Monthly Archives: January 2010

What Do Magicians Call It?

It was winter – February 1984. The Police were on what was to be their final tour, supporting ‘Synchronicity’. In late October I waited in an ice storm overnight in order to score tickets. Several for my dorm mates and two especially for my girlfriend and myself. The overnight vigil is a story for another time. This story is about misdirection.

We traveled up to Greensboro early in order to have some dinner and get psyched for the show. I was decked out in my best suit; Ivory white – wide at the shoulders and narrow at the waist, pure eighties. The shoulder pads on that bad suit were so wide I would have become a kite in a stiff breeze. My hair was spiked and angry. The young lady was also dressed to stun; a dress that was all attitude and cut low. She was tall and leggy and had a swagger that would not quit. It was the eighties – it was rock & roll. The crowd was as much of a spectacle as the band.

Get the picture?

Now – we had borrowed her uncle’s camera. A really nice one, in order to record the event for posterity. At the time we weren’t aware that this was the last Police tour – but we were huge fans and really wanted to capture the moment. We parked and approached the auditorium. There was a huge sign at the door that “NO cameras or recording equipment would be allowed. Any cameras found will be confiscated.”  The Man was out to ruin our fun. Damn the Man. We stood in the parking lot debating. Hide the camera and test our luck, maybe losing her uncle’s good camera? Take it back to the car and just remember the show for what it was? What to do?

The lady was all for hiding it in her purse. taking a chance. I came up with another plan. I proposed we take the camera in, but not try to hide it. Just carry it in as though we hadn’t seen the sign. (Or possibly couldn’t read.) “If we hide it and we get caught, we’re nothing but guilty. If we carry it, we can pretend ignorance and run it out to the car if anyone says anything.” Brilliant, right? I slipped the camera strap over my head, wearing the Nikon like a big black necklace. We walked in. We got right through the ticket takers and headed around the concourse.

I saw them long before they spotted us; a cluster of four or five security guards. They were scanning the crowd, looking for contraband or unruly guests. We had to pass right in front of them to get to our seats. No way they could miss the camera. I watched as one of the guards poked another and then pointed at us. “Ah, well” I said, “It was worth a try.” The two guards moved to intercept us and we stopped. The first security guy spoke;

“Excuse me, Miss.” he said, almost making eye contact with my date. (If he had only raised his eyes about 2 feet) “But do you have a camera in your purse?”

She looked at me. I looked at her. I didn’t laugh. It was tough.

“No Sir.”

“Do you mind if I take a look?”

“Go ahead.”

He opened her purse and took a quick glance through the contents. It seemed hard for him to focus. Finally satisfied that she wasn’t sneaking anything by him, he returned the purse. “Thanks – sorry to bother you, but we have to check.” We allowed that it was no problem and moved on.

It took everything I had not to turn around and snap a shot at them.

The concert was amazing. We took a few shots (which I don’t have, she got them in the settlement.) but the music was so overwhelming we mostly sang and danced and reveled in being young and alive.

What is distracting you today? Sex? Money? Farmville? Is anything blocking your vision of the Lord and his plan for you? What is slipping by ‘under the radar’ while you are misdirected?

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Filed under Music, Public Diary

New decade

I have been told so many times this was not going to work. “We can’t sell you.” “People just don’t get it.”

I think they are getting it now.

So many pressures to ‘succeed’. I’ve found myself lately with the philosophy of ‘Less is More’. I feel like I have waited my whole life for this … why get off the ride now?

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Filed under Blither Blather

Mr. Nickles

Speed Street Charlotte is a unique street festival. Themed around NASCAR, it takes place on the weekend of the Coca Cola 600 in May. Several full city blocks are closed for the weekend and tens of thousands of people crowd the streets of Uptown to celebrate. The event has hosted Carrie Pickler, Styx and Cheap Trick for headliners.

For the past few years I have been hired to work ‘Street’ style magic during the festival in order to add some flavor and fun. That’s where I met Mr. Nickles. That’s not his real name; I only knew him as “Scott”, but I’ve come to think of Scott as Mr. Nickles.

Mr. Nickles is a displaced citizen – an urban outdoorsman – an economic refugee. What my Grandfather used to call a ‘hobo’, my Father called a ‘vagrant’ and I used to simply refer to as ‘homeless’. I don’t know the current PC term. Mr. Nickles is a man in an unfortunate, tough situation. (I’ll discuss flowering up a problem with pretty language another time.) He is a human being.

I was working my table, gathering some crowds and doing my magic thing when Mr. Nickles ambled over to see what the fuss was about. He seemed a bit put out with the crowd, but seemed to enjoy what I was offering. If you’ve seen me work, you know there’s a bit of storytelling before the ‘magic effects’ begin. Mr. Nickles was very attentive, laughing in the right places and getting into the spirit of things. A tourist passed by and dropped a dollar on my table, so I swept it into my hat. Mr. Nickles followed it with his eyes and I remember thinking, “When this bit is over I’m going to buy that man some lunch. He’s enjoying my show and he looks like he could use a pal for a little while.”

Then the effects started. When the first ‘magic moment’ hit, Mr. Nickles was visibly stunned. I let the moment sink in and watched to see his reaction. What happened was unexpected and a bit humorous; he dug down in his pockets and pulled out … a nickle. He placed it carefully on the table where the dollar had landed a moment earlier and he whispered, “Do some more, please.” So I did. After the next ‘magic moment’ in the routine, Mr. Nickles again dug into his pocket and placed another nickle next to the first … and then another, and another.

Every time something magical happened, this gentleman dropped another nickle (no quarters, no dimes, no pennies; it seemed he had only nickles in his pocket.) Every time he plugged another nickle down, he grunted under his breath. “Damn … whoa … huh … gosh …” I began to tricks and crack jokes just for him. The crowd around us got bigger – like this was the show. It was a great moment of theater. The crowd was laughing at us and with us; I was in physical pain from holding my joy in. Mr. Nickles was laughing right along at the whole situation- happiness dancing in his eyes. The nickles piling up on the table added to a very surreal scene.

Inevitably, the time came when he reached in his pocket and came out empty. “Aw” he said, “I can’t watch no more – I’m outta money.” I assured him he could stay – he didn’t need to pay me to watch. (Though, truth be told, I was swiftly running out of material. It was not going to be long before I came up empty, too.) “No” he said, “I’m out. That was a really fun time. I haven’t laughed that hard in years.” He shook my hand and we were startled by the sudden applause of the crowd. They had seen a great show, a wonderfully real, human moment and they were showing their appreciation. I looked back around to see Mr. Nickles walking on down the street. I was about to call out to him when he started making a wide circle, so I watched to see what he would do. Meanwhile, I scooped the pile of silver into my hat. (There really must have been 60 or 70, at least.) I kept an eye on Mr. Nickles, because I intended to give him the tips that were rapidly piling up on the table and in the hat.

Here’s the best part;

As the crowd was just about dispersed, I looked up to find my new friend standing at my elbow. Before I could  say anything, he asked “Hey man, you got any change? I need to make a phone call.”  It seems that he had forgotten giving his money away to me. After a moment I poured the collection of shiny Jeffersons out of my hat for him. You would have thought it was a pile of gold bricks. His face split into a huge grin and he all but jumped up and down in glee. He stuffed his pockets full, and then I bought us a couple of NASCAR hot dogs.

I have worked for some great, memorable audiences. I’ll never forget this guy, ever. He not only made my day – he became a part of a very unique, impromptu, magical show.

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Filed under Blogroll, Public Diary

Gratitude?

My car is nearly 20 years old. The family van is making strange noises.

I’m behind on the mortgage because work just hasn’t been there this year. The same with the van payments.

With taxes and end of the year expenses, we have virtually no money in the bank. Bills are due or overdue.

While I have a good act, and I connect with my audiences – work is sparse. I (as always) have great prospects and the future looks bright, but I stress constantly over the phone not ringing.

And.

My best friend is losing his young wife to cancer.  Within weeks.

Dear God, thank you for my problems.

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Filed under Blither Blather, Musings