Why Was the Dot-Com Boom So Bad, Again?

The new New Economy: Making "spirit rocks" in a dank basement and attending "Manifesting Money the Psychic Way"

*Names and some details have been changed, just to be nice.

Psyched

Psychics, clairvoyants, tarot card readers, and the non-telepathically inclined massed earlier this month for a "Psychic Faire and Spiritual Healing Festival" in Golden Gate Park. We attended in hopes of unraveling the mystical ball of yarn that is our confused mind, and also for workshops with titles like "Male Energy: Creating as a Spirit in a Male Body" and "Manifesting Money the Psychic Way." (We imagine the latter going something like this: "Now, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Put your hands on the table and slowly read off the numbers of your credit card. Good, good. Now the expiration date. OK, and tell me: Is it a Visa or an American Express? Visa? I had a feeling you would say that.")

Our first stop is the bake sale, where a chicken quesadilla costs $6; we assume its negative saturated-fat energies have been cleansed. Next we pursue a "free aura cleansing," which procedure is undertaken by Steven, a psychic healer wearing an orange polo shirt, blue swim trunks, and flip-flops. He sits us down on a metal folding chair in the middle of a noisy auditorium and instructs us to set our hands -- palms upward -- on our knees. He then begins circling, flailing his arms up and down and from side to side, along the way informing us that he will be removing all of our psychic energies, the good and the bad. Afterward, he says, he will put back the good.

About halfway through, he asks us how the cleansing is making us feel so far. "Um," we say, racking our devoid-of-psychic-energy brain, "relaxed." In truth, though, we aren't so much relaxed as bored. For one thing, Steven doesn't seem to be taking the cleansing very seriously. He spends much of the time having a conversation with another healer. We can't quite make out what they are talking about. Perhaps sailing.

When he returns his attention to us, we ask him how he became a psychic healer. "I just started taking classes recently," he says, making a motion like he's pulling out our heart, which indicates that the session is over. "You can take them, too. It's quite easy, actually."

We wander around the rest of the auditorium, stopping at the "Men's Healing" information stand. Behind it about three or four men are being healed, in contrast to the women's stand, which has about 16 or 17 participants. We ask Greg, the organizer of the booth, what the difference is between male and female energy. "Criminy!" he says, looking at us like we were a 3-year-old. "They make babies and we don't!"

He smiles to suggest he's been joking and gives the serious explanation: "Men and women have totally different energies, see. The problem is that women tend to take on too much male energy, and men tend to take on too much female energy."

At this point, a young woman wearing a bright-red sweater steps up to the microphone and announces it is time for a "Psychic Tea Break." No actual tea is to be consumed, however. The break is instead a time to "find the center of [our] head." Before we can determine if she means the metaphorical or the literal center of our head, she tells us to imagine we are back in kindergarten. "Imagine the playing, the fun, the discovery ...."

The ostracizing, the bed-wetting, the alienation, we immediately think, but, for people who call themselves psychics, they don't seem to do a very good job of reading our mind. When the Tea Break is over we ask Greg for clarification.

"Being a psychic doesn't necessarily mean being clairvoyant," he says. "Reading other people's minds is just a small part of it. It's more about understanding your own aura."

"So it's like reading your own mind?" we ask.

He looks at us now with a smile, not, this time, as if we were a 3-year-old, but as though we were a high school student, graduating with honors. "Exactly," he says, bids us farewell, and resumes the healing. -- Ben Westhoff

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