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Post photographer Michael Williamson is traveling across the country covering the economic situation.

The Cards Tell Truths In Tallahassee


Dolly Ephraim unfolds the past, present and future, one tarot card at a time. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--In times of uncertainty, some people go to church. Michael and I went to Dolly Ephraim’s house.

From her dining room—decorated with statues of praying angels, an open Bible and an array of crystals—she has watched the recession spread, leading people, hopeless and in need of guidance, in her direction. “Walk-ins welcome,” reads a sign in her yard pointing toward another sign resting at the foot of the front door: “Palm Reader.”

“Jobs are now the top concern,” said Ephraim, who at age 43 has been working as a psychic for 27 years.

And before? I asked.

“Love and romance,” she said. “But for the last year or so, jobs have been number one.”

I then did what only seemed logical when standing in a psychic’s house – I asked for a reading. Mostly, I wondered how well she would peg me, but I also had my own financial questions. I never spend above my means, choosing to drive a Ford Focus because it’s cheap, often mixing bargain buys with name-brand clothes to make an outfit. But I’ve also never been good at tracking my finances. I have never once balanced a checkbook (yes, never) and I am often that person who pulls crumpled dollar bills from her pocket not knowing exactly how much is in there.

Still, it’s a system that has worked for me most of my life, one that had never caused me stress – that is, until recently. As I plan a wedding during this recession, I find myself whittling down, not adding, amenities such as the photographer’s hours (from eight down to two) and tiers on the cake (from three down to one). And each time the topic of buying a house arises, I wonder how much I can safely invest and if, with the uncertainty of the newspaper industry, I will still have my job when I sign the papers. (Between working at Newsday on Long Island and now at The Post, I have seen too many incredible journalists and people leave the business earlier than they had ever planned. I have lost friends and mentors).

Michael sat nearby and listened as Ephraim had me shuffle the deck of Tarot cards and hand them back to her. She then laid them out, one by one, slowly exposing my past, present and future.

I will do a lot of traveling, she said. (The revelation was of little surprise since we had told her we were on a road trip).

I often work too hard, she said. (It was after 9 p.m. when we knocked on her door).

But then she described parts of me I hadn't revealed to her. She said I was fiercely independent and tend to lose my temper the most when someone tries to hold me back. When I do get angry, she added, it only lasts for short bursts. She also pegged that I was planning a celebration for my family, perhaps a wedding, that would involve travel, and that in the near future I would be faced with signing important papers, possibly for a house.

Finally, she talked about my career. She said I was meant to do something that fostered independence, such as running my own business (she obviously didn’t know about those crumpled bills in my pocket). But that whatever I chose to do, she added, I was going to be okay.

“You’re versatile,” she said “Where you’re not going to make it to over here, you’re going to make it over there...And with the way the world is today, that’s good.”

The world as seen from her dining room is one where a Starbucks across the street opened and closed in less than a year and a half and where the emptying mall nearby causes Ephraim to worry about her own business. The college students who regularly visited or booked her for events are now unable to afford even her discounted prices, she said. She charges most people $20 a reading, but students pay only $10. At those prices, she really can't earn a living, but Ephraim said she keeps her doors open because she has a gift she enjoys sharing – and one that seems more needed nowadays.

"Some people have been shut down so many times, that they give up," she said. "As a psychic, or call it whatever, I’m a spiritualist, I’m a minister. I always tell people, ‘Keep your faith strong because that’s the best thing you can do.’”


Michael and I searched for a psychic in Georgia, stopping at this place and two others, but no one was home. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

By Theresa Vargas  |  July 1, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Turtles and Tires in Tallahassee
Next: A Letter Home From Orlando


Nice trip. Seems we have similar interests.

I watched a meteor shower at a Lake Jackson park on Hwy. 27 and had my fortune told by Miss Dolly. (So far, so good).

I have ideas for when you go through Pensacola...or better yet, come see us now in Albuquerque. (Trying to make music to make money.)

Enjoy the trip,

Posted by: mhrowell | July 1, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe in astrologers, sorcerers or trickery. One day I had a friend who had his palm read, and so out of curiousity had the lady read mine. Within 5 seconds I thought she was going to go into a coma. All the blood in her face drained, she dropped my hand and started shaking. Don't know what was up with that, the only thing I could think of was that since I had just finished working at the dairy, I still had something on my hand. Go figure.

Posted by: jakesfriend1 | July 1, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Dunno if you're going to keep coming South, but if you do, give me a yell via email -- -- and I'll tour you around the Bradenton/Sarasota area, one of the parts of the U.S. deepest in recession due to dependence on construction and real estate speculation, two economic activities that have just about stoppe around here.

Posted by: roblimo | July 1, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I would like to suggest reading:



Posted by: ikeygram | July 1, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Great JOB!!

I wrote in asking about homelessness due to this mess the wealthy brought us into.

I herd an article on National Public Radio, that there was a tent set up somewhere, with a washer and dryer. They were talking with someone who lost his job in Michigan. He had been working in the auto industry. He was making good money in Michigan, when he recently lost his house. He moved to Florida, only to find employment doors closed on him. He was homeless, sleeping in a tent.

I believe this administration should see these photos and hear these stories. We will be paying close attention, in the next election!!!

With all of the money that is being wasted in Afghanistan, "Putting rural Afghans to work". "Saving their government". Why can't we use that money right here, and build adequate shelters, one in every state. NOBODY IN THIS COUNTRY SHOULD BE INVOLUNTARILY HOMELESS.

This is a disgrace!

Posted by: cidcindy | July 2, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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