Vital signs

Having your future divined amid the steam and clamor of Max & Rosie’s’ lunch rush is like poring over your newly developed vacation photos at the city bus station: You’d acknowledge the humanity teeming around you if only your own image weren’t so engrossing.

When I visited Max & Rosie’s on a recent Saturday, numerologist/feng shui consultant Linda Kay and tarot/rune expert Rebecca Landing — both transplants from Sedona, Ariz. — were holding court at separate candlelit tables. For several years now, the downtown vegetarian cafe has hosted various incarnations of Psychic Saturday (used to be you could get your cards read on Sunday, too). And both Kay and Landing noted the absence that day of one Marianne — an apparently much-revered fellow traveler who completes this triumvirate of local “intuitives” (today’s preferred term for spiritual practitioners).

But Kay and Landing were putting out plenty of vibes on their own. The numerologist revealed that “my mother was a Southern Baptist, and Daddy was in the Air Force.” She says she kept quiet about her tendency to see visions until she moved to Woodstock, N.Y., in the ’70s. Even today, the grave-eyed Kay comes off as pleasant but pensive, guarding her calling with well-timed defense strategies.

“I had a run-in with one lady on a [Psychic Saturday] afternoon who got so belligerent that Rosie and [Max & Rosie’s cook] Jeff escorted her out,” Kay recalls. “And I’ve had Baptist preachers come up to me and want to know what’s going on. I tell them that numerology [the study of personality culled from numbers assigned to one’s name and birth date] is based on Pythagoras.

“They don’t know what else to say,” she concludes.

With her voluminous dress and measured voice, Landing comes across as a psychic of the old school, though she says her abundant cheerfulness attracts plenty of “first-timers.” “They are usually fearful, curious and want definitive answers. There are no definitive answers in the world,” she observes.

Landing maintains that she is “not a fortune teller.” A true psychic, she says, “will glean from the cards the energy that has been put on the cards by the client.” (Before receiving a tarot reading, a client first shuffles the practitioner’s deck according to his or her own whim; the cards that end up on top are the ones used in the reading.)

“The same card,” notes Landing, “may mean one thing to one person but a totally different thing to another. It depends on [the client’s] energy and intent and motive and integrity.”

Indeed. Shortly after I mentioned to Landing my obsession with sleeplessness, she turned over the next card in the batch I’d chosen, revealing an illustration of an apparently insomnia-afflicted figure sitting up in bed with his head in his hands.

But whether or not Kay or Landing makes a believer of you is largely irrelevant. The way Psychic Saturdays complement the restaurant’s already eccentric ambience feels like the best reason to savor the weekly event — especially at a time when many local venues are promoting often-bizarre alloys of the pleasure principle.

It’s a weird trend — think gumbo served at old-school-rap shows, gentle folksingers booked for high-octane sports festivals — that makes plain old-fashioned prophecy go down like a banana smoothie.

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