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
Wow!XI. WHAT WE HAVE DONE TO FENG SHUI
Clemens notes that Americans have done to feng shui what we've done to virtually every other Eastern spiritual import: "We've McDonaldized it," she says, exorcised its soul and repackaged it in ways consistent with a life built around consumption—commodified it as classes, videotapes, clothes, furniture, candles, soaps, incense, lectures, retreats and books such as Feng Shui for Dummies, which is redundant because the American practice of anything remotely spiritual is almost invariably for dummies. Most of the fast-food feng shui is about the hanging of mirrors and wind chimes.XII. WHAT CLEMENS HAS DONE WITH FENG SHUI
Clemens says her design instinct is "more about taking things out of the environment than what we put into it—that's why the voice told me to sell everything." And that "environment includes everything—not just the furniture, but the entire planet. Everything we do, think and say shifts the consciousness of the planet. When we pollute—even a polluted fountain in our home—it's pollution nonetheless."
Feng shui is based upon the straightforward observation that we are not only what we eat with our mouths, but also what we eat with our eyes—and with our other senses. Clemens recalls a girlfriend whose lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary led her to collect every blessed icon she could wherever she traveled and to hang around her home each of these ladies of Lourdes, Guadalupe, Medjugorje and Perpetual Help.
"I asked her, 'When was the last time you got lucky?'" Clemens says. Her friend hadn't been laid in so long she couldn't remember. They laughed—and then boxed up the virgins. Luck soon followed.
On assignment, the things Clemens removes first are the things that give her the creeps. She says her most profound case of the creeps came in West Texas. She and a client went to an antiques store. The owner asked them out to his warehouse in the back. "The moment I went in there, I saw these immense doors, and I practically threw up," Clemens says. "I mean I just turned around and got out of there—and my client, too." It's easy to imagine these two Texas gals barfing under a bleached-out Texas sky out back of an antiques store. Clemens asked the store owner about the doors. The store owner explained that the rustic-looking doors had come recently from Mexico, from a ranch where the local caudillo had overseen the summary lynchings of many, many men. Clemens flew back to California and was sick for a week—"diarrhea, vomiting, the whole ball of wax"—before she called the antiques store owner to tell him what she knew about the bad-mojo doors. He said he was sure sorry, but the doors had been sold.
To whom? Clemens asked.
Couldn't be sure, he said.
You can't remember the names of somebody in West Texas who bought two very expensive doors from you?
Nope, he said.
I'm telling you that those doors made me sick after a second, she told the man. Can you imagine what they'd do to two kids who went in and out of them every day?
I don't know who bought them, he said.
It's your karma, she said.XIII. HOW I CAME TO CALL CLEMENS THAT VERY FIRST TIME
I met Clemens through my friend, Daniel, and his partner, Damon. They had invited Clemens to feng shui their Laguna Niguel interior-design store, Christopher Lee. It's interesting enough that the feng shui seemed to work—Damon kick-started a stalled fountain inside the store and (water being money) sold more the next day than he had in months. You and I might call this classic post hoc ergo propter hoc illogic and conclude that the ostensible result (high sales) had nothing to do with the ostensible cause (water fountain), but Damon was sold for other reasons. While standing in his showroom, Clemens paused and began to describe a "vision" she was getting about the home he shares with Daniel.XIV. WHAT CLEMENS "SAW"
Clemens had never been to Daniel and Damon's house, but standing in their store, she told Damon exactly what it looked like when you walk in the front door, stand in the alcove where stairs to your right lead upstairs and a short hallway to your left leads to a bathroom and garage.
You've got spooks, she told Damon.
Really? Damon was excited.
Yes, it's a portal for Native Americans, she said. You've been hearing a lot of activity there, haven't you?
They had, indeed. Since they moved in a couple of years ago, Daniel and Damon have worried about that little hallway. At night, they'll be reading upstairs and hear the unmistakable, sibilant suck of the door to the garage opening and closing—suck, click. On other occasions, their dog will run, unbidden, to the hallway and begin barking. At nothing. Add to these quantifiable sucks, clicks and barks Daniel's non-quantifiable sense that the little hallway simply gives him the creeps.
It's clear to Damon that Clemens knew all this—that she wasn't merely guessing or spitting generalities. The question is how?