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I'm rolling west in my unheated van, make a right toward the ocean on prospect. It’s a crisp Monday morning and downtown La Jolla is already too crowded. I poke around Silverado and Girard seeking the offices of Miss Kay,“Psychic Spiritualist Consultant.” I had called earlier and made an appointment. I’m amazed to find that Miss Kay operates out of a big house on the corner of Cave and Prospect, the precise edge of downtown. This is a big, two-story house, painted in a discreet Day-Glo pink. There are several garish signs on the lawn and inside the windows to let you know that, yes, this is palm-reading headquarters. I park, stroll onto the walkway, climb three steps. On my left is a red-brick handicap ramp.

I enter the house, swing into a spacious living room. The area is 30 by 20 feet, very clean and sparse. A white-gray throw rug sits in the room’s center, a large couch along the west wall, before it a substantial coffee table. Alone on the table is a vase of fresh yellow daisies. The room has two unmatched easy chairs placed on either end. On the north side, a man sits in one of the chairs, beside a big-screen TV tuned to TNT. The feel is 1950s therapist holding pen, done up by someone who buys carefully at thrift stores.

I take the empty chair and wait. Five minutes pass and a woman in her mid-40s, blonde crew cut, almost a military burr cut, five-foot-ten, oval face, no makeup, wearing a white blouse and a tan denim jumper enters from a side door. She asks if I was the man who called.


“One minute.”

The male sitting across the room folds his hands. He is perhaps 45 years old, dark hair, clean-shaven, wearing purple sweatpants and a blue polo shirt. We sit in silence. There is nothing to read. The TV is on, showing a Yogi Bear cartoon. The toon is set at Christmastime, and it’s all about how Mrs. Sunter is going to sell her mountain lodge to make room for a freeway, unless Yogi and all the chipmunks and forest animals trick her into having such a good time at the Christmas party that she’ll give them the joint for free. Mrs. Sunter arrives at the lodge, and the forest creatures begin to torture her, drop heavy kitchen appliances on her feet, slop food on her new dress, tie her up in Christ- mas ribbons.

Miss Kay appears again, motions to the man. He gets up and follows her into the hallway. The door is closed hard. I lunge at the television set, grab the remote (which is tied to the unit), attempt to change the channel, hoping to find the Oregon/Oregon State game. Idiot appliance won’t function. Sigh, return to seat, another Yogi cartoon begins. This time Yogi is on a sleigh and the forest animals are singing about how he’s never had a Christmas because he was always hibernating, so Yogi doesn’t know about kisses under the mistletoe and Christmas carols and getting presents and gorging oneself at Christmas dinner and being insulted by relatives.

After ten minutes the man reappears and then leaves the building. Miss Kay re-enters the living room, says, “One minute.” Yogi is standing next to a Christmas tree surrounded by chipmunks, raccoons, a dog, and a deer. They’re all telling Yogi what a jerk he is for sleeping through Christmas.

Miss Kay reappears. “Please come in here.”

I follow Miss Kay into a very small room, maybe six by six feet. We take chairs sitting opposite each other; our knees almost touch. She speaks with a low, indistinct Scandinavian accent. Miss Kay lists her services: palm-reading, tarot, and so on. I eagerly interrupt, “I want the crystal ball reading.” This is, of course, the most expensive item, 45 bucks. Miss Kay nods her head, removes a large, jagged crystal from a nearby window sill. I feel disappointment; I want the big, fat, round crystal ball.

Miss Kay passes the crystal to me and says, “I want you to hold this in your hand and concentrate on two wishes.” I take the rock, close my eyes, and wish for money and health.

Miss Kay begins each sentence speaking quite loudly, then trailing off into a tiny whisper, like riding a roller coaster or sitting next to the ocean. It is soothing, reminds me of my mother reading me to bed. “Whatever I sense in your reading, if it’s good news or bad news, do you want to hear it?”

“Uh-hum, yes.”

“If I tell you something and you don’t understand it, just ask me.”

“Okay.” I take another deep breath.

“You are a man that I feel will have a very long life.” (All right, that’s a good start.) “It’s a very long life, but not too much health. Nothing serious, but I do feel a weakness, perhaps some medication ahead of you, but nothing major.” (Hmm...would prefer something a little more robust.) “You’re a very sensitive person; you have hurt feelings very easily. You don’t like to show your feelings to other people. In the past you’ve had a lot of faith in people, a lot of trust in people.” (How true.) “Now, over the years, your faith has died down. Your friends, and your own family, have let you down.” (Yes, that’s unfortunate, that’s very sad but true.) “At this time in your life you’re sorting out people in your life.” (Actually, that is true.)

“You are a very old spirit, a very old soul, which means you’ve had many, many past lives. You’ve had very high positions, positions of strength.” (I knew it. ) “You’ve guided other people many times. You’ve done too much for others. Now is the time that you’ve got to do for yourself. Start sorting out those people in your life from your past, open up new doors, close old doors.

“Three years ago back, your life had a major change; you’re not the same person anymore. Three years ago back, you took a new direction.” (Three years ago, what the hell was I doing? Writing a story on tugboats, riding around the bay, drinking coffee in the wheel house with the captain... )

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