Tag Archives: Charlotte

Summer Camp

I do one 'kids show' a year, and I wish I could do many more, as long as they were as gratifying, as heartwarming, as the Charlotte MDA Summer Camp. Every summer for the past 11 years, I've been invited to entertain the campers and the counselors one evening, and every time I leave, I'm struck by how lucky I am to have been there.

The children and youth that attend have various forms of muscular dystrophy, but their enthusiasm is unmatched in any audience I've had the privilege to work for. Yes, it's your typical summer camp. There are multiple activities and campfires and sing alongs and home sickness and stomach bugs and everything that makes camp a silver memory that many of us treasure for our lifetime. It's so much more than that, though. As you might imagine, working with the individual challenges of each camper is a daunting endeavor, yet it's done with humor, energy, and style. So much grace …

And there's love. Man, the love in that place is so thick you could spread it on toast. The staff and the counselors bring their best for the campers and everyone looks out for everyone else. Maybe I'm gushing a little, but I'm sincere.

The past three years I arrived wrapped up in my own troubles, and they vanish within the first few minutes. I leave invigorated, happy, and hopeful. And moved. Lifted so high, emotionally.

I'm not …. writing about this to brag, or promote my image. I want to impress on you the value of giving of your ability. Taking your talent, your time, your vitality and using it to enrich the lives of those who need it and see so little in their world. It could be anything, any cause, listen to your heart. Believe this: it's been worth any 'sacrifice' I've had to make in order to be there.

The love you need is where you plant it.

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Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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Gimme Shelter

I’m a magician, storyteller, busker, motivator, mentor and a showman. Yet … I try to avoid labels. I am Hannibal. I’m the only one that can do that. I follow my road and I do my utmost to enjoy the scenery (whatever it is) while I walk it. I’ve won some awards, but I’ll never be waving them in people’s faces. I’ve lost more contests than I’ve won. Experience!

Last week I went out busking for experience. Money is fine at the moment, but for great rehearsal time, especially of material ‘in development’, there’s nothing better than a raw, honest audience that has no stake in liking you, or even sticking around. Plus, and I love this term, I hijacked many souls with joy. I put in some sweat equity and forged some time … the nights were beautiful and the people were great. I truly love working the street in the spring and fall.

A young gentleman approached me between sets and we made some small talk. People are fascinated by this kind of theatre and the people who brave the unknown, the unusual and present their craft. I like to think they get to live a little vicariously outside their lives through me. Meh. Ego?
At any rate, we got to taking about street performance and street preaching and street hustlers. He mentioned that he did some volunteer work at a few shelters and that the people there would enjoy a performance like mine. Did I ever do charity work?  I told him that I do, occasionally, and asked what he had in mind. It seems one of the organizations works with women and children, homeless and in poverty.

Have you ever had a moment when your heart just gave you direction, and you knew instantly that it was the absolute right thing to do? I’m not trying to get too ‘woo’ on you, here, but I caught a spark. Over the course of the next hour, and filling in details for a couple of days, we put together an event. As you know, I occasionally throw a dinner theater evening with local restaurants. I thought: why not give this audience that experience? Here’s what we did.

The children were in one room, a sort of makeshift cafeteria. I was to perform for 20-30 minutes and then they were going to have dinner. While I was with them, the grownup women had a ‘candlelit’ quiet meal. Because I really wanted my hands in as many aspects of this as I could, I made two crock-pots of spaghetti and one of beef stew. The food was a hit, and I had nothing to bring home after.
When I finished my show with the kids, I moved to the other room and performed my after-dinner show for the women. Now … I don’t do kid’s shows. I was very nervous about bringing them quality … very. To my delight, they were a perfect, respectful audience. they got my corny jokes, they were right with me for the magic parts, I really couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. They loved the show and I fell in love with them.

The show for the grown-ups? EVEN BETTER. They were happy, they were sarcastic, we had some great interaction and a lovely chemistry. The elf boots SLAYED them and I had a line after the show to have a boot made. (You have any idea how hard it is to do origami with tears in your eyes?)
They sang along to my song. They SANG ALONG to “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday”. I stayed and swapped some stories and yarns and a few close-up card tricks.

I’ve worked all over the world. I’ve never been paid better than I was for this show. They made me wealthy. I’m repeating the experience for a different group later this week. I really cannot wait.

All of that to say: You have something to offer someone. You have talent and ability to lift someone out of their situation, if only for a moment. If only for a day. You can read books, brush and cut hair, give manicures … anything to make someone on the low feel loved and valuable.
I distracted them from harshness, I showed them love and joy and card tricks. It cost me nothing. Nothing. They left their harsh reality and saw … hope?

In the best of worlds, gods, I wish for that. To give someone hope …

You can, too.

 

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Point of You.

I found new ideas. I found mysteries and I crafted new stories. So this past week I went busking. Not for the money … for the rehearsal, for the experience. For the look of people hijacked by joy they didn’t expect. Night one went beautifully; I call the interaction between myself and my audience/ guests ‘the dance’. (Rene taught me that.)  The dance flowed … I slowed or quickened my steps, depending on my partners … the old music played and … it rained. So I packed up and went home. The city, though … my city was gorgeous in the rain.uptown

Evening two I worked for nearly eight hours, ebb and flow. Building a crowd and then letting them go. Catch and release. I honed, I altered.
I got invited to an after hours party … food and booze and they treated me like a celebrity. No lie … it felt amazing.

What’s my point? My roots. The street and the magic and the cards were there from the beginning and they were scary at first. Terrifying. With care and devotion they started paying my bills. With steady rehearsals like these I honed myself to a  deadly sharpness. Certain magicians have called some of my technique sloppy, and they aren’t wrong, but the passion and attention somehow put support under my weaknesses. I’m surrounded by love and utterly alone at the same time. I hurt, I laugh, I sing.
My actions heal, and my words … not everyone all the time, but enough to make a difference.

I come back when I need to. My rehearsal hall, my public stage without walls. You have an ability. You have a passion. Where should you plant yourself and allow your roots to embrace the earth? You can change the world for the better.

If we all embraced our abilities and strove to love our fellow creatures? Walked a rainy path to excellence? Hijacked strangers with kindness?

How different, Eden?

On my way back to the car I passed a street preacher. A quiet, kind-looking man. We made eye contact and we smiled.

He said, “With those hands, you could do anything. What do they do that makes you the proudest?”

Without thinking I said,

“With these hands, I pray for love.”

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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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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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A Bit More Exposed.

So … I did it. Then I wrote about it and people responded with enthusiasm and compliments. I felt empowered and grateful and like I’d won some small victory over my demons.

Then … my blog was linked by Amanda Palmer and things went crazy. Overnight I got dozens of emails, messages … all thanking me for taking this “Giant Step”. Folks: I’m humbled. I did this bit for my inner voices and for the 9 people who showed up. I asked for the pictures to be taken so that I could go back and read what people actually wrote. I was thinking of individuals … and, selfishly, myself. i wanted to overcome.

What I got in return was an outpouring of gratitude and love like I’ve never, EVER experienced.

ACP_0895-XL

“I can hear your heart.”

Let me share one story. Not the most gut wrenching of what I received, but powerful and amazing.

October 12 was my daughter’s wedding. We had a big, backyard, down home celebration with family and friends for the reception. Late into the evening I was approached by one of our family’s friends. A young man I had known for years. He asked if we could speak privately and we moved into a quiet place in the garden.

He explained to me that when he was younger he had been involved in a traffic accident that left his chest (in his words) ‘horrifically scarred’. He lived with it in some discomfort … and then he showed his scars to his (then) fiance. Her reaction was less than supportive. She was repulsed and disgusted. Worse, she told and showed him that she was repulsed and disgusted. The scars she laid on him were far deeper than the physical scars he bore.

In time, that relationship came to a close … but he wore those feelings for many years. He has a new love now – and, he told me – he never, ever took his shirt off in front of her. Not for any reason.

Because of Amanda’s re-posting, he saw my words and my pictures. He read and re-read. He cried … and he called his girlfriend to come to him immediately. They viewed the blog together … and he took his shirt off. Such a simple action that we do without thought everyday, but to him, to HER … it was a mountain climbed.

He told me in tears that her reaction was very different. She responded with love. With caring. She embraced him and loved every bit. They showered together. For the first time in his life – he knew the true love and intimacy he didn’t know he was missing.

By this time his girlfriend had joined us and she tearfully hugged me and thanked me … my words and actions changed their lives. This story is just one of many that keep coming in to me.

Which brings me to:

How do I respond to such things? “You’re welcome” seems so trite and bland, given what’s happening. Amanda, if you’re listening: How do I deal with these emotions coming to me? What do i say? I’m so humbled by this.

Meantime … to do it again? No publicity, no talking about it afterward? Just let it happen for the people in attendance?

I continue to walk my path, and I appreciate You walking with me through the dark and light parts.

The original article may be read here: Exposed.

h

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