Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret of 738

“Wait, I’m getting something!” I looked more intently at my EMF (electromagnetic field) meter as I stepped slowly past jail cell number 121 on the section of Alcatraz prison they call Broadway.

The needle started to bounce rhythmically up into the “interesting zone” of readings around a 4 or 5 and I started counting, one, two, three. It bounced seven times. It paused. My friend Beth’s son Dylan rushed over to watch. It bounced three times, then paused again. It bounced eight times and then resumed its usual baseline reading of about 1.5.

“738. I can remember that.” The prisoners were called not by their names but by their numbers. I wondered who number 738 was.

Dylan had been looking forward to this night tour of Alcatraz for months. When I first found the night tours, I was hoping for a ghost-hunting theme. I think that was seasonal and this wasn’t quite the season yet. Never fear, ghost-hunting itself really has no season. So we came armed with my EMF meter and a couple of cameras knowing that we wouldn’t be able to do a real investigation with the 300 or so other visitors who had joined us for the evening tour.

We had found easy parking about a block away and walked to the Pier 33 Alcatraz Tour Snack Bar. In the hubbub, Beth, my husband John and I lost Dylan for a very tense few minutes and found him again, doing just what he had been told to do.

“If you get lost in the woods or in the City, just stay where you are so we can find you,” John had reminded him. And there he was just outside the snack bar door, waiting to be found while he took in the sights dockside San Francisco.

The adults all nearly collapsed in relief and we discussed the relative merits of pigeons. One had walked into the snack bar near our table. I sneaked a bit of the soft brown roll from my ham sandwich to the floor. “Rizzo” our pigeon (named for the character in Midnight Cowboy after the inevitable “flying rats” attribution) found the morsel immediately and gobbled it up. I figure Rizzo must be a regular in the snack bar because she looked up at the tables nearby to see who had sent her the offering. I launched another crumb over her head and she chased it down. A sullen teenager imprisoned by his cheerful family sitting at a table across the room frowned in disgust. Well, that would get better in time. Or not. The voice over the loudspeaker announced something official and we all got up to get in line for the boat. We declined the opportunity for a group photo, knowing we weren’t going to buy one. We had some different souvenirs in mind from The Rock.

Out on the water, I reminded Beth, who was a little concerned about sea-sickness, that the ferry ride we were on was smoother than the train ride to Sacramento a few days before. She pointed out the 4-ft swells and I noted that we really could barely feel them. I didn’t want to tell her I had been on San Francisco Bay in storms from time to time when I commuted by ferry, pretty exciting each one of them. Dylan speculated there might be sharks; I said it was pretty rare to see a shark in the Bay since they don’t like the fresh water. We disappeared into the fog.

The fog that night wasn’t the cute little cat-feet fog playing over the hills and into the City and the Bay. It was The Fog, Stephen King fog, Twilight Zone fog. It was fog where the rest of the world disappeared from view so that midway between we could see only ourselves and water but neither Alcatraz nor the bright lights of San Francisco. And then a wall of rock appeared and the voice of our guide told us more about how this remote and inhospitable spot had not been populated with Native tribes, who had the good sense to stay where food was plentiful and the winds didn’t howl, only a mile and half away. The Rock had appeared then white-washed with bird guano (which, if you aren’t into the “nice” names for ooky stuff is bird poo) further “un-hancing” the livability of this high spot in cold water.

First a fort, then a military prison, and then, starting in 1934 Alcatraz opened as the prison we think of as the federal maximum security slammer for high profile prisoners. More accurately, it was the place they sent prisoners who caused too much trouble in the prisons they were originally assigned to. Alcatraz is known for some famous names in crime like Al Capone, “Creepy Karpis” and “The Birdman” Robert Stroud, who by the way was not the sweetie-pie Burt Lancaster portrayed but a very scary guy. There were also the less famous but no less creepy, cranky, bad, rotten or just deranged. And three guys figured out how to escape; officially, no one knows what happened to them. Those and other sensational events provide the highlights of the headphones-guided tour where you can feel the cold fog-wind screaming in through the doorway to the recreation area, struggle against the tightness of a 5’x9’ cell and almost hear the instruments playing on music night, trouble piled upon trouble in 3 stories of cells guarded by men in double-breasted suits and red ties and forbidden blackjacks.

There is plenty of old wiring in these old buildings, some of which are in ruins. Those old wires can make an EMF Tri-Field meter go crazy with a normal source of electromagnetic energy. And then there are the things that make you wonder. One of the guides noticed my Tri-Field meter and mentioned that people often get a creepy feeling in the room next to us. No wonder, it’s what they call a “fear cage,” a room surrounded by electrical wiring that creates a constant strong field that registers high on my little machine. Places with naturally (rather than supernaturally) high EMF readings give sensitive people anything from a buzzing sensation to visual effects. And then there’s the argument that perhaps it is easier for a spirit to manifest in places where that energy is plentiful. Proof? I’m still looking but I know I’ve had my own personal experiences.

As to my 738, counting the bounces of the needle as it pulsed its electricity, I thought of tarot of course. Alcatraz inmate AZ-738 was Edward R. Mayberry. Was that you, Ed? At least there was the story for each of the inmates, 7, 3, 8 repeated over and over. 7 of Swords: Tried to get away with it, whether it was robbery or murder or other violent crime. 3 of Swords: The anguish of getting caught and causing heartache for their families and their victims. And finally, 8 of Swords: Bound by the iron bars and iron will of the prison system, wardens, guards and consequences of a bad idea that got worse as it went along. And then there were the three men who escaped: 7 of Swords, did they really escape? 3 of Swords, did they die in remorse and bitter disappointment in the nearly ice-cold currents of the San Francisco Bay? 8 of Swords, are they or someone else stuck in that place, forever playing out the problem of their lives and unhappy choices?

Dylan bought a t-shirt and a hat in the museum shop and we made our way back down the winding path to the ferry to return to freedom. I noticed that the seagulls, who laughed at us as we had walked up the path to the prison, had disappeared into the night. I heard only the sound of the wind lashing the water against the dock and fog horns in the distance calling their warning.

Best wishes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

All Aboard

Did you ever want to hop a train and go where it goes? You could follow the rails instead of more familiar roads or path through countryside and the underbelly of towns, the shacks and fences and depots along the way. You could settle in comfortably in a seat facing backwards to see where you've been or you could face forward to keep an eye on what is coming up.

I did that yesterday, rode the train. My friend Beth and her son Dylan have come to visit for a few days so we can go to BATS, the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, an annual tarot event of delightful proportions where tarot readers, historians, collectors, designers and students converge. They tacked a little extra time onto the trip for some extra vacation fun. Dylan just had his birthday and Dylan likes trains.

Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Cool, I thought. We can go to the train museum in Sacramento and see Old Town Sacramento. I remember the last time I was there you could walk through one of the old train cars.

"Instead of driving, why don't you take the train up to Sacramento," the hubs suggested. Perfect for the train lover, of course! It was also perfect for the driver who could stand not to have to drive. The traffic between Sacramento and the Bay Area on I-80 can be slow and thick which annoys many drivers who think they should be able to drive lickety-split on a freeway. Fact: There are just a lot of people in California and a lot of them have cars. It almost seems crazy to live in a place like the San Francisco area and still have the need to "get away from it all." But we all need a change of scenery sometimes.

The 6 of Swords is often thought of as the "travel" card, although I contend there are a few cards in the deck that indicate movement like travel. Yesterday, the 6 of Swords felt like the perfect card, taking your thoughts from their usual venue and scenery to a calmer different place where you can sort things out. You can figure out what's true and what isn't, what's important and what isn't, what battles are worth fighting and which ones aren't. You can at least temporarily leave behind the thoughts of your work and home life to think other thoughts, sort things out.

So even in a wonderful place like the place I live, despite the 9th worst whatever on whoever's list, it's really nice to just think about something else entirely and rest the section of your life you deal with most of the time.

It was finally something like summer, too. We haven't really had much in the way of summer here (my apologies to those who have melted into their socks this year). It's always a little hotter, sometimes a lot hotter in "the valley" in California than the coast in the summer. Sacramento is right in the middle of that. We stepped off the train into the "hot oven" that some people say California is named for, the dry heat of the uninterrupted sun feeling good, at least at first, but mixed with a breeze to keep it bearable. Unlike many places in the US, our heat is fairly well-behaved. If you are in the sun, it's hot. If you are in the shade, it's not. If you've had enough of one, step into the other. We don't usually get the 100 degrees in the shade plus choking humidity that a lot of the interior and eastern US get. We have a civilized heat.

The train museum was just a short walk away from the train depot, the first building you come to when you walk towards Old Town. And it is a world of trains. Dioramas of miners, engineers, passengers, porters, brakemen are dwarfed by the many rare and beautiful restored "iron horses" that conquered the West. The train engines and cars are well-documented and surrounded with the stories and artifacts of the Age of Trains. We saw how tracks were laid and how standard and narrow-gauge tracks were determined. We saw the luxurious decor reminiscent of James West and Artemis Gordon in The Wild, Wild West, cars furnished with elegant furniture.

The train museum has expanded since I was there last with more cars and engines that visitors can walk into. I loved the boxcar with its description of all the fruits and vegetables, the different colorful produce labels and even a description of the lithographic process of printing the labels. I showed Dylan the surveying tools used to determine how to lay the tracks and explained that my father had been an engineer. I used to help him survey lots sometimes and then, if night fell and the timing right, he would point his transit telescope towards the moon so I could see the craters and mountains there. I loved the dishes made specifically for use in the dining cars, some elegant cobalt blue with gold trim, some with the "exotic" Mimbres-style glyphs of the desert Southwest. Best of all was the mysterious and complex multi-scaled cylinder-shaped slide rule, a marvel of computation in delicate and precise ivory long before computers.

Beth and Dylan went to the second floor of the museum where the toy train exhibits are, every scale train imaginable. I headed to the museum bookstore to see if I could find a special present for Dylan's birthday.

My friend Mark Wegman wrote a book (available through the museum store, Amazon and elsewhere) American Passenger Trains and Locomotives Illustrated. It's a wonderful book full of pictures and diagrams of "people trains" with precise interior seating charts and lots of information. I've known Mark since I was in my teens in college and his wife Sally is my most enduring friend. Notice I didn't say oldest because Sally is a few months younger than I am and I'm not going to admit to anyone as young as we are being the oldest anything yet. Lucky me, among the many, many books about trains in the museum shop, Mark's book was available.

We left the museum and wandered through the dry-hot streets of Old Town, enjoying the shops and the feeling of the Old West under our feet with the shaded wooden sidewalks, the remnants of old train tracks and cobblestones in the streets. We ate the appetizer platter at a New Orleans-styled restaurant, plus delicious fried mushrooms, which ended up being an over-abundance of fried anything. We explored the mystical shop where I picked up a tarot deck I didn't have, thinking John will be so surprised that there is a deck I don't yet have. We went next door to the Ology Shop filled floor to ceiling with stones, fossils and crystals. Dylan found a precious penny dated 1902. Beth picked out a lovely pink lemurian quartz crystal and I chose a large clear lemurian crystal that fascinated me. Just looking into it, I see stories. It must be for me!

We checked out a couple more shops, did not pass up the candy and saltwater taffy but selected in moderation, stopped at the coffee shop for a cold drink, then headed back to the train. It just happened to be waiting to take us home.

Dylan played with his treasures while Beth and I talked tarot. We talked about the court cards, personalities, narrative flow, the value of sharing with a tarot community, and, very, very exciting, Beth's new deck, the Tarot Leaves, her first to be published by Schiffer. I'm thrilled for her commercial debut. Like so many "emerging stars" Beth's "overnight" success will come after years of work and self-publishing over 70 decks. The towns, egrets, barns, cows rolled by quickly and we were home before we knew it. Dylan says this is his best birthday ever. I think he might be right.

Best wishes!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Licking Your Fingers

“If I had two dead rats, I’d give you one.”

This is one of my husband’s and my shared endearments from one of our favorite cartoonists, B. Kliban. It’s a sort of “for better AND for worse” all rolled up in one, but we mean whatever we have of ourselves, we give it to the other person to share.

My gift this weekend was just a little free time, an entire day without obligations or plans. I was naturally tempted by sloth, my favorite deadly sin. After all, there are a lot of recorded television series episodes on that box under the big screen. A tiny voice from under the big screen says, I’ll be here until you erase me, too.

Other temptations were calling that were more immediate, like the gorgeous weather of the not-quite-summer we’ve had this year. Not that I want to jinx anything, but that great big low pressure swirl off the coast of Washington and Oregon has been a delight for me and brought the mildest of summers with sunshine, cool breezes and temperatures somewhere between perfection and boy-does-that-feel-good. At the risk of violating the no-gloating rule (who on earth makes these rules?) we really have had two good summers in a row with no air-conditioning needed. We still have the rest of August and all of September to go through, which are usually our hottest times here. So I may break a sweat yet.
Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

With the ideal weather, the answer for the day’s adventure was most certainly, “Out.” I had talked with my friend Maureen Friday who was down from Sebastopol visiting her mother Gerry, our agile window climber buddy. I wanted to deliver a wedding present for Maureen’s daughter that was too bulky to drag to the wedding in the redwoods, a pair of Belleek cups and saucers. Gerry and her two daughters Maureen and Nancy were enjoying a dinner of scrumptious pasta from Napoli’s, a favorite haunt of ours. I didn’t want to stay long but we did get started telling stories about gym classes, teachers and students. As I left, Maureen mentioned the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol as a possibility for the weekend.

That little conversation resurfaced when the hubs and I were discussing the lack of plans for an entire day of perfect weather, so I suggested that we go.

I love the drive from my house up to Sebastopol. We drive across the marshlands of the Napa delta where there seem to be a huge number of baby snowy egrets this year. They line the ditches and shallows of the delta looking for yummy crawlies wriggling in the mud. They are an elegant bird, their white feathers so purely white, their long black legs carefully stepping to the next spot, their long necks and dagger beaks made for the instant dispatch of the unsuspecting critter. Like gymnasts, they make it look easy. We took back roads to enjoy the countryside, the cows, the deer, the late summer blooms, the dust of dry paths, the breeze through the eucalyptus, redwood and oak.

The Apple Fair is a popular little festival set in a shady oak grove north of Sebastopol. It has a deliciously old-fashioned picnic quality about it, with a hay-bale maze, crates and crates of apples, booths with handmade treasures for sale, fair-food and fairly-good-for-you food. We indulged in a large cup of unfiltered apple juice, an alchemical mixture that is uplifting and grounding at the same time. There were three stages with musical performers but it still wasn’t miserably loud and the music was fun. The Caged Bird Society booth was popular with all the little kids including the little kids my age eager to talk to the birdies, a mackaw, conures, love birds, parrots, all in their party colors.

Just as fascinating were the Bee Society displays including a bee colony under glass and all kinds of honey. Her Highness the Queen Bee did not make an appearance while we were there, but our docents had fascinating bee facts. We found out just a little more information about our “Golden Snitch,” a marvel of nature John and I had both seen while in Costa Mesa in Southern California. That bee was an enormous, gravity-defying all-golden bee which we had first mistaken for a hummingbird due to its size. Our beekeeper friend gave us the name of the professor most likely to be able to identify our “Questing Bee,” another lead to follow up on for another adventure.

When I was certain that I had inspected every booth for its possibilities, I snagged two exquisite lampwork glass fish beads for a very reasonable price and a cute little business card stand from one of the pottery booths. Total damage, not bad at all. John struck up a rugby conversation with a jeweler whose work was interesting but outside my interest to buy. We considered all the possibilities of junk food at the fair, then decided to drive home through Sonoma to stop at my favorite Sonoma Market. Ah, heirloom tomatoes for my salsa, fig spread, brie, a couple of steaks, some little red potatoes and off to home cooking better than fair food. And we had somehow managed to avoid coming home with an apple pie!

Enjoying the view from the Napa River Bridge while stuck in a little bit of slow traffic at the end of our day, we mused on the advantages of our fair city.

“You know, in Vallejo you can buy heirloom tomatoes AND visit your local Hell’s Angels chapter house.”

We have a Hell’s Angels?” I marveled, wide-eyed and always impressed with my husband’s knowledge of local lore. A slow grin and a sly look later and there we were driving past a large no-color building, a fortress closed to the public but plainly marked "Hell's Angels." And in the same block were the Sunday evening church-goers with their pot-luck dishes and high heels and suits and godly intent who waved to us as we smiled at them. Like so many mysteries, they were positioned side by side.

“Wasn’t this just a lovely day?” I said, musing about the 7 of Pentacles, the harvest of realized results.  Not a computer was stirring, not even a mouse. “I think I’ll make some salsa.”


Marcia’s Salsa Recipe

2 really large, “dead ripe” heirloom tomatoes or 3 normal size tomatoes from your garden. Even a whole batch of Sweet 100’s will do if you have those. Regular grocery store tomatoes just won’t do. You can try it, but you won’t be happy. The regular store bought tomatoes make a kind of unappetizing frothy pale pink stuff that is nearly flavorless.

1 large red onion (cut in half, save the other half for the next batch of salsa)

1 fat clove of garlic. Don’t worry. If everyone eats it, you’ll all smell like that.

2-5 Serrano peppers (this is not a wimpy salsa).  Jalapeno peppers are OK, but if you have to substitute, I'd go with Thai Dragons instead.

1 Pasilla pepper (optional but it’s really good if you can find it; you can substitute a banana pepper or even a green bell pepper but having tried them all I really like the Pasilla)

1 lime

1 bunch of fresh cilantro (don’t make a mistake and get the Italian parsley which looks a lot like it)


Coarse-ground black pepper

I used to use one of those hand-cranked plastic affairs I bought at a county fair and realized that Mr. Edison’s idea about electricity was truly inspired. So now I use one of those small electric mini-choppers you can buy at the grocery store. You can do this by hand, but you want to do this in the summer time and I don’t see any reason at all to work up such a sweat when a buzz or two of the mini-chopper will do the trick.

First, the order of ingredients is really important. Most importantly, do not try to chop the onions with one of the tomatoes. It just doesn’t turn out right. Remember, part of reaping results is learning from others’ mistakes. I’m just sayin’.

First, cut the half red onion into chunks that will fit into the chopper. Coarsely chop the Serrano peppers and toss them into the chopper (yes to seeds, no to stems). Smash the garlic clove with the side of your knife, remove the dry skin and slice it into chunks. Toss that into the chopper. IMPORTANT: At no point in this process should you rub your eyes with your hands. Others’ mistakes, etc. Zing that baby up until you can see the little bitty bits of onion, pepper and probably not the garlic. Dump the lot into bowl as the foundation for your salsa.

Next, slice the tomato into to crescent chunks and put them into the chopper. You will have more tomato than will fit into one round of the chopper. That’s ok. Continue to breath normally. Slice the lime in half and squeeze both halves of the lime juice, ever little bit of it, into the chopper with the tomato. Zing until it is a red and soupy loveliness; pour into the bowl over the onions and peppers. Chunk a second round of tomato into the chopper but this time add a teaspoon (oh, who am I kidding? I NEVER measure it; just put in as much as looks right to you) of salt and a generous-as-you-dare portion of black pepper. Zing until soupy and add to the bowl. Add a third round of tomato to the chopper and this time include the fresh cilantro, rinsed off and chopped into coarse chunks (I can tell you’re sensing a theme with this). Zing until soupy with green flecks, nice. Pour into the bowl. Last, if you have any tomato left over, and if you have decent tomatoes you will, pop those in the chopper along with the Pasilla pepper also coarsely chopped, again, yes to seeds, no to stem. Zing away and pour into the bowl. Stir the divinely inspired lava and serve with crispy salted corn chips and perhaps your local fire department standing by.

Also good on chicken, tacos, enchiladas, seared skirt steak, shrimp on the barbie and usually down the front of my t-shirt. Puts color in your cheeks. For medicinal purposes only. And it’s ok to lick your fingers but seriously, don’t rub your eyes.

Best wishes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Re-Turn the Page

You've heard me rant about Mercury retrograde disrupting my life before, right? Wiley Coyote got me again, a couple of times. It's not over, either, so I still have my guard up. Or at least I'm still trying to duck, dodge and dive. It's not all bad news, though.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

One good thing that happened is that a small check I had lost not once but twice finally surfaced. It was too old to cash but I was so excited that I found it that I contacted the very kind person who had given it to me, twice. What a champ! A couple of days later a new check arrived and finally the interrupted transaction was complete. That "do-over" is a typical Mercury retrograde thing.

I'm not counting Facebook acting up tonight which ended up in my refreshing my browser a few times, then giving up, clearing my browser cache and cookies and disconnecting. There. I fixed it. I have the feeling that Facebook is having a few problems tonight. That's probably their MercRx. I hear the hack attack people have scheduled their big day for 86 days from now; I was pretty sure it was tonight from what I was seeing.

My husband and I have been spending our TV time watching previously recorded series. We even ran into one tonight we had watched partway through and restarted to watch it all the way through. I even recorded a series on SciFi from 1998 that I had somehow missed before. I love a rerun marathon.

Now, I don't mean to say that anything with a "re-" in it saves itself up for the Mercury retrograde times. Delays and do-overs happen all the time. But when you have Mercury as prominent in your horoscope chart as I do, you start to think something's up. I'm just sayin'.

But like I said, it's not all bad news. I cleaned out my purse and now, mysteriously, everything actually fits in there. I would ask what was up with that, but I have a sense that the wad of receipts, tissue, one piece of wrapped hard candy, extra pens and some other weird stuff I had put in there for safekeeping had built up to critical mass. That pain in my neck and shoulder is starting to feel better too. Think there's a connection?

During this magical time, I've been assigned a couple of recycled and resuscitated projects which have the renewed vigor and attention of upper management. That's actually been kind of fun because they were started by other people, then back-burnered. Usually the people who want those projects and who have suffered the disappointment of having them set aside are thrilled when some new fresh meat steps up to the plate to take a swing at what didn't turn out the first time. For all of them, I promise no miracles. After all, the people who had them before are smart and just got buried under the weight of other "hot potatoes" at the time. Hopefully these projects will go well under a restart.

I did treat myself during this time to a review of my horoscope chart by an excellent astrologer, Dena DeCastro. I had read (yup, you guessed it) a retweeted post on Twitter from another astrologer whom I admire that linked to Dena's sensitive treatment of Amy Winehouse's passing and the placement of the moon's nodes. Dena is one of the editors of Mountain Astrologer, a magazine I have loved for years for its meaty yet readable content.

What a treat it was, too! Now I don't feel guilty about enjoying that "exciting" t-square with the "nodal involvement" that results in my recurring spurts of creativity. The way I see it and thanks to Dena's confirmation, that's the engine that keeps me running. Our session was chock-full of information and Dena was wonderfully responsive to my questions and to my effort to confirm what I had heard. Plus, an .mp3 recording was included.

Other things I can't complain about: Repeat business from my tarot clients. It's great when I get feedback from my clients, especially when I can see them pleased with their own progress on their path. Even my little shopping trip to Tuesday Morning resulted in things for minor renovations. I replaced the ironing board cover which was, well, just plain sad. The new one is cheery, even designer colors. Tomorrow, that shower curtain liner is going to get replaced. And if my buddy Andrew comes over, I'm going to see if he can replace the doorknob in the downstairs bathroom. Those are all good "re's" for this tricky time.

But it wouldn't be a MercRx without something really stupid happening. Hopefully the Check Incident, as it will be called, will be my candidate for best stupid "re" of this season. My husband and I received a check made to both of us and agreed it should go into my account. This wasn't the Prodigal Check with the happy little ending from above. This was The Check, one we had been waiting for for a while.

After running a bunch of errands, we stopped at the bank with the stagecoach and pretty horsies. We signed the check, I went to the ATM, it scanned the check with a cute little notice popping up that unless this was a money order or U.S. Treasury check or something the money would not be available immediately. Well, that was OK. It just happened to be one of those special qualifying types. Ah, that's better! It was a check I didn't lose, at least.

I was cautious about depending on the funds from that check, even though all indications said the deposit went through. Trust, but verify. Isn't that what the State Department used to say years ago? I couldn't be too careful, especially with an electronic transaction. I logged on. Oh, yeah. I'd been "Merc'd". The bank had backed out the deposit.

I called the nice people at the bank. I talked to the nice person on the phone and the nice person's nice supervisor. I was upset but stayed reasonable. After all, it wasn't their fault. They were very regretful about their bank's policy but there was nothing they could do. That phrase usually produces the worst results in me. I translate "nothing I can do" to a lack of imaginative problem solving. I kept my "nice" on. They could provide me with the address to write to. I would get a replacement check in 5-7 business days. Not good. I kept the address but did not write the letter.  Best not to do that when I'm upset anyway.

I got a call the next day from someone else at the bank, a very sweet person who had apparently reviewed my situation and was going to overnight me my check so we could re-deposit it if we showed up in person together with our identification. What a relief!

The next day, my friend at the bank called me again.

"You're going to get a package from me, overnighted," she said.

"Yes," I said and held my breath. Now what? She had said it was going to be overnighted yesterday. I was all ears. Honestly, in Mercury retrograde periods, it really pays to listen really carefully.

"I think you will be getting the letter without the check because I'm looking at the check here at my desk. Call me when you get the package to verify and I'll overnight the check today."

DAWGS! Will this little financial crisis ever end? The letter came, sans check as predicted. I called and the check and its replacement letter were overnighted. It came today.

"John!" I don't yell at him but this was more of a holler than a yell. "We're going to the bank this afternoon no matter what!" And sure, there were no parking places when we got there. I hopped out to stand in line since half of town appeared to be there at the same time. John followed shortly and stood with me. Our identification and signatures were accepted. The Check Is In The Bank. Boy, are the Tarot Garden people going to be happy when I get to BATS! That Mercury retrograde is not going to stomp all over that Page of Pentacles for me. That check was going into the bank if I had to stand in line until closing time.

But I'm still checking the bank balance tomorrow, just to be sure.

Best wishes!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Turn the Page

Summer time gives me a chance to have my tarot classes in my backyard, hence the name “Marcia’s Backyard Tarot Classes.” I was trying to avoid being overly clever with the naming so that the purpose and perhaps even the location would be clear. Even the best of efforts, of course, can fail.

“I teach Tarot. In my backyard.” It seems simple enough but I do get questions. This year instead of dragging my tent to all kinds of festivals to read Tarot, I’ve limited that to just a fun few and set the ol’ tent up in the backyard. My husband had been threatening to trim the privet tree (you can’t call something that big a bush when it’s as tall as the house) and one of my Cecile Brunner roses (same height, old rose) which are intertwined so that the fence would stay up and the branches wouldn’t open a living room window, suddenly. And he did. It was such a good job that my shady patio wasn’t that shady. The sparrows pouted about their reduced real estate and the cats were fascinated about the improved view. But I still need my shade for the patio.

California is different from other places I’ve lived. Places like Illinois and Missouri don’t cool off on summer nights when the sun goes down. But California is delightful in its weather-etiquette. If you are in the shade, you are likely to be comfortable even on the hottest days. It’s just that California also has these desert sections that seldom provide shade for those over two feet tall so it can still be hot here. That, and the “Santa Anas” come when the wind patterns shift and suddenly the hot valleys empty their furnace-blast towards the ocean and everyone complains, with good reason, about the high fire danger. That time doesn’t usually last that long, thank goodness.

I don’t like to gloat but while lots of people have been having the sticky-gummy-runny-can’t-take-your-skin-off kind of summer, we’ve had another fairly cool one this year. Still, if you sit in the sun long enough, you’ll scorch, no matter how cool the breezes are. So, tent it is but with the side panels off so the breeze can blow through.

My last class focused on the Tarot Court Cards. Those are the page, knight, queen and king of the four suits, wands, swords, cups and pentacles. There are 16 court cards in all and they are sometimes thought of as the “personalities” of the deck.

So, not to bore you non-Tarot folks with too deep a dive into the class, my students are a fun bunch of gentle people with varying experience. This is just the kind of classroom diversity I like: extraverts, introverts, novices, experienced folks. Of course, since I’m an extravert…ok, raise your hand if you couldn’t tell. I like to say that I’m the quiet one in our family since John is an extravert also, maybe pegging a bit higher on the E scale than I do. This amazes my long-term friends who were used to my let us say “breathless” charm and banter.

There’s a cute post on Facebook right now that talks about the TLC needed by introverts. If you don’t read too carefully, you get the idea that introverts are people who are tired of listening to extraverts. Ha-rumph! I need my space too, you know. And I don’t always talk in my sleep.

Furthermore, there’s some assumption that introverts understand extraverts because they hear them talking. Who says we E people say everything we’re thinking? While I’m chatting you up about how much your hair doesn’t make you look like Justin Bieber really, I’m also remembering my dental appointment on the 16th, fighting off some song in my head that intruded when I smelled your cologne, about to get the appetizers out of the oven, noting the utterly divine red shoes across the room and about to change the topic to the piece of the tragic Columbia shuttle they just found in Texas because you are obviously uncomfortable with any further reassurance about your hair. In short, I’m trying to be nice to you but you have no idea of all the things I’m thinking from just what I’m saying. That would be like saying that all introverts have a one-track mind, certainly unfair too.

Actually, this is all good-natured banter. About 50% of the population of the world is classified in the Jungian-based MBTI as introvert while the rest of us Chatty Cathies are extravert. And interestingly, here we are back at the Tarot Court Cards. So one of the fun exercises we did in my class was to randomly pull a couple of court cards and have them talk to each other. What do they agree about? Where do they differ?

Our first pair was the King of Swords and Queen of Swords, whose pillow talk ranged from complaining to each other how stupid the rest of the world is and that they have to do everything themselves, despairing in the dull wits especially of their child who must be the result of an error in the maternity ward. The King groused away without a thought for her feelings, while the Queen sniped that his problems were, after all, all his fault. It was starting to get fun. Then we had the Page of Pentacles, who must be the dullard child of the K and Q of Swords, being asked to the prom by the Knight of Swords, a sort of irresistible force meets the immoveable object kind of thing. And the class was getting the hang of the energies of the personalities of the Courts.

So, I thought today, what if we got the four Pages in a room together, mostly because Mercury is going retrograde today and Pages are all about communication. They’d be something like students at Hogwarts without those cool wands or brooms. Maybe the Page of Wands would have the wand, OK. So what do they say to each other?

“C’mon, guys, let’s DO something! Wanna toss around the ol’ pigskin or go through a bucket of balls?” gushed the Page of Wands, always first to voice his not-too-well-thought-out impulses, raw energy apparent without too many specifics.

“Wow, hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings or anything, but I was going to watch that new Chick Flick. They say it’s a whole box of tissues. I just feel so connected when everything looks like it’s going to be the worst and then turns out happy for everyone,” smiled the Page of Cups, staring dreamily into his green tea, looking for leaves clinging to the cup. “I’ll bet you’ll have a great time, Wands-y.”

“Naw, I’m getting a pizza and watching the Dirty Jobs marathon. Me and my remote. After all, we’ve already paid for the cable,” said the Page of Pentacles, patting his solid “table muscle” and sinking solidly into the couch to ready himself for some serious downtime. “I gotta save my energy.”

“You guys are all idiots,” muttered the Page of Swords into his iPhone as he texted some smart people he really liked and put his earbuds in to block out the din of others’ voices. He had heard enough but wasn’t about to tell them anything more than that. He thought about taking the skateboard out but was drawn deeper into the mental gymnastics of the multiple games he played simultaneously in his electronic world, oblivious to his fellow Pages.

All of these Pages are going to grow up to be Big Courts someday, just like we did. When they’re older, they can afford their own places and not have to be bothered with each other. At least the Page of Pentacles can.

Best wishes!


All of today's Pages are part of the Tea Tarot, (c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord.  The Tea Tarot is available for sale on the Tarot Decks page of this blog.  Reproduction of images from this deck and others copyrighted by me is forbidden without my prior consent.

My next Backyard Tarot class is Saturday, August 13, 2011, starting at 1 pm Pacific Time in Vallejo, California.  Cost per person is $30. Contact me via the email link on the right for more information.

And don't forget there is still time to sneak in a reservation to SF BATS, the Bay Area Tarot Symposium August 27-28, 2011.  If you like Tarot, you will love BATS!  Can't go both days?  You can go one!  Check it out!