By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo James BunoanI. WHAT I BELIEVED BEFORE TODAY
Among other outrages to reason, I didn't believe in ETs, ghosts or spirits; the power of crystals, burning sage or salt; transmigration of souls; transubstantiation; reincarnation; a God of the Old or New Testaments; swapping spit; the reanimation of the dead; virgin births (Greek, Mesopotamiam or Jewish); mountains that come to prophets; the healing properties of crystal singing bowls or magnets; life after death; the Kryon; angels; dream catchers; witchcraft; astrology; numerology; breatharianism; the inherent moral superiority of tribalism; Gaia; Atlantis (except as a Garden Grove theme park); the predictive capacity of Ouija boards and Tarot cards; graphotherapy; touch therapy (including but not limited to Reiki); chakras; the medicinal power of drinking my own urine under any circumstances; aromatherapy; baptism (infant or otherwise); praying before meals; alchemy; or drumming. I remain skeptical of such words as "ancient," "traditional," "pre-modern," "primitive" or "mystical" when used as approbative adjectives in any conversation about the preceding categories.
I did not believe in feng shui.
I did not believe that psychics can talk with the dead or "pick up" "vibrations" or "read" "energy."II. HOW WELL I KNEW FENG SHUI PSYCHIC SHARI CLEMENS BEFORE THAT FIRST PHONE CALL
Not at all.III. THE LOGISTICS OF THAT FIRST PHONE CALL
I called Shari Clemens from the world headquarters of OC Weekly in Costa Mesa, California. I used a Plantronics headset driven by two Eveready AA batteries while dialing an Executone phone. Clemens answered on a cell phone of unnamed manufacture and reasonable voice quality.IV. HOW LONG WE SPOKE BEFORE CLEMENS BROACHED A VERY PERSONAL SUBJECT
As long as it took to ask why she believes my friend's house is built atop an ancient Indian burial ground.V. THE VERY PERSONAL SUBJECT SHE BROACHED
"Have you and your wife been arguing a lot recently?" she asked.
We had, I admitted. The words felt like broken glass in my throat.
"And you've been having headaches," she said. This wasn't a question.
"You've got a new knife or a letter opener or something," she said.
I patted my desk like a blind man. "No," I said. "Not here."
"Not on your desk," she said. "At home."
I thought for a moment. Knives? Letter openers? At home?
She was insistent. "Someone recently gave you a gift, a knife, something sharp," she offered.
[. . .]
"Within the last few weeks, someone gave you a knife," she said.
"Yes," I told Clemens, suddenly remembering that in mid-June, my dad came by my house. He had just returned from scattering his Uncle Jim's ashes in the chiaroscuro mountains around Seattle. He handed me Uncle Jim's silver pocket knife and, in a kind of 30-second ceremony, said he knew I'd loved Uncle Jim.
I related the story to Clemens.
"Get rid of the knife," she said. "There's a lot of sadness associated with that knife. I don't know why exactly—I might if I look at it—but . . . I don't know whether your uncle hunted, cleaned a fish with it or whatever, but that knife is the source of trouble between you and your wife. Get rid of it."
I did not require more convincing on this matter. That night, I moved the knife to a remote spot in my garage, handling it like plutonium.VI. OTHER THINGS CLEMENS SEEMED TO KNOW ABOUT ME, THOUGH WE WERE TALKING BY PHONE
After the revelation of the knife, Clemens asked me to close my eyes and imagine myself at the foot of my bed at home. I did. She proceeded to make the following observations:
• That I sleep on the right side of a king-size bed.
• The precise construction of my wife's nightstand ("a small table with a round on top and fabric draped over it").
• What my wife was reading at the time ("Tell her to get rid of the self-help book").
• When I denied that I was reading horror, she kept at me, insisting that the book on my nightstand was too dark for bedtime reading (I was reading Isaac Babel's complete short fiction, including stories about the rise of Bolshevism, the decline of Soviet Jewry, and dark foreshadowing of Babel's own arrest and brutal execution by Stalin's Cheka gunmen).
Clemens soon pointed out that: (a) Uncle Jim lived in Seattle; the knife causing marital discord had come from Seattle, too; (b) I have a friend whose troubled relationship to a house in Seattle had just ended (I do). That my aging wooden desk in my office at the Weekly fit the Seattle pattern, too. (Indeed, I bought it because it was, according to the seller, a desk belonging to a long-dead editor of the Seattle Times.)VII. SYMPTOMS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING CLEMENS' SEEMING TELEPHONIC AWARENESS OF PRIVATE DETAILS OF MY LIFE
Freaked-out, sweating, nausea, headachy, creeped, rubbing my throat to relieve the muscular tension, at which point Clemens stopped talking about a wooden lamp and said:
"What's wrong with your throat?"
"Whaddya mean?" I asked.
"I'm picking up that there's something wrong with your throat," she said.
I looked over my shoulder to see if, by chance, someone had installed a micro-camera in my office. Nope.VIII. OTHER EXPLANATIONS I CREATED TO ACCOUNT FOR CLEMENS' SEEMING TELEPHONIC AWARENESS, ETC.