Some cards of a tarot deck typically used for readings. Photo by Sonya Cheney.
Jade Gribanov’s occupation has taken her to the sunny shores of California at Venice Beach and Santa Monica Beach. She has also spent time living in Boston and Las Vegas. However, since 1995, Gribanov has been working on and off in New Orleans. Gribanov sets up a table in Jackson Square and she specializes in palm readings and card readings. Her other areas of expertise include clairvoyance, past lives and missing persons, which she gets paid to do through private appointments. This type of skill requires high levels of concentration, therefore Gribanov will escape the rowdy crowds in the French Quarter and relocate behind closed doors to offices, hotel rooms or houses.
Gribanov learned the trade on her own by teaching herself. The card reader underwent a trial and error process before figuring out a successful operation. For the most part, her work space in Jackson Square consists of a table surrounded by four purple lawn chairs. On top of the table, there are two decks of cards and several crystals are scattered on the surface. In terms of financing, the business is fairly simple. Gribanov purchased the most expensive stone on her table for just five dollars. Although inexpensive, all of the items on the table function successfully. A lavender table cloth is draped over the table and violet cushions rest on all four chairs. According to Gribanov, the color scheme provides a welcoming and comforting feeling. “I’ve tried red, I’ve tried blue, I’ve tried various different colors over the years and purple is what works best for me,” she says. “It works and it attracts people” (Jade Gribanov, March 17, 2014).
Gribanov carefully selects a less noisy location to set up her table, as far away from the brass bands as possible. It is crucial for her to concentrate and communicate with clients. At night, she gravitates toward a street lamp so she can see her potential clients walking by. “I make eye contact with everybody I possibly can, and based on that eye contact I judge whether or not there’s any interest whatsoever,” she says. “If I feel like there is, I’ll do a little hand gesture and invite them into my chair.” All of the commotion in Jackson Square can be a little overwhelming on the senses, especially on the weekends. Jazz music blares from trumpets and saxophones. Tourists crowd the area to admire and purchase artwork. During busier days, Gribanov will first make eye contact and then call to people and ask, “Would you like a reading today?” After locking eyes, she might also ask, “Would you care to join me?”
Gribanov points out that she is not a “hard-seller.” If someone refuses to participate or turns down her invitation, she lets them walk away and does not pursue further. Only if she gets a sense that they are wavering or on the fence will she then try to coax them to have a seat at the table. An individual hovering around the table for more than a few seconds inspecting the display of gems is likely to encounter Gribanov’s hand performing an inviting gesture toward one of the chairs.
“The flexibility is a wonderful thing,” she says. “I’ve got family up in Lafayette and I have to keep this flexibility because if anything goes wrong up there, they call me up, I drop what I’m doing, pack this stuff up, get it out of here and I’m on the next bus up there if I need to be.” Gribanov sets up her table six days a week. On Mondays, she checks the extended weather forecast and will remain at home on the coldest or rainiest of the upcoming days. Gribanov also manages her own work hours. She decides when she arrives and when she goes home. She will arrive earlier on Saturdays than Mondays because it is more difficult to set up in a lucrative spot. During the summer months, the palm reader will usually decide to stay later than usual. “Nobody tells me when to set up or when to pack down,” she says. “I get myself out here when I drag myself out of bed and I stay until I make what I need or can’t take the cold anymore. I come and go when I damn well feel like it.”