The Story of how jessica lanyadoo popped my psychic cherry, and sent me down a metaphysicial rabbit hole
by J. S., published in Starstruck November 16, 2009
If there’s a stereotypical skeptic of psychics, I’m it. As an atheist—not even an agnostic who believes in a “greater being” – I subscribe to science, not spirits. After people die, they don’t appear in living rooms with advice, they decompose. Nature and nurture make us who we are, not the alignment of stars.
When I met my first psychic,, I had my bullshit detector turned to high. All the same, I liked her immediately. Her office is decorated in “vintage fabulous,” complete with a Michael Jackson portrait made out of shells and mid-century lamps. She has the eccentricity you want in a psychic, but wrapped up in a Mission hipster package, with oversized glasses and curly hair. She started doing readings at the Lexington Club and Glama-Rama and writes the Bay Guardian astrology column. She “totes” uses the same slang as I do, talks quickly, swears like a sailor, and uses pop culture metaphors instead of mysticism.
Jessica’s a one-stop-shop. She can channel the dead, read tarot cards and astrology charts, use psychic intuition and even diagnose your – or your pets’ – medical ailments. I didn’t have anyone close to me who had just died, so I couldn’t talk to ghosts. Luckily, she had already warmed me up reading my astrological chart before she brought out the candle and started channeling my family members and crushes. Otherwise I probably would’ve laughed.
I realized my body language, with one arm slung over the back of my chair, was screaming, “scam!” I found some of her insight was generic. As a single 32-year-old, of course I keep going for the wrong guy. Others were obvious: my white sister’s husband’s last name is Kim, and, yes, their baby will be mixed race. I learned some things that day about going to psychics:
1. Even mediums don’t want to mess with the dead if they don’t have to.
2. You don’t have to tip.
3. Having specific questions for a reader helps but isn’t necessary.
4. There might actually be some value to all this hocus-pocus.
That last lesson, I only admit to with utter embarrassment. I grew up a cynical New Yorker. Is this the final nail in my California New Agey coffin? If you Google me now, will the words “crystal ball gazer” and “sucker” come up? Will anyone take me seriously ever again?
Over that hour session, I found myself melting under her witchy ways. She was accurate – freakily accurate. Her unprompted sequitur about my mother was so nuanced and detailed that even I couldn’t have described our relationship any better. Her explanations of how I mess up relationships was a combination of what I knew, and what I needed to hear. Instead of pointing me in the direction of a crystal shop, she said that with my addictive personality, I should never dive into the world of crystal meth.
I worried I was falling into the common trap of personalizing anything she tells me. With her medical intuition, she told me that I’m very fertile (‘practice safe sex!’ she urged). But when she said I will definitely have a baby, but the baby daddy might not be around, the fact that I’m considering one day having a kid on my own, gave it greater significance than an After-School Special message. But how did she know the precise number of times me and my crush have done the deed?
I had expected crystal balls and séances, but if anything, it just felt like Jessica was channeling my shrink. Only, instead of listening, she was telling, and rather than gently coaching, she was bluntly calling me on my shit.
Some people find her sessions too harsh. Jessica tries to soften the blow. If there’s information the person can do nothing about, sometimes she thinks it’s better left unsaid. “In the first years I would answer any question to prove that I can, but people were staggering out of here,” she says. “It’s like in Project Runway. If the client asks for a tutu, but won’t look good in a tutu, you shouldn’t make it for them.” Hearing that you won’t pass the LSAT (a common question) is disappointing, but even more so, having all your faults and the deep truths you don’t want to face, laid out on the table, can be rough. It’s like a year’s worth of therapy super-condensed and dumped in your lap.
Even Jessica doesn’t quite understand how and why these psychic thoughts enter her head. “It’s a little on the weird side,” she says, “But I do weird.” The best way she can describe it, is to compare it to having a song in your head. “If someone says ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ for example, you don’t just hear it, but you have visuals and feelings that you associate it with,” she explains, “But if you ask me to sing it, I would butcher it.”
Jessica encourages people to record their session to listen to again later. I’m bad with dates, but when I went back over my calendar and emails to see if what she said correlated, it turned out, she nailed it. Things that I thought she had wrong, turned out to be right. I had been in a rut ever since I quit my job and moved to New York, the dates of which matched the phases she described to the tee. The second Neptune phase started the month that I moved back to San Francisco. I thought I was just still getting my grove back, but she said, it was the planets. Not to worry, though, she said. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’d been through the worst of it. I’d feel like myself again once it was over in November 23, 2010.
Seriously, I thought, another year of this crap?
All weekend I was reeling. I was considering rethinking how I was living my life. I was getting freaked out by how much she knew, and how much I was believing.
So in the name of science, I sought out second opinions. I hit up palm readers, had my aura and chakras read, and psyche tapped into. I wanted to see if others would see the same things.
First stop: Tracy Berkerley Taguchi who reads tarot cards at a corner table aton Valencia Street. Once again, the insight was unnervingly accurate. I’m writing a book interviewing torturers; she said my work involving human rights, research, and people unloading upsetting information, was causing stress. That same work was dominating my life. People say psychics will read them based on their appearance, but when Tracy saw my cards, she laughed because it was the opposite of what she had expected. “Your voice and demeanor are quite sweet,” she said, “but it looks like you are quite feisty and rebellious.” She apologized if I was offended to know that I was holding out for a true love.
Next up, “Readings by Carmela,” on 24th Street down near Pop’s, with a star studded “walk-ins welcome” placard and neon signs of a palm and a crystal ball in the window. The front room parlor had lush burgundy carpets, matching velvet and mahogany couches and glitzy imitation chandeliers. She shooed her kids into the back room, tossed her plastic shopping bags down, and apologized for being late for the appointment: those lines at Ross are always so slow. Carmela had a two-palms-for-one special. The recession, she says with tired eyes, has been tough on psychics.
Turns out, like with most things, you get what you pay for. Walk-in sessions are shorter than the average MUNI wait. In my seven-minute reading I mostly got fortune cookie-esqe tips. I will lead a long life and my dreams will come true. I’m strong and independent. Her insight that someone in my family hurt me emotionally probably applies to anyone who has either been a teenager or attended a family holiday dinner. All the same, given the economy, no scam artist would wager a ninety per cent guarantee that in six weeks, I would get the job I want. And even more importantly, much of her insight directly echoed the other two readings.
By the time I went to a fourth medium, I felt like I was listening to a record stuck in repeat. Each woman had their own phrasing, but they agreed: my career was going amazingly well, but not my love life. Whether it’s because my chakras were out of whack, Neptune was orbiting, or I chose certain tarot cards, consensus is in: When it comes to my non-work related life, I’m in a rut, a bad place, unlucky. I have a strong will and rebellious tendencies but am uncharacteristically doubting myself. Love will come, but I have to wait. Eerily it all made sense.
Don’t worry: I’m not a full-on convert. I don’t believe the mediums are channeling the dead or that as the planets’ orbit can be credited for my career or blamed for my singledom. Regardless, their advice was helpful and their insight and intuition right-on. I didn’t need the psychic fraud hotline (yes there is one) to know the five hundred dollar offer to realign my chakras, from Christine at the walk-up next to City Lights bookstore, was a scam. But, I’ve marked November 23, 2010, the day when I’m finally out of this Neptune-induced slump, on my calendar. I’ve got big plans, and will be prepared.