Category Archives: Musings

Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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My Boss …

The following was posted on Facebook by Randy Baker, who is my boss/ client/ friend/ leader along with Kelli Willoughby for the USO of North Carolina. I have been super11899758_10103428198369907_2915072052119474779_n privileged to be a part of the Warrior Reset program for the past couple of years. Kelli and Randy have several extraordinary programs they created for the USO.

Her words moved me, so I’m sharing them (with her permission) with You.

“This will probably be the longest post I ever make but I have had something heavy weighing on my heart for the past few days and I felt compelled to share.

On Sunday morning I was having breakfast at the Waffle House off Western Blvd. in Jacksonville. As I sat there with my friends, recovering after a night out, I started to sit quietly and observe the very young Marines interacting all around us without a care in the world, almost like boys pretending to be men. Even with vulgar sense of humors, they still had innocence about them.

I started to feel really emotional as I compared them to my Marines and couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that it was because I had never seen my Marines so care free and it actually broke my heart. Of course I have seen them be silly and they are some of the funniest people I know but I have known them all through war, which stole their innocence and that thought caused me physical pain. These are men and women who I love dearly and they don’t get to have that innocence back. They are warriors and they are scarred. Then seeing these young Marines who have no idea that the places they go will change them and I wanted to protect them.

I remembered the infantry Soldiers I met when they first arrived at KAF before they went to their FOB in Afghanistan. So excited and full of life and motivation and so innocent and how their eyes and souls changed when they came back to our base on their way home from R&R. I wish I could give that innocence back to them.

I was then comforted by a song from one of my lost Marines and immediately felt a call to action. No doubt from Jimmy who made me promise to never forget his friends and to always of his Marines.

This week, I have spent my days with 40 service members, some career soldiers but most of them young Marines.Through these thoughts that side swiped me on Sunday morning and through my involvement in our Warrior Reset program, I find an even more renewed passion for caring for our troops. I want to continue honoring the amazing Warriors who have turned into family for me and the sacrifices they’ve made on my behalf and to give new skills to our military’s future leaders so that they can cope with the inevitable challenges they will face. Maybe just maybe, I can help them preserve a little bit of their innocence just a little bit longer than they would have.

Thank you for everyone’s support of my love and passion for caring for our military and for the military itself. I consider myself so blessed to be a part of this amazing family and even more fortunate to be able to support my peers through my work with USO of North Carolina. This is my life. This is why I was put on this planet.”

Courage, Heart, Determination, Action.
She speaks and  on it so beautifully.

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The Guts of the Matter

“Deep inside, all folded up … where real magic happens? Is your signature and hers. Maybe.”

Me and my friends? We live to serve. We serve You, our audience. The artists, the performers, the show people. Dozens of different names and flavors.

We will perform sick and loaded up on medication. We will perform in pain, our backs hurting, our feet or knees screaming. I know personally that several of us have taken the stage with kidney stones in full press, barely able to stand upright just beyond the curtain, but full arrogance, pomp and swagger under the lights, smiles wide and voices booming for all we are worth. Even then, the little voice in the very back of our mind telling us: ‘You’re going to pay for this.’

We play with our hearts broken. We’ve taken the stage mere moments after a loved one has said something cruel, or even said goodbye. I got the call about one of my parents, fifteen minutes before curtain, and the house was full. I went on, and I delivered. I took it to the stage, and I left it there.

When asked to choose, I chose the art. Even though I lost almost everything else.

We go on and do our jobs. We strive to be better, to reach for excellence. (Not perfection. Perfection is a lie that is lethal to real art.) We were made such that we cannot do anything else and be true.

I do this for You.
I do this for Art.

Selfishly, the Truth is … I do it for me, more than anyone else.

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New Love

I had lunch today with a friend, an artist I respect who worked with me on a project a few years back. We talked about art, and possibilities and the challenges of the future. Opportunities were presented, plans were jotted down, and I left with a feeling of hopefulness, but also something more.

I’ve been jaded for about two and half years, as I watched the world I lived in and trusted crumble slowly to pieces. I’m left with my talent, my wits, and lots of time. I’ve lost a lot, but this story isn’t about loss. It’s about love. New love. A love I found on my way home from lunch.

I’m respected. I do good, quality work that I can be really proud of. I help and heal people with my art and my voice. I have a gift and I haven’t shirked in using it. I’ve always felt I could be a great partner to someone who truly believed in me. Someone who would stay beside me when I was overjoyed, sad, kind, or mean. I found that person. It just so happens to be me.

It’s okay to love me. It’s okay to sacrifice for me … so I’m going to. I’m going to plumb the depths and really love the man I am. I had to reach the bottom, I had to be betrayed and mocked and stepped on, but I recognize my strength. I will rise above all of this.

In my flailing post on Facebook, a gentleman I used to attend church with asked me: “DO you have any Jesus left in you at all? Let Him be a shining light for you.” All I could think was: “Man … where the hell have you been for the past few years? Why haven’t you come to me before this to hold up your Jesus lifesaver?”

In me? There’s the concept and beautiful idea of the forgiving, all-loving, healing, magician Jesus. I can strive to BE that, and love my neighbors AND my enemies … #rebeljesus makes wine, loves everyone, heals the sick and flips some freaking tables when the pompous, holier-than-thou, thieves in the temple are desecrating the idea of love and forgiveness. BUT FIRST, I must love myself. I must allow the Magdalene to anoint my head when I need it.

With the love I give myself, I’ll be better able to serve my art and my audience. Love breeds love. I forgive me. I love me. I’ll be there for me, even in the darkness. I’ve spent too much time trying to beg love from those incapable of giving it, so now it’s on me. I’ll stumble, sure, but in the end, I will win.

If you think this is just a self serving post, well … you aren’t wrong. Sometimes these are just for me. Perhaps, though, you’ll find some wisdom here you can use … I hope that’s true, too.

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Deliveries

In the leaner years, pre-magician days, I drove a truck and delivered furniture. The days were long and exhausting, and the work … largely unfulfilling, though it had its moments. I looked at my co-workers and I used to wonder where they would rather be, what their dreams were. Sadly, I learned to not ask, because it made some of them angry. “What’s wrong with this job? Is this too good for you, ‘Mr. Actor’, ‘Mr. Artist’??” Mocking the dreams I had shared …

Some days I rode a bike to work, so that she could have the car. Only about 8 miles, and most of it through the green shaded back neighborhoods. I dreamed of big, ivy-covered houses. Later in the day, I might even see the inside of some of these, as I delivered their bookcases and beds. I loved the peace, and the exercise the bike gave me. Just as a boy, when my bike took me everywhere, from the corner store to the Death Star, fighting off TIE fighters as I flew through trenches to save my friends.

Returning to our little house each night, with the attic fan and the big metal grate in the floor that served as a heating system, there would be love and laughter waiting. Stories to tell and stories to keep. Books to be read and re-read aloud.

If the magic thing went away? I’d like to drive a bus, cross country, long distances … deliver people to new adventures.
… or bring them home.

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By the Lake

I have vivid childhood memories of feeding ducks at Freedom Park with my mother and grandmother. Delighted and terrified by the experience, and clutching the wax paper bag of ‘yesterday’s bread’.

We took the girls to walk around the park when they were small, and we brought along bread to feed the ducks … perhaps past generations of the ducks I played with. The girls were … delighted and terrified, and it’s one of my treasured memories.

In Arizona, outside the coffee shop, I watched a father and son feeding the ducks … and I wish I words for how moved I was. Life is amazing, right down to the very moments.

“There was a boy who came into this world at the hands of a holy woman in a holy place.
He wore a red coat and walked a black dog, saw them reflected in the mirror of the lake.
Lived in the shadow of the mountain, with the smells of disinfectant, dusty old leather, and the polished wood of his bed.
No more than a baby, feeding swans on the river, clutching the hand of his mother and the wax paper bag of yesterday’s bread.” ~ Marillion, “This Strange Engine”

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Two Years Ago

Some of you may think I’m publishing this just to feed my own vanity. The truth is: I want to point out to you that the simplest of kind gestures can change, even save, lives.

My Facebook memories today gave me a short letter from a lady who had seen my show. She came in disliking magic in general. I helped to change her mind, but in the interim I did so much more than I was realizing at the time. Here’s her letter:

“I was going through some things today, and something wonderful happened. This has been a difficult year, I had an injury at the beginning that deeply effected my memory. Today I found the Bicycle Steam Punk deck of cards you gave me a few years back when you changed my mind about magic, and all the memories of that entire stay at the Ritz, meeting the Artists and having the great time with my Husband, came back to me. I truly got to live it all over again, it brought tears to my eyes, and I remembered just how truly magnificent you are. All because you wanted me to remember that day whenever I looked at those cards: it worked.”
January 23rd, 2015

My gift is humble. I do card tricks and I tell stories.

My gift is mighty. It restored precious memories that were thought lost.

Your gift, though perhaps humble, can absolutely change the world. For one, for thousands … who knows?

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