Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Very Superstitious, Writing's On The Wall

Seriously, if there was a toll booth on Memory Lane, I’d be bankrupt by now.

I got scoliosis when I was a teenager. I ended up seeing four doctors about it, two said to operate, two said not to. The one who finally convinced us was the one who said that if they didn’t operate I’d be dead by 40 because my ribcage was rotating so fast that it would eventually puncture my lung. For most girls the growth stops on its own. Mine didn't. When I turned 40 I was depressed at that milestone until I remembered that I might have been dead instead. And not the kind of dead that I am when I have sex blog.

The summer before seeing all those doctors my family went to our place in Paris. My grandparents lived about ten minutes away and knew a woman named Marguerite, who was clairvoyant. Marguerite used to visit and scare the crap out of me and my sister. She told us that she got her powers to see into the future from an old cat who showed up at her apartment one night. The cat then turned into a sea captain and told her he was giving her infinite power but she was to pass it on before she died. Then he turned back into a cat.

My mother took me to Marguerite's apartment once. I only went because I was hoping the cat would start talking or listing to starboard. It did not. About a year before Marguerite died, she told Grandmère she could give her the gift of seeing into the future but my grandmother turned her down. I asked her why and she said that she didn't want to know which of her family or friends was going to die and on what day.

One of our American friends, Carole, used to come by Grandmères with her mother and if Marguerite was there, Marguerite would mutter "pauvre Carole" (poor Carole) under her breath. I asked my mother why she was doing that and my mother said that she must have seen something really bad in store for her. Ten years later Carole committed suicide. Pauvre Carole indeed.

My mother would ask Marguerite about my scoliosis and if I was going to be okay. She would put her hands on my back and say to my mother, “She’ll be fine.”

Marguerite would often take my sister and me to La Cimetière de Montmartre, which was close to where we lived, by the big white church on the hill.

Do you think the cat in the Montmartre cemetery photo below could be the sea captain just wandering around? Yeah, me too neither. I always wondered if Marguerite was going to visit the sea captain. If she found his grave, she never mentioned it. Since those days I have always had a fascination with cemeteries. One of the first jokes I ever wrote was:

I got stopped by a cop this morning. He said, “Lady, you can’t park your car here.” And I said, “Oh, like the spaces between these graves are going to be used for something else.”

At one point mom and Grandmère took me to a man who did something called The Laying On Of Handkerchiefs. I can still see the waiting room with all the hopeful and ailing sitting upright in their chairs, fiddling with their jackets, quieting their children as they anxiously waited. They all had handkerchiefs folded into neat piles and placed on their laps. When it was our turn, the man took the handkerchiefs we had brought and did some abracadabra stuff and laid them on my back. I have no idea whether that practice is still going on but since Europeans are particularly steeped in tradition, probably.

My grandmother was a superstitious woman who believed in clairvoyants and cartomanciens, people who can tell the future by reading playing cards. She taught me how to read cards and I made a nice piece of coin off that whenever I was broke because I was really good at it. I actually saved one man from a Sicilian mob hit.

I remember another superstitious trick Grandmère taught us. If we had a dinner guest or a drop-in who wouldn't leave, we took salt and a broom and threw the salt on the floor in front of the entrance and then swept it outside. We used it over and over and over. It never ceased to amaze us that this simple gesture never failed. When I moved to New York, it was a little harder to do since my front door could be seen from the living room, whereas in Paris, the front door was in the entry hall and hidden from the main rooms, where the guests could see us. But I still did it. When I moved to LA it was the end of the Sweeping Salt Trick. Wall to wall carpeting.

End of chat.


  1. me too! I am totally impressed... talk about a complicated sounds to me like you will get through this...

  2. Me three! You read cards? Can you do mine? Oh, and the salt out the door - put a piece of cardboard down on the carpet just inside the front door before guests arrive. Then you can sweep them away if needed. Of course, you'll have to come up with an excuse for the cardboard, but I have confidence that you can handle that.

  3. Jane and Anne, believe me, there's plenty of stuff I'm leaving out.

    jami, I can only read cards when the person is in the room with me since they have to pull cards. Not to mention the energy from the person is helpful. I also make a lot of comments about what I see and judge by people's reluctance to talk about something whether or not to pursue. I usually do that by reading their facial expressions or body movements.

  4. You are one of the most interesting people I know.

    I used to be fascinated by cemeteries, too. And Ouija boards. I had a piano teacher scream at me once for bringing a Ouija board into her foyer (I brought it to school with me so we could play it on the bus, and the bus dropped me off at her house for lessons.) Now that I think about it, what the hell kind of spirits are going to chat with a bunch of rowdy kids on a fricking school bus?

  5. Anonymous10:51 AM

    My friend the actor, Loren Freeman, used to take people's purses, coats, etc. and blatantly place them outside the front door when he wanted them to leave. VERY effective in the wall-to-wall and apartment building situations...also Suzy, having had a number of years of Catholic School, perhaps if they had taken you to Lourdes instead of a card reader...why then it would be your knees that were damaged from all that praying!
    Aloha and sending all good thoughts your way,
    Martha Jane

  6. Anonymous11:54 AM

    What a wonderful story! Thank you so much! So it's partly your rich history that makes you so fascinating! Very neat.


  7. I love the photos you posted and of course the story you shared. I love to take walks through old cemeteries and read the headstones and make up stories as to how they must have died.
    I have never heard of "laying on the hankeys" perhaps I should try it at work sometime to a patient.
    I used to sleep with my Tarot cards under my pillow to become in tune with them, but I started having nightmares.
    I wonder if the salt trick would work with grandma...

  8. Jess, I don't think there's a girl anywhere who hasn't loved the Ouija board. I think it's because women have a deep need to know the future. Why, I have no idea. Maybe to save on shrink bills?

    MJ, I love that! I'll have to try it sometime. "Where am I taking your coat? Just out here, on the balcony because...well you know...BECAUSE."

    Merecat, fascinating or just mental?

    gm, whenever you want to get fired and collect unemployment, you'll know what to do....

  9. Anonymous3:12 PM

    WHEW SUZ You talk more shit than a japanese radio....and I mean that in a nice way.

  10. Anonymous3:30 PM

    What bensilly said...

  11. Anonymous8:19 AM

    People should read this.