Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Prognosticator, Predict Thyself

Paul the Octopus is dead at age 2. The tarot world is in mourning. Just in case you are in the tarot world and you hadn’t heard, a moment of silence is in order, please.

Paul, not often known as San Pablo de Pulpo, was the spot-on predictor of this year’s World Cup Games. Presented with a favorite treat, mussels, contained in two boxes which represented the two teams playing each game, Paul correctly selected mussels from the winning team. He had an amazing 100% accuracy, something most tarot readers would advertise in print only if they were frauds instead of real tarot readers. Paul was our hero. OK, so he was a little slimy and you’re never sure how to look an octopus in the face, but when you get past these superficial characteristics, Paul was downright amazing.

Tragically (from our longer-lived perspective), octopi live only about two years, so he was basically at the peak of his career when we knew him during the World Cup predictions. It’s a short life for a creature of cleverness. Perhaps it is the brevity of life itself that spurs innovative techniques among the 8-legged brainy types. They work on a short deadline, literally.

I’ve had my “hot streaks,” sure. But I would never offer a 100% accuracy claim. Too much gets lost in translation. If it were like a movie, I would re-project it for people. If I knew the Lotto ticket numbers, would I be sitting here talking to you about an octopus?

Those hot streaks were fun though. Back in the 80’s when I first started working as a computer programmer, it was still about 2 or 3 men to every woman in the business, even fewer when it came to database analysis and design which was what I liked. Programs come, programs go, but data and information stay forever. That’s why your moms and dads tell you that you’ll be sorry for posting those really fun photos on the internet someday. Data is meaningful in context; change the context, you change the meaning. Funny at a party is perhaps not so funny in court. You get it.

Back in the day – scratch that. I hate that phrase, love you young ‘uns but that’s just one that gives me shivers. OK, back in Illinois when I was a “baby” programmer/DBA, I worked with a bunch of guys. These were not completely house-trained guys when it comes to being civilized but in context that was funny, in the way Animal House is a funny movie. Funny to watch but not funny to live with. I remember getting a ride to lunch with the group I hung out with at work, 15 or 20 of us invading some bar and grill or experimenting with Japanese food or getting tossed out of the Mongolian barbecue for being too efficient in filling our bowls with the goodies from the ingredients banquet table prior to griddling. I still wore skirts and hose and heels then, not yet annoyed with the discomforts of feminine fashions. At lunchtime, we piled into cars and took off for the restaurant du jour and one time I remember I caught a ride with Wulfers.

Wulfers was so correctly named, looking a bit more like Wolfman Jack and rather less like Alcide, slightly older and very married. He was a funny guy, a leading jokester from the spitwad section of gradeschool, a dominant buffoon who had long since succumbed to the superior wit of his wife. We felt sorry for her in a way because it was so obvious she had married a big kid, but we figured that he must amuse her as he did us. He was sort of handsome, sort of not and always had a joke to tell. Wulfie was still into sports and fitness and testosterone and stuff so I guess I should not have been surprised. But when I climbed into the back seat with the rest of the carload, I screamed. There on the backseat floor was a discarded pair of underwear, definitely Wulfie’s.

I screamed my bug scream. Hose and heels will make you do that when you encounter the unexpected BVD’s in the back of a guy’s car who is, after all, just one of the guys. Wulfie suffered his near-death experience of embarrassment, which was to hang his head on his steering wheel and try to explain, as he might to his long-suffering wife, exactly why a pair of underwear might lay discarded in plain sight for a “good” reason, something sports related apparently. Amid my shrieks of disgust and threats to phone his wife, I rode to lunch without letting my feet touch the floor of his car or the unmentionables, much to the snickering delight of the other passengers. I caught a ride back to work with someone else.

In this male-dominated world of constant apologies to women for transgressions that seemed like a good idea at the time, I grew a little more comfortable, although I reminded Wulfie that I wasn’t riding in his car again, clean or not. And it was during this time that I had a little predictive hot streak.

I’ve mentioned I like baseball. In my work environment there, all sports were hallowed. It was fall and football season. The World Series didn’t stretch into November like it does now. This was Football. We were firmly mired in the debate of Astroturf v. grass and being just halfway between St Louis and Chicago, the local rivalry was a constant topic of discussion, with a few outlanders defending Detroit and other exotic places. I started watching weekend NFL shows and after a couple of weeks into the season, wrote down the name of the Super Bowl loser (very specific) and pinned it to my fuzzy wall in my cube. And I was right. Three years in a row.

After the second year, Wulfie came to me and it was clear that his lifelong obsession with sports had included a monetary significance common in office pools and other far-off-track wagers. He begged. It was fun to be in demand. I personally did not make any money from the predictions. It was just fun to see them turn out. And then, in the fourth year, I lost interest in predicting football. Like Paul the Octopus, my season of specialty was over. And it’s never happened again. Don’t ask. I don’t do sports anymore. I read tarot.  I still predict things, just not Super Bowl stuff.

Paul the O’s demise and all too brief a stay in the public attention prompts at least one question: If Paul was so good at the World Cup, why didn’t he predict his own death? Without knowing Paul personally and with few personal octopus encounters in my lifetime, I can’t be sure. But my sense is that like my brief stint with the Super Bowl loser predictions and like the Eight of Cups, the 8 of Water, the 8 of Intuition and connection to the collective unconsciousness, it was just Paul’s time to move on to something else. He specialized in this year’s World Cup and not in his own life and death events.

Those of you may wish him a jaunty, “Godspeed, Sucker!” But I feel I speak for the tarot community when I say thank you to Paul and his moment in time and hope that his next life, whether it is some eight-legged heaven or rebirth to a higher form, brings him and those around him joy, however brief.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Treat, My Trick

“I’m coming to your house for Halloween,” the checkout clerk said as I watched the 20? 25? bags of candy glide by on the conveyor belt of the checkout counter at my favorite funky discount grocery.

I laughed but didn’t say what I was thinking, that it is an odd spot in life when you feel comfortable holding a real job and going trick-or-treating for Halloween. My sense is that this feeling of “just right” doesn’t last too long. Or maybe it does now.

My last Halloween of trick-or-treating was quite a while ago, a few states away from the current abode and, now, seeming like a world away. I lived in New Mexico.

“Not the pretty part like Albuquerque or Taos,” I would explain with my nose wrinkled. Eastern New Mexico was called the Llano Estacado or “staked plains.” At the time of this nickname it was a place flat and featureless, so much so that the travelers stuck stakes in the ground, like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs, so they could find their way back. I was taught that when First People were being relocated, shameful practice that it was, they were offered this land and turned it down “for what’s behind the curtain,” I used to quip. When I lived there, I would have turned it down for the curtain itself, but it also grew on me.

When we moved there from Florida, it was a huge culture shock in many ways. For one thing, there wasn’t any water or not much to speak of. My father who had come there to teach engineering studied the water table in the area and determined that the ground water had dropped dramatically in a short amount of time. The farmers had to dig much deeper wells just to keep going. It was a dusty place when I was there which prompted more jokes, “Most of New Mexico is on its way to Texas by air,” and “You learn not to smile facing west here so your mouth doesn’t fill with sand,” and “You can tell summer from winter here because all of a sudden the wind blows cold instead of hot.” These things were only funny if you didn’t live there; otherwise, they were just facts. The glass in windows on the west side of buildings took on a frosty appearance from being sand-blasted, a fine tapering miniature sand dune collecting on the inside of each windowsill where the finest grains worked their way in no matter how clean and tight your house was. What snow there was fell like cold crumbled Styrofoam, little ice-balls instead of snowflakes, each with a grain of dust at its center. My final despairing joke was written to my grade school friends in Florida describing my new home, “Great beach. No ocean.”

Like I said, it grew on me. We went out into the country looking for arrowheads and interesting cactus and “horned toads” (horned lizards), finding a few of each, plus prairie dog villages, a great expanse of uninterrupted horizon and the occasional cow pie.

Instead of retirees’ finest treasures in estate sales in Florida, my mother’s New Mexico antique shop stock opportunities ran more to cream cans, spurs and singletrees. We became friends with the junk man who had been graced with some young man’s closet full of classic science fiction and I quickly devoured anything that had his name written inside the cover. We bought feral chicks hatched in Mr Turnbow’s field for a quarter a piece and kept them as pets.

I became aware of the legendary status of Billy the Kid, a/k/a William H. Bonney and Henry McCarty, and his friendship/adversary relationship with Sheriff Pat Garrett, a story still alive in my new home, a story mummified in the sand and caliche limestone about the evils of reading dime novels and getting too upset when someone insults your mother. I reasoned that the vividness of this collective memory was that little else had happened in this part of the world to interfere with the memory of events in July 1881.

It was in this sandy wilderness, a place where artists did not go for inspirational landscapes, that I sought my final pass at trick-or-treating. I was in junior high. One of my classmates was staying with us for the weekend. Our fathers taught in the same department at the university. Her grandfather had died and apparently she had a horror of funerals. We were presumed to be friends but we weren’t really. We were too different from each other. But I felt obligated to be a good hostess while she was staying with us and harbored no particular malice. I was reluctant to go out for candy that night, feeling too old and not having a costume, but she wanted to. We walked around in our sweatshirts and blue jeans with pillowcases, each house adding to my embarrassment.

The attack came when we were on the far side of our neighborhood. We were between houses. It was a very dark moonless night and the wind was blowing cold to usher in winter. Two boys came up behind us with intent to steal the pillowcases full of candy. My houseguest was an easy mark and lost her pillowcase to the young runner immediately. I, however, had been trained in long years of ambush and hand to hand combat with my brother. My reactions were swift and deliberate.

Being the more substantial of the two girls, I had been selected by the more burley Trickster. He had, as so many do, over-estimated my height and instead of hooking me around the neck with his left arm, he caught me at the mouth. Without dropping my pillowcase full of treats, I grabbed his wrist and elbow and with conviction bit down through his faux-leather sleeve to the skin, like it was a chicken drumstick. At the same time, using my, er, ballast, I flipped him over my back to land uncomfortably in front of me, all the while maintaining my grip on his arm. I felt it snap and heard my attacker grunt in surprise and distress. I let go, ready for the next round, but he scuttled away, his arm at a dangerous angle.

We screamed like the girls we were and ran for the nearest neighbors’ house, called the police, my parents arrived and we all went home. There was, after the excitement, only my pillowcase of candy left between us. And Mom made me give our guest all the good pieces.

I was steamed at being the more able, the more apt, the stronger and better prepared, the winner who in the end lost, just like in the 5 of Swords. That card is the card of conflict, a win-lose card instead of a win-win card, one where the victor eventually finds out he didn’t really win. And we never did find the kid with the broken left arm.

Just like Billy the Kid, I figured out crime didn’t pay in the end, for either the criminal or the victim. In the end, Billy got shot by a guy who actually liked him. In the end, I had fought for candy that I was obligated to give away to my wimpy houseguest. In the end, there’s some guy who wore a medium green plastic and cotton knit jacket with teeth marks and something broken. In the end, I gave up on Halloween trick-or-treating for good.

Now, I actually love Halloween. It isn’t that I’m stuck on a holiday I can sink my teeth into so much as I love seeing the kids and their parents and dogs dressed up in costume dashing up to my house with their bags, forgetting to say the Magic Words, “Trick or Treat!” So I bought a boatload of candy again this year. I’ll set up my tent in front of the house, dress in costume, fill my big brass cauldron with what we used to think of as penny candy and read tarot cards for free for the adults. I get all the good stuff.

Best wishes!

Friday, October 15, 2010

News Flashes from the Universe

Sorcerer's Saturday, October 16, noon to 5:30pm at the end of First Street, Benicia, CA. Come for a tarot reading and shop the historic downtown area in Benicia including Angel Heart 4 You.  If you're looking for something slightly different in a shopping opportunity, stop by The Red Raven in Vallejo, CA.  The Red Raven has lots of new and interesting things in time for Samhain; stop by and celebrate.

Come to Angel Heart 4 You's Anniversary Party Sunday, October 17.
Can't make it to Sorcerer's Saturday?  Stop by Angel Heart 4 You for their first anniversary party from 11 am to 6 pm Sunday, October 17.  Most of the intuitive readers (including me) will be there at least for the afternoon, plus there will be free appetizers.  Sample the readers and the snacks and celebrate with Carol and Peg.

Victorian Trade Card Tarot and Art Postcard Tarot are at the printer!
If you've been thinking about ordering one or both decks, there's still time.  Contact me at morganmm at aol dot com.  You can also find me on Facebook.  Each deck is $25 plus postage, limited editions of 100 only self-published numbered decks.

Coming Soon to a Blog near you:  Rosie's Handcrafted Bags with images from Marcia's Tarot Decks!
My friend Rosie and I are combining forces to recycle old blue jeans (plus a judicious raid of my fabric stash) and turn them into fabulous fashion hobo-style handbags with images from my tarot decks.  It gets better!  Proceeds from the sales of these fashionista fundamentals will go to our favorite charities, the Benicia-Vallejo Humane Society and the ARC-Solano.  Stay tuned for these must-haves.  Pictures will be posted here.

Best wishes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Fall

“Marcia, why are you walking with a cane?”

“Oh, I went on vacation.”

Not every explanation makes sense right away, perhaps especially in tarot readings. When I read for people, I get part of the story. The cards, the person, the moment come together and trigger impressions, sometimes vivid, sometimes vague. The impressions can be in any form. People most often think they are visual because, well, seers see, right? Clairvoyance means “clear sight.” Sometimes it’s called “second sight.” But that’s really only part of the story. Sometimes the impressions are musical with lyrics of some silly song that start running through my own personal Muzak. Sometimes they are smells or sometimes very tactile. Sometimes words seem to just fall out of my mouth.

Of course my husband says this can happen at any time with me, even in my sleep. I don’t think I say anything of great importance when I’m sleeping. For instance, last night he says I uttered very clearly, “You will just have to get used to it,” or words to that effect. I figured I was talking myself through the new reorganization at work. But that’s another story.

Back to the cane and the vacation, naturally there is a story about why I’m limping. And it is connected to our vacation. I fell. It could happen to anyone. But the rest of the story is so much more fun than that, like a vacation all in itself.

I wanted an old-fashioned road trip vacation this year through the Wild West. We live in what is most certainly the Tame West in Northern California. Northern California isn’t exactly the California you see on television, all paved and sunny. That’s Malibu or Santa Barbara or Los Angeles or Orange County. That’s southern California which often seems like a world, or at least a state away. Northern California is cooler, often foggier, with redwoods and cows closer at hand than the crispy brown hills in SoCal. Northern California has the San Francisco Giants who just won their division last night (OK, no more baseball in this one; I just had to get a plug in there). Northern California is often, but not entirely more liberal in its politics, a point of view born out of kindness, love and generosity rather than starry-eyed give-aways. (OK, no more politics, either.) Roses and grapes and children grow well in Northern California, as do cats and dogs and ideas about environmental sustainability. So why would a person ever need a vacation from all that? Well, heck, I just wanted to go somewhere, that’s all.

Unlike my other vacations, this one wasn’t well planned. I had two weeks. I wanted to take my small car so we could share the driving. I just don’t think a road trip vacation is a good time to begin to renew my skills with a manual transmission. And I wanted to take the dog with us. He’s a companion animal and gets anxious when he’s not with us. And finally, since I acquired a new kitten who was just a few weeks old, I determined we had to take Pixie with us. It’s essential bonding time in her development. If we left her at home for two weeks, I was pretty sure I’d come back to a feral indoor kitten with difficult to correct bad habits. OK, so it’s a road trip with a cat and a dog. I wanted to visit my sister in Colorado and see the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park again.

That was the extent of the planning. No reservations, no particular route or itinerary and no other goals. This just isn’t like me. My husband is the spontaneous one, the one likely to go off on a trip without having packed. We made three very deliberate stops before leaving town: the gas station, the library for audio books and AAA for maps and things. And we left town.

We drove east, which for us takes us to the Old West. We stopped for lunch and had patty melts, forbidden fruit, in Lodi. We stopped for the evening in Sonora at a “pets ok” motel. The next day we drove the north road through Yosemite, past the meadows and mountain views, stopped at Mono Lake for a couple of other-worldly photos and pressed on to Candelaria in Esmerelda County, Nevada. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of Candelaria. It’s a ghost town that bloomed and died with a silver strike in the 1870’s, evaporating about 1880 leaving the shells of the mercantile, the bank and a few other buildings. My husband’s great-grandparents were married there and we wanted to see it. I was so excited that we had found it, since ghost towns are so often not well-marked on maps, that I popped out of the car with my camera, ready to take photos of days gone by. I started to step up a small rubbly incline for a better view when I was immediately swept off my feet, landing flat on my back beside my car.

“Where’d you go?” my husband asked, noting my disappearance.

“I’m down here,” I sighed, camera in hand and a battalion of sticky, scratchy things now attached to the back of my knit shirt. I didn’t think much of the fall at the time.

We had a great time poking through the debris in Candelaria, discovering that the road approaching from the west was hardscrabble washboard rough, about an hour’s drive at 10 miles per hour, while just on the other side of “town” the same road was suddenly paved and striped, a convenience not noted on the AAA map. In our reservationless trek, we stayed places not found on Travelocity or AAA, like The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, $34.95, pets OK. Bikers welcome. And free secured WiFi. The ice machine was broken but it was otherwise a pleasant stay. I particularly loved the Virgin River Casino and Hotel in Mesquite, Nevada, $24.95 weekday off-season price, again pets OK. We didn’t win big, but they really did have prime rib for $6.99 and the room was sparkling.

One of my favorite AAA maps, which we hear is soon to go out of print, is the Indian Country Map and we made good use of that. We wound through the Carnelian Cliffs through Navajo Country, marveling at the painted ponies and unusual sheep. We stopped for a moment at the Navajo National Monument, snapping photos of the dramatic landscape, and landed at the Ancient Puebloan site of Canyon de Chelly and The Thunderbird Lodge. Pets were OK there too, but the price was considerably more, $150 with the dog. And I slept poorly although the room was spotless and comfortable. We toured the south rim sites, made the acquaintance of several of the Navajo vendors including a 6 year old toothy animal lover named Randy who showed us his beading work and was fascinated with the dog and cat. We pressed on through back roads to Shiprock, New Mexico, and landed at the Tomahawk Motel in Cortez, Colorado. We took a little rest from driving and nosed around Cortez which included fine dining at Nero’s, shopping at the various trading posts and a short trip over to Mancos to view the hot air balloon evening display at the end of their Art and Balloon Festival.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park "Genesis Wall"
(c) Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved
 Our Big Events were next. We took an all-day tour of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, a huge horseshoe shaped reserve that holds not only historical Ute pictographs and remnants Chief Jack’s burned-out home, but also much older Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, towers, kivas, storage bins and cliff dwellings. This park can be toured only with an approved Ute guide and is full of artifacts of at least two civilizations in nearly-untouched condition, unlike the highly restored and “swept forest floor” look of the adjoining Mesa Verde. With a generous offer to kitten-sit while we took our all-day tour, we set out with guide Marshall Deer and our driver Tommy to visit remote areas of the park where perched in the cliffs are Lion House and Forest House and other structures ca. 1100-1400. My favorite spot is still the “Genesis Wall” an Ancient Puebloan petroglyph wall telling the story of creation starting with the Spider Woman, the Spiral Path, Kokopelli, The Hero Twins, and all the way to the Fourth World where man leapt out of the jumping up places from within the earth.

From Cortez, we drove to my sister’s house on Vallecito Lake near Durango, somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation, just to remind me how out of shape I am. The weather was perfect, sun-splattered and golden-aspened, and we walked the new handicap-accessible trail my sister was instrumental in building. (I am just a bit proud of her, I admit.) We were treated to a Durango stroll with her women’s barbershop group and balcony seats at the Diamond Belle for lunch in the Strater Hotel.

Too soon it was time to head back to California, which had been deathly hot while we had been away, 108 in our town while we guiltily had enjoyed 83 degrees in the desert that day. My husband was treated to one of his favorites, a rip-roaring thunderstorm with a huge dust storm first act in Nevada. The kitten and the dog and I huddled together in the passenger seat while he drove through the dust and lightning with delight.

And then we were home and slept soundly in our own bed, soundly and late. I luxuriated and finally, on getting up, realized my bad knee wanted to bend in all directions again, not just knee-like. The only event was the Candelaria fall almost two weeks earlier. And so I found a cane to use. Our beloved chiropractor Dr Miller says, “Ice.” And I’ll be checking in with my Primary Care Physician.

I love our fall vacations! They give me a chance to pause along the road of my life and rest, to view the long road behind us and look forward to the long road ahead. Like the 9 of Wands, a little reflection of history helps us do better in the future and let us know that we can continue with our journey, even after a tumble or two.

Best wishes.