Tag Archives: art

June 10, 2018

The Magic Castle, Hollywood, CA

I looked all over for some small sign of my friend. He was nowhere to be found. The places were still there, but there was no trace of him. Not his laughter. Not his spirit. Not his magic.
I sat on the bench where we talked about performance and art. I spent time at the table where we shared favorite books.
He’s just gone. I, selfishly, would have liked more time with him.
I visited Irma to get some perspective: maybe add some music to lift my heart. At the request of another guest, she played “Suicide is Painless”.

I fled.

Later a stranger, who earlier in the evening had watched my show, gave me food. “I ordered this to go on impulse. I think I’m supposed to give it to you.” Chicken and veggies, quite delightful.

As I went to pay my parking, I was called back inside. A friend requested that I do a small show for his sister, who was celebrating her birthday. We found a private table and … it was good. I told my stories and did my magic for the two of them. I made a boot for her … and she cried, just a little.

It took everything I had. It was worth it. I gave them a bit of me. That’s art, right?
For you, Leeman. For your smile. For your spirit. I found a bit of it, and I gave it to someone. As it should be.

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Dr. Z

My mother’s favorite movie was “Doctor Zhivago”; it came out the same year I was born. We watched it four times together. She told me in confidence that she didn’t believe a grand romance like that could really happen.

The second to last time we watched it, I took her to a movie theater that was having a classic movie revival week. The grandeur and the power of the cinematography, along with the incredible story made us gasp and weep openly. It’s rare to have that strong of a reaction to a movie … but this was brilliant.

The last time we viewed it, about four months before she was killed, I gave her a deluxe VHS set for her birthday. At the end of a box of tissues she told me that I had the capacity to love like that, if I’d let myself.

The love he displays is of high caliber. Not just of Lara, though that’s important, but his love of humanity, life and love itself.

Could I possibly? This is a goal worth reaching for.

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Pieter

He came into the Cellar theater in the Castle with a group of 3 others, two couples. He was a movie stereotype: the Russian gangster. In his sixties, Shiny grey sharkskin suit, grizzled face, angry expression. Turned out he was, in fact, Russian. His wife wore a stylish bleach blonde wig.

It was just the five of us and I offered them a show. Pieter was super aggressive from the beginning: grabbing cards, insisting on the terms of the show. “Put the cards in my hand and let me pick. Now I get to put it back and shuffle. LOOK AWAY – YOU DON’T GET TO WATCH!” His wife chided him and he sneered at her, all ugly attitude. He slammed the cards down in front of me and demanded I tell him which card he chose. What would you do?

I looked at him intently. (The thousand yard stare I talk abut in my lecture) He laughed to his wife about “All magic is fake and these hustlers are just trying to make me look foolish, but this idiot just got beaten!” (Insert thick Russian accent)

“Five of Hearts”

His face fell and he looked stricken, then angry again. “YOU CHEAT! How do you know this?”

“Because it’s under the Pringle’s can.” (It was)

Then I fooled him again. And again. AND I made friends with him. Jokes at my own expense. Magic that happened in his hand. Stories that riveted his attention. Building his self-esteem until he stopped being a challenger, and became part of the story. I showed him love. I gifted him joy. He roared with amazement when the signed card appeared … and I guessed his wife’s secret word, which happened to be her pet name for him. (медведь гризли)

On a whim, I made him a boot and I told him the story of the nekkid elves. He smiled and nodded and said something to his group. I let them go.

Pieter stood up and hugged me. Then he looked at me with tears on his face and said: “My mama told me this story. I will put this boot by her picture at home.

You are the only magic I believe.”

Now tell me again why I should be doing anything else.

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For Wesley

“There’s one more kid that will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.” ~ Neil Young

This isn’t going to be well written. I’m filled with grief and I’m mourning a life that was way too short.

I do work and donate time and money to the MDA. I’m just telling you, I’m not bragging. I donate when i don’t think I can afford to. I give time and performance when i could honestly use the money. It’s the one kid’s show that I do, ever. Once a year: the MDA summer camp. Believe me when i tell you that it is hard work, and an absolute joy, a true honor.

I love those kids. I love the counselors. I love the organization and the back breaking work they do for these awesome young humans.

and this love, as most things do, comes with a price. Time and money, sure. Sacrifice, yes … but the kind of sacrifice that is a pleasure to make. The steepest price is death. These children have different forms of Muscular Dystrophy. They waste away. They fight, and they struggle and they live the best possible life they can. And the fight gets lost, and the cost is life.

I lost one today. I got the news via Facebook and a friend. This boy had spark, he was energetic and joyful and funny. He was Into all the activities and quick witted and … I cried in the pain of losing him.

“His pain is over. His suffering is at an end.”

Yeah. Okay. Soon another will follow him. and another, and another. Because there’s not a cure right now. In this enlightened, advanced day and age, why are we still fighting so bitterly over imaginary lines, ideology, dogma, when we could direct that energy into love and healing? I know … I sound naive and childish. Perhaps.

Right now all I see is a boy that should be feeling those awkward growing pains, instead of suffering from literally withering away. I boy that should be alive and vital, and instead … is dead.

I lost a bit of my heart and softness today, and it feels like I’ve already scraped myself thin. I wept hard and quietly and briefly (my beloved roomie said that I had BETTER cry more than that when she goes. Made me laugh.) And now I feel a little more hollow. I’ve had several surprise breakdowns.

I’m going to continue to fight for them, the remaining. I’m going to donate and advocate for love and healing and cures .. and kids in camps.

Goodnight, Wesley. This one is for you, champ.

Support the MDA: http://www2.mda.org/goto/memorymakers

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Redemption

“What’s broken can be mended. What’s hurt can be healed. No matter how dark it gets, the sun’s going to rise again.” ~ Dr. Meredith Grey

The plot line or trope or whatever you would call it that I enjoy most in stories is the redemption narrative. I first encountered it in ‘Watership Down’ via Bigwig. A mild arc, but it spoke to me nonetheless.

Then Vader, and later still Shawshank, and countless others; the most powerful being ‘The Wrestler’. The title character seeks redemption and forgiveness from his daughter, and does not get it. So he pulls it from inside himself.

Redemption: Coming from the dark and finding the light, the love … the redemption of a new and better life.

This speaks to me in my life because a redemption narrative says: no matter how broken or wrong or bad or stupid or ridiculous or harmful or sad or terrible you are … you can atone.

There is still a road back. It might be rocky and steep, complicated and messy. Walking it may take your entire life. You may lose your foothold, slip and fall back into the abyss, but the wall is still there. The ascent is still there. Hard is not the same as impossible.

You are never too far gone. You are never beyond saving.

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Goodnight, Charlotte

Unannounced, I went busking in my usual spot in uptown Charlotte. The corner of Trade and College streets, in the shadow of the Epicentre, just across from the Ritz. Unannounced because I didn’t want fans and friends turning up. Sorry, gang: I wanted the feel of pulling my own crowd, gathering disinterested souls and entertaining them ‘cold’.

In court earlier this week, the attorney for the other side sneered at my art, my career, and my means of income. Condescending questions were asked about the ‘hidden cash’ I earned ‘regularly’. Snide comments were offered about my character and my life. She was trying to make me upset, I think. Sorry, Babe … performing on the street for so many years thickened my skin, and nobody runs the entertainment hustle like I do in this city. You just made me smile, recalling all the lessons my sidewalk theater taught me. One of those is: don’t get mad at the petty insults hurled by those frustrated by their own inadequacies. Rise above. I did, and I handed you a definitive loss.

I digress. Sorry.

Inspired by the events of the week, I tucked my table under my arm and went to set up shop. The night was crisp, but not unpleasant. I created spectacle. I gathered the people, danced with them, let them fill my hat and sent them off into the night … changed, smiling, happier than when we met. I did good work.

Charlotte is my beloved hometown, and everything I became was birthed here. I love the people, I love the buildings … especially some that have been removed for ‘renovation’ … and I love the feel of this wonderful, shining jewel. I recognize her faults, but I love her anyway. So I gave her, her citizens, and her guests my very best. Especially last evening. I did my card tricks, yes, but I put my art and my heart right out on display and offered pieces for them to take home. Streetlight for spotlight,  passing cars for background music.

We danced.

I stayed for an hour or so; the hats filled, the air rang with gasps, laughter, and applause … and I was once again truly happy in my home. I took the cash I made and gave it to the humans asking for some of it on the way back to my car. Emptied my pockets. My pay was greater than mere money.

So, goodnight. Thank you to the Charlotte streets that shaped me. Thank you to the thousands i had the pleasure to work for. I’m off in search of new horizons, but I will never, ever forget you, Charlotte.

I love you, and I hope there is always love where you are.

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Fellow Travelers

“Excuse me.”

That was the entirety of our conversation. I was on my Delta flight, flying from Minneapolis to LAX, to work a week at the Magic Castle. I was seated in my aisle seat, and the young gentleman was assigned to the middle. I had boarded early, and he was asking to get by so he could get set for our flight.

I plugged my music into my ears, settled back for the 4-Hour flight, and let my thoughts drift. It’s the way I cope with long flights. Turbulence doesn’t really bother anymore, and it’s become rather routine. The modern Life of a traveling showman, eh?

About twenty minutes in, I saw him fading: sleepily leaning forward and catching himself.

And then … He succumbed. He fell asleep and slowly leaned over, tucking his head onto my shoulder. For a moment, I didn’t quite know what to do. Window seat dude gave me a bemused look like … ‘wow, glad it’s not me.’ 

I thought about waking him up, but … Something just told me to let it be. He wasn’t hurting me, he wasn’t being inappropriate, he was tired. Weary.

And man, aren’t we all, these days? 

So when he shifted in his sleep and put his hand on my chest, I didn’t mind. Apparently my cuddling abilities are legendary.

He slept, he found some peace for a couple of hours, and some human contact. Contact is good for the soul, right? I mused on why he might be making  this journey, and  what strength he might need to gather on his way. He found some peace, and I was fortunate enough to be the ‘pillow’ he found it on. 

Shortly before we began our descent into LA, he sat up and then slowly came awake. I don’t think he ever realized what had happened.

It felt good to be comfortable being a comfort.

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