It Worked For Bruce Springsteen

Madame Marie Last week, driving in the car with two friends and feeling a bit playful I said, “Let’s go to Madame Marie’s.”

“Who’s Madame Marie?” they asked.

“Are you kidding?”

They weren’t. They didn’t know Madame Marie was a fortuneteller on the Asbury Park boardwalk; or that her clients included Ray Charles, Elton John, Diane Keaton, and The Rolling Stones. Reportedly, Madame Marie told Bruce Springsteen he’d be a huge success; and he wrote about her in his 1973 song, 4th of July, Asbury Park.

“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

Madame Marie was an icon on the boardwalk for decades and as she aged, she trained her children and grandchildren to read tarot cards and crystal balls. I see her granddaughter, Sabrina, who for $25.00 reads my palm. I should get a kickback because every summer I visit her and bring friends. Relatives. Anyone who’ll come with me.

Two years ago I brought my cousin, Pam. I went first. Sabrina studied my palm and told me I’d live a long life. “You’ll live until you’re ninety-two,” she said.

I was thrilled.

“I’m going to live a long life,” Pam said after her reading. “Eighty-six years old,” she boasted.

“Oh, Pam,” I teased, “I’m going to miss you those last few years.”

While we laughed out loud, inside I panicked picturing myself as a 92 year-old woman; and if that wasn’t bad enough, I tried to envision a world without Pam in it. I brushed away the thought.

Part of me recognizes that Sabrina can’t possibly know this to be fact but she’s been right about so much. Yes, I had a friend who got sick and needed me. Yes, she was on the money about a specific guy a different friend was dating. And yes, there was something about an upcoming medical procedure.


My two friends were torn, half excited by the idea of having their fortunes told, and half skeptical.

“Come on,” I said. “You’ll see.”

It was around six pm, a time that for as many years as I can remember was dinnertime, bath time, homework time. It hadn’t been my time since I was twenty and so this felt outlandish and adventurous. It was also a perfect summer evening, the air off the ocean a gentle breeze, the temperature perfect. I took off my shoes and walked barefooted on the boardwalk.

After my reading, I smiled wide. “What did she say?” my friend asked.

Here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to share your reading.

Was that so she could scam us? Tell each of us the same thing? (There was one year she kept asking, is there a Michael in your life?)

Or was it because of the old superstition not to reveal your wish if you want it to come true? (How many times have you wished on a star or a chicken bone and not told fearful your dream wouldn’t come true?)

But there is another belief.

Say your wish out loud. Yell it to the universe and it will come true.

So here it is, the good thing Sabrina told me the other day…

She said that something positive was going to happen with my novel in September. “You hear that! All literary agents- you have until September!”

There it is. I’ve said it. My wish is free in the world. It’s up to the universe to respond. Or not.

Every day since my visit to Madame Marie’s this summer, I think about Sabrina’s words. Every day I get a bit giddy imagining she’s right. For $25.00 a world of hope and possibility opened up for me. There was something special about that evening: the spontaneity, the ocean air, the purple sky. It was girly and fun, like the world was my oyster, and that all the opportunity in the universe rested in the palm of my hand.

Stand Up Comedy at Omega

I stood on a stage in front of a few hundred people at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, bright lights in my eyes. “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” I said to the audience. “I’m so not funny.”

But I’d signed up for stand up comedy in an effort to change that and performing was our final project.

“I did get my friends and family to laugh,” I told the audience, “when I broke it to them I was doing stand up.”

My husband and children think you have to be mean to do stand up.

At dinner, my daughter said, “Mom, you’re like Tinker Bell, and Tinker Bell is so not funny.”

Our dinner table is like that. A battlefield. My children can be mean. They get that from their father. By comparison, I fall short. Recently I’ve tried to pick up my game, and the other night, I threw a spoon at my husband. I confess we fight a lot. I read in an Astrology book that we’re a perfect match- our verbal sparring foreplay. Personally, I’d rather a back rub.

We are Syrian and my husband has dark skin. So do my kids. My husband thinks they look like him, and says I was just Fed Ex. He admits they have my ears, which isn’t a compliment because before I was Tinker Bell, I was Dumbo.

My family fights about everything. They will debate, with vigor, if potatoes are better mashed or fried, if vegetable soup should be more vegetable or more broth. My kids are so mean they even make fun of vegetables. Imagine needing to be one up from a vegetable. Organic vegetables are the worst. They want meat: thick steaks, hamburgers, BBQ. And the terms hormone-free, farm-fed, and free-range piss them off. My family’s all brawn.

They don’t believe in global warming and littering is just practical because as my youngest son says, “When I don’t litter, my car gets filthy.” When I gasped, he said accusingly, “I know you love water bottles.”

And it’s true. I sneak them into my closet, pretending there is only one, and I admitted that on the stage at Omega which was way more daring and scary than doing the flying trapeze earlier that same day. But I’m changing.

I gave birth naturally 5 times. Nursed them all. I made homemade baby food. I was an elementary school teacher. I had the patience of a Saint.

But no more! Now the music on an ice cream truck makes me cringe -- nails on a chalkboard. Children splashing in a pool, irritating as ants at a picnic.

So you see, I can be mean. As the old Syrian saying goes, if you put a cucumber in a pickle jar, you get a pickle.

And just so you know, the audience at Omega laughed throughout my Stand Up routine. A woman came up to me after the show and said, “That was great. You should start a blog.”

I laughed and said, “Now that’s funny.”