It's not easy taking Carrie Fisher to lunch.

She doesn't like French food. "It's not food. It's like a picture of food." She likes refried beans, but worries about the "trash quotient." You try Mexican, only the restaurant is closed. Fisher's familiar face is pressed against the window of the car. You can see the disappointment, even though the 30-year-old actress/author is wearing tortoise-shell Ray-Bans above her blue silk sleeveless top and matching pants. Another restaurant is chosen. It's also closed.

"They're with the Mexican people, opening a fabulous restaurant somewhere else!"

The car whizzes past row after row of downtown stores. "SHOP-PING, SHOP-PING," she says loudly, imitating the siren of a European ambulance. "I'm locking in."

Small and smart and saucy, the auburn-haired woman slouches back into the seat, wrapped in her Hollywood neuroticism and exuding a kind of wry, world-weary candor that children of celebrities are weaned on. Her eyes are huge and fake-looking, like two brown plastic yo-yos. Terminally tart, she must gargle with ReaLemon. She's a girl's girl. You want to go shopping with her. You want to double-date with her. You might even want to get crazy with her, even though her new book "Postcards From the Edge" is all about how she OD'd on drugs, found herself in the hospital getting her stomach pumped, and swore off booze and pills forever.

"As of this morning I feel like I've got a new nickname for myself," she says. "Betty Jr." -- as in former first lady Betty Ford. "I'm doing the bus and truck of Alcoholics Anonymous on radio talk shows." People are calling in, asking why famous people start drugs, stop drugs. "They want you to confess, and if you confess they'll forgive you ... I'm hoping for a whole other career in self-help."

Can this be the same tennis racket-toting prepubescent who seduced Warren Beatty in "Shampoo"? The same Carrie Fisher who wore her hair in doughnuts to play Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" series? The same Carrie Fisher whose father Eddie left her mother Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor and the same Carrie Fisher who married songwriter Paul Simon after living with him for seven years and then got a divorce a year later?

She is an interviewer's delight: Everything is out on the table. No secrets. The whole shebang.

"I didn't want to be coy, that this was fictional and not based on anything. I wanted to avoid the Patti Davis questions," she says, referring to "Home Front," the quasi-autobiographical novel written by the president's daughter. "You know, Patti Davis said none of that book was happening. It was a different governor. A different cold mother." She laughs. "So to avoid being coy, I ended up being explicit."

Most children wait for their parents to die before writing such a book.

"Boy, when they die, I'm gonna come out with sitcom."

She went into therapy at the age of 15. All she ever wanted was a normal life. She was appearing in a show on Broadway, her mother's show, "Irene," and found herself attracted to every gay man in the chorus. Men, she writes, who were perfect because "they rejected me before they ever met me."

"I would just pine, you know? Great looking."

The car eases up to a stoplight. A young man wearing a gold bracelet is furiously combing his platinum-dyed hair in the side mirror. "Now this could just be weird straightness," Fisher deadpans.

She likes Washington. She was set up last year on a blind date with a bachelor senator of the liberal persuasion who shall remain nameless. "I was shown the Supreme Court and taken to dinner and I said at one point, 'So, how many senators are there, actually?' I told my mother that later and she said, 'Oh darling, I'm so ashamed of you. Everyone knows there's one per state.' "

She smiles sweetly. "My favorite thing is calling his office. They say, 'He's on the floor.' 'Well get him up!' I can't not do the floor jokes."

A third restaurant is chosen. It is noisy and crowded. "Yuppies," Fisher says sotto voce. One table is offered. Then a second. Finally, the maitre d', recognizing the actress, locates a third table in the corner. "This is the most moving moving experience," she tells him.

She settles in the chair, kicking off her sandals and curling her toes around the rung.

"Who are you engaged to or married to?" she asks, noticing a ring.

"My husband."

"That's unusual."

She worries that therapy is her only serious relationship. "First I was with this older man, a psychologist, then when I was 24 I got a young guy. Another guy was in New York. My young guy didn't think I had a serious drug problem, just a drug problem I had to take seriously."

About a year ago, she found a woman shrink. "Next I'm going to go for an 11-year-old child. Children are really straight, you know, like, 'Did you LIKE IT? Well, then you should DO IT.' That's what I want. Common, basic, instinctive information."

Someone whose skin is worse than yours.

"Very hard to find lately."

She orders nachos and a Coke. There's a diamond heart strung around her neck. Who gave it to her? "No one. I bought it in Israel." She lives in L.A. with her dog and a bird. "The bird and I just broke up."

She says she went into acting because it was "the family business. No one in the family is really verbal or big readers or anything. I was called, in an unkind way, a bookworm."

It was painful, having such a beautiful mother. "The fact that she was Debbie Reynolds was not completely lost on me." Her mother's effortless glamor only made Carrie feel homelier. "She had a real facility to make it look like a hot knife through butter."

The subject of her marriage comes up. She had lived with Simon off and on for seven years, all the while hobnobbing with celebrities and stars. Those were heady days. The days of "Saturday Night Live," John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, a former beau. She and Akroyd were "Saturday Night Live," John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, a former beau. She and Aykroyd were planning to get married. What happened?

"All of you are leading lives that are very fast. He's somewhere doing a film and you're not. I got back with Paul again. I was doing a play in New York."

"We partly did it {the marriage} to save the relationship," she says. "It was a relationship based on a great conversation. It probably should have stayed a conversation."

The dangling conversation. And the superficial sighs. Are the borders of our lives.

She says her drug use was not the cause of the break-up. "It wasn't like that at all. It was an issue, but it wasn't the issue. There are so many things that make a relationship go wrong."

Yes, she says, she is aware that her search for Daddy ended with marriage to a famous singer. "Yes, I know. I think that was a feature. But I also married someone who was really smart. He was smart in areas I was not. If I had to ask a senator how many there are, Paul had stuff to tell me.

"He was afraid he was going to be in the book. He didn't know what the hell it was going to be. Then he read the book and said, 'So I'll be in the second book.' "

About the time his album "One Trick Pony" was released to less than favorable reviews, Fisher was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. They simply weren't there for each other.

They tried marital therapy. They worked hard, she says. "It was too much to work out."

So okay, then, like what would she rather be, a hammer or a nail?

She laughs. "I'd like to be both. Self-contained."

Carrie Fisher has probably done everything but Liquid Plumr.

"Everything. Ecstasy. MDA. Percodan. It's hard to get. You have to lie to doctors.

"Grass stopped working for me early on. I loved acid. Acid is like MDA with colors. I liked the colors. They used to call me 'The Pocket Zen Master.' Because I had done all these spiritual retreats and it's all like, 'I feel so connected and now I see it and you should just love everyone.' "

She says people erroneously have reported she was addicted to LSD. "Rubbing it on my body, taking saunas, letting it go into my pores. 'I'm really maintaining on three tabs.' You can't take acid too frequently. It's not like you casually decide to take it at 3 o'clock in the afternoon in midtown."

Or bum it.

"Yeah, 'Do you have a tab? I'm feeling really tense.' "

"I'll tell you, the last time I took it was to take the edge off some cocaine. I ended up in a room in Paris watching a fashion show and the women were coming down the ramps and I thought, 'Oh man, it didn't take the edge off. It took one edge off and put another one on.' "

She shakes her head. "The misuse of drugs."

She says she realized she was in trouble and actually managed to stay clean for three months before a madcap week in L.A. Friends took her to the emergency room after she ingested sleeping pills. "It was not a suicide bid. I just passed out. The new 'falling asleep.' " She yawns dramatically. "You know, 'I'd better turn in. On my face.' So they took me to the hospital and since I was unavailable for comment on what I had taken, they took it out. That scared me to death."

She checked into a clinic. "In Century City -- I think it was called 'New Beginnings Program for Hilarity and Those of Us That Have Done Too Much.' "

"Postcards From the Edge" is a harrowing account of that journey. Her shrink thinks it's a sad book. "It's funny about stuff that's not funny. It's gallows humor. I'm not as funny when it's all okay. I was really funny in the hospital and it wasn't funny." Humor, she says, "is a way of surviving."

Like the time a fellow patient said, "I was in San Quentin," and Fisher shot back, "I was in 'Star Wars.' "

The cocaine people sleep all the time ... We opiates have been sleeping a lot, so now we roam the halls at night, twitching through our withdrawals. I think there should be ball teams: the Opiates vs. the Amphetamines. The Opiates scratch and do hand signals and nod out, and the Amphetamines run around the bases and scream.

She feels lucky to have had the experience. She almost wishes Belushi had done the same. "I absolutely said that this morning. If John could have survived that last overdose ..." Her voice trails off. "It would have been scary enough to know that you just don't get bodyguards to guard you from yourself. You have to go through a humbling process. He never had to do that. Of course, doctors were always telling him he was going to die. We were told on 'Blues Brothers,' which was three or four years before he died, that he was gonna die."

Did she ever want to die?

"Never. That's not saying I was filled with enthusiasm every day."

She never shot up. "No needles."

Does she still love Simon?

She pauses. "Not in the way that I think the question is. He's one of those people I can't live with. Yeah, I love him. He's a better friend now that we don't ..."

She shrugs it off. It's time for another interview. She's on a tour and is working with Mike Nichols on a screenplay of the book. Unfortunately, she won't be playing herself. "You can't even get parts that are about you." Maybe they're looking for something perkier, she wonders. "You know, 'Get me a Carrie Fisher type.' "

No, she says finally, her life has not been one long search for Daddy. For his attention. To win him back. "I think it's real common to have an absent father, whether they're emotionally absent or physically absent. When my father was there, he was really there. The air around him crackled. He was radiant. But he wasn't there that often. I don't know quite what all of it was. Actually, if I want his attention, I sing. I have his voice. I have this kind of gigantic, large voice."

Her father recently underwent drug counseling on his own to end a decade-long addiction to speed. "If one of your parents or both of your parents drinks or drugs, I think you have to watch it more. I never did. "

The topic turns to Men. Actors. Rock stars. Producers. A certain hot male film star is mentioned. "He's a rogue. That's my type. I love womanizers. They accept women in a rejecting way. I love those guys. You don't want to take them home."

She worries about meeting men on her own level, who won't be threatened. She wants a husband and children, pies cooling on the windowsill. Part of her does, anyway. The other part will always be a high wire act. Working without a net.

And by the way, don't give her a bottle of Elizabeth Taylor's new perfume, Passion, for Christmas. She laughs wryly. "Gawd. I'm the casualty of Elizabeth Taylor's passion!