drawing up until my early 30s at which point work began demanding the lion’s share of my time and my desire for making art quickly diminished until at last I created none.

However, it wasn’t until my 40s when I started becoming interested in politics and the news of the world. Up until then, I lived a blind life, really. I always had a job, a place to live, a working car. I only had “first-world problems” and was absorbed enough in living the American life that I didn’t pay much attention to the real hardships other peoples of the world faced. To the best of my recollection, that’s when I started critically thinking about religion as an organization. I started realizing that much of the world’s conflicts are based on different religious ideology. Now, I’m not a student of religions. Nor am I a student of history. So I must also state that my point of view of all the world’s discord was based on what western media provided me, and filtered through my western sensibilities. So to say that I understand all of what’s going on in the world would be ridiculous statement and a huge mistake. But in general terms I was coming to my own conclusions as a result of all the things I was learning about the world.

With regard to religion, I was seeing appalling hypocrisy. I was seeing extreme violence in the name of God. It was becoming clear to me that organized religion was used as a tool to control and/or oppress populations. At that point I deduced that religion was not holy at all, but just a man-made scheme to wield power. After all, the scriptures weren’t written by the hand of God, they were written by men with the claim that they were divinely directed. Am I to believe only because I was told and taught to believe? As a rational adult and a thinking man, I need proof. But there is no proof.

With regard to God, I was asking myself how there could be such widespread hatred, horrifying violence on a grand scale, and inhumane acts perpetrated on entire races of people, yet God never stepped in to wield his ultimate powers of good in order to help the oppressed or to save the lives of the innocent. I started seeing that this is a very hands-off sort of God. His “mysterious ways” and “divine plan” didn’t make sense to me as I saw no evidence of it. Despite making genuine attempts to pray for unambiguous answers, I got only one. And believe it or not, it came to me in a fortune cookie. That’s no joke. And it came just a couple of days after praying. But although it felt like a real answer, it was only that one time. I have not been able to repeat it. Therefore it could have been just coincidence. In science, something can’t be definitively considered proven unless the experiment can be repeated and the same answer achieved. But over the years, there’s been mountains of reasons not to believe in the existence God.

Religion teaches us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and has endless love and compassion. But I don’t see it that way anymore. He seems narcissistic, closed-minded and not the powerhouse as advertised. I wonder: why does God condemn us as sinners right from the womb? If he loves all of his people, why does he condemn the LGBTQ community? And since the Bible brands this community as sinners, then the hypocritical “Christians” feel they are given full license to hate them, on behalf of God, of course. That’s God’s work they’re doing (please read with all the thick sarcasm intended). Why are religious leaders always telling us to believe, regardless of what the facts reveal? They call it “faith” and they sling that word around like it has magical powers. The religious faithful are staunch in their support of these leaders, in some cases to the point of fanaticism and radicalism.

But I do need to remember that much of the teachings of religion are good. I need to remember that, when a man persecutes or commits violence against his fellow man in the name of his religion, it’s still just a man committing these abominable acts and not religion itself. People are imperfect and may have an unhealthy relationship with religion, misinterpret religion’s purpose, or just have a fucked up belief system.

One of the teachings I can totally get behind is that of “love your fellow man.” But that’s not a lesson invented by God. I believe human beings are hardwired to need each other, to treat each other with compassion and to love one another. I believe that’s an inherent trait of the human animal. I don’t believe that love and compassionate behavior is instilled in us as a result of religious teachings. I believe that those emotions and behaviors are already in us and are strengthened with human interaction, resulting in bonds of family, friendship and respect for others. No religion needed.

This shift in my attitude about faith in God didn’t come overnight. It has been very gradual. It’s the amalgamation of all that I’ve learned and experienced so far. Within the last four months I’ve asked a couple of friends what their view on religion is because I wanted to get some input on how other people think about religion and how they see themselves in relation to it. One was a believer and the other didn’t put much thought into it. I wonder if it’s normal for everyone, especially for those of us who are more advanced in years, to have these thoughts, to take an inventory of our beliefs and to think critically of whether there is a divine power out there. I think there’s a large group of folks who are riding the fence between faith in God and atheism, just like me. Although I feel I have a healthy dose of atheism within me, I find I still have residual religious habits that are still inside me. The biggest example is that, before I drive my car, I routinely say a silent prayer in my head asking for a safe trip. The prayer begins with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen.” That’s definitely a prayer. And I always thank Him upon safe arrival at my destination. The mere fact that I have capitalized “God” and “Him” is another clue that I haven’t fully broken away from my religious background.

But the older I get, the less I can pretend to see the hand of God in the world, if at all.

Renewed State of Beauty

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It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.

– Ricky Fitts (American Beauty – 1999)

Photographs of urban decay, artifacts and discarded objects fascinate me. I’ve been asked why on a couple of occasions and I don’t think I was successful in conveying succinctly the way this particular photographic subject matter makes me feel. Shots of beautiful landscapes are, well, beautiful, but I’m not moved by them. I suppose there are multiple reasons why I’m so drawn to photographs depicting dark, graffitied alleys, abandoned structures, lonely neons signs, and forsaken objects. Whatever their backstory, these unwanted objects or abandoned places have timelines. I would find it fascinating to listen to their stories if only it were possible.

But if I were to describe it, I would say the appeal may be that of voyeurism, a bit of nostalgia, being witness to the gritty byproduct of time passed, romanticized loneliness, and the evidence of things made by human hands, then destroyed by human indifference.

I find it intriguing that every object has a life, and if it were sentient, a point of view. I don’t know if people ever give much thought to the lives of objects. A thing was created with a purpose and so began its narrative. Immediately it was put to use and became part of the lives of those that interacted with it. It could be anything…a dirt road, an office building, a teddy bear, a park bench. But time passes and the object falls out of favor. It was used until it broke. It is now obsolete. Perhaps its function was no longer necessary. I often see discarded things that make me wonder how it lived its life and how it came to be in that spot: a creepy doll head, a single athletic shoe or a discarded reclining chair. The people who once bought and utilized those things are real: Amanda, 5, accidentally dropped her doll out of the car window while her family was driving from San Diego to Anaheim to vacation at Disneyland for the weekend. Joseph, 40, who works in the HR department at the Lowe’s on Rawson and 27th, jogs daily along Lake Michigan and replaces his old Nikes every three months or so for a new pair. Paula, 72, who’s husband, James, passed away four years ago, decided it was time to move from Morgantown, WV to be closer to her daughter in Pittsburgh, even though she hates big city life. James’ Barcalounger was one of the large items left at the curb to be collected by the local Goodwill but two neighborhood boys absconded with it and eventually ditched it in a nearby vacant lot. These are the potential backstories of everyday objects that are now left to languish.

Although perhaps in a diminished capacity, these derelict structures and objects were still functional and probably utilized by the disenfranchised until reaching a point where even those marginalized people no longer found them useful. Yet these places and things still exist. For no purpose now. They still exist. And time continues to abuse them. Eventually we give them different descriptors such as “wreckage” and “garbage” and “junk.” Still they persist. And more time passes. Until the day they become beautiful. Even though they haven’t changed. They’re still broken down. They’re still weathered and neglected. But each discarded object, every derelict building, the forgotten backroads and alleyways, they all have a history, known or unknown. They are personified. They have character. In their broken down state, they are beauty. And I feel lucky to have viewed them, interacted with them. To have connected with them by acknowledging: “I see you.”

Because they are now tucked away from the well-traveled paths, only those that venture into a random, unknown direction will find them. And they will be difficult to find because society will not illuminate them. Society will not point a sign at them. Yet they’re still beautiful, while cloaked in darkness. They do not ask to be viewed. They no longer feel beautiful. But they are beautiful, again.

Trying Stuff

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2016 is nearing its end. I’m not one to make resolutions for the new year. My track record for keeping new year resolutions is abysmal so I quit making them some time ago. But January 1 is a good marker to remind myself to ruminate on the last twelve months. So, like anyone who favors self improvement, I analyze the previous year and come up with two or three goals to accomplish for the year ahead. Usually they revolve around finances and fitness, such as: paying off credit cards, eating healthier, having “X” amount of money in savings, going to the gym at least 3 times a week…blah, blah. All of those things are smart ideas. All of those things are improvements to one’s life. Are they the keys to a happier life? Possibly.

But this year, after giving some thought to what I’m going to try to do differently in 2017, I’ve settled on these three things:

1. Downsize everything.

2. Do creative things.

3. Give compliments.

DOWNSIZE EVERYTHING

I’m not sure how easy this one’s going to be but I really feel like I’ll be the better for it. And I bet it’ll take me the whole year to do it. But my plan to downsize will entail a whole bunch of discarding unneeded clutter such as old paperwork, statements, old clothes and shoes, stuff I thought I’d need but never did, knick-knacks that never got unpacked from my last move, books I’ll never read again, old pots, pans and dishes…you get the picture. I just want to focus on keeping what’s essential, plus the things that add value to my life, and get rid of the rest. Do I really need a TV in every room? No. Do I need three computers? No. As a single person who rents, do I need to live in a 3-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom condo? No. These are all examples of unessential things and a byproduct of living in our current American consumer-based culture. Now if you asked me if I need all the vintage audio equipment, my answer is a solid YES. Although unessential, they are things that bring me joy and therefore add value to my life.

DO CREATIVE THINGS

In a nutshell, this one is me trying to reconnect with my younger self. Back in my 20s and 30s I was studying fine art in college and being creative was who I was. I remember those days as being so satisfying and fulfilling. My mind was full, different thoughts and ideologies were exciting and making art was my focus. During those times, coming up with interesting and meaningful images seemed effortless. Now when I try to come up with an interesting visual, I simply draw a blank. I suspect it’s because I’m less in touch with myself, and I’ve become fearful of representing the true nature of that person via artful expression. Then when I chose to focus on my profession, all those things that come along with adulthood descended upon me. The majority of my waking hours was focused on work. With more money comes more financial responsibilities. With more responsibilities comes more stress. And it perpetuates itself, continually turning like a merry-go-round, only less merry.

Although I like my job and the people I work with, it’s just not fulfilling, which is why “Do Creative Things” is on the list.

GIVE COMPLIMENTS

This is one that I think will be difficult at first because of my shy nature, but has the potential to be the most rewarding. I feel like this one can go in the “Simple Acts Of Kindness” category. Anything that one can do that is a benefit to another person, even something as simple as making them smile, is always the most rewarding, right? I know it’s a small gesture but spreading good energy and warm feelings only generates more of the same. I truly believe that happiness spreads like fire: it multiplies and gains abundance without diminishing the source.

So these are the things I’m going to try to accomplish for 2017. Perhaps with focus and a bit of luck, you’ll be reading an insightful post from me next year recounting how successfully it all went. Or perhaps not. Whatever the outcome it will be a learning experience. For those of you who are also planning some self-improvement goals, or new year resolutions if you prefer that label, I wish you the best!

Note To Self

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birdWhen was the last time you felt completely fulfilled? Completely satisfied? No worries, no wants, no anxiety. I think that feeling is only reserved for children. Movies, books and songs may be our attempts as adults to find that feeling of contentment again. Perhaps it’s our way of chasing that high, even if it’s only for a verse and a chorus.

Catching Up: First Post of 2016

Fair warning: this post will probably lack continuity.

So here we are, one month into the new year and I’m finally writing my first post of 2016. My last entry was way back on October 2, 2015. I’ll admit it: I’m not a committed writer. And I’m going to resist the feeling I have to apologize for it. Nor am I going to enter a blood oath to faithfully keep a writing regimen. If writing were my career, my passion or something at which I aspired to reach great heights, maybe I’d reconsider. But this blog is solely for leisure. It’s to explore some thoughts and opinions, to chronicle a few events in my life…and if the practice makes me a little better at writing, then that’d be great too.

This time last year I mentioned that my best friend Mike had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He’d had his surgery in late January 2015 and was looking at seven months of chemotherapy. That’s where I left off in the story. For the sake of finishing what I started, here’s a brief synopsis of what transpired after that: to my great relief, everything went as well as, or better than, could be expected. There were no complications regarding his surgery. He was able to make it through all seven months of chemotherapy, although he said the last two were extra miserable. A month after chemo he had another checkup to see if there were still signs of cancer. There wasn’t. All the news is good. I’m so happy for him and his family. I simply wouldn’t have known if I would’ve been strong enough to take it if things had gone south. I thank God and the lucky stars for this wonderful outcome!

Unlike new years in the past, I didn’t make any resolutions this year. For me, it’s just a list of crap I end up disregarding anyway. However there’s one thing I need to do, and not because of the new year: get healthy. I just turned 51 a couple of weeks ago. Because of Mikey’s cancer ordeal, I was went in for the first part of a full physical in December. The doctor said my heart sounded good but my blood pressure was on the very high end of the “acceptable” range. He recommended that I start controlling those things that affect blood pressure, such as salt and caffeine intake, and begin some kind of exercise now in order that I may avoid blood pressure medication or at least delay when I might have to start taking them. I quit drinking diet cokes daily. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. I still indulge now and then but now instead of drinking at least one diet soda per day, I might have one or two in a week. I’m hoping to eventually reduce it to none. Thirty-one days into the new year and I’ve yet to do one minute of cardio. Terrible. My next step is to schedule my blood work which will happen in February. I’m hoping that comes back normal. I’m nervous that my prolonged drug use (back when I was that other, imbalanced person) might’ve affected the healthy functioning of some organs. Keeping my fingers crossed for good results.

Another milestone of 2015: my goddaughter turned 15. WTF. The tiny, pink thing is now a wonderful person! And I just love hanging out with her! Ok, let me brag briefly: she’s so smart (she’s in advanced placement English and math); she’s so talented (she plays guitar and piano and was in three bands, although recently she quit two in order to be more focused), she’s so beautiful (you’re probably thinking I’m obligated to say that because she’s my goddaughter but the truth is she is very beautiful); she’s sooo funny (she’s got her father’s sense of humor and I’d like to think I had a bit of influence as well). I get to hang out with her every two or three weeks depending on her schedule. I’ll be going to visit with her as often as possible since I think it’s just a matter of time before she inevitably starts being the typical teen: wanting to be alone in her bedroom; always on her smart phone; out hanging with her friends. Mike and I often talk about how in the hell we’re supposed to get through all the stuff that life’s going to throw at her without jumping in to shield her from it. For instance, she just started dating a boy. So now there’s the joys and heartaches that go along with that, not to mention the tingling body parts! I mean, I’m not even her father and you bet I was trolling all over this boy’s social media trying to glean anything I could to get a sense of the kind of person he is. Good news: he seems like a really nice kid. My anxiety was assuaged. Whew.

So I’m looking forward to 2016 being a year of refocus. I have some tough trials ahead of me that will probably keep me rather poor for the next few years. But it’s critical that I begin taking corrective measures, however difficult, so that I may get these hurdles behind me and starting living like a normal person again. I know this statement is broad and cryptic. It’s purposefully so. To be completely honest would be to expose something of which I’m ashamed. Suffice it to say I’m finally confronting it.

Being Mortal

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autumn-of-your-life

When Mikey was diagnosed with cancer back in January 2015, it was a punch in the gut to me. He was as healthy looking as he’d always looked. But I guess it wasn’t that way on the inside.

His doctor immediately got an oncologist involved and they made a plan to do surgery, then six months of chemotherapy. That time has elapsed and he finished up his chemo in the first week of August. He’s still got some check-ups to do, the last (for this year at least) being in December. If all is well, they will remove the “port” (which is the plug in his chest through which the chemicals were directly pumped) and he’ll only have to go for check-ups every year. I’m so happy and relieved that the cancer was detected when it was and that the chemotherapy worked as hoped.

As a byproduct of his experience, I began watching documentaries on eating for health and aging and death. It’s proved to be very educational but also extremely depressing and scary. I started thinking about the “what if” scenarios such as Mikey not responding to chemotherapy and succumbing to the disease. I was thinking about what his wife and child would do without him and how my role would change in their lives. I thought about what would happen if my sister suddenly got sick and how that would change my role to her and my relationship with my parents. You see, my sister has always been my tether to them. She and my mother are close. Of my two parents, I feel closer to my mother than to my father. I’ve already confessed my relationship with my father in an earlier writing. Then my thoughts wandered to my own aging parents. I can already see their bodies breaking down before my eyes, in their movements, posture, skin and teeth. As of this writing, my mother is five months away from her 75th birthday. My father just turned 74 in September.

A few months ago I watched a FRONTLINE documentary featuring an American surgeon, Dr. Atul Gawande (http://atulgawande.com) who is shedding light on existing hospital procedure and how it deals with how we think about terminal illness, life while dying and eventual death. I was moved by this documentary enough to seek its companion book: Being Mortal (2014). It had some very interesting insights that are not only extremely sad (I broke down into tears on multiple occasions during the reading of this book) but also comforting as well.

In his research and experience, Dr. Gawande tries to tell a story of the different procedures hospitals employ across the nation, the different philosophies of “bedside manner” that individual doctors adopt and, with all these approaches in mind, tries to bring awareness of what he sees as a partially broken system. But he also understands that the system was born of American societal views and the way to fix it also involves changing what people think quality of life means at those end stages.

So while taking in all that’s happened to Mike, watching miscellaneous documentaries and reading the book on aging and end-of-life healthcare, naturally I gave some thought to my own mortality. I’m 50 years old. I’ve got more life behind me than I have in front of me, but what I have left could potentially be another 25 years of decent living. All I need is a healthier lifestyle and a little luck. But aside from the physical aspect of growing old, I also began to think about what my position is on God. And here is where I find a lot of gray area for myself. My mind wrestles with my gut about where I stand on this subject. As with a great number of people, I have some very strong and critical views on God. But I’m more critical with regard to religion and especially those who are fanatical followers of religion.

But I’ll save that subject for another post.

American Idle

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I’ve been watching too much Netflix and too many bootlegged movies lately. I mean, like, a fucking ton. It’s starting to bother me again. I go through cycles where I get so removed from my inner self that I feel disgusted and have to go looking again. I was so proud back in the summer of 2009 when television stations switched from analog to digital signals. So everyone in the U.S. had to either get a digital TV or buy a digital antenna to convert the signal for analog televisions. It was at that point that I decided not to do either.

I’d had it with network television. Reality shows were all — and I mean ALL — that were available for viewing! It turns my stomach just thinking about it. I’ve always claimed it was a nation-wide dumbing down of America. I refused to be a participant. To this day I haven’t watched regular network television. And for a few years I was able to stay off of network TV and pay TV completely…until Kelly turned me on to Netflix. And he did it in such a devious way: he prepaid a full year of it!

Ok, a little background: Kelly is a close friend that I met through mutual college friends about 15 years ago (I’m guessing). He is a freelance architect who’s career moved him from Las Vegas to San Diego, and then to Oro Valley, Arizona where he currently resides. Since his career started in Las Vegas, he has strong contacts in this business circle and therefore still gets a great deal of work here. That, in turn, has him traveling to Las Vegas often. I always offer him my extra bedroom while he’s in town. It’s my way of being a gracious friend, however it turns out that he comes to LV much too often for my patience…but maybe I’ll save that for another time.

On with the story: although Kelly was not my roommate, he was spending a great deal of time in my house working on his projects and taking meetings during the day. It also happened to be during the time I’d cut ties with television. Well, he couldn’t take it. So one day when I came home from work, he was sitting on the couch, working on his laptop…with the TV on. And that was the beginning of my love affair with Netflix. He’d bought the service for a year, mainly so he could have something to watch while he stayed with me. I couldn’t help but watch it too. It had comedies and dramas and sci-fi and horror and adventure and documentaries! But most important of all: it wasn’t reality TV!

I’ve thought about letting the subscription run out but it was only a passing notion. I mean, wtf, it’s less than $10 a month.

But I’ve noticed that I’ve REALLY been watching too much of it. Not only that, movies are so easy to see via the internet. I’ve noticed that I’ll go weeks, literally WEEKS, repeating the same routine: Go to work. Come home. Turn on the TV. Make Dinner. Watch Netflix until bedtime. Repeat. Weeks turn into months until I realize that I haven’t written a goddamn thing or done any other creative endeavor. I’ll look back and see that I’ve got nothing to show for weeks or months of “living.” It’s shameful how unproductive I can be. And I’ve got so much in me if only I had the discipline to bring it out.

Anyway, there it is right there. My rant to try to get me off my lazy ass, to try to shame myself into living a more fulfilling and productive life. Well…

Meh.

The Psychic Smelled Popcorn

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psychicIt was so many years ago but I can still remember a good deal of it. Some parts are just general feelings, some are specific. But it went something like this:

It was a Saturday morning and I was hungover. But I had an appointment to keep. Fuck. Why would I agree to a meeting on a Saturday morning? I was freelancing at the time and I’d promised a friend that I’d meet with their friend about creating a flyer for her business. As the sharp entrepreneur I was at the time, I agreed to do the flyer in trade: I would create a flyer for this woman’s business and she would give me a reading. A psychic reading…the kind with the cards. My momma didn’t raise no fool.

Naturally I laid in bed until the very last minute. No time to shower and it was summer. So I doubled the dosage of Paco Rabanne and jumped in the Nissan.

When I got there I was a little surprised to see that my client, I’ve long since forgotten her name, shared a commercial space with another psychic, possibly two. It was a sliver store in a small strip mall. I was greeted warmly at the door by my psychic and introduced to two other ladies, both of which we smiling pleasantly. I remember being quite nervous: nervous of being 20 minutes late, nervous of meeting new people in unfamiliar surroundings, nervous of the project we were to discuss, nervous that my body odor would breach my Paco Rabanne defense, and nervous that this psychic would see right through my smiling facade and expose me as the life fraud that I am. I might’ve turned up the drama a little bit at the end there, but the way I figure it, you guys stopped reading this post right after you rolled your eyes at “The Psychic Smelled Popcorn.”

Business was first. We talked about what she wanted. All the usual stuff: psychic-themed graphics (whatever the hell that means), description of services, hours of operation, contact information and location map. I suggested we create it 2-up on a sheet so she could save money on printing. That meeting didn’t take long, probably ten minutes. I don’t like long meetings. Besides, my experience designing flyers was long and I was confident I could do hers while standing on my head, blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back.

The reading was next. I put my notebook and cell phone on the floor next to the leg of the chair. She laid a large square of fabric down on her table. It was nicely decorated in dark color designs. Then she started laying the cards out in arrangement.

To be honest, here’s where my memory fails me most. I can’t really remember what she was telling me as she laid the cards out in sequence. I just remember she would say something briefly after laying out three or four cards. I remember she asked me if I had any questions for her. I vaguely remember being too embarrassed to ask her anything. Either way, I can’t remember the results of our conversation at all. But there were a couple of interesting things she told me that I do remember very well.

The psychic said, “I smell popcorn.” To which I quickly responded, “I’m wearing a lot of cologne.” She said, “No, not like that. It’s like a carnival atmosphere. You have some very playful spirits that love to hang around you.” I really liked hearing that. I think they’re still with me to this day.

The only other thing — a disturbing thing — she said to me was that I was allowing something to hold me back. She said it strips my boldness and makes me timid. She said I was allowing someone to impose their will upon me. She said it felt like a woman, someone important to me. The only descriptor she could give was that the woman had a round face, at least that was the impression she felt. “Do you know what it could be?” she said. I was baffled because I felt that the only person it could describe was my mother. It still baffles me to this day as I feel I have a decent relationship with my mother. I don’t view her as a force that controls me. As I think I’ve mentioned before in past posts, I’m not that open with my family and my life as taken its course without much input from them.

As I gathered my notes and cell phone upon leaving, we said our pleasant goodbyes. She smiled and thanked me for agreeing to do the flyer for her. As I was walking toward the door she said, “You have a wonderfully purple aura!” And to her friends, “Just look at that!”

As I recount the story to you, I still can’t figure out the womanly force that I was allowing to hold me back. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, the only thing holding me back is me.