Demitasse $17


Demitasse:  a sip of the Compendium

Fall 2001 edition


Demitasse is a free sip of the sardonic social commentary and reports of real

life weird that fill the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban

Anthropology (the Compendium).


(c) copyright Kathy Biehl 2001



It was billed as a Harvest Festival, but the all-day shebang at a Chelsea

public school last Saturday was really one big Halloween blow-out. The

goodies table was stocked with lollipop-style cookies in the shapes of jack

o' lanterns and black cats. The entryway, barricaded from the outside,

contained a "pumpkin patch," a stockpile from which each child could

choose one to decorate (not cut -- no knives were to be found anywhere

except by the frosting bowl on the cupcake decorating table). Overhead in

the cafeteria, hallway and crafts area hung a parade of "Pumpkins for

Peace," paintings of pumpkins emblazoned with American flags, or the

World Trade Center towers, or ying-yang symbols (I counted four).

"Booooooo" and "Follow Meeeeeee" signs hung from paper ghosts

pointing the way to the haunted house, where a handmade

"Scare-o-meter" lever lay in wait.

I was the roving fortuneteller, the roving part of which I suggested without

taking into account that my clientele would be two to three feet below my

eye level. My rovings put me in the path of the other fortuneteller on her

arrival. She was to work in a tent; did I know where it was? I pointed to a

round camping tent not four feet tall, festooned with gold bows, and two

inflated pillows inside around a tiny round table. She froze, then laughed,

then decided to be happy for a buffer against the wind.

My technique consisted of proffering a spread deck (the Inner Child Deck

by Isha and Mark Lerner, carefully devoid of scary images) and asking

anyone in within earshot to pick a card. Two best friends started my day

by interpreting whatever I said as applying to their cats, and sought me out

again and again, together and one at a time, throughout the afternoon. I got

the obligatory smart-aleck out of the way at the outset. The first boy I

talked to took issue with my words. "That's not what it says," he said, "It

says "Six of Hearts!""

Impossibly tiny girls picked portents of sharp, powerful minds. "Someone is

watching over you; do you know who that could be?" I asked a largish girl

dressed in a form-fitting white and pink fur something. She threw her head

back and announced, "God!" The motion brought into sight a loosely hanging

pink headpiece that identified her costume: a flamingo. "You need to stop

being responsible and go on an adventure," I told one single mother,

whereupon her companion doubled over, burst into hysterics, and offered

to take the woman's child in for a few days.

A three-foot Buzz Lightyear didn't so much leap as repeatedly fling himself

from the low stage in the auditorium. Two tyrannosaurus rexes emerged

from the picnic table where their parents dressed them, only to topple

over tail-heavy when they walked out into the cafeteria.

Closer to my eye level, a woman with a gold unicorn horn nodded me over to

her. "You're real, aren't you?" she pronounced. After I described her card

she summoned a pink Powderpuff Girl, who bounced around at the

prospect of picking a card. "Wait a minute!" the unicorn commanded.

"Find your center! Breathe, practice your go to the one that

speaks to you." Partway through my explanation of what the child drew,

her attention jumped to some commotion elsewhere and she looked

behind her. "Focus!" her mother commanded. The child's head snapped

back. I finished. Another girl asked if she could go next. As she reached

out for the deck, the woman coached, "Find your center!,

go to the one that speaks to you!"

Early in the day I saw a uniformed fireman rooting through a bin at the flea

market out front. During the noon hour I saw him march through the

cafeteria, this time wearing face paint. As I readied to leave, he was

wielding a mic on the front stairs and rhythmically exhorting the children

dancing below. "Is Brooky in the house?" "NOOOO" "Is Staten Island in

the house?" "NOOOOO" "Is Manhattan in the house?"

"YE-E-E-E-E-E-E-SSSS!" He chanted hip hop lingo at them while they

shook and jerked and jumped to the grooves. In between numbers he

interviewed them about their moves. Then the music shifted. "It wouldn't

be Halloween without -- the Monster Mash!" he yelled. "Do the

Frankenstein Shuffle! Do the Mummy Mango!" The crowd thinned. He

ran down the stairs and stuck the mic out urging kids to howl.

"OOOoooooOOOOOOO!" "Yowwwwwwwwwwwww!"

"ooooooOOOOOOooooOOOO!" A plaintive voice rose above the din.

"Can we have the hip hop back?"

They did. The kids came back.


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How to subscribe to Demitasse:

Demitasse is an electronic newsletter of highlights from the Ladies' Fetish

& Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology.  It's published just as

erratically as the print zine, which is to say, whenever.  It will also

contain behind-the-scenes announcements and ramblings that may or

may not make it to the photocopied page.  It's free for the asking!

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