Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Illinois Paranormal Conference in Rockford, Illinois. It was about what I expected. Some of the talks were quite interesting. Some maybe went over my head. It was a relaxing environment for me. I gave a little talk about my book, Monster Hunters. I hung out, sold a few books, talked to people.
The headlining speaker was Rosemary Ellen Guiley. She’s written about 65 (!) books on paranormal topics over her career. If you’re really, really into the paranormal subjects, you know who she is. If you’re not, you don’t.
One interesting thing she talked on was a supernatural race known as the Djinn. The French translated this into a more well known word in the Western world: Genie. It turns out that in Middle Eastern cultures, they really do try to trap the genies, or Djinn (pronounced kind of like GIN) into jars, which is where we get our “Genie in a bottle” imagery. Guiley says Djinn really do exist and can be helpful, tricksters, or just straight up evil. They can sometimes grant wishes, but sometimes there is a catch involved.
* * *
I took a walk from Shorewood over to the east side today. It felt good, but by the time my walk expelled me onto Brady Street, I was hot, overheated. I walked into the Walgreen’s on Brady. I went into the bathroom in Walgreen’s and splashed cold water on my face. This hair, I thought, running my hand through it, too hot, too thick. I looked at my face in the mirror.
I’m old, I thought, looking at myself. I’m dying. I wish I didn’t have this thick hair.
Back in the store, I grabbed a bottle of juice from the cooler and began wandering to the checkout. Too hot, I thought.
Walking through the aisle, I caught the eye of a young woman, a short, barely 5-foot elf-like rocker girl. She stared at me, wide eyed. She was wearing a ripped up Led Zeppelin shirt, nose ring, lots of tattoos (Betty Boop and a sugar skull, and others, I didn’t want to gape at her), ripped jean shorts, red Chuck Taylors. She looked frantic. She stared at me, wide-eyed, then asked, “excuse me, but can I ask a big favor of you?”
Oh great, I thought. Brady Street, where I’ve been propositioned a hundred times by people with weird, needy requests. I was jaded and braced myself for a proposition of drugs, or more likely, a query for drug money disguised as something else.
“I just need ten dollars to get to a remote hospital where my grandma is dying, etc.”
“Sure, what’s up?” I asked her.
“My hair model flaked out on me, and I need to do a haircut for my apprenticeship! Would you like a free haircut?”
I stared at her.
“Uh…yes,” I said. She clapped her hands, they fluttered lightly.
“Oh thanks!” She said.
* * *
She puffed on a cigarette as we walked to the salon where she was an apprentice, a half block away. She got me into a salon chair and then asked me my name.
“Tea,” I said.
“Wait, what?” she asked, grabbing her spray bottle. “Taylor,” she said her name was. But because of her name and her short height, she had acquired the nickname of “Tiny T.” How odd is that? One of the Djinn trickery, I had learned at the paranormal conference, is that they appear to you as something familiar. So if you lived in Victorian England, for example, a Djinn will appear to you as a Victorian person. If you are a farmer, a Djinn might appear as a strange farmhand or maybe a horse. Some of them look like sexy belly-dancers, some look like hideous gargoyles. They play off your mind, your needs, familiarity.
If you spent your youth living on the east side of Milwaukee, maybe a Djinn would be an elf-like (“I used to have a pixie cut” Tiny T admitted on her own hairstyles as I sat in her chair) rocker with a nose ring and a ripped up Led Zep shirt.
Tiny T gave me a great haircut. Her instructor complimented her on the style and on her gumption to go out on Brady Street to wrangle a hair model. Tiny T had taken her assignment seriously and was passionate about being a good hair stylist. I shook her hand and walked down the street quite happy with the random turn of events and my new, free haircut. Was Tiny T a mystical Djinn? No, I would say not. The heat, the talk on the Djinn made me think a delirious thought. But it all felt a little magical, anyway.