Tag Archives: cancer

Taking Umbrage

At the request and gentle urging of my trusted beloveds, I began searching for a therapist. One that could understand my unique situation … a little background is needed, I suppose.

I’ve lived with depression for as long as I can remember. It’s not like a cloak that I shrug on and off: more a tattoo that is always there, but sometimes burns and itches like it was still healing. Due to some intense stress over the past 8 months or so, it has redoubled its hold on me, and my sorrow it so great sometimes it worries even my friends.

The Contest is a big one. I’m voluntarily putting my art up to be judged in comparison to others’ works. I had vowed to never do it again, but … peer pressure and pride.
Robin’s suicide. The man I patterned my drive after. He couldn’t make it. His sorrow took him. For all my brave talk about picking up the flag … I’m a fraud. I’m not fit to tie his shoes and … he couldn’t hold on.
Cancer … yeah.
Dawn’s sickness. Slow coming yet sudden in the swiftness in which it took her down. I felt helpless and was then accused of not acting fast enough. This is most likely correct. I’m going to shoulder the blame.
Success. Overwhelming and undeserved, I’m still waiting for the fraud police to show up.

So, I received a recommendation from a trusted friend and made an appointment. I’m going to call her Brady.

She and I seemed to hit it off right away. My first thought in seeing her was that she resembled a very distinct villain from the world of Harry Potter. How cute. How funny.

We started off with her asking some very pointed, direct questions. Events from childhood, life status of my parents, grandparents … tragedy, joys, triumphs and failures. We spoke in plain, raw words for nearly 45 minutes. It was very comforting. We were able to communicate much quicker than other therapists I’ve spoken too. After a short pause, she began speaking.

It seems … I have a generational curse. Now, my health is tied into this. My sickness is hereditary, probably. Something, some defect in my DNA triggered this sickness. It’s probably been in my bloodline for centuries.

My traumas, from the divorce of my parents to the suicide of my hero are my burdens … and my Art is God’s gift to me to help me deal with these burdens. Not eradicate, not heal … deal with.

All the depression, the anxiety, the sorrow … I caused these things by not giving my gifts as a sacrifice to the Holy Spirit.They are entirely, securely, totally mine to bear forever. I own them.

This was all caused by … wait for it … a deal made with Satan. (now, Brady didn’t use the word ‘Satan’, that would be too direct. The phrase repeated was ‘The Enemy’. I swear, you really could hear the quotes around it.) Someone, somewhere, sometime in my bloodline made a pact, whether explicit or implicit with him … and the curse shall be visited even unto the last generation.

The cure may be found in a rigorous treatment of Splankna, acupuncture and chiropractic medicine.

Disclosure here, folks: I don’t believe in the treatment. on the other hand, I don’t have any serious doubts about the diagnosis.

But what I DID get from the meeting was: my misery is real and it’s a part of me because I absolutely deserve it. An honest to goodness professional confirmed what my father first told me when I was eight.

So i went and visited my old ‘hometown’, which isn’t really that far away. I put my feet in the lake in the spot I was baptized in. I felt cold water and … not much else. Same as the first time. (I appreciate the water much more now than I used to, so I did take time to watch for a little while.) I went to the bleachers in the ballpark. On this spot, some forty one years ago, my father (in a very kind, loving voice) proclaimed to me that I could never really hope to amount to anything worthwhile. I was doomed to be a failure and a burden. It was a shame, he said, because he had certainly hoped for a real son to share his interests with.

I feel worse than when I went in, and that can’t be right, can it?

What I’ve written here is just the surface. I can’t bring myself to type all that I’m really dealing with. (Yes … I AM dealing with it. There’s no cause for alarm, please don’t misread my words)
I can’t express it to my family, or my best friend. Not the depth of feelings.

I have work on the stage that still needs to be done. There are things I consider important that I want to say.

But right now? Right now I’m just sad.

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Dancing and Heart Shaped Boxes: Christmas, 2014

Right now it’s Christmas Eve. The kids have gone home or up to bed and I’m siting in the dark alone. By the time I’m done, it will be well into Christmas. Want to go for a walk with me?

This holiday for me has always been about family. The blood ones, the ones who married in, and the ones we invite to the table. You are loved, and I consider you family. You’re welcome at my table … bring a story, a song or something you made.

This year was creative. We all reached out for each other’s hearts. For myself: Carlaysle made me a porcelain dragon lamp, Avalon Rose Stuffed a Joy Tea box with inspirational quotes and petals from flowers I gave her once, Grace made desserts in the kitchen of her newlywed first house and Braiden brought us his music.

 

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“The book of love is long and boring, and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” ~ Magnetic Fields

When I opened Avalon’s gift and saw what she created for me, it brought me to tears. Literally. I sat there with water pouring down my face, unable to breathe. I was very moved, especially since we’ve had some friction lately. I’m more than a little afraid we’re growing apart like I did with my father. And it’s largely my fault. But that is another story. Tonight she showed me how much she thinks about me, and how she still feels about her old man. All the kids showed me: I am surrounded by love.

Tonight sparked memories of my father.

My father and I were never really close. I wasn’t quite good enough to be the son he wanted. That’s a quote from the man himself. Dad was an architect and an electrical engineer. Smartest man I knew. A real straight line thinker. Conservative in his living and no-frills. His vices were whiskey and golf, and those in moderation. He was in the Army and played college football with Sonny Jurgensen. (Look it up). I was non-athletic and a real let down. He tried really hard to get me into baseball and football, but I just had no talent for it. My only asset was that I could take a hit. Even as a young, skinny man, my low center of gravity and … solidity made it really difficult to get me off my feet. Anyway, I couldn’t play very well and had no skill at all. Dad bitterly gave up when I was about 15.

At that age I picked up theater and music in earnest. My path went far and astray from what my dad considered respectable. We quite simply grew apart and I just … started talking to myself and working things out on my own. When I became a magician, he threw his hands up completely. I was a waste; a dime a dozen. His words. Art and frivolity were nice for some people, but he just knew I was supposed to be something … worthwhile, and it mad him very sad that his only son didn’t follow his footprints.

Now … Dad loved to laugh, and I could usually make him laugh. You can’t tell it from any of his photographs, but he had a big, hearty laugh. He just didn’t think show business was a good way to raise a family. On more than one occasion I spied him dancing when he thought no one was watching. Turns out … he was a hell of a good dancer.

Pancreatic cancer took my father swiftly. From diagnosis to the end was just a matter of ano few pain-filled weeks. I kind of got to say goodbye. He was high on pain meds and didn’t really understand that I was even there. He died while I was onstage. I got the news when I got back to my room after.

When I attended his wake, I got a shock. Stranger after stranger came up to me to tell me how much my father bragged to them about his son, the great magician. Apparently he told many stories to them about my shows, the contests I was in and the places I traveled to. And then:

And then …

And then I went to clean out his house. In the back of his bedroom closet I found two boxes. One was full of trophies. Recently dated trophies. The other was full of newspaper articles about me. Photographs. Magazines and video tapes of television programs I had appeared on. A box full of love and pride. Color me boggled.

The trophies? They were for ballroom dancing. My stepmother explained that at fifty years of age, found his passion in dancing, and he was quite good at it. He won several awards and competitions. Rather than display his trophies, he put them in a box, carefully in the back of a dark closet. That is the man my father was.

In a twist of serendipity I bought myself a pair of dancing shoes for Christmas. I saw them and bought them with my father in mind. A few days later a very dear friend gave me a certificate for ballroom dancing lessons. I’m turning fifty next year.

 

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 “The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing. It’s full of charts and facts and figures … and instructions for dancing.” ~ Magnetic Fields

Suddenly … because of this gift, I feel a little more in touch with the man he kept hidden. Perhaps we shared more than I ever knew. Thus a thoughtful gift changed my life and my heart. I want to embrace you all as family … scars, shyness and everything. Come as you are.

This table has plenty of seats available.

In your hands and in your heart you have the simple gifts to make a real difference. Love, caring, and compassion.

Will you give?

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The Quiet at the End of the Day

Thanksgiving, 2014

My father loved the music of Glen Campbell. My father loved to laugh, but you can’t tell that in any of his pictures or in any of my stories … we never saw my path in the same light, and we grew slowly but inexorably apart as I traveled farther down it. I’m sorry, but that is a story for another time.

I smoked the turkey, as is the tradition. Lemons and spices and cinnamon (because: Cinnamon) and other such enhancements. The kids all came over. We danced a little, we sang a little. We were together. The new in-laws showed up for dinner, and the relations were fun and the mood was high. I hope my children remember this year fondly. i know I will. Even with all the mouths, we still had so much left over … but noting will go to waste.

Forgive me if this seems maudlin or sappy, but I’m very serene at this moment. We did it right, Dawn and I … we raised four smart, loving, giving children who are all walking their own paths fairly confidently. I’m grateful. I’m very thankful.

I had a very moving moment: Braiden and I played chess this afternoon. My father taught me and we used to play together, when we were still pals. For a moment I became him, and I looked at my son as me … and I was very proud. I’m not a bad guy. I spread my art as love, and I give all the love and help that I can, all that I know how to give.

I miss my Dad. I’d like for him to see how great these kids are. I’d like for them to hear his genuine laughter …

Let me say sincerely, because these leaking eyes are making it hard to type:

I hope there is Love where you are.

If there isn’t … I have so much left over … and nothing will go to waste.

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Exposed

I had this idea. I couldn’t imagine how it might turn out, what the reactions would be. Would there be fallout? How might it affect my ‘career’?

Recently I was approached by another well meaning friend about how I could make more money doing what I do. This happens about once a week. Now … of course I need to provide and support my responsibilities and I am driven to help those in need … money helps with those needs, but it isn’t everything.

I perform because I have to perform. I walk in faith, I live in faith. Yes, I market and brand myself, but I’ve come to find that the act of just working … doing the best possible show I can present … provides rewards, both tangible and personal. Once I recognized that, my life became considerably easier and substantially more difficult. Contradiction? Welcome to showbiz.

I came up with this plan. A show. A show that could become legend. Featuring myself and two people I care about, both in person and in vision, and an idea I got from Amanda F. Palmer. The show must be ‘pay what you want’ and it must be presented in as personal and as intimate as possible. Sunday, September 21st at UpStage it all came together.

Avalon Rose opened with her recital/ unique rendition of “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. Whimsical yet powerful: Dreams and Dragonflies, Ambition and Failure. She says it like she means it … because she does.
Following this, 35 minutes of me … doing humor, soap boxing just a little ..earning my right to be heard. Following this was a 7 minute intermission. (Play Marillion’s “Man of a Thousand Faces”)

Megan Sky opened act two with a heartfelt speech on vision, acceptance and loving. All wrapped up in Art. I hope she develops this further, or even publishes. Believe me, it’s moving, surprising and incredible.
Following this was Hannibal’s “LIAR!” show. 45 minutes of storytelling comedy magic that digs deep into my soul.

And then … I dug deeper. At the end of “LIAR!” I announced there would be a third act following a five minute break. (Play Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint”)
When I returned … I spoke of the harsh things our brain like to tell us. How we’ve been negatively conditioned to see ourselves as less than normal … less than loved. I told of my two biggest hangups or fears: My body image and my fear of trust.
I am disgusted by what I see in the mirror. I am shamed by the way people look at me in public and unabashedly say hurtful things … this of course leads me to my lack of trust in others. I get panicky in crowds, just can’t handle it. In front of a large group? No problem. In among them? Anxious. Paralyzingly so.

I said I wanted to deal with my two big hangups at once, and perhaps help someone  with their own. “Think of something about yourself that you are ashamed of. Some burden you carry. Some evil your brain constantly whispers to you, causing you pain.” I said.
Then … I took off all my clothes. All but my skivvies (in order to remain legal in NC). I passed out markers and invited the audience to come up on stage and write on me. Their burdens, their thoughts … whatever. “If it hurts you, write it on me and leave it with me for a little while. I can’t take it away forever, but I give you permission to lay it down for a time.” I cued the song “Neverland” by Marillion, closed my eyes and raised my arms.

The results were moving, loving and empowering. I am still speechless to describe how beautiful the moment was.
The photographs below tell part of the story. The brilliance of Austin Caine caught my vision and brings it to you. Here.

From my vision through the eyes, lens and heart of Austin Caine … This is who I AM.

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Click the link below to view the entire gallery. Feel free to share the images as you see fit.
http://photos.austincaine.com/Nightlife/UpStage/The-Full-Hannibal/

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Sell. Be.

This took a long time to get from my head to my hands. Sorry gang.

It took me a long time to find joy in my work. On stage, in the brief time I get to spend there, I found bliss in the journey. More often than not, I have to ‘sell’ myself to the audience: They come with expectations of what this ‘magic show’ is going to be, largely due to the widespread acceptance of mediocrity among my magic brethren. So I sell. I pull out all the stops and give my everything to my audience, baring my soul and making my case. In the past few years, I’ve learned (and it’s been a slow process) to find happiness in the off stage time, too. The planning, the rehearsing … the editing and execution that must be done are all part of the road. I’m traveling it, and I’m enjoying the trip.

There’s a guy I know. Over the years we have become friends, though I only see him once a year. The internet and Facebook have brought us closer, but still … nothing like good old fashioned face to face. He’s an artist, working with clay and creating uniqueness out of dirt. I’m a fan of his (and his family’s) craft, as much as they are fans of mine. He does not settle for ‘good enough’, mediocrity does not exist in his hands. He has battled dragons and emerged victorious. We create ‘something out of nothing’, and he has enriched my life. Not to long ago, his path turned dark: he was diagnosed with cancer. The bad kind that comes with a timeline. The kind that took my father.

I’ve been grinding my face into the ground in prayer for him and his kin. I ask and plead, cry and curse at God on his behalf. My ‘invisible friend in the sky’ listens, and chides me for my foolishness. If the soul is eternal, then this is just a short time suffering, and gold must be forged, right? Still … Fuck You, Cancer. This is my friend. Hasn’t your appetite been sated?

We recently reunited in the usual shady grove that hosts my show once a year. He came and sat through four performances, at least. Right up front. He was thinner, and perhaps slower, but his strength and soul were evident. He inspired me, and I gave some of the best I had on that beautiful sunny day. I said some things that had to come from God, because I didn’t recognize the words coming from my mouth. I may have gotten ‘preachy’, but the crowd seemed to understand and lifted me up.

At the end of the day, we had a (too short) conversation. He told me that he liked what I had brought, and it had inspired him to get back to his art. “I just want to get my hands back in the mud.” he said. That sentence has echoed in my head every day since. The simple act of doing what you were born to do, to just … BE who it is you are supposed to BE. This is the essence of this short span we have. Life is a gift, one among many. Stop getting caught up in the petty stuff that in the end has no meaning whatsoever. Sell yourself on the idea that you have something to give, and you should be giving it.

Sell. Be.

We need you.

Oh, and forgive my harsh language. I simply can’t find a better way to express it.
Fuck you, Cancer.

Hey, Mudslinger! I love you, Man.

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