Reading Tarot at The Hotel California

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(With apologies to Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and all the members of The Eagles.)

The gig sounding promising – a private birthday party for a woman who was turning 40 and several of her friends at a verrrry nice hotel overlooking the ocean on a full moonlight night. Susan (names have been changed to protect the identities of the parties involved) agreed to go with me, so we packed our Tarot bags and headed into the night, towards the ocean, cruising the dark woods and hills of California.

We arrived at the hotel a good hour early, having encounted no traffic at all.  I’d kept the radio turned down to enjoy Susan’s delightful company. On an impulse, I reached over and turned it up, just in time to hear the opening note to the studio version of “Hotel California” by The Eagles, and just then we rounded a curve in the road – and our destination loomed up out of the night, against the backdrop of the ocean and sky – a moment I wish I could have captured on film.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

We paused to admire the spectacular effect of the architecture, the lights, and the night time sky, then drove into the courtyard.  A very polite parking valet helped us remove our bags from the car, and a second valet whisked it away instantly.  (Remember Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”? And the driverless carriage that whisked Harker to the castle?  The car was gone that quickly.)

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
‘This could be Heaven or this could be Hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here

The first valet was determined to walk us to where our party was sequestered in a private dining room.  I’d rushed out of work and needed a few minutes to assemble myself, so we asked for directions to the ladies’ room, and suddenly he disappeared.

Having transformed from Day Job into Tarot Reader Mode, I went in search of our party while Susan kept an eye on our bags in the completely empty corridor – actually, that entire wing was empty, and still, and a bit eerie.

As I walked into the club to find the party, the piano player struck up – wait for it – “Hotel California.”  I took a deep breath, approached the maitre d’, and found our clients at a very large table, covered in food and drinks (the table, not the clients).  The birthday girl informed me that they’d be along after they’d finished eating.  One of her friends gave me the key to their suite so we could set up the reading areas.

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

I found Susan, and we repaired to the suite to set up – physically and mentally – for the evening ahead.  I told her about the piano player’s choice of music, and we had a good laugh on our way up in the elevator.

So I called up the Captain,
‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
Pink champagne on ice . . .

We found a gorgeously appointed suite set up for a party – food, beverages, alcohol – and, yes, pink champagne on ice.  At this point, the evening’s theme was undeniably clear; we just had to roll with it.  Susan couldn’t remember all the lyrics, so after we’d set up two reading areas, I recited them for her. We took a few deep breaths, and then we heard the party approaching.

We took a few minutes for introductions, and then we each took our first client to the separate rooms for readings.  Susan took the birthday girl, and I took the first guest, and off we went.

Client readings are confidential, so we won’t discuss details.  Let’s just say that all of the readings fit in quite neatly with the evening’s them.

And she said ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
but you can never leave . . . .

After we finished the readings, we were supposed to lead the party in a fun discussion so they could share their thoughts and experiences.  It was quite clear, however, that what they wanted to do was drink, so we packed our things, gave our thanks, and got the hell out of that place.

A third valet brought the car around, helped us load the bags, and we took off into the moonlit night, not looking back.  The drive back to San Francisco was lovely – moonlight on the mountains and trees. We talked about the readings, and the evening.  As I was dropping off Susan at her house, we did a quick scan on the radio – but no Eagles.

As usual, the next day I called the client for feedback on the event – no answer, so I left a voicemail.  Later, I was out running errands, turned on the car radio, and – voila! – the opening notes to “Hotel California” – just as my phone rang, showing the client’s number on the caller ID.

Surreal – and yet, it happened!

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