I'm in a bit of a witchy mood these days.
I spent last week in Los Angeles, where -- in the direct inverse of the opinion of the average visiting New Yorker -- I find the people delightful but the sunshine oppressive. It's a weirdly green city that isn't supposed to exist, situated as it is in a rather dry desert basin between the beautiful mountains and the beautiful ocean.
It's packed with artists and writers and dancers and actors and massage therapists and other interesting types, but it has a strangely haunted quality. As I drove my friend to pick up a suit at the Men's Wearhouse in Burbank, I looked up into the stunning green mountains and said, "This place fills me with an inescapable loneliness. It's spooky."
I'm not prone to making such dramatic statements while driving past a Bob's Big Boy, but I guess Los Angeles brings that out in me.
Thanks to early exposure to the lyrical, poetic, fairy-tale punk novels of Francesca Lia Block (thank you, 1994-ish Sassy review of "Weetzie Bat") I'm convinced Los Angeles is packed with strange energy that does weird things to people. Sure, it can lead to loneliness, but it can also lead to great flights of fancy and bursts of creative inspiration.
I'm pretty certain that despite its depressingly mundane they-paved-paradise-to-put-up-a-parking-lot aesthetic, Los Angeles is full of ghosts and possibly witches and maybe even real-deal, actual-factual magic.
Now, as a lapsed Catholic, I'm inclined to lend credence to tales of the spooky. I was raised in a religion that puts great emphasis on the power of magic water, magic incense, magic wafers, magic wine, and magic human remains (for example, I've visited churches on two continents that proudly display "uncorrupted" corpses of various saints). I cross myself. I light candles. I say a little prayer for you (and, more often, for me.) I toss salt over one shoulder for good luck. I burn sage to purify a space. I carry talismans for courage and to relieve anxiety. I own a pack of fairy cards designed by my man Brian Froud, and I use it to figure out the answers to such burning questions as, "Does he like me like that?"
I even have not one but two favorite witch shops -- Mystickal Times and Gypsy Heaven, both in New Hope, PA. And I love, love, love tarot card readings. I even have a card-reading friend named Melissa Tarot whose tagline is "I already know you want one."
I know Melissa well enough to know that she actually intuits crap that she couldn't otherwise know, and that she's a talented communicator. But I wonder if that's just part of her personality, maybe heightened as a result of her many years as a social worker. I believe Melissa is for real, and Melissa certainly believes Melissa is for real, but perhaps that realness is not attached to magic but rather to compassion, empathy and the ability to observe and interpret physical cues from her clients (then again, she does a kickass phone reading, which cuts out the physical bit.)
Perhaps it doesn't matter whether Melissa's magic is of the otherworldly or mundane type -- she helps people, she's ethical and she's reasonably priced to boot. I still think she's got the Gift, and her interpretations of tarot symbolism are interesting even if you're not a believer.
Anyway, I'd love to hear if you believe in magic and omens and all that jazz. I'll even give you a test case to interpret by telling you about an incident that took place during my tour de Los Angeles.
I was walking down Carmen Avenue, a street in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood that happens to be home to the Monastery of the Angels, which means there is probably an extra amount of magic happening there (the cloistered Dominican nuns sell sinfully delicious pumpkin bread every Wednesday, in case you're in need.) The sun was out (of course) but it wasn't terribly hot, and the morning light was soothingly gentle.
I walked past honeysuckle and roses and lilies and thought to myself, "I could live in Los Angeles. I'd get a teensy tiny car so I could park anywhere I liked, and I'd rent a nice little one-bedroom place, and I'd do my blogging and my other writing and I'd wear lots of sunblock and big floppy hats and carry a parasol and go to yoga all the time and eat green things and be happy. I could do this!"
At precisely that moment, I felt a strange pecking sensation at my upper arm. I turned and saw an actual angry bird pecking at me.
"Gaaah!" I shrieked, walking faster. The bird flew away, circled around, and came back at me again. Peckpeckpeckpeckpeck!
"It's rabid!" I thought. "Or maybe it thinks I'm a flower because I'm wearing wild rose deodorant. Wait, it totally knows I'm not a flower. What the hell is going on?" I walked even faster, and the bird circled around a third time, launching itself at me with a grim determination.
"Why are you attacking me?" I yelled, as if it would respond. It flew away from me, doubled back, and aimed itself straight at me for a fourth time. I ran across the street. It didn't follow me.
I immediately reported the incident to Facebook, where my friend Phil posted a link to a book and tarot card set called Feathered Omens. But of course I was already convinced this unlikely bird attack signified something larger. Maybe it was a response from The Multiverse telling me not to move to Los Angeles! Or maaaaaaybe the bird was saying, "Move to L.A. already and stop fricking talking and blogging and thinking about it!" Or maybe I just got too close to its nest when I kept stopping to smell all the pretty flowers.
I leave it to you, O Great Oracle of the Commentariat, to interpret this avian incident. And while you're at it, tell me if you believe in ooky-ooky-spooky stuff too, or if you think it's all a bunch of bunk.