WHENEVER I THINK that my job is tough, I get this little reminder from the Universe that it could be worse.
As I confessed in a previous column, I have a weakness for the supernatural. Perhaps it's just part of being a free-lance writer, but I'm continually drawn to metaphysically fit folks who have mysterious ways of knowing where my next assignment is coming from. And they keep telling me that being a swami is no bed of roses.
Take Thomas Jacobson of Beverlywood, a genial ex-Marine-turned-successful-trance-medium. He and "Dr. Peebles," his spirit compadre, have appeared on national television and radio and are the subject of a new book, "To Dance With Angels."
Still, "people are constantly accusing me of fraud," Jacobson says. "Or, at best, of being a well-intentioned, deluded person."
I can sympathize. It's bad enough going to parties and telling people I'm a free-lance writer, which everyone's job-status converter instantly translates into "failed real estate agent." But at least I can drop the names of publications, such as this one, for validation.
"At the beginning, I told people I was in alternative communications," Jacobson says. "Finally, I got up the courage to tell people I'm a spiritual medium." That must be some icebreaker at a party. "The reaction is never boring," he acknowledges. "Either they have to go to the bathroom all of a sudden or they want to talk all evening."
Mystics are also besieged by curiosity-seekers. "You have to let people know that you're out having a good time, just like everybody else," says Louise Woods, a Santa Monica seer who identifies herself as a metaphysical counselor. "People say, 'Oh, you're psychic. Tell me about this and this.' " She handles it the way a doctor or a lawyer would. "I give them my business card and tell them to make an appointment," says Woods. "I don't do house calls."
Speaking of houses . . . "Imagine me trying to get a loan on a home," says Jacobson, who listed "voice medium" as his occupation on both his loan application and his tax forms. (Can he claim Dr. Peebles as a dependent? I wonder.) "It's tough," he says. "You're trying to be credible, but you're doing something that most people see as incredible."
Actually, I don't think what he does is any more incredible than the theory of continental drift. But you can't go by me. In my profession, I have to make numerous leaps of faith. For example, I work on spec.
"I've had a real quandary with business," Jacobson says. "On the one hand, there's this attitude: If you're so psychic, why don't you make money? But on the other hand, if you make a lot of money, you're not considered to be very spiritual."
No matter what you earn, authorities will view you with suspicion. "When I first started working, I called downtown and asked what statutes were on the books," says Fern, a Los Angeles astrologer. "They said, 'You have the wrong office. You need to talk to the Vice Squad.' So I called. They answered the phone with 'Bunco.' I inquired about getting a business license, and they sneered, 'What exactly do you do, lady?' "
Actually, Bunco could use someone like Fern. "I'd been reading for a very nice woman who worked at a bank," she recalls. "And I'd given her some dates for little things. Then one day she came in and said, 'Oh, Fern, these dates have worked out real well. Now I want you to do something important. I want you to pick out a good time for me to do some embezzling.' I said, "Number one, your chart doesn't look good for that and, number two, I don't do that.' "
Gee, and I thought it was frustrating sitting alone in a room for hours, staring at a word processor. At least I don't have to divine where and when my editor will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger or hold myself up to public ridicule when my predictions are printed in the National Enquirer. No one expects miracles from writers, only words.
But some days they don't come easy--to me anyway. Of course, I haven't taken any courses in mediumship like Molli Nickell. "I learned automatic writing," says Nickell, editor-publisher of Spirit Speaks, an all-ghost-written Brentwood-based magazine created to share guidance and wisdom from the spirit plane. "I shift into a meditative state and say a little prayer and ask my spirit teachers for guidance and words come into my head and I just write."
Right. I'm sitting in front of my computer with my eyes closed. I've said a little prayer and begged my spirit guides to help me finish this column. That was an hour ago. And this piece is due by the end of the day. Suddenly, I get a message.
"We don't work on deadline," the spirits say.