In Response to The Lovin’ Spoonful: ‘No’

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I don’t believe in tarot or magic, but I do believe in the power of Sedona’s beautiful desert.

I don’t believe in tarot, at least that a group of 78 cards has any ability to read the future or determine the outcome of choices. That would be absurd. Still, I do use tarot spread to catch a quick glimpse of my unconscious, sort of like using two mirrors to take a look at that boil on your left ear. Briefly, I do a reading — typically a Celtic Cross, if you care — and gauge my unconscious by examining my immediate emotional reaction to each revealed card. It’s really just a parlor trick I play on myself, a trick that I’m too dumb to ever figure out.

I don’t believe in magick (or magic) (or majick) (or madjich) (or any other damn way to misspell the word), at least the idea one person can control nature through spells, incantations, rites or plain mumbo-jumbo. Still, I think expressing gratitude multiple times daily cleans out my mental and emotional causeways, and that sounds magical when you come right down to it.

I don’t believe in psychics, at least that some people are gifted with qualitatively different intuition than the rest of us and are able to read people at will and offer wisdom about or insight into their lives. I do think we all have some inner voice that’s worth listening to, but not that it can tell the future or recount past lives. Still, I enjoy talking with people who believe they have psychic abilities — and even those who are simple charlatans using standard cold reading techniques.

Which brings me to hamburgers in Sedona.

McDonald’s with a Southwestern twist.

Last night I wanted a burger. Sedona is a great place for Mexican, Southwestern and vegan fare, but it’s not a place known for its cheeseburgers. While it may have a tastefully-colored turquoise McDonald’s, no fast-food place offers a satisfactory burger. Yesterday, after scouring the Internet and asking lots of locals, I found Dellepiane Sedona, a hole-in-the-wall in a shopping center. Dellepiane is owned by some Argentinians, and their menu reflects that, but they also have the best burgers I’ve had in a long time. Here, though, I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I walked in, I saw a woman about my age sitting by herself. Using the overbearing charm my daughters have grown to hate, I asked if I could join her for dinner. When I sat down, I quickly found out she was Francine, from Sedona (by way of Tampa, Long Island and Queens), that she played keyboards and sang with a five-piece band that plays the restaurant weekends, that she’s been here a few years, and that she was a psychic. After I went through my standard interrogation of Long Islanders who’d grown up there (“Were you a Lou Reed girl or a Billy Joel girl?”), we chatted amiably. Because she’d ordered first, her meal came followed by mine. She told me she needed to leave to meet her son and her ex-husband, and needed to pay her bill. I said I’d take care of it, and a big smile came over her face.

“Stop by my studio tomorrow and I’ll give you a free reading! I’m located at Crystal Magic.”

Becca and Meri.

This morning, I met with Francine and surprised her by not wanting a reading. Instead, I showed her pictures of my three daughters, Becca, Meri (above) and Becca and Libby (below), gave her their birth dates, and asked her to be my personal shopper inside Crystal Magic, the New Age emporium we were in.

Libby and Becca.

She studied the pictures, meditated on the horoscope information, and took me inside. We shopped for maybe five minutes, and I walked out with thoughtful gifts for each girl.

I don’t believe in psychics, but I do believe the girls will like their presents.

Postcards from Sedona

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About the author: Keith Howard used to be a homeless drunk veteran. Then he got sober and, eventually, became director of Liberty House in Manchester, a housing program for formerly homeless veterans. There, he had a number of well-publicized experiences – walking away from federal funds in order to keep Liberty House clean and sober, a contretemps with a presidential candidate and a $100,000 donation, a year spent living in a converted cargo trailer in Raymond. Today, he lives in a six-by 12-foot trailer in Pittsburg, NH, a few miles from the Canadian border with his dog, Sam. There, Howard maintains, his website, works on a memoir, and a couple of novels while plotting the next phase of his improbable life.