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Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Four.

And then it was simply time to start. The house lights went down, the stage lights came up, and we simply did our jobs. Some of the memories are faded, but there are some crystal-clear photographs in my mind.  I had the advantage of seeing the stage and the audience through the entire program. I won’t be able to fully capture the experience of being there, but I can give you my perspective, and my feelings. Here’s how the show looked to me, sitting up in the box, stage right.

Tuba Heatherton opened with the Monday Night Tease theme song, and Lili took her place in the MC spot. She’s funny, brash, offensive, and the best damned MC I’ve ever worked with. Bo Toxic got things going with leather and Joan Jett. All punk attitude and heavy-metal sexuality. Oh Olive reprises a Charlie Brown number, portraying Linus … I’ve never seen a ‘security blanket’ live up to its name quite like that. As she walked off stage, she screwed her thumb into her mouth and ruined my childhood.

Rob … Rob the Balloon Guy. I’m not going to describe this act, because you need to see it live, and i hope you’ll get the opportunity. I’ll just say that this creative use of folding chair and balloons will never be outdone. I’ve seen it three times now, and I laugh myself to tears every time. Caramel Knowledge portrayed Nick Fury like Samuel L. Jackson only wishes he could, and Egypt Black Knyle closed out the first half with ‘Question of U’, one of my favorite deep-cut Prince songs. (Christ, I miss him.) In the midst of all the awesome shenanigans, Patrick the Bank Robber ‘called’ Lili to wish her a fond farewell. It was funny .. but i could feel her holding back emotions.

Intermission and i got a few minutes with Andrea, which helped me focus. The show was reportedly going as well as I thought it was, and she seemed quite happy. I probably wasn’t good company, because … well, reasons.

My friend in atheism Heather Henderson opened set two with an unabashed act as a nun, using multimedia and ‘Dear God’ as her music. This was the point when the show really pulled me in. Eddie kept checking to make sure I was cool … love that clown. Nikita Bitch Project did her killer Godzilla act, Eddie owned the room in the way only he can, and Sheila Starr Siani put me in a spiritual mood with another powerful Prince song: ‘Thieves in the Temple’.

Interlude, only in my head. This is a room full of love. Everyone here is supportive and giving and SO enthusiastic about everyone else doing well. No thieves in this temple, Sir. It’s brimming with love and talent and beauty.

Matt Finish closed out the musical numbers with the most erotic version of ‘Dontcha’ I’ve ever witnessed. The attitude, the confidence, the magnificence of his performance made me almost wish I didn’t have to follow him. Seriously, people, do you see how beautiful he is? How flawless his body is? I’m supposed to go and be vulnerable and peel off my own shirt after that guy? I … can’t. I’ll do a few card tricks and pay tribute to Lili and get everyone really happy and use my skills as a speaker and magician and just … not do the Naked Truth. I’m ashamed.

Later, in a quiet moment, I asked Matt why he didn’t write anything on me. His reply was: “No one has ever said anything that could hurt me.” Damn, son.

I was introduced. I don’t remember walking on … I know I did card tricks and I remember realizing that I had to do ‘Naked Truth’. This room, this moment, was exactly the reason i created the thing in the first place. I need to give this to Them. I need it for me, and I’m the only one who can do this. I stripped. I stood, sweaty and nearly naked under unforgiving lights and my music played and I stretched out my arms and I let them come. And I felt fear in the mass of people around me. And sharpie ink stings my skin, so I felt each word burning. And they wept, adn i found my voice trying to comfort them. “It’s alright, I’ve got you. I see you.” And some couldn’t come, it was too much, too real, so they stayed in their place and lent me strength and some came after and told me their words. They were not ready to burden me fully with them, but I had helped in the simple act of helping the others, and they could bear their burden a little easier.

Maybe it sounds woo and new-age or silly. But I can just tell you it was real. To everyone in the room, and especially to me, with my shoulders heavy and my skin on fire, it was real. It was love.

They gave me their fear and they gave me their pain and, when they were done, I spoke and lifted the hearts back to celebration. Couldn’t tell you what I said, but the right words were there for me. (On stage, they always are.) Eddie unleashed a barrage of balloons and the music came up and there was dancing, and Lili was snapping selfies with everyone, tears in her eyes and that dangerous grin she has.

I said goodnight to my friend, and wished for a bit more time. So many things to talk about, but –

We danced, and then we feasted, and we bragged and we complimented and we took photos and made silver until the wee hours. The doors closed, and we solemnly walked toward new adventures.

I cannot imagine how she feels, I can only try to be a friend and a comfort. She’s not done, not by any means, just because this chapter is closed. Lili and i spent most of the next day discussing everything: the past, the future, how to survive the present … she recorded some of it. You can listen in here.

Monday Night Tease affected thousands, changed the world for the better, and we put her to bed right. I’ll carry this honor and tell this story for the rest of my life.

And I swear it’s all true.

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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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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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On My Death

A casually morbid post. Nobody panic: I’m not depressed or particularly sad at the moment. There’s just some thoughts rummaging around and … well, this is what I do.

I’m at the jumping off point of an adventure. New Orleans for the weekend, performing for the art gallery folks, then off to the Magic Castle for a week and finally FISM. After that … well, we’ll see. NOLA, Hollywood, Italy. I’m happy and excited to share my show, my vision. I have no illusion about winning, but that’s really something I want to write about separately.

Today I’m thinking about death. The finality and the non-finality. This may seem random, because it is.

I’d really like a broken wand ceremony. And I’d really like for my friend Tony Miller to execute it at CRF. My friends and extended family there have provided a great deal of magic in my life and I think the setting is appropriate.

In that death is a genuine physical ending … do as you will with my remains. In my whimsy, I would ask to be cremated and have my ashes strewn into the wind and surf near what used to be Scotch Bonnet pier on Topsail Island in North Carolina. My childhood, my ‘coming of age’ and the realization of who I am all happened there. There’s real magic in that place.

In that death is a great vast unknown … I hope that my consciousness continues, that I get to explore new truths. Who knows?

Don’t mourn me. Celebrate what we had. I did my best to spread joy and love. At times I failed utterly, usually to the people I’m closest to. Loving me has meant having to share me with the world, and that can be real hell.

Enough with the maudlin. I’ve got some decades left to live, in theory, and I’m going to continue to strive for more: more excellence in my art, more love in my life and more joy in my soul.

I’ll share these things with you.

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With Great Power …

… Comes great responsibility. Right?

Well, of course. But what about a little power … or power you don’t realize you have? I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to state that your main responsibility is to be true to yourself and the journey you are on. Because, honestly: you don’t know who you’re affecting and how.

How’s that for vague? Let me give you an example, a really powerful one. Now understand, things like this are happening to me all the time to a lesser or greater degree. It comes with the territory of being a public figure … of putting your heart out there. Hear this and understand the potential behind it: You AFFECT … You CHANGE THE VERY LIVES of people every day. Every. Day.

When I first got into the corporate entertainment arena (that is to say, when I earned my way in) I had a very regular client, Rob. He worked for a great company that used me in varying degrees on a regular basis and we established a close working relationship. He liked my performance style so much that he started bringing his family in to see me at my regular restaurant gig. I could just about count on seeing them every week.

Now, Rob had a young son: Roddy. Roddy became an instant fan and I would strive to do something new for him weekly. I could always make them laugh and … well, it was just a really good moment in my working week to see them coming in. As I’ve stated before, I think I have more friends amoung my audience than I do ‘fans’. I get close, you know? Rob would even have parties at the beach and put me and my family up just to get a show for his friends and clients.

Alright so, passage of time: I move on from restaurants and Rob changes companies and people slowly drift apart, sometimes. Jump head about 14 years and out of the blue Rob calls me up to perform at Roddy’s 22nd birthday. Absolutely. Let’s make this happen. I won’t mention how hearing that Roddy was turning 22 made me realize jut how fast time goes …

The party was awesome and raucous and I had a bunch of fun (as usual) while doing my work. It seems Roddy has embraced being a race car driver and he’s an up and coming star in his field. He works hard and he’s really good at what he does. Bonus points: he’s following his passion. There’s a good possibility that he’ll be the star of a TV show being pitched to major networks, based on his charisma and skill in his chosen profession. Kudos, right?

Toward the end of the night, Roddy sought me out and we had a very brief but very moving discussion. Roddy told me that he had two secrets to his success. The first was to surround himself with positive, talented people. People with skill and vision, but(most importantly) with a great attitude toward life. The kind of people that believe in you even when you think you don’t belong or you feel you aren’t capable of something. They stick with you and keep you motivated to move forward.

The second thing was: Me. Hannibal. #cardmonkey from his childhood. He told me that when things seemed very tough and dark and he felt like giving up … he would think of me. Out there doing magic tricks night after night and grinding my way toward excellence. The thought of me NOT GIVING UP gave him the courage to push through just a little bit longer.

Responsibility. What you are and what you do affect people. The tenacity to keep going when it seems everyone is against you. Performing night after night after day after week after month after year … gave a boy with a dream the inspiration to become a man on the move. I was overwhelmed. I still am. I’m grateful and I’m massively humbled.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence, either. The longer I work at this it seems the more people I meet who tell me that something I said or did (or didn’t do) gave them a gift of some kind. The desire to strive for something difficult, the insite to look within themselves for beauty and greatness, the courage to LIVE for another day.

And all I can say to them (and you) is: I didn’t intend to be a role model. I just do what I do to the best of my ability and I hope it tells you a good story. Ironically these incidents have given me will and courage, too. The thought that I can’t give up … that someone I don’t even know is counting on me.

I know. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who just does card tricks, right? Only (dear friends) let me state this: I am not incidental. Neither are you. You are unique and you possess a passion somewhere within you that can literally change and save lives and possibly the world. That is a great power, and with great power …

You know.

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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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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.

h

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