The future can be a frightening concept. That's why I was slightly reluctant to visit Dante Sabatino, a renowned tarot reader in Chelsea, New York. He's provided his services for brands like Vogue and Cosmopolitan. His past clients include Kelly Rutherford, Molly Sims, and Lindsay Price. As a gay man, Sabatino's also become a fixture for LGBT New Yorkers yearning to know more about their own destiny.
When I arrive at his 6th-floor Chelsea apartment, Dante welcomes me to his reading area. It has blue walls and a table with three chairs. A deck of tarot cards lies at the center of the table, and there's Himalayan salt candles at the corners. The shelf behind him looks like some kind of a shrine, with ceramic figures and framed photos, including one of him and Julie Andrews, and another of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story, a nod to his hometown.
"I like reading skeptics because they seem to be kind of curious to see what I can do," he says, "and I kind of need and want an open mind to read someone. So the skeptics are usually pleasantly surprised or actually enjoy the process."
Although I'm somewhat of a skeptic, it isn't my first reading. As a child, I'd been with my family to New Orleans. There, self-proclaimed psychics in pashmina scarves lined Jackson Square with their foldout tables, offering to read your palm or tarot.
But Sabatino isn't that kind of reader. He doesn't rely on the gimmicks of stereotypical fortunetellers. He conducts himself with the utmost professionalism. The son of a psychic, he got an early start, reading for friends and family as a teenager. After moving to New York, he started reading at the Big Cup, twice a week for seven years. Although the Big Cup was a popular gay cafe, he found himself reading for people of all backgrounds. "I had girls and college students and all kinds of people come to me at this gay coffee shop," he recalls. "They'd see this strange character in this local gay coffee shop, and they were waiting to get their cards read."
Although the Big Cup closed a decade ago, gay men still prove to be a majority of Dante's clientele. If just for the simple comfort of having a one-on-one with another gay man, Sabatino's service is popular in a place like Chelsea. Located at the corner of 18th Street and 9th Avenue, he's a quick stop between Gym Bar and Chelsea Market.
And it was certainly a gay reading. "Top or bottom?" he asks, talking about the deck. He proceeds to pull a card from the top. Right away, he guesses my attraction to older men, and predicts I'd visit Miami within a year. He then tells me I'd be making some home improvements, without knowing I'd just made a trip to IKEA. These were just a few of many specific points Dante saw in my life; I won't divulge the rest to the gay masses.
Although I remain somewhat of a skeptic, there was a therapeutic quality to Dante's reading. It somehow gave me validation that my goals are within reach. It's like having someone tell you that everything is going to be all right, in the end.
With Valentine's Day upon us, it's peek time for psychics -- Dante even has his own gift card service. Dispensing relationship and career advice is his specialty, and although love might not seem in the cards for some, his words of wisdom are for everyone. "I've been saying lately that self-love is the greatest love," he told me. "That's important to remember. Love is what you make it."
Dante Sabatino is available for readings in New York, and via phone and Skype. Book an appointment at TarotbyDante.com