A curious girl’s ethnographic quest for stimulation, knowledge and the least common denominator…
(originally published on

“See all these people?” The Mother said. She had her hands on The Little Girl’s shoulders. “They’re special just like you! And see how happy they are?”

As she talked, she spun The Little Girl around slowly in a semi-circle and pointed at the various tables and booths lining the walls of the big room.

I stood at a distance, eavesdropping, and I spun around to look, too. I had to disagree. I wasn’t exactly getting the happy vibe from these people.

It’s not that they seemed unhappy or anything like that, but despite the subject matter, this was still a trade show in a sterile meeting room at the Radisson. The people looked the way all people at trade shows look: a mixture of bored, enthusiastic and awkward. They were in various states of comfortableness with self-promotion. If I were a psychic, I don’t think I would attend an event like this… unless, of course, my mother made me.

“Your gift isn’t anything to be ashamed of,” The Mother continued. Then in classic stage-mom fashion, she raised her voice a bit and said to The Sniffling [allergies] Tarot Card Reader sitting behind her, “She’s been discouraged by people on her dad’s side of the family, and that just burns me up.”

The Sniffling Tarot Card Reader and surrounding metaphysicians shook their heads in solidarity.

“I want you to walk around and find someone you want to talk to,” she told (her) The Little Girl. “Find somebody you feel a real connection with…”

I searched The Little Girl’s face, wondering if she found this task as daunting as I did. I had come to the Austin Metaphysical Fair with exactly the same intentions. I’d already done a few laps, and no one seemed to stand out. I was starting to question my approach.

I mean, it was kind of like walking into a party full of strangers and expecting That One Semi-Sober Guy By The Keg to somehow instantly understand you, whatever that means. And not only would he have to understandyou, but he would also have to be able to communicate this understanding in such a way that would make you actually want to talk to him. And then you guys would have to have more than just a regular old conversation. You’d have to feel a connection. Then, after all the previous criteria were met, there’d still be more thing: This guy would also have to be psychic.

Sure, I was probably over-thinking it, but it was still a lot of pressure. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it was for The Little Girl. Her mother had walked away and she stood alone, her eyes darting from one table to the next. So I decided to do the adult thing: I trailed her.

See, my initial laps around the room hadn’t been completely fruitless. I’d learned one great truth: Psychics are expensive. I figured that following around a potentially-psychic 8-year-old was probably my best bet for finding the real deal. She probably had a sixth sense about these things, and I didn’t want to fork out the cash for a faker. I had real questions, and I wanted real answers.

So off we went.

We passed a Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner look-alike psychic sitting behind a pink table crowded with pink and red roses and an assortment of porcelain cherub figurines. I imagined her sitting at a kitchen table smoking Virginia Slims 120’s and talking on a telephone attached to the wall by a long, tangled cord. Definitely interesting, but probably not psychic. The Little Girl didn’t even slow down.

We walked passed a booth with a rainbow-colored backdrop and a sign that said “New! Aura Photos!”. We passed a man in dreadlocks sitting beside a poster of himself. Above his photo, the words read “Holistic Warrior”. The Little Girl wasn’t interested.

We saw a woman getting an Ion Foot Bath for only $25, which is apparently a steal.

[A note for the curious: Basically, two electrodes that are hooked to a battery are placed touching each other in a tub of salty water. You put your feet in the tub, too, and after awhile the water turns a gross yellow-brown color. This is supposedly from all of the toxins being cleansed from your body through your feet. This makes perfect sense if you have kidneys in your feet.]

We passed a booth with a sign reading “Genesis Star Chamber.” A man was laying on a table while a woman’s hands hovered six inches above him, moving up and down the length of his body. The guy in charge of the sign-up sheet noticed I was staring. “Come on in and play,” he called out to me.

I considered his offer. I mean, I’ve never been in a Genesis Star Chamber before.

“Do you take credit?” I asked. He pointed to the Visa/Mastercard sign. Of course.

Still, I wasn’t ready to commit. Plus, we seemed to be entering the celebrity look-alike section of the fair. Within 20 feet of each other, a man who was a dead ringer for Andy Warhol, and a woman who looked like Neil Young were both giving tarot card readings (yes, there exists in this world a woman who looks like Neil Young, and strangely enough, not in a bad way; this would be harder to explain than Energems, however, so I’ll move on…).

I got a little lost in The Mysterious Face of The Female Neil Young, and when I looked up, a small, chipper lady was standing directly in front of me. She cheerfully asked, “Have you ever heard of Nikola Tesla?”

“Sure,” I answered.

“Well, these are Energems!” she told me, as if the connection between the two should be obvious to me. It wasn’t, and she didn’t mention Tesla again, either. She continued, “They’re constructed in a very specific way that enables them to absorb negative energy. Each Energem works to change Dead Orgone into Positive Orgone Energy.”

“Uh, okay,” I said. “Can I touch them?”

“Of course,” she said, handing me a mid-size model. “This one will cover a whole house. Those smaller sizes cover three to five feet, and the largest ones will cover up to a mile!”

Holding the Energem in my hand, I quickly realized its most striking characteristic: It was possibly the ugliest object I had ever, ever seen. Imagine, if you will, the bottom third of a bottle of Goldschlager, slightly shaken to stir up the little bits of gold. Now take a few random magnets off of your refrigerator, smash them with a hammer and drop them in. Then, head to your local steel plant and pick up a handful of metal filings. Combine those with a few plastic beads and the ragged fabric scraps from your last quilting project. Add a copper coil, and mix everything together inside the bottle so it’s all suspended in the liquid. Lastly, imagine that the Goldschlager is actually hard resin, and that it’s shaped like a pyramid. That is what an Energem looks like.

“If you have a cranky coworker, you can hide one under her desk where she can’t see it,” the woman told me, oblivious to the irony. “She’ll be in a better mood in no time, and she won’t know why.”

By the time I left Planet Orgone, I had lost track of The Little Girl. When I finally found her, she was sitting down at a table near where I’d first seen her. After everything we’d seen, Genesis Star Chamber and all, she’d chosen The Sniffling Tarot Card Reader… The very first person she saw… The one who shook her head and agreed with her mother.

She was a nondescript middle-aged lady with obvious allergies; she was sneezing all over the place. This made her seem more credible to me, like she wasn’t trying too hard.

I stood around pretending to look at the paperback books and polished stones on display nearby, and I waited for something to happen. I’d spent over an hour following this girl around, and I deserved to see something, didn’t I? Maybe not mind-melding or levitation or a grand announcement that she was The Chosen One… but how about a knowing glance? A tiny prediction? An inkling of proof? A connection?

Instead, The Sniffling Tarot Card Reader snotted and sneezed and talked like she would to any eight-year-old. She sounded like a guidance counselor.

“Growing up is hard sometimes… The cards say you like math… Sometimes you don’t get along with your sister… It looks like you might have some pets, right?”

The Little Girl mumbled either yes or no. Nothing else. Ever.

It was uncomfortable- like neither was getting what she expected. Like a really bad date. I stood there wondering: Maybe they were reading each others’ thoughts and the conversation was just for show. Or maybe psychics cancel each other out like double negatives. Or maybe one of them was lying and the other was just being polite. Maybe the little girl just wanted to go home. Maybe she didn’t want to know about her future. Maybe she already knew.

When The Mother returned, she paid The Sniffling Tarot Card Reader in cash. The Little Girl stood up, and they left.

I was alone, staring at the table full of rocks. A man asked if he could help me.


Roughly equal

Who would win in a foot race: an election day poll worker or an Austin Metaphysical Fair ticket taker?
A fish

Did I finally get a reading?
Yes, and one day I will write about it

Favorite new excuse:
“Sorry I’m so late! I was busy remembering my I AM Presence.”