by Akim Reinhardt
It was 1996. I was 28. I had recently moved to Nebraska to attend graduate school. I was at a party. I didn't know a lot of people. Maybe I didn't know anyone. One woman was talking about palm reading. Apparently she read palms.
Laughable, of course. But I didn't say anything, just drank my beer. There was this other guy though, in his early twenties. He said some things. None of it nice. How stupid. Don't be ridiculous. Duh.
Sure, yeah, I agreed with him. It is stupid. But do you have to be such a dick about it? This woman seems like a perfectly nice person, maybe even nicer than most. What's the point of insulting and belittling her?
I guess it was one of those moments when I recognized a younger version of myself in someone else and I didn't like what I saw. It's good to have those moments, even if they make you uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable.
I finally spoke up.
“Why don't you read my palm,” I said, looking to break the tension and succeeding. I offered her my upturned hand. She smiled and took it.
My memory of what she actually said while examining my extremity is virtually extinct. The exact words? I have no idea. But I'll never forget the epiphany I had as she spoke. After a minute or two it dawned on my why this ancient practice, so obviously ripe for charlatanism, had lasted all these years.
She held my hand and said nice things about me.
Who wouldn't like that? Who wouldn't, when feeling a little sad or lonely, pay a few bucks for that?
I'm a Scorpio. I've always thought that's a pretty cool sign. A lot better than my Chinese sign, the Sheep, which I try to butch up by telling people I'm a Ram. I dunno. At least I'm not a Rat.
But there's no doubting, at least not in my mind, that the Scorpio is the coolest sign in the Western zodiac. You might make an argument for Leo, or maybe Taurus, but c'mon. Scorpio, man. It's got a black exoskeleton and a tail with a stinger. That's pretty hard to beat. That's pretty bad ass.
The only reason I know I'm a Ram in the Chinese zodiac is because those Chinese restaurant paper place mats told me so. The only reason I know I'm a Scorpio is because my mother told me so. The night I was born, her friend Gail drew up my chart for the exact date and time of my birth. The rising sign, house of this, some moon or another. I don't know. My mom says she's still got the charts somewhere, she's not sure where. I could probably just look it up online, but I don't actually care. All I know is I'm a Scorpio, and scorpions are pretty fuckin' cool.
I remember when I was a little kid, my mom had a deck of tarot cards. It was the 1970s, not terribly uncommon I suppose. That and Ouija boards. Once in a while she would lay them out on the table, like a game of solitaire with picture cards. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't know how to play solitaire either.
I'd stare at the pictures. The skeleton, the one with the scythe. Wow. And that witchy woman. Is that what The Eagles were singing about? My parents had the Best Of, vol. 1. Was there a connection? I didn't know what any of the cards meant or why they were arranged like that or what order they were turned over in. I knew nothing. They were impenetrable. But the pictures made impressions.
It seemed like they were supposed to.
Since the passing of childhood, my only relationship to the zodiac has been a joking one. After all, it doesn't actually mean anything, right?
When I first discovered The Onion in the late 1990s, my favorite feature was their horoscope section, run by the mythical character Lloyd Schumer, retired machinist and A.A.P.B.-certified astrologer. The small black and white photo next the by-line featured a face that was pock-marked and sagging yet robust, maybe late 60s. Looked like the kinda guy who'd done well for himself with the G.I. Bill after the war.
The horoscopes were gems of absurdist humor, many of them using bizarre yet sterile violence to reveal an unfathomably brutal and uncaring universe.
Fate is a fickle creature, Lloyd's horoscopes taught us. And she'll stab you in the eye an with a spork when you least expect it. Or maybe she'll just lecture you.
All right. Scorpio is going to say this for the last fucking time. With an apostrophe, it means “it is” and without an apostrophe, it means “belonging to it.” This is really not that hard.
I also remember a night in the early 1990s. The New York Post, that venerable tome of wisdom and veracity, ran an article about some astronomer reconfiguring astrology. My friend read the article aloud to us while we were drinking at The International Bar on 1st Avenue. Rose the bartender joined in. It was still early.
The astronomer noted that the position of the 12 major constellations had shifted in relation to Earth during the more than 2,000 years since the zodiac was first observed. That means their dates on the solar calendar had also changed. He lengthened some and shortened others.
Oh, and there were actually 13 major constellations, he said, not a dozen. But they would have had trouble observing the 13th back then without telescopes. He called that one Ophiuchus and stuck it at the end of the calendar.
My friend, the one reading the article to us, was born in mid-December. A Sagittarius. Except now, according The Post, he was an Ophiuchus. He was very pleased with himself.
I was still a Scorpio. Fuckin' A right.
I like sex. I always have. What's not to like? That's how I look at it. It's pretty much the best thing going. Certainly the best free thing out there. Hands down the best free thing that doesn't harm you and might actually make you better.
What does that have to do with being a Scorpio? Nothing, of course. Except that in the past two days, two different friends have told me it has everything to do with it.
A couple of days ago, a female friend told me that Scorpios are notoriously horny. She mentioned this after I joked about a unicorn having an orgasm so intense that it looked like it was having a seizure. Of course I say shit like that, she said. I'm a Scorpio. Scorpios are sex crazed. She even confided that her dad, also a Scorpio, was an avowed perv. But not in the creepy way.
You gotta be careful when you talk about people's parents.
Then just today, a male friend and I were having lunch at a local Egyptian restaurant that has killer pita. Seriously. This pita is to fucking die for.
He had the platter. I had the samosas and the seafood soup. That was a mistake. They're Egyptian, not Indian. But I knew that going in. The samosas were frozen and disturbingly uniform. Coulda been worse. The soup was eh.
Me and my friend were eating and talking about horndog shit, cause it turns out we're both total horndogs. Just nasty ass shit that we can't get enough of.
Then it comes out. He's a Scorpio too. “Of course you are,” he said.
It was 1984. I was 16. I was at Broadway Records in the Bronx. It was, appropriately enough, on Broadway, under the el, north of W. 231st St.
It was an exciting time in my musical development. Sixteen years old often is. I was listening to everything from Jimi Hendrix to Beethoven to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer to Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't know if it was good time, but it was certainly an exciting one.
I wasn't into Punk yet. I just wasn't that angry at 16. And all the Punks downtown seemed like attention hungry brats. When I watched Repo Man and Emilio Estevez's character chides his dying friend for making excuses for his miscreant ways by saying “Bullshit. You're a white suburban punk just like me,” I nodded. Yup.
Spoiled. They all seemed spoiled.
Punk came later. But in the mid-1980s I did have a minor flirtation with Heavy Metal. Not much, just a little. I bought Van Halen II, mostly because it had such a bitchin' cover, and I ended up liking it. The vocal harmonies and sense of humor helped. I also bought a cassette of Def Leopard's Pyromania. It seemed like the logical thing to do since I’d recently won a t-shirt of the album cover at the carnival that came through the abandoned lot in front of my high school every year. I think I’d popped a balloon with a dart or something. It was a ratty old thing one of the carnies had probably owned. Fell apart after the first wash. I thought the album was uneven.
And then there was that Scorpions record.
Love At First Sting. Like VHII, it was about the album cover. But it wasn't some cool design with cool graphics and cool colors. It was the sex.
As I flipped through the albums, I stopped when I saw that black and white photo taking up the entire cover. They were embracing passionately. He was gnawing on her arched neck. Her head was tilted back with pleasure. His hand was discreetly tattooing a scorpion on her exposed thigh. You could kinda see the side of her tit.
Is that her tit? Holy shit. I can kinda see her tit.
I bought the album. Turns out the cover was designed by Helmut Newton.
“Rock You Like a Hurricane” was the single. Pretty good. Still holds up, I think, if you allow for the parts of it that are 80s Metal bullshit. When it comes to the video, you have to just embrace the 80s Metal bullshit and chuckle.
Sometimes, not very often, but once in a rare while, I'll hum the song to myself and change the words to “Here I am/fucked you like a hurricane.”
“Of course you do,” my friend said, she of the pervy dad. “You're a Scorpio.”
I like sex. I don't need a reason why. I just fuckin' do. A lot. And I like it anyway you wanna do it. Even that nasty stuff. Especially that nasty stuff. You want me to say some nasty fuckin' shit? C'mon baby, say that nasty fuckin' shit we like.
But most of all, I like it when you hold my hand and say nice things about me.
Akim Reinhardt's website is ThePublicProfessor.com