Category Archives: View from the Pew

Lessons

FB_IMG_1446249240321

In my Magic life …

I have four amazing children. Amazing. Clever, loving, beautiful kids. Well, no longer ‘children’, I suppose. My eldest turns 27 this week. Wow.

Anyway, they were raised in the midst of love and art and encouraging affection. Often one of them will say or do something that reaffirms to me that .. we did okay.

My son (the youngest at 19) recently posted the below. All I have to add is: THAT. IS. MY. SON.

Braiden,  I couldn’t be more proud of you.

“So I found this little jem earlier while I was surfing the Internet. So that’s me when I did the rocky horror picture. When I did this show I had a real job. And progressively every day I’d come into work with makeup still on my face, or glitter everywhere, and at one point lipstick marks on my cheek. They always kept asking “what is that?” Or “how hard was the party last night?” You know it’s not easy to try and do what you love while working with normal people. I cannot tell you how many times I just wanted to sell my guitars and say fuck it I’m done. But some people don’t take the time to think what this world would be like without art, or crazy people like me. You’d wake up everyday and work 9 to 5 go home and have any color in your day. But if at that 9 to 5 there’s a guy like me you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but everyday won’t be so mind numbingly boring you won’t have dreams every night about blowing your brains out. It takes even the most talented artist to put on a smile and tell himself he is gonna have a good day. The least you could do is help him have a good day by letting him know the picture he paints is worth a thousand words, or the stories he tells are worth a thousand pictures. Why not start creating a life of art rather than looking down at entertainers for being artistic.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Blither Blather, Musings, Public Diary, View from the Pew

“Spirit of Truth”

“Men go crazy in congregations; they only get better one by one.” ~ Sting

10648313_447940562015405_4904581095761437897_o

My last audition led to the crushing of my faith. Now, I’ve been in love with theatrical art for as long as I can remember. At six I was onstage performing in “The Music Man”. I make my living performing my little solo show.

A few years back I auditioned for a role in a grand production of “A Christmas Carol”. The production was taking place in one of Charlotte’s nicer mega-churches. At the audition I was told: 1) I was too fat to read for the role I wanted and 2) I wasn’t attending services often enough to be considered for any role. It was a really cold slap. I stopped going out for productions and I left that church … and eventually that experience turned me off from all churches. My son went through something similar years later … but that’s his story. For my part I started concentrating on my show and using the stage as my own pulpit, alter and worship center.

This summer I was asked by a friend to be a part of an ensemble, a play. “The Night of The Iguana” by Tennessee Williams. 

There was a role available and the rehearsal schedule fit my down-time very nicely. So I signed up. The experience has been very spiritually fulfilling.

The theme is largely negative: decay, non-redemption, addiction … but there is beauty in life, and life in decay.

The people I’ve been gifted to work with are simply great. Happy, uplifting, embracing. Together we’ve created a beautiful, awesome work of art. I’ve found some salvation when I really needed it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary, View from the Pew

A Letter to Myself

Dear Hannibal at 17, Image

You’re going to live to be at least 48.  I know this, because I’m writing to you from August of 2013. It’s beautiful here, and the journey is amazing. Scary sometimes, and rough, but you’ll make it past the darkness. There are surprises and oases everywhere, so there’s much to look forward too.

I do have some bad news:  Your parents are both gone, and your sister isn’t speaking to you. None of these things are your fault, so please don’t beat yourself up about it.

Some good news:  You have four incredibly amazing children. (Three daughters and a son.)

Better news than that:  You’re married!

And that means:  That means you got to kiss a girl. In fact, more than one.

The best news:  Your wife is a complete babe. Beautiful, smart … you find a girl who loves you exactly the way you are. (Semi-spoiler: you already know her, but the two of you haven’t ‘clicked’ yet.) So keep up your prayers, because they will be answered. There’s is a nerd-loving hottie in your future.

On the “prayer” thing:  You still think God exists.  More than ever, really.

Dear Hannibal at 17:  You’re not a loser.  You won’t believe this, I know.  But you’re not.  Things get better. Your next family?  It stays together.  You laugh together, you sing, you laugh some more, your wife lets you smooch her, and while you’re typing this, your boy (he’s taller than you!) plays guitar in the next room.

You don’t starve to death.  Nobody kills you.  You don’t die in an accident.  You get a job.  You have friends, here and there.  You’re not exposed as a complete fraud.  Things are okay.

Turns out, you don’t fail at everything.  You fail at some things, but most “things” become a lot more laughable.  Seriously — life is funnier all the time.  All that stuff you already know, deep down, is darkly odd about your life?  It’s downright hilarious, later.  I know you won’t, but you can afford to lighten up a bit.

You know that ‘hobby’ of yours? The one your old man sneers at and got you laughed off the stage at the 5th grade talent show? It’s going to be your career. Your ‘dime a dozen’ tricks are going to take you to Europe, Mexico and all over the US. You will meet amazing people and experience things you can’t even imagine, all because you tell stories and do some card tricks. Your Dad is wrong about this one.

Spoiler: Your Dad is a champion Ballroom Dancer. He has trophies and everything. How’s THAT for a new perspective, eh?

The stuff you’re ashamed of, that stuff at 17, that only I know about?  God uses you anyway.  Somehow.  You won’t figure it out, but he does.  He loves you, in the midst of it.

That Richard Adams book you love so much, the one with the rabbits? It contains everything you need to know about your passion and your calling. God is in it.

He’s in you, too.

2 Comments

Filed under Public Diary, View from the Pew

On the Busk – The Next Night

After the events of Thanksgiving Friday, (Seen here) I was determined to get right back on the bike, so to speak. Saturday evening I gathered my gear and went right back to my corner. I hoped cooler heads would prevail and a chance to apologize for my explosive out-lash. Traffic was slow, not many pedestrians or cops out, but good enough for a couple of good shows early on.

I had been set up for about an hour when a gentleman came down the sidewalk, stopped in front of my table and made a call. “He’s here, bring everybody.” That was kind of chilling, yeah? In about 5 minutes my buddy Theo shows up with three additional people, two of them carrying bullhorns. The five of them set up in a circle around me and started chanting. Lots of “Jesus”, “Rebuke”, “Evil”, “Sorcery” and so on. The din was such that people were avoiding the corner altogether: crossing the street in order to not come close. A few people who tried to come over to the table were impeded: Theo’s group would just move to where they were walking and continue screaming louder until they gave up. There was no chance of me even attempting to start a show.

So I packed up. Score one for the good guys.

I walked up the street to Trade & Tryon. There’s a nice park there and a good place to busk just outside the gates. I set up shop and … the next thing I know Theo and his friends have encircled me again. Now the bullhorns are out (since it’s a bigger area) and they are preaching loud & proud. I had a small group elbow the way through them and ask to see some magic. They were clearly trying to help me out and defy the preachers. That warmed my attitude and I went into my show.

I did my best, despite the din, and things weren’t going badly. One of the preachers stopped his chanting and walked over to join the small group at the table. I thought this was a good opportunity, so I went into a short speech about why I do what I do. That’s not an uncommon thing, if you’ve seen me work you know I’m often verbally passionate about my work. I had spread a deck out on the table and … the minister poured his large beverage all over them, the table and partially me.

“Whoops. Someone bumped me. Must be God’s will!”

That effectively ended the night. The small group were outraged and tried to engage the ministers, but the deed was done. I tossed away the ruined props, dried myself off as best I could and started packing up to leave. Theo’s group surrounded me. “Leaving so soon? Can’t do your witchcraft anymore? Jesus wins!” Keeping a grip on my anger (fury) I just headed back to my car. They followed for a block or two, shouting “Praise Jesus!!” at my retreating, defeated back.

Onward, Christian Soldiers.

What to do next? I don’t need to busk, but I love to busk. I enjoy the rawness of the situation, the delight looks on unsuspecting audiences. How do I fight back against this kind of perverted mindset? I doubt they will be waiting for me every time I set up shop, but there’s no doubt that we share a turf and our paths will cross again.

And of course I can’t stop my brain from thinking: “What if I’m in the wrong?” Somehow.

I’ve been asked to not return to churches. I’ve been denied participating in plays and other artistic endeavors at my home church because of my profession. I’ve even had a church refuse to cash my tithe checks and offerings. I offend. Sometimes on purpose.

As I was typing this incident up, a friend sent me news: A magician friend of mine was performing on a TV show in the Dominican Republic. The host attacked him by throwing flaming oil over his head, setting him on fire. If not for the quick actions of the magician’s crew, he would have lost his life. As it is, he sustained bad burns on his head, face, neck and hand. It was later revealed that the guy did it as an exorcism, to get rid of the demons. This was not part of the show. It was a brutal attack. (LINK) How far removed are the two situations? Crazy is crazy …

Please keep Wayne Houchin in your prayers as he recovers. Please Keep Theo and his gang of thugs in your prayers, and hope they recover before they hurt someone or themselves. And pray for me, if you will.

“I am not of this world: I am a red light from God.” ~ Talking Heads

4 Comments

Filed under Musings, Public Diary, View from the Pew

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.

32 Comments

Filed under Musings, Public Diary, View from the Pew

The Story of God Comes to a Close

“Home – It’s where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there.” The Talking Heads

The beat goes on … glorious, awe bringing creation renews itself and awaits the return of the King. God grant me the ability to view the path you want me to walk … and thank you for the view along the way.

Leave a comment

Filed under View from the Pew

Makin’ Bricks

So I’ve had this sweet deal at Harper’s restaurant for over 10 years now. When I started this career as a Magic Dude, I had limited options for making a living doing what I love and have been called to do.
I could pursue cruise ships, or comedy clubs or magic theaters (which were in proliferation in places like Atlantic City and Vegas in those days). This would have involved traveling and being away from the family for possibly months at a time, or uprooting them and moving them away from extended family and friends. No can do, said the Lord in our long conversations. There is an alternative, you just have to create it.
So I invented close up table magic in Charlotte. To be sure, there had been restaurant entertainers before me. Most of which involved twisting latex into amusing shapes. This (no matter what they say) is NOT magic. I overcame the principle arguments and proved my worth to a number of local eaterys.
My greatest “sell” of all was Harper’s at Southpark. They had an upscale feel and the kind of clientele that I desired for outside work. I worked hard and achieved a following of sorts. I had a place to be creative and pursue excellence. I am thankful to God for giving me this venue.
Zoom forward to the almost present. For just about a year now, I have been feeling stronger and stronger about moving on from this happy house of Harper’s. It’s not just that the atmosphere has changed somewhat. I think I just fear stepping away from a “sure thing” and embracing the path God is laying out ahead of me. So I pray and (sadly) have been ignoring the answers I have been getting.
Then came Sunday and the weekly Jon-A-Thon. Dagnabbit, Juan spoke directly to my fears and the stuggle I have been having. All I have been doing lately is stressing over the money and the bills and makin’ the bricks. And getting less and less straw to make ’em. Jonathan, if you are reading this – you really need to address the problems of the WHOLE congregation, and not just ME week after week.
So … I’m going to be cutting those ties in a very direct way. Heading out again into the desert and waiting for God to move in my craft. I’m excited about some of the projects that are on the way. I hope the blessing will not be mine alone.
Your prayers (as always) are coveted.

2 Comments

Filed under View from the Pew