On the Busk – November 2012

“Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But I always will be true.” ~Tom Waits

Another story from the street: It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Yesterday was full of fellowship and love with Dawn’s family. This past week has been full of triggered memories, so I was awash in nostalgia. I thought it would be interesting and fun to dig out the street table and do some busking in uptown Charlotte. Sharpen my wit, work on some new material and street test some ideas. So … I put on my armor (vest, bowler, apron, tie-dyed shoes) and set forth to ambush the unwary with laughter, amazement and love.

I set up in my old haunt at the corner of College and Trade. Nice traffic to and from the arena and outside my safety net within the EpiCentre. I wanted honest reaction and immediate feedback. Be careful what you ask for …

I ran through a few sets and had some fun people. Toward the end of one routine I notice a young (mid thirties?) African American man hovering around the outskirts. My initial impression was that of Theo, the wisecracking thief from the first “Die Hard” film. As the hat came down and the crowd slowly dispersed, ‘Theo’ sidled up to stand beside me. He had a handful of tracts. Uh-oh …

“Why do you stand here seducing people with your evil and witchcraft? Don’t you know Jesus promised Hell to all those who invoke sorcery?”

I attempted to compare my act with movies … actor playing the part of a magician, right? He had none of it, the more I tried to calmly and rationally explain my position, the louder and more rabid he became, trying to over-talk and over-volume me. Finally I gave up and reset my table to draw another crowd. ‘Theo’ tried to step in between me and the people I was talking to, but he was rebuked by a nice lady who was just trying to enjoy the show. Next he tried snatching my buttons and sticker off the table, but I just took them out of his hands gently. No idea what he thought that would accomplish. as I took my materials back ‘Theo’ shouted:

“Now he’s trying to steal my Bible! Someone call the cops!!”

I pointed out that he had no Bible to steal. He cried that it was on his cell phone and I had tried to rip it out his hands to break it. By now we had a nice little audience, including a bike cop who heard the commotion and came over to investigate. I returned to the group and started in on my opener, trying hard to ignore the argument that was taking place just behind me. ‘Theo’ was telling the officer that I had tried to knock his tracts from his hand and steal his Bible. I had ‘assaulted’ him by poking him with my belly. The cop (a guy I know, he’s watch many a street show and knows exactly what my demeanor is and how I deal with people) took me aside and asked if any of the accusations were true. Of course they weren’t, but he had to ask. ‘Theo’ demanded that he write up a report, but he declined as there were no witnesses, no one was injured and ‘Theo’ was clearly still in possession of his property. The cop asked ‘Theo’ to move to another part of the street, but (being the fine, upstanding American he surely is) ‘Theo protested that he could stand anywhere and say what he wished, “Read the First Amendment!”

I turned back to the group waiting for me at my table and determined to just ignore him. ‘Theo’ began walking in a circle around me and the crowd, which was getting bigger due to the spectacle. He started chanting – and I’m quoting directly now:

“I rebuke this sorcerer in the name of Jesus! Do not let his lies infect the minds of the innocent! He is a child of Lucifer, I beseech you Jesus to bring a swift death to him! Infect his children with cancer! Cast him down in the dirt and let him suffer among the vipers!”

This was repeated as he march around and around. I was stunned to say the least. It took everything within me to NOT take a swing at him. I was an angry human, and I’ve been known to use my fists in my darker past. Meanwhile, the crowd grew and grew. Money was tossed on the table before the hat even came near, cheers and laughter filled the street. I know some of it was put on in order to drown the rantings of ‘Theo’, but it was an awesome spectacle! I wound them up to a fever and ‘Theo’ fanned the flames. On a strictly monetary note, I doubled what my usual take would be for a night like this. Three things happened in that little time span: 1) I ‘preached’ my philosophy of love and art. 2) People were inspired. I didn’t give up, even in the face of harsh adversity. Allow me that taste of pride, please. I won’t dwell there, but I’m proud I held my ground and didn’t engage him on his level. and 3) ‘Theo’ killed his credibility and made a fool of himself. He preached hate, and hate has no place in a Hannibal show.

I finished, let the crowd go before we blocked the sidewalk traffic completely and set about straightening up. There were now 4 or 5 of Charlotte’s finest and a couple of security guards from the Epicentre and the Ritz-Carlton around. ‘Theo’ was very upset that they weren’t doing anything to stop me. He was demanding to see my permit, cursing and insulting me to my face. It made me kind of sad for him. ‘Theo’ came in close for one last prayer. He whispered it so just I could hear:

“You’re lucky there are cops here and cameras. Next time I see you, it will be just you and me. You remember the story of when Peter cut off the soldier’s ear? Well, that’s me. You won’t be laughing then.”

It was then that I let my emotions and tongue get the better of me. “I’m laughing now, though. You just helped me make a ton of money and a whole bunch of new fans. You were my bitch, and you danced right to my tune. I hope you’re here every night I work. Don’t expect a cut, though.” (Please forgive me, I feel horrible about that explosion, but this is full disclosure, warts and all.) ‘Theo’ was so outraged I thought he was going to swing at me right in front of everyone. I packed up my table and walked off. I wasn’t the bigger man; I stooped to his level, but I did walk away. As I went, I heard the officers restraining ‘Theo’ from following me. He was screaming about his rights and how Jesus was going to rain fire down on me.

I don’t know how to wrap this up. What did we learn here, friends? Take a long, honest look at what you are sowing. Are you spreading love or anger? Listen to the words you say. There was a passage Dawn used ot quote to the kids; she drew it out and it hung in our kitchen. “Life and Death are Created in the Mouth.” I wonder what the children in my audience thought of the whole carnival? Whose message got through the strongest? What was sown in their hearts?

Finally: I can’t count on ‘Theo’ being there all the time. Who wants a job protesting me? We could clean up!

“I know a place where a royal flush,
Can never beat a pair,
And even Thomas Jefferson,
Is On The Nickel over there.” ~ quotes from Tom Waits are from the song “On the Nickle”. It seemed appropriate.


Filed under Musings, Public Diary, View from the Pew

32 responses to “On the Busk – November 2012

  1. The Duckman

    Yknow…. I’m sure y’wouldn’t be the first busker to hire someone to protest him, just to make it work better. I’m sorry y’had to deal with this idiot, but I’m glad he helped increase yer take.

  2. Ronda C

    Congratulations on finding such a tenacious publicity assistant.

  3. Kristine

    How dare that guy pretend to know what is in your heart! I’ve seen your art up close, and I’ve seen the effect is has on people. You have a gift. A gift to amaze, entertain, and reach people in a way they didn’t know they could be reached. My family is blessed to know your family.

  4. What a fun an amusing narrative! I wish I could have been there to see first hand!

  5. My friend, I commend you for your ability to continue on in spite of this mans actions. As a believer, I just want to apologize for those of us that have been raised up under a “Hell and Brimstone” kind of message. Too many of us live in ignorance and immediately take on the convictions of our church leadership without seeking God’s heart ourselves and seeing what it is HE has called us to believe.

    I, for one, will always believe that my role as a Christian is to be like Him. He loved everyone…even though it cost Him his life. He saw everyone equally, and He loved them all unconditionally. That’s my call, and that is how I strive to live my life. He didn’t call me to judge and convict others…just love them. If He has a problem with how someone lives, when they begin developing a relationship with Him, He can be the one to speak to their hearts and let them know how it breaks His heart when they live a certain way. Their love for Him and their desire to please Him will change their hearts and their way. Nothing that I say as a Christian is going to make them want to change anything that I might see as “sinful”. Only His love through me will cause them to want to get to know Him.

    I have enjoyed watching your numbers on several occasions and I’ve had a blast each time. You know…there’s a special joy that comes when you watch someone doing what God created them for. There’s a different type of beauty…and you, sir, are always a treat to watch. Keep up the great work! God will deal with the “Theos” of this world.

    Be blessed!

    • SimpleM

      Nathan, if every “Christian” had your attitude, nearly everyone would be a “Christian”. I personally have chosen to eschew the term for many years now referring to my self as a “Christ Follower”. It is different enough that the Theo’s of the world would call down fire and brimstone on me simply because I don’t use the proper label. God bless your journey Nathan, God bless the original poster and, yes even God bless Theo. I hope some day he truly sees God through someone where he might understand what Jesus is really about so that he might come to actually know him too.

    • Ian

      Nathan, Thank you for that. As someone who is not Christian, I thank you for understanding what it should be about (I thought). Loving everyone, despite what you may or may not agree with. I wish more had your attitude.

      Hannibal, You’re a fine man. We all have our demons. The important thing is that you acknowledge them and do what you can to mitigate them. In this instance, I’d even say that you’re a better man than I am. I have no issue with people insulting me, but wishing cancer upon my children? I might’ve lost my temper a bit.

      I’m not trying to “Start” anything with my next statement. I’m genuinely curious. As far as magic goes, didn’t Jesus heal lepers, turn water into wine, feed the masses with loaves and fishes, etc? Even Moses parted the Red Sea, turned his staff into a snake, and those are only the examples I can think of. I suppose one could argue divine ability versus illusion, and that you were attempting to deceive…but despite the name “Hannibal the Liar” I think it’s safe to say that you never proclaimed to be miraculous. Watching a magician, any magician….you know there’s an illusion and a trick to it. Whether it’s prestidigitation….or “slow digitation.”

      You bring joy to thousands time and time again. You keep doing what you’re doing.

  6. I think you handled the situation beautifully, my friend, all the way to the end. I’m sorry you had to endure that idiot, and hope he stays away from your future shows. He’s a freak, and a dangerous freak as well.

    God bless you and your family. I hope Laura and I cross paths with you very soon. I need a Hannibal “fix”!

  7. I think you handled that well and people will always love your magic and stories. Too bad that people like theo try to ruin things for us. Glad you stood your ground and he actually helped you make extra money!!!!

  8. Proud to say I know someone who can show such composure and strength in a situation like this. Many, I will not say all, of those street preachers, make their message an attack instead of a message of peace. Carry on my friend…see you in some other venue in the future.

  9. You know you deserved that. Jesus says in the Bible that sorcery is an abomination in the eyes of God. What you are doing is sin and you are going to go to HELL for it. The preacher was correct in trying to save other people from falling into your pit of EVIL.
    The good news is that its not to late to come to JESUS and renounce your EVIL ways. I’ll pray that you do it TODAY THIS VERY MINUTE,
    GOD is not MOCKED.

    • The Duckman

      …Since when did street magic become sorcery?

    • rkosby

      Do you believe they used a real shark in the movie Jaws?

      When you watch the play Romeo and Juliet, do you think the actors drank real poison?

      Do you think Big Bird is real?

      When you play Got Your Nose with an infant, do you think people watching you believe you took the nose?

      No one watching a magic show thinks it’s real. Everyone knows the performer is a normal person. No performer wants otherwise.

      Incidentally David, what the preacher did was rude.

      • Elizabeth Montague

        Lets be honest here: there is hardly a secular movie these days that is not ungodly. From the f-word to nudity to satanic ideas (harry potter for example is a movie about witchcraft, for crying out loud!), I think ALL secular movies these days are in one way or another, opposed to Godly values.
        Sorcery is an abomination to God. If being rude saves people from Hell, then be as rude as it takes.

  10. Acts 8:9-12
    9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. and Simon was cast down by the LORD as unclean.

    For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream!!

    Plagues to the idol worshippers and those that perform magic.

    • The Duckman

      … But it says nothing about sleight of hand.

      • Elizabeth Montague

        Sleight of Hand Magic is a deception, and it gives glory to the magician, not God, and no deception can be wrapped in sugar and made to be good. Magic makes the magician seem powerful while at the same time allowing him to glorify himself in the eyes of others. No one deserves glory but the Creator and the Messiah. Magic should not be practiced or accepted in our communities.

      • rkosby


        When a wan wears makeup should she announce it to everyone or is it understood?

        Is the deception that the color an smoothness of her skin isn’t real glorifying her not God?

  11. Would you persecute Mozart for playing the piano? Barishnakov for dancing ballet? A doctor for healing the sick? These are professions, art forms, and callings…as is a close up performer – Hannibal claims to be nothing more than who he is – a working entertainer. He never pretends to invoke actual mahic or sorcery or be in touch with a higher mystical “power.” Yet extremist religious people like you claim to know the will and desires of an omniscient being? And are zealot enough to commit acts of harm under the banner of “His Name?” That sounds a lot more

  12. I follow the written Word of God. Musicians and ballet dancers are artists. Doctors heal people. What Chris is doing is channeling power from a dark master, Satan. He is poisoning their souls and taking money for it. Probably not much money granted but still. If you were about to be hit by a bus you would want someone to warn you, right?
    Besides all of that, this is about freedom of speech. Why do you want to quiet the voice of the preacher speaking for THE LORD? Truth hurts to much??
    I invite you to attend a real church someday soon and hear the word of God. May I suggest Elevation?

    • The Duckman

      He is an artist as well. Anyone could learn to do it, if they took the time and effort.

      • Elizabeth Montague

        Artists create things that inspire people or glorify God. What he is doing is glorifying himself through deceiving and lying. Liars cannot be heroes.

      • The Duckman

        … Wow, really? He’s entertaining. That’s all.

      • rkosby


        Is George Lucas glorifying himself through deceit and lying because he didn’t blow up a real death star?

        What about Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice. Is she a self glorifying liar by writing an entertaining story that never happened?

    • rkosby


      I’m for freedom of speech. I’m against freedom of rudeness.

      Removing a concealed object from a persons ear is not ‘channeling satan’.

      • nathan

        Ok, so I’ve got to say, I’m really saddened by how my fellow “Christians” continue to behave. Before making any further judgement, might I remind you of what Christ said…”Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Now, if you’re really sinless, I have to admit, I’d really love to meet you. Apart from Christ, I was under the impression that we’ve all fallen short of God’s perfect will for our lives…

        Now, for the rest of us…I’m going to say this…don’t waste your time wrestling with a pig. You both get muddy and the pig LOVES it.

  13. Adrian Gagnon

    The term magic is misunderstood. The term magic in the bible is not the same term used by the guy that says pick a card any card. Just like the word “bear” could have to meanings. If you coin yourself as a magician in today’s society you are defining yourself as an entertainer. By saying I am a close up magician you are saying what you are seeing me do is accomplished by illusion and sleight of hand. The magician/entertainer does not claim to have any supernatural powers. This has nothing to do with sorcery. It has to do with being a great public speaker, actor, showman, and physical dexterity. Chris uses this God given talent to provide for his family. Here is a link that explains the magician/entertainers case very well.

    • Elizabeth Montague

      Deception is deception. A lie is a lie. Better his children should starve than eat food bought with the tainted money of a Satanist.

  14. Alisa P.

    “Of what type -angelic, satanic- was Farishta’s song? . . . Let’s put it this way: who has the best tunes?”

    Salman Rushdie
    “The Satanic Verses”

  15. Pingback: On the Busk – The Next Night | Post Prandial

  16. Dalan

    Sadly I have lost more than a few gigs by people like David, Elizabeth and the delusional so-called preacher, who complained about ‘magic’ and then I was not hired. I think they mean well, but they are just plain wrong. I know and have met so many wonderful Christians over the years and they are generally kind and good natured people. But I’ve also met more than my share of nut-jobs and crazies. What a great line Elizabeth, “Better his children starve than eat food bought with tainted money of a Satanist”. Are you for real? Do you have any clue of the vile hatred you are spewing out of your mouth?
    And David your line “What Chris is doing is channeling power from a dark master, Satan”. Really? Really? REALLY? Maybe you should not speak about things you don’t know ANYTHING about!!!! I don’t recall Satan standing by when I learned how to make a coin flip over the backs of my fingers in order to give the impression rolling along my hand. I don’t recall Satan standing by when I spent hours and hours learning how to shuffle cards, use my pinky finger to manipulate individual playing cards and then create specific visual effects by purely manipulative means. At one time, what we call magic today, (when I say WE, I mean intelligent people) was referred to as JUGGLING. Is Juggling now satanic?
    Modern medicine and drugs can be traced way way back to what ‘some’ considered witchcraft. How is it medicine gets a pass?
    Let me give you a lesson that will fall on deaf ears, but it will at least make me feel better. I’m sure you’ve heard of King James. He commissioned the Bible to be written in English. He also wrote a book called ‘Daemonologie’ because he was concerned about the spread of witchcraft. But around that same time, another book was written by Reginal Scot, called The Discoverie of Witchcraft’. In it, Scot exposed that there were some things that people thought were magic but were nothing more than jugglers tricks and had NOTHING to do with Witchcraft. Shortly after this King James too came to realize that many of the things attributed to witches were just plain false, more folklore than reality. He came to realize because he was an educated man, that ‘magic tricks’ were not of the devil, were not witchcraft and were nothing more than harmless entertainment. That was in the 1500s. Now if only a few folks in the 21st Century could be so smart.

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