Psychic Chic

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“Being a professional psychic isn’t easy,” according to Charlie Reese, a self-identified psychic blogger “who also enjoys having a free psychic chat once a month.”

Maybe so, but it just got a whole lot easier. Two months ago, CNN asserted that “psychic advisor” is one of our few growth industries. Of course, there was a significant change in the practice: clients are no longer so curious about when they’ll meet their soulmates; now they want to know how much money lies ahead. The American Association of Psychics confirms that there are more of these folks charging for their services than ever before. And a recent poll conducted by the Bubbler — “Wisconsin’s Information Source” — revealed that a majority of those surveyed believe they have psychic powers. That’s in Wisconsin!

But who needs these reports? Take a spin around the San Fernando Valley and you’ll see a startling number of “Psychic” signs on front lawns, most likely because the inhabitants have lost their jobs and need the cash just to stay in their homes.

It may be questionable to pull into a stranger’s driveway for economic advice. And you don’t have to do that: psychic readings are available all over the Internet, or you can hire a psychic to tell your future via email. It’s not surprising, though, that people are laying down hard-earned dollars for predictive comfort in these perilous times.

A 2005 Gallup survey showed that 41 percent of those polled believed in extrasensory perception, 26 percent believed in clairvoyance and thirty-one percent believed in telepathy or psychic communication. And those numbers have surely risen as fast as the unemployment rate.

Los Angeles has long been the nation’s capital when it comes to matters supernatural, and the business of spirituality has thrived here through good times and bad. Towards the end of the dead tree era, when newspapers still existed, LA Weekly, for which I worked, published a special “Spirituality” edition. There was some good stuff to read, including a piece by Michael Ventura, an authentic spiritualist, but it was the ads that revealed, often hilariously, how psychic pros were making a buck.

In addition to pitches for garden variety astrologers, Buddhist meditation halls and yoga centers, there was a “healer” promoting “Breast enlargement through hypnosis,” a Christian bookstore “Where Jesus would shop” and a “psychic facelift” practitioner.

Most promising was a “Transmogrification” service, where, for a hefty fee, you could have all 10 trillion cells of your present body replaced in a matter of seconds by a new, spiritual self. (My memory isn’t perfect here — it might have been a “non-self” or a “no-self” that you ended up with.)

There’s a deeper reason why people are looking to the supernatural for guidance about the economic future. The “experts” who in their arrogance were so sure that housing prices and the Dow would always go up have been exposed as not just wrong but delusional and even corrupt. If you or I — or a psychic — drew predictions from dart-throwing, we could never have been so consistently and stubbornly out of it. (Jon Stewart’s inspired takedown of these Masters of the Universe — CEOs, financial commentators, hedge fund operators, bankers — showed them declaiming, straight-faced, as the Dow cratered from 14,000 to 6,000, that now was the time to buy stocks because, well, they were so darn cheap.) That most of these bloviators still have their jobs and continue their shameless pontificating is beyond belief.

Still, our best shot is to face the reality of the fix we’re in and, firm in the knowledge that neither the experts nor the psychics have a clue about where all this is going, work hard to pull ourselves back to a place of some stability, from which growth can come.

In the end, if nothing works, we’re all dead anyway, with the possible exception of the transmogrified. (Webster’s: changed in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely). But fear not: the Neptune Society is running a direct-mail sweepstakes contest that offers a final solution. The Society — living up to its namesake, the God of the Sea — is in the business of “sea scattering.” The winner gets a free cremation.

Now that’s transmogrification we can believe in.

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