Stories written by Paul Voudouris

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The Sedona Cracker

I entered the New Age Center, which was actually a long room with some folding chairs, to see a performance by my friend Michael.  The room was already full so I found a place near the rear.  The first thing I noticed was that I was overdressed.  The second thing I noticed was that as people came in they would approach others and engage in dramatic, drawn out hugs.  I decided that these people must be related in some way.  After some time had passed I realized that either everyone in the room was related or that something rather strange was going on.  Everyone was hugging everyone.  The hugs were followed my meaningful looks into each others' eyes.  The words "aura" and "chakras" were repeated ad nauseum.  My mind was a swirl of thoughts and I was somewhere in the ether produced by fatigue when a woman approached me.

 "You must be Paul," she said with a smile, arms outstretched in a foreboding bear-hug.  I nodded and was then enveloped in my first Sedona hug.  I was reminded of my childhood where propriety (and my mother's backhand) demanded that I be smothered by the embrace of any and all relatives.  I fell back into the helpless immobility of my youth.  As I wasn't sure how long the process was supposed to last, I waited a while, assuming she would release her hold before too long.  The hug showed no signs of abating.  I continued to wait and wondered why it was taking Michael so long to start his performance.

"Perhaps a friend of hers will enter soon," I wished to myself, and then ammended the thought by adding, "and that friend will be in need of an immediate hug." Nothing changed. I repeated my plea in case the wish fairy didn't hear me the first time. I was feeling very uncomfortable. I wondered if my shirt was getting wrinkled. I finally realized that I would have to do something to precipitate the conclusion to this interaction, so I responded with two short squeezes. I didn't know if there were standard operating procedures to hugs, but I assumed that my physical acknowledgement would be the "uncle" necessary for the removal of what now felt like a life-size tumor. It worked! She unhugged me. I felt myself getting lighter. Perspiration flowed in streams down into my pants. I inhaled and stepped back, fearing the possibility that these hugs might come in sets. She smiled and said that she knew Michael, that he often spoke of our friendship, and how she sensed that it just had to be me. She was right, it had to be. After exchanging some pleasantries she remarked that I seemed to be a little out of balance, and since she was a chiropracter, would I mind if she did a small adjustment? Out of balance? Hell, I was hug overdosed.

 "Adjustment?  Uh, sure, go ahead," I heard myself say.  I had read about Hollywood starlets marrying chiropracters but I had never been to see one.  I knew that they had something to do with easing pain through the strategic "cracking" of bones.  I also knew that they weren't considered real doctors.  I imagined her sneezing in the middle of the adjustment and leaving me with a permanent neck deformity.  

 She had me sit down in a chair and stood behind me with her hands on each side of my face.  She began to move my head from side to side.  I felt self-conscious and was worried about what people might be thinking.  (This was a habit I had acquired in Hollywood.)  As my mind attempted to find some humor to this  situation I heard a crack. 

 "Please God," I thought, "don't let this be an irreversible fracture."  I had let my imagination run wild. It created a thriller.  This woman played the part of a mad chiropracter who broke the neck of anyone faking a hug. The bodies of nonhuggers were found tied to massage tables.  Their necks were twisted so that their faces looked down on their buttocks.  The word "HUG" was tatooed on the victims' foreheads with acupuncture needles.  "The Sedona Cracker," as the newspaper headlines had dubbed her, was finally brought to justice by an undercover policeman whose prior employment as a circus contortionist made him the obvious choice of the department.  She spent the remainder of her life doing backrubs to inmates in exchange for incense and dolphin posters.

Entry #8, originally added on Thursday 7th June, 2012

What's Your Real Name?

I was invited to a party which was taking place in west Sedona a couple weeks ago.  I entered the house and noticed that there were groups of people in each room talking and drinking.  Sandalwood incense hung in the air.  I wandered aimlessly and found myself in a candlelit room in which three men and a woman were sitting at a glass table. They had a large deck of cards in front of them.  I couldn't understand why anyone would want to play cards in almost complete darkness. I came closer and introduced myself.

"Hi, my name's Paul," I said to the man shuffling the deck.
"Hello Paul, I'm Journey."

"Journey? Well, what's your real name?" I asked innocently, knowing that it would be difficult to keep a straight face if I had to address anyone with a name like that.

"What do you mean my real name?" He looked at me as if the question came from someone called Idiot. He stopped shuffling the deck of cards. The entire group was staring at me. I realized that I must have commited a very serious New Age faux pas and began the process of foot from mouth extraction.

"I mean, were you born with that name? It's nice, I guess, but I can't imagine anyone having been given a name like that, unless his parents were on acid at the time of his birth." Nobody laughed.

"The name I was born with no longer resonates with my being," he said, ignoring my attempt at humor. "Journey expresses my essence."

"Are you suggesting that essence changes?" I asked.

"I'm simply saying that the name on my birth certificate doesn't adequately describe who I am. I consulted a spirit guide who led me through some past life regressions. In one life I was on the boat with Columbus. In another life I was the most trusted of messengers for Anthony and Cleopatra. It seems I've always traveled extensively. The name Sidney Rosenblatt didn't seem to represent my totality so I changed it to Journey." I realized that the party couldn't get much more interesting than this group so I decided to pass some time with Journey and the others.

"Oh, well, pleased to meet you Journey. Do you mind if I join you for a bit?"

"Not at all." They urged me to sit with them and made room at the table. My eyes were getting accustomed to the candlelight as Journey introduced me to the rest of the group.

"Paul, to your left is Mercury. To your right is Mankind. And next to me is the lovely Kachina Eagle Feather." I wasn't about to make another comment about name selection. I smiled amiably and asked what they were playing.

"We're not playing anything," said Mankind.  "We're drawing Tarot cards.  These are Tarot cards.  You shuffle the deck while thinking about something.  It can be a question or a problem...anything.  The deck will become charged with your energy.  You then pull a card and look up what the card means in a book like this, or have someone like Journey interpret it."   I nodded and kept silent as the activity resumed.  I wanted to ask Kachina Eagle Feather if she had a nickname.  Would Ms. Feather be too formal?  Mankind shuffled the deck.  His eyes were closed and he rocked back and forth in his chair.  He drew a card.

"Oh no," he said, "I don't want this one!  I'm going to pull another one."  He had drawn a card that had the word "death" written at the top of it.  It bore a well crafted representation of the Grim Reaper.

 "I thought that you were only allowed to pull one card, and that it would be the appropriate card for what you're thinking," I said.  I wasn't being argumentative at this point, I was simply curious as to how the procedure worked.

"You can do anything you like," answered Mankind.  "I don't like the card I got so I'm going to pull another."  With that he drew from the deck once again.  He didn't like that card either.  He pulled two more cards before settling on one he liked.  

"Ah, that's better. Here you go Journey." He handed the card to Journey. Journey looked at the card for a moment and then began:
"You are coming to a place in your life where you will manifest whatever you desire. If you follow your divine guidance no obstacles will be too great. You have to be more in tune with your higher self so that you can succesfully carry out your role as a leader of men. Focus on your heart chakra." For a while I thought that he was speaking in code. What did all these words mean. Manifest? Higher self? Divine guidance? Heart chakras? Journey continued and Mankind kept nodding his head in agreement to everything that was said.

"Paul," said Journey, "would you like to try this?"
"Sure, what do I have to do?"
"Simply shuffle the deck for as long as you like. As you shuffle, think about a specific question. When you're done shuffling, choose a card and give it to me."

"O.K." I shuffled the deck. I couldn't focus on anything specific. I wondered if there were any attractive women with simple names in the other rooms. I drew a card and gave it to Journey. He looked at it and then showed it to the others. They all commented on the positive aspects of the card I had just picked. I began to feel important; as if I had done something worthy, but then realized that I had done nothing more than shuffle a deck of cards and choose one from the middle.

"You're a very strong individual," began Journey, "who is always questioning the validity of the metaphysical." His voice was almost instantaneously relegated to the background of my consciousness. I wasn't about to get excited with a psychological profile which started from the obvious traits of my character and then quickly dissolved into the miasma of general human attributes. I looked at Journey with feigned interest as he channeled my profile. I knew my reading was about finished when he said:
"Deep down you're a very emotional and loving person. You will find what you're looking for when you stop looking." The last bit was good advice, for anybody.

Entry #7, originally added on Thursday 7th June, 2012

Aclamar, The Algae Pusher

 I was standing outside of Beverly's, a health food store I frequented,  when a man approached me.  He introduced himself as Aclamar and asked if I was interested in purchasing some super blue green algae.  I wasn't sure what he was talking about.  Algae has always made me think of sea sludge and biology classes.  Why would someone want to sell it?  I thought that he might be joking, but he seemed to be serious.  His manner was reminiscent of that practiced by the drug connections I used to have in Hollywood.  I thought him rather bold to be pushing outside of Beverly's, in broad daylight, but stranger things were known to happen in Sedona.

"What's super blue green algae?" I asked. I looked over my shoulder, fearing that I was going to be the victim of entrapment.  He began to tell me of an algae that grows naturally in a lake in Oregon.  He said that the algae had all the minerals and vitamins that someone needs.  He spoke of cancer and AIDS cures.  His eyes were opened wide and he didn't blink.  He looked like the bald guys dressed in white sheets that used to pawn off copies of the Baghavad-Gita in airports.  He had an excellent pitch.  He didn't know it, but he had a career in telemarketing if he grew bored with algae sales.  I was interested in trying out the magnificent elixir which he made out to sound like the panacea to all of man's ills.  I wanted a simple way to complete health, and thought that maybe the algae was going to be it.  He pulled out two xeroxed sheets of information and gave them to me.  He then opened up a bag and pulled out two capsules.  He carefully placed them in my hand, along with his phone number, and insisted that I call him to place my first order once I experienced "the unmistakeable benefits of this whole food."  I returned to the house at about four in the afternoon.  I opened up the capsules and poured the contents into a glass of water as I had been instructed.  The color was striking and the smell was reminiscent of high school football games.  I drank the potion quickly, fearing that it might taste foul, and then continued with my work.  That evening I was plagued with insomnia and I was still awake at three in the morning.  Since I hadn't had any coffee I could only attribute this excess energy to the algae.  I liked the idea of feeling no fatigue, but the thought of paying seventy-five dollars for a month's supply of pills seemed excessive.  I decided to forget about the blue green, as it was called by its users, until a time when money would no longer be an issue.

Entry #6, originally added on Thursday 7th June, 2012

The Rub

 I was invited to a New Age get-together by some people who liked my music, but whom I'd never met.  I arrived and was introduced to Michelle and Peter, the hosts of the party.  They had known one another from their days together in an ashram called Kripalu.  (An ashram is a retreat oriented place where people dress in unnoticeable attire, learn yoga, meditation, massage, and generally focus on the world within.)  

They were warm and loving people and knew how to have fun.  We ate and partied into the night.  The hours passed, and only Peter, Michelle, and I were left in the house.  I was reclining on a couch.  Michelle was in the kitchen for a refill of coconut cream soup.  Peter walked into the living room with a bottle of lotion in one hand.  He sat down at the other end of the couch and without saying a word, picked up one of my feet and began to rub it.  I had never had a foot massage before.  But even more importantly, if I had been rubbed in the past, it had been with women, and with the unspoken understanding that the rub would culminate in sex.  Having a man I'd known for less than eight hours start massaging my foot was a bit of a shock.  My first instinct was one of discomfort.  Why was he rubbing my foot?  What did it mean?  Did he think I was gay?  Did he expect me to go to bed with him?  Was there a polite way to extract my foot from his grasp?  These thoughts and others rushed through my mind, but before I could verbalize any words of escape, I felt myself being taken on a journey of sensations.  His hands were strong and sensitive and I felt the effect throughout my body.  He applied  lotion and continued to rub my foot.  This was the closest thing to great sex that I had ever experienced, and it was being administered by a man.  I was confused.  As he massaged my foot I found myself moaning in pleasure.  He then silently took the other foot in his hands and began the process anew.  The massage was slow, sensual, and therapeutic.  Over an hour had passed since he had started the massage and I was now completely incapable of getting up, talking, or doing anything but reveling in the feelings I had just experienced.  A few hours later I peeled myself off the couch and managed to drive myself home.  During the drive I occupied myself by thinking how I would explain this new experience to my colleagues at work. 

Entry #5, originally added on Thursday 7th June, 2012

Vinkaya

I decided to drive north to San Fransisco to see a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in five years.  Upon arriving at Steve's house, I was told that he was now called Vinkaya.  I didn't know what to think about the name change, but repeated the bizarre word to myself a couple of times so that it would sound somewhat natural when I said it.  I entered Vinkaya's house and found it buzzing with electrical energy.  The living room was empty except for six large metal beams.  These beams were made up of pyramids connected horizontally, and one on top of the other.  They were each about seven feet tall and were connected to some kind of power generator.  Within the pyramids were suspended crystals.  I came close to one and held my hands about six inches away.  The hair on my arms and head began to rise.  This was strange.  I wondered how a person could have changed so drastically in three years.

I spent two days with Vinkaya.  He was a wonderful host and wasn't militant about his beliefs.  He said that he was now doing rebirthing for a living and offered to rebirth me.  I had only heard about rebirthing once in the past and had somehow associated it with alfalfa munching, bearded, toga clad types dunking acolytes into a river and talking about the second coming.  There was no river in the immediate vicinity.

Where would we do this?" I asked, while simultaneously trying to think of a way to get myself out of the situation. Vinkaya said that he could do the process in his room and that it would only take about an hour. I was hesitant, but I knew Vinkaya from his days as Steve, a creative artist, and with this bond of our past friendship in mind, I decided to give rebirthing a try. Vinkaya took me into his room and had me lie on his bed. The bed was encompassed by a huge copper pyramid. He put on some soft meditative music that sounded like Tibetan bells with people chanting. He then placed a crystal on my chest, one in each hand, and one on my forehead. He asked me to become aware of my breathing and to inhale and exhale solely from my mouth. He coached me to insure that my breathing was rapid and continuous.

"Isn't this hyperventilation?" I asked.  He told me to keep breathing.  After what seemed an interminable amount of time my arms and legs started to tingle as if they were falling asleep.  Though it was a peculiar sensation that was neither uncomfortable nor enjoyable, my compulsive nature decided to continue with even greater zeal.  I kept up the breathing technique and soon every inch of my body was vibrating.  The vibrations were pronounced and pulsated at a high frequency.  Vinkaya asked me how I was feeling, and if there were any issues or traumas that I wished to discuss.  My mouth was extremely numb and I found it difficult to move my lips sufficiently to formulate words.  With some effort I replied that I felt great and that I couldn't think of anything specific .  He said that at this point many people begin to cry, relive past lives or crises, and often work through some pretty intense stuff.  I was almost sorry that I didn't have any turmoil available for examination. I wanted the complete purge but Vinkaya, sensing my constipation of emotion, began to lead me back to the everyday vibrational state.

 I returned from San Fransisco in a state of confusion.  Part of me felt drawn to explore some of the New Age practices while the rest of me remained skeptical, and preferred to avoid any conflict with my socially ingrained belief systems.

Entry #4, originally added on Thursday 7th June, 2012