By Amy Phillips Penn

As long as they tell me what I want to hear, I adore psychics, astrologers, and tea leaf readers. Please, feed my dreams of best sellers, champion horses, polo players, and a beach house. Tell me more, tell me more!

As ridiculous as it may seem to some, advocates of psychics and such are not in bad company. First Lady Nancy Reagan admitted to consulting an astrologer about President Reagan’s schedule. Then, there’s Hollywood of course.

The best (and I mean the best) psychic I have ever seen is no longer with us—at least not in the earthly sense. Her body succumbed decades ago.

Grace Loving, a.k.a. Gabriel, was a prominent New York psychic back in the 1970s. She lived in a wobbly walkup in the East 80s, and conducted her readings at a table adorned with a plastic cup full of ketchup and mustard packs.

For a mere $20, Ms. Loving would shuffle her tarot cards, spread the deck out and present you with a reading that would blow your mind. Grace Loving didn’t deal in vague, tall-dark-and-handsome proclamations. She doled out specifics faster than she turned over the Ace of Cups: names, dates, secret nicknames, details regarding past and present lives.

I wasn’t just intrigued, I was addicted.

But in spite of her genius, Grace Loving was a frazzled soul. (Think copious mustard and ketchup packs.)

“I can’t find my keys,” she suddenly announced during one sitting, hands flailing in despair. “My keys.”

We stopped everything to inspect her freshman fraternity of an apartment. With each passing minute, Loving became more and more alarmed. Finally, she turned over a sofa pillow. “Hello!” she said to the shiny metal culprits.

Loving could have doubled or tripled her fees, and no one would have blinked. She chose not to.

When reading my mother’s cards, she coughed a disturbing cough.

“Brandy,” she said. “I’d like brandy.”

My mother sent her an entire bottle that afternoon.

A few weeks later, we learned that Grace Loving had died. But Loving’s legacy will never expire. Her predictions still linger with many, and to all her former customers she is a New York legend.

In need of a spiritual consultant to fill the void left by Loving, I decided to visit Elizabeth, a well known astrologer of the same era with a similarly unkempt office on the Upper East Side. Though she had a loyal following amongst private school mothers, I found Elizabeth’s chart-side manner off-putting from the start.

“I’m married to a Frenchman, and I live in a fabulous home,” she announced in place of hello. In other words: I have money. Yet the bathroom door was suspiciously unhinged, and had obviously been so for a time.

“I don’t want to hear anything terrible,” I told her.

“I would never do that,” she smiled. But her tone was that of the Wicked Witch of the West. “You’ll have your turn. We all do. There’s the death of your father, for instance…”

I never returned.

One night soon after, Arlene Dahl read my tea leaves. The leaves on the bottom of my cup formed a tree, and Arlene proceeded to spin a beautiful tale about what this might mean. This was more my speed. Give me the reassurance I need!

But does anyone really know what the future holds?

Even the mortals among us seem to have psychic moments now and again. Once, my sister wrote our parents a letter urging them to sell all their stock. A few days later, the market plunged into mass hysteria. My parents hadn’t taken her seriously, but several people asked to be put on her mailing list thereafter.

Years ago, we went to see a famous gypsy in Monte Carlo. “You’re going to have another child,” she said to my mother.

The notion seemed absurd—until a few years later, when my sister arrived.

Whether or not you believe in tea leaves, stars, or a psychic’s pronouncements, it can be tough to ignore them altogether.

Featured image courtesy of Elisa Romeo 

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