REAL ASTROLOGY For An Unreal World

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Holiday alert! February 28 is Fat Tuesday, the climactic day of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, it's the occasion for one last big blowout binge before 40 days of austere self-denial. Nothing could be more in alignment with your current astrological destiny than heeding this ancient custom.

So whether you dance masked and half-naked in the streets as they do in Brazil, or drink fermented honey from a goatskin flask while shouting blasphemous songs as they once did in Old Europe, party hearty, Aries — and then prepare to lay low and be extra good for at least 20 of those 40 days.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): By all astrological accounts, you're now getting more miles per gallon and more bangs per buck than you have in months. Your IQ is soaring. Your instinct for scoring great parking places is peaking. You've rarely been teased by such useful temptations. And get this: You suddenly have a knack for writing hauntingly beautiful haikus.

I'd even go so far as to say that you don't know your own strength — which means you'd better test it fast. Otherwise, you could break someone's heart by accident.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Gemini writer Salman Rushdie has a new book of stories. My favorite is “The Prophet's Hair.” In it, a rich man maims his four sons as infants. They grow up to become very successful beggars. But when a magical charm cures them of all their afflictions, they grieve for their lost form of livelihood.

I bring this up because I believe a subtler version of these themes is at work in your life. You now have access to a “magical charm” that could undo an ancient handicap. But I'm wondering whether you have the courage to give up the dubious rewards your handicap has brought you.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): I have in my possession the unlisted home phone number of the hottest female rock star — who just happens to be a Cancerian, like you and me. I've considered selling the number to the National Enquirer. I'm tempted to impress the hell out of all of you by publishing it here. I've thought of doing her chart, as she's asked me to, and trying to exploit her to advance my own music and writing. But I've decided against doing any of these sleazy, lowdown things. The stars tell me that this is a time when we Cancerians will have extra cosmic help in promoting our careers and expanding our operations — but only if we're well-behaved little angels.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Looks like your tour of the Unpromised Land didn't take too great a toll on you. The snakebite was unfortunate, but hey, you're still alive, right? The only other real traumas were the theft of a few cherished illusions and the scratches on your nose from when you stuck it into business you weren't “supposed” to. But I'm glad you did stick it in. You learned an important lesson in how not to live. And thanks to the lost illusions, you're now so empty and cleaned out that you've got plenty of room for all sorts of fresh inspirations.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): No fatherly advice this week. No cheap therapy or self-help chestnuts. Instead I'll simply congratulate you on your new, improved ability to look yourself in the eye and pat yourself on the back. More and more these days, you're no longer looking for the perfect person. You are that perfect person.

Keep up the good work, and you'll soon be ready to learn more tolerance toward all the interesting but imperfect people who'd like to know you better.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Studies show it's normal for healthy people to be depressed 7.5 percent of the time. Guess which 7.5 percent of your life you're in now?

As long as you're here, milk it for all it's worth. For starters, don't even think about hiding your feelings. Try to cry at least three times a day, preferably in front of people who'll thereby be shocked into giving you anything you want. Sing melancholy songs with your car window open, hoping to catch the attention of a bandleader who's looking for a backup singer. And always slump as you walk, being sure to drag your ass in such a way as to attract sympathetic stares.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): If you classified the signs of the zodiac according to their resemblance to mood-altering substances, Pisces would be valium and Aries would be espresso. Virgo would be herbal tonic, Cancer cognac and Gemini deprenil. All the illegal psychotropic drugs would come under the heading of Scorpio, as well as aphrodisiacs and any substance that's toxic in large amounts but stimulating in small doses. None of what I just said, however, applies in the next two weeks. In a weird quirk of nature, you scorpions will temporarily affect your fellow humans like chocolate, evoking in their brains the feel-good chemicals of serotonin and endorphins.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): It might be a good idea for you to take up midnight basketball, at least temporarily. Or volunteer to play Scrabble with seniors. Or develop an interest in Persian rugs or take up drag racing or engage in cuddling marathons or enroll in boot camp. It would be a good idea to keep busy with anything that'll prevent you from becoming bored and listless. Because if you become bored and listless, Sagittarius, I just know you'll start dreaming up ways to get into trouble. So please write a bunch of love letters. Buy a new pet. Climb a mountain or plan a pilgrimage. Do anything to keep yourself off the streets.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Curious goings-on this week. A dumb sitcom could save you from a dumb decision. A surprising ally may defeat a secret enemy. A saintly dork might show up just in time to help you do the unhip but right thing.

None of that is half as odd, though, as the humble teaching you'll receive from an unlikely expert. I predict you'll get more fuel from this embarrassing inspiration than you could from 10 doses of naked flattery.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): And so the Lord God put the thought in my heart that I must enter and win the International Spam Recipe Contest. The Supreme Host made it known to me that I must then give away my cash prize to Aquarians seeking to better their financial position. And so I created my Spam masterpiece, the Strawberry Mocha Cheesecake Spam, and — hallelujah! — it won third prize. Twenty dollars! And so today I say unto you, Aquarians, that whosoever of you are among the first 20 people to send me an SASE, I will mail unto you a dollar bill blessed with special financial juju. Use it wisely during this propitious period for improving your cash flow. Write: Spam Booty, Box 150247, San Rafael, CA 94915.

PISCES (Feb. 19-Mar. 20): If this week were a food, it'd be a tofu burger. It'll be much better for you than last week, which was more like an oily patty of deep-fried cow. Yes, my friend, this week won't harden your arteries a bit. Yet it'll have just as much protein, and also be better for the environment. Any drawbacks? Only if you've gotten addicted to greasy fat. If this week were a beer, it'd be an alcohol-free brand. Much better for you than the 180-proof stuff of last week. Not half as disorienting. Better for your relationships. And surprisingly, almost as much taste. Any drawbacks? Only if you've gotten addicted to waking up alone.

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