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Fight the Future

Bad mojo at the Healing Spirit Fair, a cool hunter's paradise at Buzznex.com.

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Monday afternoon I woke up next to a glass of water and two tablets of Alka-Seltzer, which must've been my boyfriend's doing, and a note I didn't remember writing. "I'm really sorry I got so fucked up," it read. "It wasn't the plan. Please make sure I'm still alive."

Sunday had started innocently enough: brunch, buying paint for the bathroom, looking at kitties at the pet store. Then in the early evening I went to the New Age book and doodad store Healing Earth Resources for their quarterly Healing Spirit Fair and had my mind blown so hard I had trouble forming sentences for several hours.

For a dollar a minute attendees could meet with any of almost two dozen intuitive and spiritual counselors, shamans, tarot readers, astrologers, massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists. Workshops on Reiki, shamanic healing, nutrition, witchcraft, chakras, yoga, meditation, angels, and self-hypnosis were free. It was like a discount-priced warehouse of cosmic goodness.

First I checked out Spiritual Response therapist Shirlyn Wright, who peers into your past lives to find "the first time your soul created negative energy." She does this by dangling a rose quartz pendulum over a series of charts addressing such matters as family and "negative influences."

Wright, who used to teach personal finance and investment at Roosevelt University, got her first Spiritual Response reading in February 2001. The next day, she said, she could communicate telepathically with animals. She told me that I'm an old spirit, like 100,000 years old, and that I've been everything from a plant to a high priestess. I've had a "hate of life" and a chip on my shoulder, she said, ever since I healed some people in a past life and was killed for my trouble. Also, my pelvic energy is out of alignment.

She determined all of this by swinging her pendulum wildly, stopping every once in a while over some phrase--"fall of consciousness," say, or "fall into darkness"--and then whipping the pendulum away from the page and swinging it around in a circle to "clear" me of that obstacle before moving on.

I'm sure she was right about my bad attitude, and my acupuncturist recently begged me to quit taking the pill because it's messing with my chi. But all of Wright's talk about "clearing" people smacked a little too much of Scientology for my liking.

I moved on to Deanne Lozano, a Reiki master who uses crystals and information gleaned from something called the Akashic Records--a kind of celestial file cabinet believed to contain information about every person who ever lived--to promote healing. She had me lie down on a cot and close my eyes. The moment she touched my head I saw bright flashing rings of light. I felt like I was floating on water, balancing on whatever part of my body she had her hands on, until she got to my abdomen and hips. Lozano said she sensed an imbalance in my second chakra. That damned pelvic energy!

Next I saw Sarah Wilson, a sassy tarot reader who says she's "very Jungian" in her approach. "You already have the answers in yourself," she told me--she just puts 'em in your face. She held out a deck of cards and, like a magician, told me to pick three. She took a look at them and gave me the same spiel anyone would give a woman in her 20s: true love, marriage, a baby. I'd have blown it all off, except as the reading went on, the same card kept turning up: the child. "Some little spirit is in cahoots with the universe," Sarah explained, "and it picked you for its mama." My wig was thoroughly freaked. I really didn't want to hear about my body being a vessel for some cosmic parasite.

Six hours later I still couldn't sleep or work or talk or think about anything else. So I went out and got so slammered I apparently thought I might wake up dead.

Buzznex, a sort of wiggerized MySpace where you collect trends instead of friends, held a launch party/Intonation afterparty at Rednofive that night with DJ sets by dudes from the Rapture, Xiu Xiu, and !!!, plus host Jordan Zawideh and his friend Traxx.

The Buzznex site (buzznex.com) urges people to forge bonds based on their taste in music, fashion, books, video games, and other stuff you can buy. You create a personal profile by sifting through a daunting list of products--side-tie panties from Agent Provocateur, a PalmOne PDA, a Matthew Williamson dress, M.I.A.'s Arular, the BMW 3301, Batman Begins, etc--and then load your favorite 15 things onto your page. You can also upload (sorry, "BzzzLoad") other stuff you like and "create buzz" about it.

Then you add your personal stats--"crap that screws with" you, your "fantasy hook up," whom you want to give "props to," how you like to party (or "gritty")--all of which are subject to ranking by other Buzznex members. (Apparently "mean people" are crap that screws with a lot of Buzznexers.) You keep track of your favorite "peeps," upload "pix," and see who, exactly, has been checking you out in your "fanz" department. You can mete out "disses and shout-outs" to anyone on the site and post "chatter" on a really messy bulletin board for anyone to evaluate as believable ("buy in") or not ("fake"). After a very short while all the buzz becomes deafening.

At the club I met Phil Oh, the site's 25-year-old editor in chief. "It's half-launched right now," he said, admitting that the lingo is "sorta suburban white hip-hop." But it's all about to change and become more neutral, he promised.

Contributors to Pitchfork, XLR8R, and The Fader and stylists from W, Vogue, and Esquire are responsible for finding a "couple hundred really cool items--from mainstream to underground indie shit" and uploading them onto the site. If you click on an item--voila!--suddenly Buzznex turns into an e-commerce gateway. Actually this may be the best thing about it: I never knew you could buy Balenciaga shoes online.

The business is owned by Michael Munves, a music-industry guy who's produced songs for Britney Spears, Garth Brooks, and Don Henley, and a few investors that Munves describes as "friends and family." Neither Munves nor Oh would disclose how they plan to make money--no one pays to have their products listed, and so far there isn't any advertising on the site. "It's not us marketing to you," Oh insisted. "It's just you telling your friends what's cool.

"I'm a jaded, cynical asshole too," he continued. "But if you lower your guard a little this is really fun."

The last time I remember getting and losing cool points according to the stuff I bought was when I was 14. It wasn't fun then, either.

"We want to be like a prerelease venue where you can learn about limited-edition sneakers before they come out, or find out about new bands or the upcoming fashion season," Oh went on. "It's a way to find out through your peers what's going to be hot rather than from editor types who are paid to tell you what's cool."

He said some other stuff, and seemed like a nice guy, but I couldn't focus--my brain just kept repeating one word over and over: baby, baby, baby, baby. The only way to shut it up was to get soused. Soon I'd forgotten about the Chosen One and pretty much everything else, and at 4 AM, closing time, I realized I was in no shape to drive home. So I went to the Hotel Allegro for the after-afterparty, where I watched the Buzznex crew and a couple of the party's DJs take a bubble bath. I knew when I didn't care about peeing in front of them that I had crossed a line.

One of the DJs helped me get home, where I woke up obsessing over the New Age plan for my womb. I never want to see into the future again.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Liz Armstrong, Andrea Bauer.

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