The Main Course? : At Cafe Luna, you can order a Chianti with dinner. And a Tarot reading chaser.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The patio at Cafe Luna on Melrose is an oasis of sorts, one of the few places where you can sit under the moon and the stars at 4 in the morning with a huge plate of pasta, warmed by gas heaters and the glow of twinkle lights in the trees. You can order a glass of Chianti before the bar closes, or bring your own, and the check will never come until you are good and ready.

But pasta and long business hours are not the only comforts at hand. Tarot reader Andrei Ridgeway is around almost every night but Mondays, offering tableside readings with a literary, cerebral bent for a suggested contribution of $10. Whether you believe in Tarot or not, there is easily $10 worth of interesting conversation to be had.

Tall, willowy and poetic, Ridgeway looks like a character out of an Oscar Wilde novel. His style is far from the same old New Age patter we've come to expect in Southern California; his approach feels both older and more modern. At 23, he's already been reading cards for eight years, and is writing a book about it.

"My mother introduced me to it," Ridgeway says of the Tarot deck. "But I feel like I started really a long, long time ago. When I was 2 years old, my father found me in a restaurant and I'd approached a table and sat down with this old sailor and was conversing with him on a philosophical level. I don't know if I made any predictions at that point in time, but I've always had that instinct to go and meet people I don't know and get right to the heart of things. That's kind of part of my genetic framework--to be intrusive." Ridgeway laughs.

A reading can take up to half an hour. Ridgeway asks his client to hold the deck of cards and think of two questions. For each question, one picks 10 cards, which Ridgeway then lays out on the table in two rows.

When I ask, "What's up with my living situation?" Ridgeway scans the 10 cards, then pulls out the card of sorrow. "There's a feeling surrounding the place where you live right now that isn't the best vibe. It's really been a vehicle for you up to a certain point. It's almost like a camper you've been living in, and you're ready to leave it." He is more than right on the money.

The new house won't happen until September, he says. "But when I saw the three of coins card, I right away saw a house, a garden, space, simplistic furniture, kind of Zen in the sense of spaciousness and minimalism. And is your place dark? The six of cups means that you need a lot more light."

At the end of reading two people's cards, Ridgeway remarks, "It's interesting how both of your readings kind of have the same message in a way. It's that you have become on some level almost addicted to the unresolvable complexity of things. A part of you wants to have a normal life, and the question is, how can you go there?"

"I think my role as a Tarot reader is to take cards from the abstract, gypsy level and bring it down to a more psychological, grounded place," he says. With dinner thrown in, this reading for two still comes to less than a single psychotherapy session, and there's a lot more atmosphere.

Ridgeway isn't Luna's only clairvoyant. Steve Creole offers handwriting analysis for a suggested donation of $7. Creole instructs the customer to write out two sentences and a signature.

"You're ultra-abstract," he tells his client, circling the trailing tail of a lowercase "y." "The abstract indicates that you're creative. These open vowels indicate that you're open-minded and liberal."

Creole has been here analyzing handwriting for more than 10 years. How did he get his start in such an odd line of work? "I was a heroin addict," he says cheerfully. "This was my hustle to support my habit. I lived in a doorway across the street." Creole has since cleaned up, and handwriting analysis has become his "day job," while his main focus is playing guitar in the band Rhythm Clinic.

If the idea of fortunetelling makes you nervous, don't worry, because you're not alone. "Every night I come home I have butterflies," Ridgeway says, "because I never know on what level my integrity will be challenged."

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Where: Cafe Luna, 7463 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 655-8647.

When: Dinner is served until 4 a.m. Tarot readings are available most nights except Mondays, from 8 p.m. until business slows down. Handwriting analysis is likewise available most nights except Fridays. There is always an element of chance.

Cost: Tarot reading, $10. Handwriting analysis, $7. Dinner entrees start at $10.

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