More Things in Heaven and Earth

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Three.

Monday, September 4, 2017

I left my house in Charlotte early Monday morning; I was traveling from Charlotte to Phoenix, and from Phoenix on to LAX. There was a long layover in Phoenix, and it turns out it was a good thing that there was. The flight out of Charlotte was delayed, and then delayed again. I was starting to get nervous about the timing when the person in charge of the gate announced that the “mechanical issues had been fixed to satisfaction”, and we would be boarding right away.

A side note: if you happen to find yourself working the gate for a major airline, please do not announce that “mechanical issues have been fixed to satisfaction”. There’s really no need for the last two words of that sentence! Just tell us its “fixed” and don’t let our imaginations get away with us. Thank you.

The flight to Phoenix was fairly uneventful, which all good flights are, and I was able to nap for a good portion of the way. In Arizona, even though my layover have been cut short, I still had plenty of time to get from one end to the other. Phoenix has a nice, comfortable, small airport. Along the way to my gate, I came across a site that I had not seen before. Now, I’m all for being comfortable while traveling, and I’ve seen people traveling in pajamas, in shorts, etc. The young lady going from one gate to another in Phoenix, however, was wearing a bright blue string bikini. She had sandals on, she had her backpack on her side, and she was rocking her beachwear un-selfconsciously. Took me a second to reconcile what I was seeing. Hey … more power to you, miss.

I got to the gate I Just as they’re beginning the boarding process, and I settled into my seat. Quick hop over to LAX, without issue or mechanical problems … little blessings. I had only my carry-on, so I got straight out of the airport. The timing was great: Eddie and Lili were fairly close to the airport, and traffic was not horrible. (“Not Horrible” is about the best you can do around LAX.) It’s honestly like coming home when friends come to pick you up at this airport. Eddie and Lili have been big supporters of mine for years, and they are the essence of what Hollywood means to me. Artists living on their own terms, confident without arrogance, loving and supportive of others, respectful across a multitude of different scenes.

We went to grab some food (naturally at Shin Ramen), where we were joined by Tim, the owner, and his partner, Sarah. We relaxed, and we joked, we talked about the upcoming show and what was to be expected. Everything was sold out: all the standing room only spots were filled, and it looked like a great night was ahead.

While we were laughing there, Lili received a call from Brookledge. Erika was throwing a showcase for Puddles Pity Party, and we were invited to come and see the show. Lili explained that we were getting ready to prep the Three clubs for the Monday night show, and she just really couldn’t get away, but she offered the spots to Eddie and I … I’m thinking so that she could possibly have some time alone in her venue, after getting the basic setup done.

We  moved on to the Three Clubs, set the tables, lights and sound … Eddie inflated a few dozen balloons for the finale … and then left Lili to the final details. Eddie and I went over to Brookledge, said ‘hello’ to some friends, then settled in the back of the theater to watch Puddles’ show. If you’ve not seen his act, or only on YouTube or America’s Got Talent, you haven’t gotten the full effect. Seeing him live, with the heart that he pulls out, and everything about his character, from his body language and from his powerful voice and the rawness he puts into the songs he chooses … it is soul moving. He brought me close to tears several times during his act. Seriously, if you get the chance, take it. It’s a great show.

About three quarters of the way through Eddie gave me a nudge and pointed to his watch. We quietly left, arriving back at the Three Clubs to find the crowd was already moving in. I took my place over on the side of the stage and started talking myself into a good, peaceful spot for my own act. Lili was at times frantic, at times a bit sad, at times a bit gruff. She’s running the show, after all. It’s her baby, and this was its final public offering. Through all of this, there was not even a moment when she was not professional. She was in control, she had everyone’s spirits lifted, she had everyone exactly in their place and she guided the show as if she’s been doing it for 14 years.

Sitting there, watching the people, I thought about the journey of the day. I woke up on the East Coast, in my little house, and in just a few short hours i had packed in one adventure after another. And the show hadn’t yet started. Happiness is the Road, indeed. Life is funny, yo.

***

  Just before we got to places, Andrea came in and found a decent standing spot near the cameras. Having a friend there who was not in the show was comforting at a level I can’t express.

Here We Go

To be continued …

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About an Appeal.

I write from the heart and edit through my head. Sometimes I don’t edit, because the feelings at the time are raw and real and I write because I am a writer. This is my open letter to whoever finds it enjoyable or helpful to read.

It’s also not here to coerce or manipulate anyone. Some close friends who love me gently pointed out that the previous entry might be read as such. Like I was trying to guilt someone into contacting me. And this simply isn’t so. Yes, it was emotional and yes, it was honest. I posted it as a blog because they (some of them) have me blocked on social media. I had hopes they would find it, or a mutual friend would point it out.

It was to them, and I found it was cathartic, once I started typing.

I write my feelings. There’s no other hidden agenda.

The main point I wanted to come from the post is: my door is open.

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An Appeal.

To my children: I love you.

I’ve tried to write this often, but the time is now. This is my heart. Let me be clear.

I was there the moment each of you were born. Mine were the first hands that held you. I was the very first to see your faces. I provided for you, there was always a roof over your head, and food on the table, and clothes for you to wear. I purchased instruments and lessons and negotiated gigs and opportunities, because i believe in you and the arts you embrace. I remain your biggest fan. I sacrificed for you, turned down shows that would keep me away too long. I cherished watching you grow and learn … create and laugh and give laughter. We threw parties and a wedding that were epic in our celebration of life and love and each other. People were jealous of the overwhelming love that was in our house. You had two loving, caring parents who were always there for you, growing up.

Yes, I was away and often, living on my stage, pursuing my dream, and doing what my hands were meant to do. But I called and texted and made sure you knew that, wherever I was, I was loving you and thinking of you. I wanted to show you by example that dreams could be won, obstacles could be overcome, and love wins. We celebrated together, lifted each other when we needed … we were a House O’ Love.

Yes, at times I was an absolutely horrible husband. Yes, I failed you all at times as a father. I’m human, and when i make mistakes, they are usually as large as my triumphs.

I admire that you stand up for the person you love against what you perceive to be an egregious wrongdoing. I do – we taught you to stand in the gap for those you love. We taught you to stand up for anyone that needs and deserves defending, and I am truly proud of you for doing what you think is right and so adamantly. I cannot fault you for that.

Some of you have not spoken to me in over two years. That’s simply heartbreaking. Even if I am guilty of everything I’ve been accused of, even if …
Am I really unforgivable? Does it erase over two decades of the love we grew?

You will always be my children, and I will always love you, no matter what. That isn’t negotiable and will not change. I’ll be here for the rest of my life, waiting for you to get in touch. But I won’t keep begging you. That does none of us any good. So.

You can hold your grudge and be angry, and i will understand your anger and deal with the silence. You can continue to keep me out of your lives, and I will watch from over here and pray for you, and cheer for you. You can hold me at arms length and build your walls higher.

… or you could Love.

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Be a Star?

Chicago, September 2017

Walking back from dinner, looking at all these old buildings, the old shops, the heart and soul of Chicago that still beats in the middle of everything. I’m anonymous. No one gives me a second glance. I made a few new friends in the pub I had dinner in, did a few card tricks and made some people laugh. None of them knew me before tonight, but I gave them a little joy for the end of the day. The gift that I got from them is bigger than the gift I gave them. Sometimes I feel a little selfish that way.

There was a time when I wanted to be a “star”. I walk out on these big stages and I feel I could hold my own up-against the best of them, but I simply never followed the paths that led toward fame, and so it hasn’t happened to me. I have a good life, a great life – and I don’t get bugged by idiots (much) while dining out or walking in the street.

I do the show I want to do, when I want to do it, and I’m free.

I’m free.

The fans I have are loyal and awesome, and I would be happy to relax and have a drink with most of them. There’s a lot of love in my corner. In these things, I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

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What’s Your Show About?

I find that most inquiries rarely ask this of magicians, because apparently we are generic.

But my show is about .. many things. What things, you ask? Well … here’s an example.

When John Lennon was told in August of 1977 that Elvis was dead, he reportedly said: ‘Elvis died when he went in the army.’ Lennon looked at Elvis and thought, ‘Man. What happened? They invented the word ‘cool’ for you. You scared the shit out of all those sons of bitches. Then you turned into one of them. Fucking beach movies. Fucking TV specials with fucking Frank Sinatra.’

Lennon made his bones: worked and made art and got successful. He earned the right to ask Elvis face to face at Graceland in 1964: ‘Why don’t you do rock ‘n’ roll anymore?’ (Which came out a good deal more polite than it was intended.) Elvis hemmed and looked around and came up with a lame answer: ‘Well, if I found a rock ‘n’ roll song I liked, I’d record it in a minute.’ Lennon told him, ‘When you do, we’ll buy your records again.’

I don’t think Elvis ever recovered.

But! Lennon knew he screwed up as well. The minute they fluffed up his hair and told him to be a cute little Beatle and keep smiling and don’t wear a toilet seat around your neck on stage and be nice to the press … actually that wasn’t when he blew it. When he said ‘yes’ to all that bullshit. That’s when he blew it.

There isn’t enough money in the fucking world.

Everything about my branding and look and style has meaning to me. Every trick or story that i include or excise from the act. Every bit of my heart that I paste on my sleeve daily.

That’s part of what my show is about.

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Mark Me

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Two.

One of the first things I decided was to present ‘The Naked Truth’ with a slightly new twist. Yes, i still wanted it to focus on self-esteem and giving up hateful words, but I also wanted to add in fear. The world has become a very scary place, and it’s so easy to listen to all the doom in the air and just despair of everything. So i was going to also ask them to write their fears on my skin. To let them go for a short time.

In truth, once I settled on this scary idea, I didn’t think too much about it. I trusted in my ability and focused on centering myself.

So I prepped, and practiced the magic I would open with, looked at flights and budgets and … and then everything changed. Quickly.

One afternoon in late August i got a text from Lili: “You busy?” So I gave her a call. “What’s Up?”

“Well … due to stuff I’m not going into right now, the show will be closing two weeks. i just gave the club owner two weeks notice and … the last show will be September 4th. Just wanted you to know.”

We talked and I tried to be supportive and the friend she needed right then. She wasn’t showing it, but I knew she was frantic, sad, and upset about this news. She said she was going to try to call some people in and give it the best she could. When we hung up, all I could think of was … I wonder if she still wants me in this and was being polite, because: She knows i have one of MY shows booked that night and airfare is going be outrageous this close to date and whatever else. On my hand, i wasn’t going to presume I still had a space. But I looked up flights, anyway. I did math (yeah, it was that serious.) and sent a note to the owner of the club I had booked in Charlotte. I called her back … and to my delight, she did still want me for the final spot of the final show. She offered weak protest about me cancelling my gig, but I could tell she was happy.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been underestimating my strengths, lately? The honor of this was not missed.

I kept the secret, for the most part. Lili dropped a few subtle hints over social media, and a few people understood. The event was going to sell out, regardless. The only person i really let anything slip to was my friend, Andrea. I let her know I’d be in town for the MNT show and, if she was interested, it might be a good idea to catch this show. I even offered her my comp, but she insisted on supporting the show and buying her own. So I told her the secret, but she had already guessed before my confirmation. Truthfully, it was comforting to know I’d have a friend in the audience. Eddie and Lili would be dealing with work and emotions of their own, so I was glad of this addition. Coming down from ‘The Naked Truth’ is rough, so friendship and care is coveted. She was able to get one of the last standing room tickets, so thank the universe for small blessings.

Megan was concerned that Monique might show up, or try to get in touch, but that honestly didn’t concern me. That boat has sailed.

I made little posters for FB, I kept my anxiety in check, made my travel plans, and I meditated over the event. I wanted to make a good statement, i wanted to be there for my friend’s last huzzah with her baby, I wanted to bask in an awesome show, but most of all, I wanted to entertain Them. Give Them my heart.

To Be Continued …

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… or Not to Be?

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part One.

Have you met my friend, Lili?  We met five years ago at the Magic Castle, when i gave her an elf boot. She was with her boyfriend, Eddie. It’s hard to tell a story about Lili without mentioning Eddie, because they have the kind of loving, amazing relationship I want to have when I don’t grow up. And while it may sound funny, this story is about Lili and her show. Lili, her show and me. One of the … nah, screw that … the single biggest honor a friend has ever bestowed on me.

Lili is raw talent and relentless truth. She loves to bring laughter to an audience, in a multitude of different styles. She’s an inspiration, she’s a no-nonsense confidant, and she’s a friend.

A really large door closed for Lili last Monday, September 4th: After 14 years and hundreds of shows, Monday Night Tease at the Three Clubs in Hollywood came to an end. This was Lili’s show, her heart and soul for many of those years. It started, basically, about a month ago, when Lili called.

“I’m going to shut it down”, she said “Enough is really enough. Maybe January or February, we’ll have a big blowout last show, bring back in some acts that I love and really go out of style.”  What could I say? I was really stunned. This was her baby, her job. “What will you do?”
“I don’t know!”, she replied, laughing kind of hysterically, “I just know that it’s time. Close this door and maybe bust out some windows.”

I grabbed my calendar. Looked at the dates at the beginning of the year. “I don’t want to throw my ego around,” I said, “but I would really like to be a part of that, if it’s possible. You don’t even have to put me on stage, I just want to be there for the last show.”

“I know that I want you on the stage, and I know what I want you to do. I’m thinking that the last show needs ‘The Naked Truth’. It says what i want to say. I want to tell you that I haven’t made any final decisions, but that’s not even true. I know that I want it to be done; I’m just really terrified to do it”

I was as comforting as I could be, but my head was in a whirlwind. Some things just seem so solid, but the last couple of years has shown me what that means and what it’s worth. I was flailing for the right things to say, but really, I thnk just being an ear was all she needed.

And we talked. I know we talked for two hours or more that time. I was sitting on my back porch looking out as the sun went down on my side of the country. Maybe this was the universe pulling all the puzzle pieces a little closer together.

So, okay. Monday Night Tease is going away. She’s not passing it off anybody else because, in her words: it’s her baby, she doesn’t want to watch someone else run it. That’s so valid. The two have become synonymous. I’m not concerned about her next steps, though i know she is. I know Lily well enough to know that she’s got strengths and talents and drive and she will absolutely find the next thing and make it her own.

For now I’m left with: I’m going to be in the last show of Monday Night Tease. Getting Nekkid and offering my skin as a canvas for a very important event. Forgive me for the direction going to take on this right now, but the blog is in fact, all about me. I know there will be lots of stories from different perspectives about this, but this one is mine. The fact that I was asked to be in the last show of this tradition give me a huge burst of self-esteem. Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve been underestimating myself. I’ve let other people, people that purport to love me, make me feel bad about myself. And on purpose, in order to keep me under some semblance of control. Discovering this made me sick, but here was at least a partial remedy, and a huge one. I am valued by my friend, who isn’t hiring me just because we’re friends, but because my act moves her. I must be worth something.

I’ve worked very hard to get here. Not just learning card tricks and magic, but learning the actual work behind the show. My act, my show moves people. It saves lives. I say that a lot, because sometimes I have to try to convince myself, but I’ve got letters and deep, intimate conversations where random strangers told me time and time again that what I’m doing has immense value in peoples lives. And so it seems it was with Lili. She’s been at this for a very long time and she knows quality, She knows potential, this was not just a fluke, or a favor for a friend. She would tell me straight up if I was not worthy of being in this show. So once she asked, I jumped at the chance. This was sincerely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Of course I agreed to keep it a secret until she decided to announce it herself. It’s her show, it’s her announcement. I gave her as much encouragement as I could, told her that I loved her, and I was right behind her whatever she decided. We said goodbye and hung up.

Shortly thereafter, I went and made some tea, came back to the back porch and watched the stars come out. If the show was going out, if my friend’s show was closing, indeed I was going to do my part to make sure that it was going to go out with joy and style.

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