Luz, a tiny 56-year-old Colombian woman with a twisted front tooth and a short, dark mop of spiral-shaped noodles stands in front of The Bar (172 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-2730; gablesthebar.com). As she excitedly zips and unzips the black fanny pack around her waist, she asks a tall, willowy gentleman with the face of an emu his astrological sign.
"Yield?" she asks, genuinely bewildered. "That's not part of the zodiac."
But before this mocking bird of a man can respond, Luz informs him she's a Libra, a born entertainer "just like Freddie Mercury" (who was actually a Virgo), and her parents are Capricorns, so they'll never understand her. Which might explain why she's been sent to the mental ward a couple of times and is now asking the visibly annoyed man standing in front of her if he's a werewolf.
"No," he says and abruptly walks away.
Luz, unshaken, waltzes in my direction.
"Do you want to know when you'll die?" she asks innocently, plopping a palm reading manual down on my tall bar table.
"Not really," I say as I take out a Rider-Waite deck of tarot cards and fan them out face-down in front of her. "But would you like to predict what's in the cards for 2010? Even the next decade?"
Hey, when you're trying to shake off a whirlwind year filled with sad and hard-hitting realities — unemployment, foreclosures, MJ's (and, as important, Billy May's) death, swine flu, and the relaunch of Melrose Place — looking forward instead of reflecting on the past seems so much more promising, optimistic, and, heck, even mystical.
"Are you a white or a black witch?" she asks me. Using the very limited information about witchery I've acquired (courtesy of The Craft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I choose white. Maybe it's the shade of her tight, faded rose-colored turtleneck, but Luz seems tickled pink. Eagerly, she draws a card and flips it over. It's labeled "The Star" and features a nude woman pouring water into a small pond surrounded by a starry sky.
"She reminds me of a gypsy," says Luz, furrowing her brow. "And gypsies lie... But they get married under the stars."
But what does this card say about the future?
"That I'm finally going to be famous. A movie star, a naked movie star."
Not wanting to probe deeper into this woman-child's desire to be a "mature" porn star (if she ain't got teeth, it ain't a problem), I ask her to pick a fresh card. She draws "The Devil."
"Uh, oh," she says. "This means that the Devil's disciples, the evil dead, will soon walk the Earth."
"Don't be ridiculous — zombies don't exist!" she says matter-of-factly. "Vampires do. And since they're stronger and faster and better-looking than us humans, they'll dominate the 2012 Olympics... and the pages of Vogue."
Craving a normal conversation like, well, Dracula longs for blood, I decide to move on. When a reggae cover band performing inside starts strumming the first few chords of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up," I take note and head through the door.
Inside, I meet Carolina, a pretty 23-year-old brunette who's rocking black leggings and lots of eyeliner while swaying (or stumbling) to the sweet, sweet Rasta beats.
"Personally, I'm over the whole vampire thing," she says. "It's like the latest pop cultural craze. Before it was penguins; now it's vampires." So she plucks a card to foretell our pop cultural fate. She draws "Judgment," which shows two naked ladies, two naked men, and two naked children raising their hands in worship to an angel playing a horn and holding what appears to be a white flag adorned with a red cross.
"Well, that's easy. The next trend will be orgies."
And how, exactly, will this happen?
"Well, first and foremost, Switzerland will decide to reverse the colors on their flag, and men, women, and children all over the world will get so hot and bothered by this they'll have orgies as soon as they walk into an Ikea. Free of judgment."
Cheap furniture and sex? Seems more Greco than Gattaca. So Rachel, Carolina's tan, brown-eyed gal pal with a piggish, Posh Beckham-esque snout and a severe addiction to honey-blond highlights decides to give psychic readings an amateur whirl. She yanks loose a card labeled "The Moon." It features a dog and a wolf standing by the sea as they howl at Neil Armstrong's stomping ground. With a red-painted pinkie nail, Rachel points to a crustacean crawling out of the water toward the canines.
"Crabs — that's what I predict for 2010. All of mankind will get crabs."
Rachel points to the two mutts.
"Because of dogs... and possibly my boyfriend's skanky ex-girlfriend."
Hoping testosterone will lead to a more positive glimpse into the future, I turn to Danny, a 31-year-old blond with a gold cross pendant and a reddish face that matches the whites (or pinks) of his eyes. He pulls the "King of Swords," burps, scratches his balls, and says:
"This means I'm going to become the king of Ireland. I'll stab every bitch until I'm king."
Not sure if that'll work in that country. Ever heard of the IRA?
"The people who collect our taxes? What does that have to do with anything?"
Taking one last stab at a man's faith in mankind, I ask Ray — a dark-haired Cuban in an FIU hoodie and flip-flops who's sitting alone at the central bar — to draw a card. He picks "The Hermit."
"We'll become so technologically dependent and lazy that none of us will ever leave the house," he says in a monotone Hispanic accent. "We'll all become so socially awkward that the main source of reproduction will be via a Petri dish."
What a Ray of sunshine. So I step out of the bar and into the night, where Luz once again greets me.
"What's your address?" she asks while opening her fanny pack, taking out a pen, and testing the ink by scribbling on the back of her hand. "I think we should start a coven. I'm telepathic."
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I tell her with my mind that I live in a magical wizard world where the only way anyone can get to my home is by riding a giant dragon-dog named Falcor. But she doesn't get it.
"Can we at least be blood sisters?" she asks, desperately poking the tip of her index finger with the pen.
I don't know. With the looming threat of vampires, Ikea orgies, and a worldwide spread of crabs in our near future, sharing fluids doesn't sound like the most appealing idea.
"Why don't we let the tarot cards make that decision?" she says, beckoning me to draw a card. Despite all of my optimism about the future, I've never been happier to draw a card labeled "Death."