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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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Friday, April 28, 2017

Journal.

Woke up early to help Dani (Gold Angel) get her furniture moved from my front room. She’s excited about having her very own place, and it’s contagious. I sat on the front room sofa and took stock of what’s still stored there. It’s okay.

Short meeting about a new restaurant venue. Aix en Provence. A cozy French restaurant that will serve nicely for the dinner show. The string trio also seem pleased. Looks like it’ll happen at the end of May, and hopefully become an ongoing event.

Returning home, my recent turmoil and loss tried to distract me, so I rehearsed. Exercised a deck until my hands and mind were sore … then started on the initial draft of what will hopefully become a short film I want to make. I like the concepts that are coming to mind, and it helps to funnel the pain onto paper. More on the film later.

Speaking of film – the ‘Cups’ video (Link here) is averaging between 10, 000 – 15,000 views per day. I’m stunned. What is the definition of ‘viral’? What will the end result be, other than inspiring me to make something even better, more from the heart?

18156422_10155342954735955_6703213230379332939_o.jpgSpent the evening at my favorite busking pitch at the Epicentre … Neil Diamond was in town and that crowd was out for fun. Great shows, great hats …. a night really good for my soul.

I’m hurting for some friends that are hurting. I can’t disclose details in this forum, because it’s not my business to do so – but I’m striving to be the kind of friend that i sometimes need.

So. Home safe and sweaty and grubby. Tired and sore, but in a ‘did really good work’ kind of way. I made people laugh, I gave them some astonishment, and I made new friends. Shower … then deep sleep.

Let tomorrow bring its own adventures and challenges. Today was good.

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In the Details

Ya know what grinds my gears? Hearing a magician (I could expand this to other craftspeople, but it’s magicians that really get up under my skin with this) say about their mediocre routine or act: “Well, it plays.” … and they genuinely believe that “It plays” is good enough to put it in front of an audience. Never mind if the audience pays or not, to settle for mediocrity in your craft is (to me) unacceptable.

Excellence and the road toward it are worth the effort. Worth the pain, worth the struggle, worth the sweat equity put into it. Please … my brothers and sisters in the craft of magic: stop settling for mediocrity. Raise the bar for the sake of your own craft, your own heart.

My act “LIAR!” is a beautiful, moving piece of my heart that I crafted over many years. I’m very proud of it and I continue to hone it. I want to perform it in semi-permanent venues. Two weeks in one city, a month in another …
It’s not the best it can be. It’s quite a ways away, and I’ve been pushing back on the improving of it by telling myself: “It plays.” I could do it for the rest of my life as is and my audience would be enthralled and moved and i could legitimately call it art, but in my heart, I’m unsatisfied. It says all the things I want it to say. It has drama and comedy and nostalgia in just the right amounts (almost, still tweaking). It could say it more clearly, if I’m honest with myself.

There’s a routine that needs to be cut. It simply and honestly does not fit with the rest of the texture and path of the rest. It’s one of the oldest routines, I love performing it, it gets requested often, and it’s a sure thing. I could close with it and get a standing ovation every night.

It has to go.

I’ve created something I like better, and it isn’t jarring and off filter like the other routine. I’m sorry to those of you who love it: “Roadhouse” (“My Favorite Trick”, “That Thing with the Boobs”) is gone. And so I continue to strive toward excellence and pull away from the mediocre.

I need a director. I need to put my script into the hands of someone with great directing talent and see what they interpret. Someone who will get what I’m trying to do, and direct me, improving the experience for those who watch.

I need either original music or someone to ‘score’ the act. Add to the impact, add depth to the feeling.

I need a lighting designer. I have and idea for a window … but there needs to be subtle light changes as the show evolves.

And so on. The road stretches out and I will continue to polish and display my heart to the best of my ability. Meantime, I am loving the process and the souls I meet.

Happiness is the Road.

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Kite

My best friend saw a dragon kite in a thrift store today. Texted me a picture and said: “I don’t know why this reminds me of you.”

I do … if you don’t mind me getting a little ‘woo’.

All my life – the simplicity and beauty of kites have fascinated me. In the same form as others love planes or birds … my flying machine of choice is a kite.

Emerald diamonds as pinpoints in the sky, over the ocean. My father’s hands: his engineer’s hands making them dance and dive, swoop and soar with the tiniest of movements. His feet planted in the sand, his beer in one hand and the string in the other. His grin dancing with his eyes, dancing with the kite. Good Lord, I haven’t thought of that in years.

The pull of the strings in my own hands. Bumblebees and mighty dragons and Asian box kites. Pulling my heart up into the sky. Soaring and leaving my trivial pain on the ground.

Putting the taught line into the hands of my own children. Long ago … really long ago. Running and lifting and enticing the stubborn kite to fly. Feeling the wind take it … my children meeting my boyhood heart up there, up there.

“Over the lights, under the moon.” ~ Kate Bush

Thank You for soothing my troubled heart for awhile. The kite found You, so You could unlock these memories.

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marbles

Knuckle down or Quitsies?

My law and your ducks … mostly prits and cats-eyes; my aim is true and your hold is beauty.

No stomps, you are free and the circ is not your limit. Bombies are cool, you’re strongest on your stage, and I love your style on a leaning topper.

Colored magic glass – the first valuable gems I owned. (and I scooped most of ‘em!)

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Validation

I believe that my work is important, vital even, to some people.

My fellow entertainers and I bring relief to the machine. Levity to buoy the spirit and return it to flying … or soaring. We inspire, we enlighten, we save lives at our very best. We change them, too.

One of the most difficult things for me to handle is praise. I don’t know how to accept it graciously. I feel gratitude and thankfulness for those that take time to tell me their thoughts on the show and how it moved them, I just don’t know how to respond properly.

A friend recently wrote the following on Facebook about meeting me and getting to know me offstage. (We recently worked together in a play about Jack the Ripper called ‘Whitechapel’)

“I knew of you long before i actually met you… but Whitechapel sealed the deal.
Upon first seeing you, I thought: “He really sold his soul to the devil for magic.” And that’s amazing. And pure. And true. And omg that was amazing.
What do i like most about you? You aren’t afraid to bare your absolute soul to the world. You are an artist in the truest form. There was a day, i think it was the second to last or maybe the last day of Whitechapel, i parked next to you over off of 36th by Rat’s Nest, i got out of my car to wave hi to you in your van. You were listening to music, I’m not sure what song, but you were crying. Sobbing. I knew things were difficult at the time…with life and things, but to see you expose the emotions so fully, so unabashed, so freely brought me peace. Knowing that it’s ok to bare our troubles in such a way, to music even. I will never forget the day you made me love being human.”

I will never forget the day you made me love being human.
On the one hand, how do I express how grateful and happy I am that I was able to give her such a gift? On the other … words and letters like this let me know that I’m on the right road, doing the right thing, and using my gifts well.

Don’t be afraid to live fully. And love who you are.

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Damage. (Warning: Intense words)

He sat on his parent’s bed, at the foot, so that the splatter would be bigger and cover both sides equally. In his mouth was the barrel of his father’s revolver. Pearl handles, expert engraving … really deadly, beautiful engine. He had taken it from it’s hiding place, loaded it and spent time considering the best delivery angle. He could feel the front site digging into the soft tissue on the ceiling of his mouth. He fully cocked the hammer and applied slow pressure on the trigger.
He was thirteen, and he was just done. Done with the pain, done with the abuse and the indifference of callous ‘loved ones’. Done with life.

And then a voice. Inside his head? In his ear? Doesn’t matter. Just four words:
“You’re stronger than this.”

And he let go. Removed the bullets and put the gun away. Lived. Today, he told me (and a group of servicepersons) all about it.

USO, day two.

Suicide. PTSD, Depression … and Spirituality.

Dark and grim, at times. Cut through with truth, foundations and real world exercises in dealing with anguish and stresses. I opened today with ‘This Strange Engine’ (the same version I did for the TED talk). I spoke on relationships, passion, and following the road. “There are no useless cards.”
And I did card tricks.
My topic proved apt as the day progressed. Difficult topics were explored. Hearts were revealed, some in between sessions. I listened and I shared. I was able to boost morale a bit with an impromptu show during lunch.

I made friends with a remarkable group of people …

In the midst of my darkness, there is love. When I was at my lowest, I was sent rescue. Strong friends and positive voices in my head. Sure, it’s ‘kinda woo’, but I have faith in the power of love.

I realize that today’s post is rambling, so let me just say:

Communicate.
Reach out. REALLY reach out.
Love, even those who seem unlovable.
Believe in the unbelievable power of your gift, the unfailing direction of your road.
Damage can be healed.

Love. Wins.

h

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