Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coffee with Chip


I turned toward what I expected was a nearby playground as my husband and I were trudging up a San Francisco hill. I thought I had heard a child call my name but shook it off. It didn’t happen again and we were only half a block from the Queen Anne Hotel. At the time, I was convinced it was a vertical block. At least I had worn the right shoes. You have to have the right shoes in San Francisco.

This was my big treat after a dreadful week at work, battling the dragons of misunderstood requirements, bad data, numbers that did or didn’t add up and one annoying typo that I can fix later at least. It had been days of long hours to right a wrong that crept into one of the computer systems and get it done in time for the end of quarter processing. And I made it. My rewards were a hum-dinger of a stiff neck that flowed like broken glass down across the top of my shoulder and of course my delicious evening with Chip Coffey as a “Super VIP.”

Based in Atlanta now, Chip is a famous psychic who has appeared on Paranormal State and Psychic Kids. I especially love his work with psychic kids and their parents to help them reconcile the sometimes scary world of experiencing things that others do not with everyday living. Chip has been called a cross between John Edwards and Dr. Phil for his tell-it-like-it-is way of dealing with paranormal phenomena and psychic sensitivies. He is at once humble and flamboyant, feisty and caring.

I had written him a quick note once to say how I admired his work with young people coming to grips with their psychic tendencies. While my mother never specifically discouraged me from what I did and was curiously accepting of my studies and card reading despite her own personal devotion to Doubting Thomas and believing in nothing she could not see and touch, it was clear that this was one of the Topics Never to Be Discussed. So we didn’t, of course. Her only comment had been, “Well, your great-great-grandmother was a gypsy, after all,” as if that explained anything. She considered it in the category of Not Yet Proven, where she also put all things religious, the relative fashion value of the color beige and the existence of extra-terrestrial life.

Luckily, when I was 15 I had met an elderly psychic, a volunteer at the hospital where I also volunteered. I was also lucky that in spite of all the possibilities, I actually had never been afraid of any of the encounters I had had as a child. I thought they were all normal in my earliest years, then realized other people didn’t experience those things. And like so many things in my family dynamic, we just didn’t talk about it. It was so refreshing to meet one kind person who understood, however. Even though we talked only a few times, I held onto that example to anchor me when things became turbulent or even downright freaky.

Chip’s Psychic Kids went a step further. Not only did he and Edy, the psychologist who worked with him on the show, help to make the kids feel good about being themselves and calm down enough to be able to distinguish startling or annoying encounters from those truly frightening. They also helped those kids speak openly with their parents about what it was like living in a world where most other people didn’t get all that extra information. Interesting to me was the realization that, in my own life, my “crisis” about being this way, even a little, was completely intertwined with my age. My own abilities seemed to accelerate when I was in my teen years, just at the time when kids all want to look alike and be accepted. The kids on Psychic Kids were all in the throes of that, and so while the show was about psychic kids, it had the universal appeal of trying to be yourself and fit in with everyone else at the same time, the essence of teenage angst.

After pulling my husband away from what surely must have been a fascinating real estate sign across the street from the Queen Anne Hotel, we puffed in, got our badges and slid into our seats in the last row of the Super VIP section. We had made a lovely evening of it so far, dinner in Japantown and a miraculous 15-minute massage by a diligent girl with strong hands and bad teeth, resolving my pain in the neck for the evening (best $15 I had spent all week). And now we were ready for the Big Event.

Chip’s Coffey Talks are a part of a multi-city tour that sounds like an exhausting schedule. Tickets are still available (see the link at the bottom) for other cities. With him at the Queen Anne were two of the kids and their mothers from Psychic Kids. They talked about their experiences on the show and how their relationships have improved. Chip took some questions from the crowd and I got a chance to ask my question.

I wanted to know if, in his work with psychologists and psychic people, not just kids, he had found a strong correlation between those with psychic abilities expressed and those reporting a curiosity called “synesthesia.” You can look that big word up in Wikipedia for a lot more information, but basically it means that your senses blend so that numbers have colors, shapes have smells and all those things that the more mystical discussions of the “music of the spheres” and numerology talk about. There are several different reported types of synesthesia and I have three of them. The empirical ear, for instance my mother and Doubting Thomas, would say that a statement like “smelling something angry coming” was utterly nonsensical. But that kind of statement seems to make utter sense to the synesthetes like me who get information in ways that, well, often defy description.

Chip was fun about answering my question and said that the answer he would give was to read his book which is coming out later this year. We think the title may be Growing Up Psychic but it’s not official yet. Then, I think to make sure that his answer wasn’t flippant or just plain unresponsive, he looked over his shoulder before completely moving on to the next question and said, “Read my book, but, yes, there is a correlation.” We had a break, grabbed a cup of coffee to stay up past my usual bedtime and resumed. He did a satisfyingly long series of readings for people in the audience.

My husband nudged me, “Hold up your hand.” I looked at him and he looked back. “Oh, right,” he whispered. “You talk with your mom all the time.” I smiled and nodded. I wanted others to have their chance. I talk with my mom, my dad, his mom, lots of people I never knew in life. Really. It’s OK. So far the only really weird thing is that house in Cincinnati I keep dreaming about. Maybe I’ll get a personal reading from Chip on that through his website.

One of the few things that disappointed me in the event was that Chip himself seemed angry. But it was with good reason. One of the reasons Psychic Kids is not being renewed for another season is that someone somewhere, not in the audience, accused him of exploiting the kids. Chip is bitterly hurt by this. I don’t blame him. To his point, accuse him of murder and he becomes a celebrity even if he did it; accuse him of hurting kids and he becomes a pariah even if he didn’t do it. And, by the way, he didn't. So what was disappointing about that, besides the fact that someone had accused him when my sense is that he clearly just wants to help people of any age come out of the “psychic closet,” is that Chip’s own defenses were up. There was a lot of energy in the room and Chip was well-prepared. His own psychic defenses were up “wall to wall and ten feet tall” as the CB-radio jargon goes. I wanted to see the relaxed Chip, unfortified. But I understand.

The only other thing that was really disappointing was the woman who, even after Chip threatened to throw her out of the show, continued to text message with her friend during the entire thing. Ha-rumph! Manners, people, manners!

Our evening ended for the Super VIP’s getting a little easy try at communicating with the Senator who built the building that is now the Queen Anne Hotel and the headmistress who ran the girls school there before it was a hotel. It’s the cheapest ghost-hunter tool on the market, a mini-Maglite with the back cap unscrewed just to the point where there is no light, no electrical connection to the battery. And Chip asked questions. And a few times, the light came on. We weren’t sure we were getting either the Senator or the headmistress, but it was indeed a fun way to end the evening.

Best wishes.

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Coffey Talk Tour:

1 comment:

  1. This is just fantastic! Thank you for sharing this Marcia. I have a big respect for Chip. He's helped so many kids-I'm sorry that people have managed to ruin such a good and healing show.
    Same old story: you must destroy what you don't understand.
    Thanks again for sharing! I gotta send this link to my friend...right away!