Reading the cards

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The 50th running of the NYC Marathon along Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Monday, November 8, 2021.  It was bright and sunny, yesterday in New York, with midday temps in the low 50s. It was also the 50th annual New York City Marathon with 33,000 running. It was a fine day. I made an early trip to Zabar’s to avoid the street closings. Traffic was light anyway.

Saturday night I had dinner with Harry and Gigi Benson and Paige Peterson at Sette Mezzo. It was mobbed, inside and out. Their “outside” is now interior-ized and is heated. Very nice and very comfortable. Sette is often very busy but it seemed particularly busy (and loud) with people coming and going. And noisy, but cozy. People were excited to be out and dining. I happen to like the din — a beautiful contrast to my life at the desk. New York is about people; that’s why most of us are here.

New York is like this. It’s the season for book publishing. You read about the new Dickens’ A Christmas Carol adapted by Jesse Kornbluth and illustrated by Paige Peterson for a newer, littler audience — those being read to, or learning or beginning to read. An excellent gift that will be remembered long after.

The Radiant Tarot; Pathway to Creativity in the window at Rizzoli where they hosted a discussion and  Q & A with the artist and author, Alexandra Eldridge and Tony Barnstone, last week.

Several new titles have crossed this desk. I’m not a book reviewer but I love books, partly obsessive, like security blankets. Jane Lahr, the literary agent, sent me a book that is even more than a book. It is called The Radiant Tarot; Pathway to Creativity by Alexandra Eldridge and Tony Barnstone.

Alexandra Eldridge with a copy of The Radiant Tarot; Pathway to Creativity

Tarot. I am familiar with the gist of it. Or I thought I was. I had a card reading years ago by a woman named Dezia Restivo. I was moving to Los Angeles and a couple friends of mine gave me a going away gift of a reading by Dezia. She was a little English lady, blonde and outgoing but professional in her approach and delivery. I’d never had my cards read and I was indifferent to the experience except that Dezia was intense and charming.

Seats taken, she’d pick up cards (playing cards) and hold them like a fan before her face, and utter some piece of information about my life. She knew I was about to move to Los Angeles.

As she looked at the cards expressing some details that I don’t remember, she did say “you’re going to meet a royal woman who wears rose colored glasses and has houses on three oceans.”

“In L.A.?” I thought that was kind of wild although what would a royal woman be doing in Los Angeles. I don’t recall anything else she said that day all those years ago, but I loved the idea of it: royal–woman-rose-colored-glasses-houses-on-three-oceans. Aside from the novelty of the description, it was irrelevant to my new adventure — which is what it was at the time; and I forgot about it.

Lady Sarah Churchill, the “royal lady who wears rose-colored glasses and has houses on three oceans.”

However, about six months after I’d moved to L.A., a friend of mine, a designer named Luis Estevez who was very plugged into the community socially invited me to a cocktail party in Beverly Hills so I could meet people. The hostess Lady Sarah Spencer Churchill was a tall Englishwoman — who was wearing rose-colored glasses — looking very chic as well as charming in her greeting. Dezia’s prediction did not enter my mind since I never took it seriously in the first place.

I knew very little about the “lady” at the time we met, except that she was the daughter and the sister of the Dukes of Marlborough, the granddaughter of Consuelo Vanderbilt, and came of age growing up in Blenheim Palace. She was titled, although not royal. And, I later learned, she had houses overlooking the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Aegean. She also turned out be a significant person in my life.

It didn’t occur to me at the time of the meeting or even the getting to know her, that it was exactly as Dezia off-handedly described it. Tarot it was not; not like this book by one of her literary clients that Jane Lahr had sent me.  This was on another level, and a most interesting one. I actually thought “tarot” was just “reading” the cards. Never having given it a thought or much interest, I knew nothing.

I asked Jane, since they were her clients. She said “there have been many, many Tarot decks down the centuries — since the 1400s — but the Eldridge/Barnstone deck is one of the most positive, and beautiful, and captures the archetypal imagery so it can be comprehended by all.”

Tony Barnstone and Alexandra Eldridge at Rizzoli. Alexandra cofounded Golgonooza, a center for the arts, based upon the philosophies of William Blake. She has had over 40 solo shows, and has participated in many group shows throughout the US and internationally. ARTnews, art ltd, Art on Paper, New American Paintings, and American Art Collector are just a few of the publications that have featured Eldridge. Her work can be found in many collections, including those of William Hurt, Steve Buscemi, and Edie Falco. Tony is the son of poet and translator Willis Barnstone and visual artist Elli Barnstone. A poet, translator, editor, and writer of fiction, he has been influenced by such disparate figures as James Wright, Federico García Lorca, and T.S. Eliot.

The author Tony Barnstone and the artist Alexandra Eldridge both have worked for years with archetypal images, the universal symbolic language, and relating them to creativity. The art is inspired by “Gaia mind” where all creations forms — animal, vegetable, mineral — affect our planet in life supporting ways.

This book along with the 78 beautifully illustrated cards comes in a beautifully designed case (booksize). Its cover is the artist’s work. This is a treasure, a gift for anyone who interested in Creativity and the Transformed Self.

Rizzoli brought out a big crowd — standing room only for the talk and the power point. It was jammed. Tarot is hot in this moment! Guests included Stan Herman, Donald Sultan, Diana Krall, Nanette Lepore, Sara Driver, Kedakai Lipton, Mr. & Mrs. John R. MacArthur, Helen Whitney, and many more.

Alexandra Eldridge, Bill and Amy Conway, and Nanette Lepore.
Jane Lahr, with the authors.
L. to r.: Donald Sultan; reunited after decades, Stan Herman and Sondra Lee.
Guests showing off their signed copies. Click to order.

Jane summed it up: “… working with cards brings forth what is hidden in our subconscious into our consciousness awareness. This deck is one of the most beautiful made in the last two centuries. Some decks are DARK and the energy is dark. The Radiant Tarot is luminous. And at this historical moment, positive energy in a world challenged by Covid and natural disasters is so urgently helpful. This ancient form of divination opens a direct connection to who we are — and a connection to the divine — our inner voice.”

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