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Visit to a previous life

Today was my second day working with Bill at Black Books. It was dull indeed, just sorting paperwork and mailing stuff, but at least the end result is something worthwhile — the magazine, and the books they publish, are honestly beautiful things. We're creating something special, and it's nice being a tiny part of that.

It's the opposite of working at Macy's, or almost any other job I've had. The work is basically the same — data entry and pushing piles of paper — but at Macy's what's the eventual point? Making money for some corporation.

♦ ♦ ♦

Tonight I had dinner with Kallie at the Happy Palace restaurant on Monterrey Blvd. We had three helpings of very good squid, two helpings of shrimp fried rice, and all of it was terrific. The tab was $25, including tip, and I paid, because months ago when I had money we'd eaten at Happy Palace, and I'd promised that the next time would be my treat. Ouch.

It was worth it, though — good food, and great seeing Kallie again.

There's a Safeway between the restaurant and Kallie's house, where workers are on strike. As we walked by I asked the picketers if it would be OK to go inside, long as we were only shoplifting. They laughed and liked that idea, but Kallie wanted to take me back in time, so we kept walking.

At her place she turned the lights down low, lit a candle, and put on ambient music, but it wasn't meant to be romantic. At least, I don't think it was. She has a part-time business doing hypnotherapy, putting people into a trance to help with their issues, and she wanted to regress me to a past life. She said I'd find it helpful for my psyche.

I didn't say this to her, at least not tonight, but I've said it to her before and I want to say it in the zine so there's no misunderstanding: I thought it was probably bunk, but Kallie has always countered, "You don't have to believe in reincarnation to get something from exploring past lives."

So I came as an experiment, and it was not my intent to piss in her soup. Fair and square, I only wanted to see what might happen.

What happened was, she started with a slowly spoken relaxation mantra, which after a while was supposed to slip me into a trance, while Kallie counted to ten. She counted, and afterward she told me I'd been easy to hypnotize, that I was in a trance by the time she'd counted to five.

My mind, though, was wandering the whole time, and that's not supposed to happen, is it? Between the questions Kallie was asking me, I thought about whether Juan is still mad at me, remembered the doggy-bag of shrimp in my backpack, calculated how many copies the zine needs to sell to break even, etc. If I was in a trance, it felt suspiciously like boredom.

I did do whatever Kallie instructed me to do. She said relax, so I relaxed. She said to lean back and get comfortable, so I did. But I was choosing to do these things, trying to be cooperative. Pretty sure I wasn't following orders like an obedient android.

She asked me to imagine myself at the beach, and I remembered that I hate going to the beach — I'm fat, people stare. In the spirit of the night, though, I imagined myself at the beach, but skinnier and not embarrassed. 

So far so good, but then she said to imagine a giant bird had landed in front of me, and that I was not afraid. That seemed nuts, but — OK.

She told me to imagine I'd climbed on the giant bird's back, and the bird was flying me back in time. Well, all right, but I remember thinking that if I was flying on a giant bird's back I'd be scared, and I wasn't scared — because I wasn't flying on a giant bird's back.

Then she said to imagine that the bird had landed, far in the historical past, that I'd climbed down, and the giant bird had flown away. Bye bye, birdie.

She told me that the bird had brought me to one of my past lives, and she asked me to look at the landscape wherever I was, and describe what I saw. And — 

Hold everything. I wasn't sure what to say, because I didn't see anything except Kallie's living room. I haven't got a lot of imagination, or I'd be writing a novel instead of a diary. Through all this so far, I'd been free-associating (I think it's called), trying to see what she told me to see, but c'mon — I'd never seen a giant bird, and I certainly wasn't seeing any time or place where the bird had left me.

At that moment, looking around at Kallie's place, I noticed her shelf of videotapes. It made me think about all the times I'd gone to the cinema, in the old days when I could afford to just hop onto a BART or Muni any time any theater was showing anything interesting.

I hadn't answered yet, so she asked me again to describe what I saw, and what popped into my mind was that I saw... Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood at the U.C. Theater in Berkeley. "Why, I'm in merry olde England," I said. "There's woods, grass, and I'm riding a horse…"

Her next several questions were about my life and times in Nottingham Forest, and you can guess my answers if you've read the book or seen the movie.

She asked if there was anyone in my past life who's also in my present life. By then, bored and daydreaming, I was thinking about an old friend I'll be seeing when I visit Seattle next month, so I said, "It's Bruno, my best friend from Seattle. What's he doing in my past life?"

That was almost intended as a joke, but she said, "True friends often come back to be friends again in the next life," said it very seriously, and I reminded myself not to kid around. This stuff matters to her.

After that, Kallie counted backwards from ten to one, and I opened my eyes. She happily retold me all the things I'd told her, and explained that I'd been a horseman in ancient England. I didn't argue, because I didn't want to be rude, but really, no. 

I had tried to be cooperative, tried to be under the spell, but I don't believe I was. All my answers were based on things from my life, this life, the only life I'll ever have.

If I'd been hypnotized, I wouldn't remember every moment of it, and what I was thinking, and the thought process behind every answer to every question. And I wouldn't remember being bored by it all, but I remember the boredom, vividly. 

What I said was, "Thank you, Kallie. That was cool." It had been a nice evening. We don't work together any more, but we're still friends and that's delightful. 

As for reincarnation, I came to Kallie's hypnotherapy with an open mind, but nothing happened. It wasn't as dull as waiting for a bus, but it also wasn't as thrilling as actually riding a bus. I therefore conclude:

You're born, you live a little, and then you die. That better be enough, because that's all there is.

From Pathetic Life #11
Thursday, April 13, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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