Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Find a happy medium

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Psychic medium Felix Lerma keeps an extra chair in his San Francisco apartment so that spirits will have a place to sit during readings. (Gavin McIntyre/Xpress Magazine)

Written by Katie Mullen

Apparently, he was sitting right next to me with his arm around me the whole time. He wanted me to know he is always with me and he is helping my spirit navigate through the difficulties every college student and human being in general encounters. He was explaining that he was taken suddenly, which is true. I was told that he was snapping his fingers and saying that everything slowed down and then boom—he was gone. I was told he had a great sense of humor and he is not upset with where he is now; I found that comforting. I was asked if he was cremated. He was.

My cousin died just over three years ago in a freak accident. A medic in the military, he was patrolling the shooting range on a base when a stray bullet hit him directly in the heart.  I do not talk about the loss of my cousin and yet a perfect stranger was able to tell me intimate details about him. He could see him next to me and was able to tell me his favorite drink and candy.

The man telling me these personal things about my cousin—things that even I did not know—was Felix Lee Lerman, a natural born psychic medium. According to Lerman, all mediums are psychics but not all psychics are mediums. The difference between the two is psychics perceive and mediums receive. In other words, psychics take a person’s energy and interpret that in a way that feels like they are looking into the future. Mediums on the other hand communicate with spirits, more commonly referred to as “the dead”, and relay the message to the living.

When Lerman was eight-years-old his grandfather passed away—his first experience with death. “I would kiss him on the cheek everyday when I got home from school. I would watch football with him and we use to eat beer nuts together,” he reminisced.

About a week after the loss, Lerman had a dream in which his grandfather visited him. “It was so real, so normal,” says Lerman. “He would pour me some milk and we would talk. I could smell his cologne, I could feel the stubble on his cheek.”

Lerman remembers his parents being very open and supportive when he told them about his dreams but admits that there were many that did not believe him. “I’d like to think they have come around to the idea by now,” says Lerman. At the time of the dreams, Lerman had no idea what a medium was.

The dreams and visions did not stop. He continued to communicate with and see his grandfather and others. He started reading books about divination; he became extremely enthralled by the idea of where we go after we die. Eventually, he also started to see colors surrounding strangers; this is when he realized that he was a psychic as well as a medium. By the time he was in college, he was receiving messages from those in spirit and giving them to the people that were open to hearing them.

In 2002, Lerman was confirmed by an internationally acclaimed psychic medium. Shortly after, he enrolled in mediumship development classes at the Holistic Studies Institute in hopes of mastering his gift. He earned the certification as an Intuitive Consultant from the American Board of Holistic Practitioners.

Lerman has now dedicated his life to mastering and using his abilities to help people. It is mentally straining to connect with spirits and he says he has to be in the right mind-set. He explains the three components that contribute to the successfulness of a reading; the spirits, the person or people seeking the reading, and the reader. If any part of this trio is off, the reading will not be a success.

Some still doubt that Lerman is a medium, heck I had my doubts too. “Its good to be skeptic,” says Lerman. “There are two types of skepticism. There is open skepticism, which most people are. Then there’s closed skepticism, which I work with and I understand that maybe they have been hurt by other mediums who couldn’t do what they say they could do. I don’t care if they’re skeptic, my job is to help them.”

My reading with Lerman was not my first encounter with a medium. I had been read by a friend of Lerman’s, Kay Fahlstrom, who studied the art of mediumship under his guidance.

Fahlstrom had a near-death experience in her early twenties before her premonitions and dreams began. She was planning to see her friend after work but decided not to because she had been having awful headaches. Instead of making the trip, she went home and turned up the he heat attempting to keep warm. Little did she know, that heater was leaking carbon monoxide that could have killed both her and her cat. That night, Fahlstrom says she left her body. She was unable to remain alive due to lack of oxygen and she suffered what is called a “textbook death”. Her downstairs neighbor was a nurse who was also suffering headaches eventually figured out the problem and ran upstairs to save Fahlstrom’s life.

Fahlstrom realized she had special gifts. She says her first experience with a psychic premonition was a dream about the lottery numbers the night before they were drawn—but no, she never bought a ticket. After that, she received a warning for her brother before he set sail into sever weather. That warning saved her brothers life.

Fahlstrom is a Certified Spiritual Advisor of the Lisa Williams School of International Spiritual Development. She does readings for people in need to try and help them heal or get answers that they so desperately need.

My reading with Fahlstrom was done via phone, a concept that felt odd to me. This woman was telling me that she would communicate with my loved ones for me and tell me what my future has in store for me without ever laying eyes on me? It is hard to believe in mediumship in the first place but this just seemed a step further than impossible. But, I did the reading with an open mind and was amazed at the things she told me.

She began by walking me through what my spirit guides had to say. She explained to me that everyone has a master spirit guide. Some people just have the one and others have multiple guides. The master guide is not someone that we knew in our lifetime, they have been with us since the beginning but the other guides are loved ones that we knew who have crossed over. Each guide helps you with a different aspect of your life such as school, work, relationships, and everything in between. Fahlstrom explained that spirit guides use to be human so they know what we are going through, people also have angels but they were never human.

I wouldn’t say that the accuracy of her words freaked me out, but they did baffle me. The information from my spirit guides was only the beginning, what she told me next was what really got me.

She started by saying, “I have an older woman here for you, she feels like grandma. Do you have at least one grandma in spirit?” I do not. Both of my grandmothers are living. But she was sure of herself. She went on to tell me that the spirit was talking about memory issues and saying, “My brain is not up to snuff.” That’s when I knew it was indeed my grandmother. My dad’s mother has Alzheimer’s and has been unable to talk and communicate with us for a while. Fahlstrom then told me that it is possible for a spirit to move on before the body does. My grandma began communicating with me through Fahlstrom and it became more and more clear that it was her. She showed Fahlstrom a hot plate of lasagna, my dad’s favorite meal that she would make him. She also talked about how I was special to her, I was her star.

I could go on and on about what both Fahlstrom and Lerman said that was spot-on accurate. There were times in the reading that I would be asked about a name such as, “Who’s Jack” or “Who’s Bitty”, and I had no idea who these people are. It made me think maybe the readings were not in fact accurate, maybe I so badly wanted to communicate with the people that I have lost that I am making things up and justifying them in my head. Then, I listened to the readings with my parents. It turns out, Jack is my great-grandfathers name and all the information that was said about him was correct. And Bitty, that’s my moms favorite aunt that was just dropping by to say hello.

Catalonia: To become whole again

A group of Catalans pose together while celebrating their culture. This bevvy of friends and family go to picnics filled with traditional Catalan food. (Tony Santos/Xpress Magazine)
A group of Catalans pose together while celebrating their culture. This bevvy of friends and family go to picnics filled with traditional Catalan food. (Tony Santos/Xpress Magazine)

Written by Anais Fuentes

After losing their homeland 300 years ago, Catalans are still fighting for their independence.

For Americans, September Eleventh will always be remembered as the tragic day that terrorists attacked our country.  Every year on this day, we mourn for the lives that were lost and we stand together as a nation.  However, this day is also significant for another culture—and for a very different reason.  For Catalans, this day will always be remembered as the day they lost their independence and were forced to become part of the Spanish Kingdom. Now known as the National Day of Catalonia, every September Eleventh, Catalans join together and protest to gain back their independence.

Anna Preston, sociology major at SF State, grew up in a bicultural household with a Catalan mother and an American father.  “We strive to be independent from Spain, but unfortunately it is not seen as something feasible to the Spanish government.”

At this point you might still be wondering, who are Catalans anyways? Catalan people are from Catalonia, one of the seventeen regions of Spain, located in the North Eastern corner of the country.  With their own language, traditions, and culture, Catalans consider themselves different from the rest of Spain and have been fighting for their independence ever since they lost it.

“I grew up learning both English and Catalan,” says Preston. “In the summers I would go to Spain and during the school year I would be in the United States so I grew up as a part of both worlds. There is a huge sense of pride in our culture that we do not take for granted.”

Catalonia existed as a free nation until 1714, when Catalonia became incorporated into a Spanish state.  It all dates back to the fourteen hundreds, when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile got married, uniting the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. Their marriage united the two kingdoms, which unified Spain.  Then, during the period between 1936 and 1975, dictator Francisco Franco took over Spain in the Spanish Civil War.  During this time, Spanish was declared Spain’s only official language and the public use of other languages became prohibited. Catalan language, traditions, and culture were suppressed to the point of near extinction.  Schools were banned from teaching Catalan, Catalan books were not published, and some even burned.  It was a hard time to be a Catalan in Spain, but Catalans were able to resist this repression and salvage their culture.  Once Franco died in 1975, Catalans were able to regain their culture that had almost completely disappeared. It is because of those thirty-six years of oppression that Catalans have become so proud of their distinct culture, traditions, and language.

Susan Wigham started a Catalan meetup group called Trobades Catalanes, which invites both Catalan and non-Catalans to get together and celebrate the language and culture.  This group has been meeting up monthly at different locations around the Bay Area for the past four years.  As an American, Wigham became fascinated with the culture and language after visiting some friends in Barcelona.

“What interested me about Catalans is the fact that they were once very repressed under Franco’s regime and now they are beginning to grow and gain independence,” says Wigham. “I got started organizing the meet up group because it was an opportunity for me to learn the language and give something back at the same time.”

Four years after creating the group, Wigham has become fluent in the Catalan language. “People have remarked to me on multiple occasions that I must have been Catalan in a previous life” says Wigham, “and I feel like that is possible.”

There are so many traditions unique to Catalan culture, that if I were to attempt to write about all of them, I would have to write an entire book instead of an article.  So I chose to write about just a few of them.

Fútbol

You may have heard of the famous soccer team, FC Barcelona, or Barca, known for their long-standing rivalry with Real Madrid.  “What many people do not know is that this team is Catalonia’s National team and the majority of their players are Catalan as well.  FC Barcelona has become more than just a soccer team to the Catalan people, to them it represents their identity.  The club has been used to openly promote Catalan independence. In Spain, soccer has deep political and cultural connotations and Barca has become a prominent symbol for Catalan Nationalism.

Language

Preston talks about what it is like being a Catalan living so far away from Catalonia.  “I spoke Catalan throughout my childhood and I still speak it, but I find it hard sometimes to feel connected when I am so far away from Spain.  I do not have that many Catalan friends around here so every opportunity I get to go to a Casal, which is a picnic gathering of Catalans, I will go to there just so I can feel reconnected to where I am from.”

Catalans are very proud people and their language is something they are particularly proud of, and rightly so. The Catalan language almost completely disappeared during Franco’s dictatorship but it survived against all odds.  Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish; it is derived from Latin and is spoken by millions of people around the world.  Most Catalans, however, are fluent in both Catalan and Spanish. But if you go to Barcelona and speak to the locals in Catalan, you will get huge brownie points and appreciation from the Catalan people.

Food

Catalonia’s gastronomic industry has gained a reputation for producing some of Spain’s finest cuisine. Because Catalonia is located in-between the ocean and the mountains, their meals include a diverse variety of seafood and meat dishes.  In recent years, a new wave of modern experimental chefs have come out of Catalonia, one of them being Ferran Adria, founder of El Bulli.  El Bulli was a Catalan restaurant near the town of Roses in Catalonia that received up to one-thousand reservations a year and only eight-thousand of those guests actually got a table.  Many have considered Adria the best chef in the world.

Dia de Sant Jordi

Among Catalonia’s many holidays, Sant Jordi day can be compared to our Valentines Day, in which Catalans celebrate their patron saint by exchanging books and roses.  On April 27th, the Catalan Meetup group held a Dia de Sant Jordi meet up at Hoover Park in Palo Alto.  It was a warm Sunday afternoon and by one p.m., people started to show up to Hoover Park with typical Catalan dishes and beverages in hand.  This was a chance for both Catalan speakers and non-Catalan speakers to immerse themselves in the culture.

Among those who showed up to the meet up was George Vidal.  Vidal’s grandfather was Catalan but his parents did not learn the language, losing the remaining ties they had to the culture.  “I wanted to get that back,” says Vidal.  “I am finally getting back something that I think our family lost because of the civil war. The language connects you so much with other Catalans, even if you are not Catalan yourself.”  Vidal is now working with the National Assembly of Catalonia, a civil organization that is pushing for Independence of Catalonia.  They are currently collecting votes to petition for independence.  So far they have collected about one -hundred-thousand votes and they are trying to reach their goal of one million.

Alejandro Pujol, a Catalan who has been living in the United States for the past 13 years, also attended the San Jordi festivities.  He came to America to pursue his masters in business and has been here ever since.  “I feel very Catalan,”says Pujol, “To me being Catalan is a strong cultural feeling that you are part of.”

Although the road to independence is long and windy, Catalans will continue to fight for what they believe.  And whether or not Catalonia becomes an independent nation, their distinct culture and traditions will always live on.