FUNNY BUSINESS - OCTOBER 1995
by Maka MacKenna
A WHILE BACK I BOUGHT a book about feng shui, the Chinese science of environmental harmony. The Chinese believe that they can encourage good fortune and positive energy by the proper arrangement of buildings, doors and even windows.
I had read that the great merchant banks of Hong Kong have their doors placed at crazy angles because of feng shui. They believe this makes them rich. Since I want to be rich, I decided to check out feng shui.
I am an uneasy traveler in the New Age, too skeptical to believe, too curious to resist. My sister, on the other hand, fits right in. She has a collection of crystals that would stop your pacemaker.
I bought the book at the old White Dolphin store in Old Town. In the hushed atmosphere, with New Age music tinkling quietly, I feel creepy. The book cost 20 bucks. I was faintly disappointed to see it was written by an Englishman. In fact, it was allegedly IN English but I found it unreadable. My pursuit of feng shui ground to a halt.
One day I spied an ad in one of our local tabloids. A feng shui practitioner was coming to town. I called, and the appointment was made.
Promptly, at the fixed hour, the doorbell rang. My adviser was a toothy, pleasant lady with a clipboard. I had cleaned my house for her, too, I want you to know.
We started with the outside. She studied the exterior.
I should mention that my house, although rather pleasant on the inside, has all the curb appeal of Hitler's bunker. I can see all my neighbors' TVs because they arrange their furniture so they sit facing away from my house.
I could see her formulating her words carefully before she spoke. I hoped she wouldn't be too brutal.
The front entrance wasn't well defined, she said. The chi, or energy, that feng shui is meant to capture -- the stuff that makes you rich -- needed to be channelled into the house. "Paint a red path up to your door," she said brightly.
I thought about my poor neighbors. "I'll think it over," I said.
We toured the living room. The lady said it needed to be brightened up. I mentally moved the paint job I had planned for sometime around the millennium up to the "pretty soon" category.
She moved through the house, rattling off a long list of tasks for me. By the time we were done, I was also assigned to clean up the garage and decorate the washroom.
The thought occurred to me that feng shui may have been devised by ancient Chinese men as a way of motivating ancient Chinese women to keep up with the housework.
Now it was time to settle up. It's no good unless you pay for it, she said.
I know this line has been used by hookers and gypsies since the dawn of time. I gave her the 90 bucks.
Since then I've started a feng shui message board on America On-Line. We put it under Religions, Other because it didn't seem to fit under Pagan.
One fellow posted a message suggesting there's a whole new area of inquiry in cyber-feng shui. He suspects his hard disk crashed because his Windows weren't properly aligned. Makes sense to me.
I've only completed about two-thirds of the list of prescriptions, still working on the rest.
Riches haven't poured in, but the chi seems to be picking up. I've sold a couple of articles. The new dog stopped running away. Best of all, I found a guy who'll do my lawn for cheap and doesn't complain about the dog piles.
If that ain't chi, I don't know what is.
A few weeks later I had a house guest who knows feng shui. When he saw the new county jail building, he had a fit.
"A street dead-ending into a building is the absolute worst," he said while visiting Eureka. "It brings strife and controversy."
Comes with the territory, I told him. After all, it's a jail. He repeated this would be big time bad luck and would hit all the surrounding buildings, too.
They're mostly lawyers' offices, I told him.
"Oh well," he said, "then it doesn't matter."
Maka Mackenna is a fourth generation Humboldter who recently returned to the area after 30 years.
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