Just Open an Astrological Vein and Bleed (from Facebook, September 10, 2014)

A look back at the past, not in reflection as much as it is to share my journey into the world of astrology.

Michael Erlewine posted a brilliant piece on Monday, and I finally had an opportunity to read it this morning:  MY LIFE AND TIMES AS AN ASTROLOGERTHE BEGINNING.[sidebar note here: You must be a member of Facebook to read his article. That’s beyond my control, of course.]

Sometimes, we get lost in our own deadlines and needs that we don’t even see such a post flying by in the news feed. From what I understand, we only see about 7% of the posts our friends make, and I’m quite sure of that. I just realized today that some people I haven’t seen posting at all lately to the point that I wondered whether they were still in my friends, exactly how true that 7% probably is.

Michael’s post and another by Gavin Carruthers cut open my vein. The expression I remember came from Just Open a Vein, edited by William Brohaugh (Writer’s Digest Books, ©1987). Ironically, after all of the times I’ve ever said that phrase, I couldn’t remember the name of the book today, and spent quite a while searching for it. It’s probably still packed away in my other boxes of books I haven’t found yet. (I need more bookshelves and have no room in this tiny place! lol) So I went in search of this book and discovered that The New York Times’ columnist Red Smith was quoted in 1949 apparently in a Walter Winchell interview as saying, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and just open a vein and bleed.” But that quote may be related to another by Paul Gallico in 1946, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” Both were sportswriters.

So Michael’s bleeding on his cyberpage and subsequent bleeding from Gavin in a reply to that post led to a friendship with Gavin, and this Note. Be patient. There is reason to my madness. 😀
Royal 1I went through a lot of typewriters before I got to a computer in 1995. My brother Jerry had a series of antique Royal typewriters on which I was learning to type, and those keys were always miserable for my little fingers at the age of 11 or 12 to pound. They were on thick bars that you pressed–hard (pounding comes to mind here)–so someone who could type 50 wpm was really an amazing typist. By the time I was in high school, I was grateful because I think Mom must have bought me a portable from her brother’s Antiques Shop that also served as a swap shop. The portable had lighter keys to maneuver and I appreciated it so much. I still made a lot of mistakes, to which my typing teacher at Ridley could attest; but then that was during a summer when I had a cast on my leg and the high school refused to allow me to take space in their summer classes. So there I was at a business school at the age of 12, taking typing classes with some high school students who, I was grateful, were nurturing and protecting me from the teacher who viewed me like the stray dog she didn’t want.
Royal 2“You’ll never make a career of this!” she said of my 30-wpm mistake-ridden typing.
Royal 3I went on to get some jobs during my high school years in NYC doing just that. In fact, my first job out of high school was at JFK Airport, typing on an IBM Selectric, and I later became a statistical typist for a political pollster, making over twice what I had made at the airport when other kids my age were making 2/3 of what I started making fresh out of high school. By then, my wpm count was somewhere in excess of 60 wpm.

But there was, I knew, more to life than typing, and I wanted it. I got bored typing for others even though I did well and had some adventures along the way. But this is about cutting open my vein as an astrologer, and not as a typist who also became a writer and editor. In some ways, the three career hats are related, however, since my first article acceptance–published in World Tennis magazine–beat the acceptance of my second article for Dell Horoscope, and that article in Dell wasn’t published for another 18 months. But I started working with Dell three months after the World Tennis article was accepted for publication. Ironically, my World Tennis article was published under a pseudonym, and my Dell Horoscope articles were all published under my real name, Michelle Young.

As I read your post, Michael, you brought to mind my first year of learning astrology. I had been ripped off by someone local who had claimed to be an astrologer and had advertised in the yellow pages as such. I never even knew astrology existed until I was about 16 or 17 and spotted either a magazine about Pisces or perhaps a book published by Samuel Weiser. I sensed this was somehow related to some mysterious black (not evil, but dark) arts that brought me back to memories of exploring with my best friend from childhood with automatic writing (remember, Karen?) and how my family was always spooked whenever I said things that would later take place. I didn’t know where they came from. I only knew that it was a world I related to, and that not everyone did. So I hid my first purchase.
Astrology for the MillionsI never even bought Grant Lewi’s books–Astrology for the Millions or Heaven Knows What–until about 5 or 6 years later when I continued to explore. And later still, like so many of us, when my world crashed around me, I called an “astrologer” who claimed to be one. Ironically, there was, I would later learn, a real astrologer in town–the one who told me sometime after we met that I had a “difficult” chart. 😀 One of her students was my astronomy professor in college. He was also a Ph.D in physics.

That so-called astrologer who read for me at the time didn’t even know how to do a Solar Return, progressions or anything that could tell me more than my basic chart, and then he didn’t even tell me that my time of birth was important enough to get accurately from my birth certificate. In fact, he told me nothing more than I had already learned in Grant Lewi’s books! I ended up feeling defrauded and swore I would find a way to learn astrology with the intention that if I ever became a pro, I would teach others the difference between the pros and the frauds. Miraculously, someone appeared to teach me about 6 weeks later, and I learned for US$10 an hour, one on one with this teacher.

Those lessons opened such a world for me! But I didn’t have a computer yet. In fact, they weren’t even considered for the home yet. But coincidentally or not, my teacher had this pocket-sized calculator specifically to calculate and see actual charts probably in ASCII because I remember seeing them in the wheel. That fascinated me! I have no doubt it must have been one of your genius creations.

I plugged away for 90 minutes on each and every chart, methodically using a pen or pencil around a circular dessert plate because a dinner plate was too large for my paper. Then I’d use the straight edge of an envelope to section off each and every house, and then began to learn, step by step, using the template at the back of The American Ephemeris, 1931-1980 that my teacher had told me to get. That book survived a 1000°F house fire although the edges are black from the fire still. That will never come off, of course. The front cover is no longer attached except by Scotch tape. And the book lays flat after all the years of use. It’s a treasure. I can’t get rid of it, but I know who I want to pass it on to when it’s my time to move on from this life because I know that person will cherish it with the intent with which it’s given.
American Ephemeris 1931-1980My first astrology teacher later–tragically, IMO–left the field but not before testing me one day on the phone in a spontaneous final exam I had no idea was coming. He had me lay out a chart and gave me the cusps and the placements and asked me to read it after telling me it was the chart of a male. I described someone who probably enjoyed writing and music, probably worked better at home than in a formal setting, and that he probably got along better with women. I spoke about the chart for perhaps 15 minutes. There was a pregnant pause at the end, and I had no idea how I did until he finally spoke.

“Do you know whose chart that was?” he asked.

I had no clue.

“It was John Lennon’s.” And then he told me he was leaving town, heading for Italy–his mother’s home–and that he was leaving me his entire astrological library. He drove over, wished me well and left town and indeed did leave me his entire astrological library. It was, however, a tragedy that he left the field because he would have been another amazing astrologer as amazing ones go.
John Lennon - natalGavin wrote under your post on your page, Michael, “I remember well the days of hand-calculating charts! I had a friend who was a mathematician and created a formula that I could use for the ASC, MC and house cusps, using a texas instruments calculator. I was proud of the fact that I could create a fully accurate chart in a mere 10 minutes, but it took a lot of focus and concentration! These days I am so grateful for the speed of my trusty mac which does the job for me, and so much more. When I first came to the US in 1981 I helped arrange the sale of a Pet Commodore to a colleague of mine in Scotland through Matrix, but it took 32 years before I returned to the homeland myself! Thanks for all you have done and continue to do for astrology and us astrologers.”

I laughed and knew there was a friend in him, and I went to his page in awe of his having calculated charts in 10 minutes flat and sent a message.

“I just read your message to Michael Erlewine in his post about his life as an astrologer,” I wrote, “and I got to where you said 10 minutes and thought my jaw would surely hit the floor itself. 10 minutes!!! I don’t think I’ll ever recover from that! lol Now I’m not saying that from the perspective of calculating by computer or mechanical calculators, rather from my remembering my 78% right-brained self plodding through the template at the back of The American Ephemeris 1931-1980, and thinking I was grateful for those tables, and step by step calculations that would otherwise have driven me to drink–or away from astrology. But I was so committed to this idea of learning, not a moment went by as I did those calculations with each chart taking me a whopping 90 minutes to calculate by hand–and grateful for the opportunity to do so–I had to keep doing so. And this paragraph above is going to end up inspiring me to write yet one more Note on my timeline, and I’ll quote it in that note while mentioning you and Michael for being the inspiration of my having done so!” [Looking back now, how redundant I was in this paragraph! lol Where was the editor in me when I wrote that??]

And that’s how this Note began.

Gavin replied, “It took a lot of practice before I got it down to 10 minutes, but it was born of necessity, since in my early days in the US I did some readings at psychic fairs and thus calculating the chart as quickly as possible was important.  Of course I started out with all the tables as well, just like we all had to back in the ‘dark ages’!” and that simply offered me more thoughts:

“You brought to mind with your reply the time I spoke at the AZ Press Women’s Club’s monthly luncheon (I’m obviously also a writer–another profession right ‘up’ there with migrant workers and our joint profession as astrologers.), and how I had to do everything just from the ephemeris–just as I had done in college in my first year of this passionate love affair with astrology–because I didn’t have a computer until 1995.  I bought my computer on May 18, 1995, and I joined the WWW world on June 1, daring that I was.”

Thanks to Gary Caton, of course, I remembered your having said, “right up there with migrant workers.” Surely writers are also somewhere around the bottom 10, if not the bottom three (John Grisham, Deepak Chopra and Stephen King not withstanding).

Ah Michael, what memories you’ve stirred of my own path! It’s an exciting one I left for around three years from the end of 1996 until sometime in 1998 when I returned here and there as Italian_Butterfly. It took me a few more years to come out of the cocoon after that–probably after you closed the Matrix listsrv–although Lois Rodden knew me, as did Richard Nolle. Both of them had been extremely supportive of my writing and astrology, but Richard was my third face-to-face contact with professional astrology (my first having been my teacher, and the second was the astrologer who said I had the difficult chart). Were it not for Richard and my having interviewed him for Phoenix magazine, I wouldn’t have even met Jim Lewis at a gathering in Scottsdale, where several astrologers were attending a meeting. I was invited to attend and gladly did so. Dinner later with Jim was delightful. He was very gracious in making me feel welcome.

While I had already been writing for Dell by then, I still wasn’t sure I was an astrologer yet. I had simply been grateful that an editor at 3 other magazines had insisted that I take the manuscript I had offered him 18 months before to either Dell Horoscope or to American Astrology and to let whichever magazine I wrote to, know that he was sending me to them with his recommendation. His own publisher had refused to pay me or even to give me $10 subscriptions to each of the astrology magazines this particular astrologer had edited. That astrology editor had worked with me all those months to teach me how to write “reader friendly.” Both magazines tended to intimidate me, but I was more familiar with Dell and sent the manuscript there. Ronnie Grishman was a gem of an editor, and I’ll be eternally grateful to her for opening that door to me.

Memories of all of these years include, of course, AFA’s Bob Cooper and his endless kindness whenever I visited there. He always took time to stop and chat a bit before I ventured into the enormous room where all of the AFA products were kept, a warehouse, I suppose, but to me it was an enormous room.

It was then–sometime in the 12 years in which I lived in Arizona–that I finally saw what a pad of charts looked like instead of the single sheet my teacher had given me with my own chart on it. That simple moment of seeing the pad of blank chart paper brought everything into perspective in terms of knitting these years together. We didn’t even have a metaphysical book store in town. I remember buying a copy of Tracey Marks’ book on Neptune, a small paperback that opened my eyes to better understandings of even the ET planets, as I call them.

Like I said, so many memories you sparked today. Because of you, Michael, I cut open a vein and bled all over my cyberpaper now. Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you! You have been instrumental in paving new paths on computer, and new perspectives along the way. We each have stories–each and every one of us–and they are as similar and as vast and varied as they can be; but we are all united in huge part because of you.

Thank you, Michael Erlewine. Danke, Todah Rabah, Merci, Obrigada, Gracias, Grazie,Dhanyawad, Shukriya, Kheylee Mamnoon, Arigato, Xie Xieh, Doh Jeh, Takk…

That’s all of the Note as I wrote it back then. Sweet memories! I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as I’ve traveled through this one again. 

Until next time…

Namaste, I love you,

Michelle

©2016 Michelle Young

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