By Erin Sherbert
By Howard Cole
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
Yes, I, Mr. Big-and-Clever, will now infiltrate a New Age convention in Marin County, searching for Yanni-inspired, dolphin-blazoned enlightenment. But it would be like shooting crystal-wearing fish in a unicorn-painted barrel if I rampaged through the gathering like a cynical bull in a vegan china shop. So I plan to exercise restraint. I'll go, but I'll be "open-minded."
To fit in at the New Age extravaganza, I wear a "man-dress." To fit in further, I go by the pseudonym Chakra Kahn. Once inside, my first reaction is to wonder how goddamn long it will take to spot some buffoonish guy with dreadlocks playing a drum. Wait! That's not very open-minded! Besides, all I would need to do is look in a mirror, for I've brought a drum (and already have dreadlocks).
To avoid the $15 cover charge, I simply walk in. (I don't even have to sneak, because there's a serious lack of security at the door.) As I make my way through the convention's exhibits, my open mind is delighted to find practical things on display. There are therapeutic massages (once I had a bad back, and a massage really helped me out!), herbal medicines (on several occasions, echinacea has prevented me from catching a cold!), and nice vegetarian food (who doesn't like hummus?!).
Then my open-mindedness is put to its first test: For $99 an hour, a Dutchwoman says she will paint my aura. The constantly smiling Dutchwoman explains that she does it by "channeling angels." I glance over her display of aura paintings. All are splattered-paint compositions that look like they were done by a chimp using its foot for a brush. They're akin in artistic dexterity to Fisherman's Wharf caricatures. These auras should have big heads and tiny bodies with Alcatraz in the background.
"Did those guys come in and get their auras painted by you?" I ask, making an excited face.
The smiling Dutchwoman explains that they didn't; this is merely what Lennon's and Presley's auras would seem like if they were alive today. Squinting, I give a hard look. The aura of the Elvis Presley of today would resemble, it seems, a mild-mannered tax accountant's. To clear up my apparent confusion, the smiling Dutchwoman explains further, "There is a lot of creativity coming from the auras of John Lennon and Elvis Presley!"
"Can you see my aura?" I ask. The smiling Dutchwoman stares intensely at me and then at my hair.
"I see a lot of red, for creativity," she proclaims, looking at my drum. "Are you a musician?"
"Yes!" (Actually, no.)
"I see a lot of yellow. You're very spiritual, and there's a lot of healing in your music."
"Uncanny." (Actually, I don't play an instrument.)
"And people like to hang out when you play your music."
"Wow! It's like you have a movie camera watching my life!" (I have no musical ability whatsoever.)
I'm beginning to enjoy the freedom of my man-dress (it's less constricting than pants) as I contemplate the signs on exhibitors' booths I pass. They bear slogans:
"Realize the power within you!"
"Reach beyond 100%!"
"My life will change when I change!"
"Emergence of the pure self within!"
"Create the life that you truly want to live!"
Perhaps New Age people, though spiritual seekers, also want a quick and easy solution to life's problems, like one of those fitness contraptions that promise rock-hard abs without exercise. Lay down money. Buy prescribed gizmo. Reap spiritual benefits.
"It's a rapid-eye technique, and it provides an excellent release of hidden trauma just by blinking," explains a woman at the blinking-therapy booth.
"That's great, 'cause I really want to reach beyond 100 percent, perhaps to the 105 percent-to-109 percent range!" I say, vigorously nodding my head. My interest in blinking attracts other exhibitors, who descend upon me like spirituality-dispensing flies on spirituality-seeking shit.
"When you wear one of these," interrupts a robed woman, showing me her necklaces, "you get the power of thousands of monks! Your life will change!"
"Terrific!" I reply, trying one on, just to know what it's like to have thousands of monks dangling from my neck. "I could use this at one of my upcoming Aryan Nation meetings!"
"I'll let you in on a secret," confides an older man, swinging a dowsing pendulum. "I use this to vote!"
"Me, too!" barks a woman with a well-mounted forehead bindi, excited to find someone who shares her voting technique.
"But what if it tells you to vote for David Duke?" my open mind inquires as I adjust my ever-slipping man-dress.
The man explains that the swinging pendulum channels inner energy. When you ask it a question, it will swing one way for "yes" and another for "no," just like a Magic 8 Ball, except it's used by an organized society that has its own newsletter. I give it a try.
"Do I want a foot surgically attached to my forehead?" I ask aloud, letting the dowsing pendulum swing. Unfortunately, it tells me "yes."
Time to make a surgery appointment!
It occurs to me that the worst thing in the world for many men would be to get dumped by a girlfriend for a guy in a ponytail who teaches a New Age seminar. Putting this thought in my head is the sight of a blond guy jumping on a minitrampoline to demonstrate "Cellercise." I remind myself to remain open-minded.