Undrunk and Unsupervised

Nuke: “Would you be willing to give your Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia speech as part of our show?”

Me: “Sure. Just set me up with a good introduction and include the backstory, so that I’m not forever known as that schizophrenic who couldn’t stop talking about his penis.”

Nuke: “Well it’s a little too late for that, Marjorie.”

Me: “Touché.”

Anywhoozle, that’s how I ended up onstage at a gay sports bar, regaling the unsuspecting, office-casual patrons with the epic saga of my dick’s triumphant win at the 1976 Miss Georgia World pageant. Most of the crowd just stared at me in mute horror, but let me tell you, the bartender was enchanted. Were I a drinking man, I totally would’ve tipped him bountifully.

Later, as the fundraiser was wrapping up, somebody asked Tank if what I’d performed was an original spokenword composition. For future reference, here’s the correct way to answer that question:

Them: “Was that an original spokenword composition?”

Tank: “Are you old enough to remember Designing Women?”

Them: “No.”

Tank: “Then yes. Yes, it was.”

Nuke and Rok also mentioned me in one of their songs as a certain someone who “drinks water pure and goes to bed quite sober.” (According to the lyrics, I’ll be taking a permanent dirt nap sometime in the early Fall.) It’s a good thing Nuke thought ahead and immortalized me in verse, because after my monologue, the looks on the audience’s faces were less “let us spread glad tidings of this remarkable talent to the ends of the earth” and more “let’s seriously just pretend that never happened.”

As the World Turns and the Pendulum Swings


Everyone Else: “Okay.”

[a few hours pass]

Me: “Douglas and I made up.”

Everyone Else: “Cool.”

[the next morning]


Everyone Else: “Ah.”

[that afternoon]

Me: “Douglas is a true friend.”

Everyone Else: “Mmm.”

[two days later]


Everyone Else: “Huh.”

[the day after that]

Me: “Douglas and I are going to a timeshare presentation and pretending to be a couple so that we can win a free toaster.”

Everyone Else: “La.”

[moments later]


Everyone Else: [not even pretending to pay attention]

Me: “…”

Everyone Else: [still no response; possibly asleep]

Me: “I should call Douglas.”

Inside Voices

Customer: [gesturing to one of the two men accompanying him] “WHAT DO YOU HAVE THAT I CAN USE TO LEAD THIS ONE AROUND? HA HA HA HAAAA…”

Me: “I’m afraid we’re fresh out of leashes.”


Me: [noncommittal smile]


Me: “Sage advice.”


Me: “Nope, just solvents and polish removers.”


Customer’s Boyfriend: [pointing at the display next to the counter] “OH MY GOD, LOOK! THEY SELL POPPERS HERE.”

I can only imagine how tranquil family dinners at their place must be. The husband never said anything himself, but I assume that if he’d so much as opened his mouth, all the glass in the shop would’ve shattered, which would’ve been irksome. Thanks for keeping mum and saving me the cleanup, Gay Black Bolt.

Goreymantic Edwardination

I was first introduced to the art of Edward Gorey, as were many of my generation, through the opening credits of the anthology series Mystery! on PBS:

As a kid, I never watched a full episode of the show — by the time Diana Rigg appeared to announce the detective du jour, I’d already wandered away to play with dolls or plot world domination or whatever little me did for fun. Incidentally, in college I spent a three-day weekend watching back-to-back Mystery! reruns, specifically because Sarah and I had gotten cast in a (truly baffling) play called The Business of Murder, and it turned out that the only word I couldn’t say in a British accent was “murder,” which (as the title suggests) I had to utter at least once every page. After listening to 72 hours worth of fictional investigators shouting, “My God! Then the mehr-dehr-ehr must be…” that conundrum was resolved.

But I digress.

When I was a junior in high school, I spent six weeks at a summer program in Ithaca, New York, where, in a head souvenir shop, I came across a poster of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It was love at first macabre sight, and soon I was snatching up copies of Gorey’s picture books wherever I could find them. I also ended up with editions of Dracula, Men and Gods and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats illustrated by Gorey, and if I could just find a living room set upholstered with scenes from The Curious Sofa, my life would be complete.

Recently, I started wondering if Gorey ever created his own Tarot deck. I can’t Tarot my way out of a wet paper sack, but because I felt like there should be an Edward Gorey Tarot deck, I decided there was an Edward Gorey Tarot deck (see how my brain works?). I set myself to scouring the Internet, where I eventually discovered the laminated grail that is the Fantod Pack.

The Fantod Pack (fantod being defined as “a state of worry or nervous anxiety; irritability”) consists of 20 cards, each with a series of unfavorable meanings: For instance, the Waltzing Mouse can indicate loss of jewelry, morbid cravings or disorders of the large intestine, while the Bundle portends inadequate drainage, a broken engagement or a train accident. It quickly becomes clear that the deck is not meant for serious divination — instead, it’s designed to give humorously catastrophic readings, and would actually be quite at home among the light-hearted, DIY oracle books that Victorian ladies used to leave lying about their drawing rooms as idle amusements (of which I own several, because of course I do).

The problem here is that I am me, and as such, if I buy a fortune-telling deck — satirical or not — I am going to use it to tell some motherfucking fortunes. Consulting the instruction booklet, I noticed that each card corresponds to either a month or a day, so that the querent will have a good idea as to when he or she will be struck down by chilblains (as foretold by the Burning Head). Pulling four cards at random, I wrote down the month/day each signified, broke those down to their numerical values, then went binary and marked them as even (two dots) or odd (one dot). I ended up with the following spread:


If we look at that last column, we have the geomantic figure Laetitia, which translates as joy, good health, favorable beginnings and luck. So not only did we manage legit divination with the Fantod Pack, but we got a positive reading as well.

I am… thoroughly impressed with us. But I’m also kind of cringing at myself, since I’m acting all, “Finally, a unique and convenient way to practice geomancy,” like I don’t already have a drawer full of decks and dice and coins and throwsticks (ye Gods, the throwsticks), each of which was, at one time, my favorite (and “last one, I promise, not even looking for another”) method of generating the figures. On the other hand, I sometimes go months without reading and get rusty as all hell, so if it takes an extra deck of cards or set of kitten knucklebones or whatever to get me back into the one form of future-casting that’s ever worked for me, I’m willing to roll with that.

Oh, speaking of rolling, please know that my older tools don’t just get tossed out when new ones come along — I’m not that much of a capitalist consumer. In fact, my original geomantic dice recently found their way to my office, where they’ve added an understated decorative touch:

dice and skull

Assuming his vengeful ghost isn’t gearing up to haunt the particular fuck out of me, I’d like to think Eddie G. would approve.

Not My Psychic Circus, Not My Magic Monkey

Back in the mid 1990’s, during the Golden Age of Miss Cleo‘s benevolent reign, my friend Sarah called to announce that she’d landed a job as a telephone psychic. She’d been reading Tarot since her teens and was a natural talent, so going pro seemed like a logical step.

“I’m really excited to be doing something with this skill,” she said. “And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to help people.”

I cooed excitement right along with her, and I pounced on the phone the following evening when she called back to report on her first shift.

“How was it?” I asked.


Thus ended her career in prophesy.

Sarah approaches divination from a pragmatic, Jungian standpoint (i.e., “Let’s use the pattern created by a random scattering of archetypical symbols to access your subconscious mind and allow you to see what you already know about the matter at hand.”), and she anticipated the same from her clients. Instead, she was pummeled with questions like, “Will my five-year-old survive the surgery?” These callers weren’t seeking objective answers: They were desperate for the relief that comes with good news and were willing to fork over $1.99 for each additional minute until they got it. A few calls in and already emotionally exhausted, Sarah traded her deck for a tattered white flag and disconnected her landline.

Money, as Mam’zelle Lauper reminds us, changes everything. Transactions produce expectations. Just as you wouldn’t pay to have abuse heaped upon you (unless, y’know, you’re into that), people do not pay psychics to say, “Go ahead and pick out a tombstone; the spirits are partial to marble.” To put it in Medieval terms, there’s a reason why the position of Court Astrologer had an unusually high turnover rate and no health insurance.

Sarah’s foray into the “Call Me Now!” industry served as a heady warning whenever I started considering divination as a sustainable source of income. That is, of course, until I was actually presented with the opportunity to make money giving online readings, at which point any cautionary tales were drowned out by my Inner Fortune Whore yelling about celebrity and riches and maybe getting to hang out with Shirley MaClaine.

I don’t remember how we met or why she zeroed in on me, but a few years ago, a professional rootworker I knew peripherally through an occult listserv reached out to see if I’d be willing to take on some clients for her. She was overwhelmed with requests, she said, and needed someone to help her get caught up on the backload. I’d been practicing (and still practice) a relatively abstruse form of divination called geomancy, and while far from having any mastery over it, I was flattered to be recognized for my abilities and happily agreed to assist her.

A few days later, I was contacted by my first client: an earnest young woman with romantic concerns.

“Will my ex-boyfriend and I get back together?” she asked, skipping right to the point.

Her question firmly in mind, I ran a geomantic chart and was pleasantly surprised by the results. A figure translating as “boy” appeared in the area of the chart representing love interests, and the figure also appeared next to the area representing the client herself (where, auspiciously, a figure meaning “girl” had turned up). In other words, her ex would come back to her without any effort on her part. I gave her this information to much praise and remittance, and I thought that was that, until she got back in touch two weeks later with another question.

“I know you said my boyfriend would come back to me, but the last time I talked to him, he said he hated me and never wanted to see me again. Also, he’s dating someone else now.”

Okay, wow. While I’ve occasionally missed the oracular mark, I’d never had a reading go so far south before, much less while on the clock. I braced myself for the inevitable demand for a refund and threats of legal retaliation and negative Yelp review…

“So I’d like to purchase another reading to find out exactly when we’re going to get back together.”

… the actual fuck?

If I’d just received a reading that was basically, “Yes, but only in Bizarro World,” the last thing I’d do is return to the same incompetent fraud for another pile of horse pucky at cost. But hey, the customer is always right, and besides, I was too mortified by the whole fiasco to think clearly enough to say no. So I pulled out a blank chart, got to work, and responded with a blaring disclaimer: “According to A BUNCH OF ARBITRARY NUMBERS I CAME UP WITH BY ROLLING DICE, AND WHICH ARE SOLELY FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES AND ARE IN NO WAY REFLECTIVE OF MY PERSONAL VIEWS OR OPINIONS, you and your ex will get back together within six weeks.”

She was thrilled. I reluctantly adjusted to my new life as a con artist. And five weeks later, when she emailed to say that she and the ex had unexpectedly run into each other and rekindled their romance, I pulled in the tile and closed up shop.

I’ve read for strangers a couple of times since then, but for the most part, I keep the geomancy to myself, breaking out the dice or pebbles or sheep livers or whatever only when I need unbiased perspective. If recovery has taught me anything (aside from the fact that my own life runs more efficiently when I’m not shitfaced all the damn time), it’s that I’m at my best when I stay within my own hula hoop; when I’m focused on making the right decisions for myself, not taking responsibility for what other people decide to do for (or to) themselves. I forget this when I’m giving readings. I’m far more likely to say, “Here’s how you should handle the possible outcome” instead of, “Here’s a possible outcome, period.” And until I’ve got the punctuation down, I’m not doing anybody any divinatory good.

Some day I’ll be able to look a client in the eye and go, “Welp, the magical dots say it’s syphilis,” then walk away with cash in my pocket and pep in my step. But today is not that day, and this I can accept, although I will admit to being curious as to if and when the day might come.

Anyone want to give me a reading on that?

My Tutelary Spirit is Dr. Sam Beckett

Customer: [holding up a cock ring] “Is this similar to a cock ring?”

Me: “That is a cock ring, just made out of a stretchy silicone instead of metal.”

Customer: “You know how as men age, their balls start hanging lower?”

[Inner Me: Well, that escalated quickly.]

Customer: “I have the opposite problem.”

Me:.”You’re… getting younger?”

[Inner Me: Yes. You’re selling a cock ring to Benjamin Button.]

Customer: “Um, no. I’m on testosterone, so my balls are shrinking and drawing up inside of me.”

Me: “I see.”

Customer: “That was probably an overshare.”

Me: “Eh, not a bad one.”

Customer: “Oh. Okay. Anyway, I need something to keep them in place.”

Me: “Ah. You need a cock sling.”

Customer: “A what now?”

Me: [pulling a cock sling off the display] See? Everything goes through this larger hole, but then your dick goes all the way through the second hole, while your balls go through this smaller, snug hole.”

[Inner Me: Heh. You said ‘hole.’]

Customer: “Yeah, I can’t quite picture it…”

Me: “No problem! Follow me to the computer — we’ll look at some porn, and you’ll see how it works.”

[five minutes later]

Me: “… Okay, here’s a good image. See how the cock sling fits around the shaft? And look, he’s apparently taking testosterone, too.”

And tomorrow morning, I’ll go back to my day job, where I’ll get very uncomfortable whenever a co-worker accidentally curses in an office environment.

Sometimes I worry that “leading a double life” is just a hazy way of saying I have a dissociative disorder.

Not As I Do

[Conversations with Douglas cont’d.]

Me: “I feel like my recovery program is getting kind of stagnant.”

Douglas: “Are you sponsoring anyone right now?”

Me: “Not at the moment, no.”

Douglas: “Well, that might be something to think about. If you’re in a slump, working with another addict could pull you out of it.”

Me: “You know what? You’re right! I’m going to be a sponsor again.”

Douglas: “Awesome!”

Me: “BAM.”


Douglas hasn’t responded, but I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s so awestruck by my commitment to both literalism and the modern NeoPagan movement that he’s can’t form coherent words. Or else I finally pushed him over the edge, and he’s facedown on the floor of a roadhouse. Hard to say with that one.

I should probably call his sponsor.

The Broken Hearts Solidarity League

[A telephone conversation between myself and Douglas.]

Me: “Argh. My ex-boyfriend keeps liking everything I post on Facebook.”

Douglas: “Why don’t you just block him?”

Me: “Because I need access to his timeline in case he posts something about his new boyfriend, so that I can get irrationally upset about it.”

Douglas: “…”

Me: “…”

Douglas: “Yeah. That’s why I haven’t blocked him, either.”

I wish we were bonding over something a little less unapologetically neurotic, but it’s nice to be on the same page.

My Safeword is “Director’s Cut”

Customer: [looking around] “Is this, like, a dominatrix store?”

Carlisle: “Well, BDSM.”

Customer: “What does BDSM mean?”

Carlisle: “It’s short for bondage, domination, and sadomasochism.”

Customer: “Sadomasochism…?”

Me: “A sadist likes to inflict pain, and a masochist likes to experience pain.”

Customer: “Oh, okay! I just saw a movie about that. It was called 8MM.”

Carlisle: [petit mal spittake]

Me: “Um… that’s… actually about snuff films.”

Customer: “Oh. But it’s all sorta in the same category, right?”

Me: “… No.”

Customer: [nodding] “Fair enough. Fair enough.”

On the bright side, at least he was confused about a decent movie. I can handle a lot of shit, but I am not yet prepared to deal with anyone dazzled by the subtle complexities of 50 Shades Freed.