Tag Archives: Finding Balance

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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Renewal, Part Three: She

Arriving in LA on Sunday night I had dinner with Lili VonSchtupp and Funny Eddie, my best friends. I was so relieved to finally be with them that i must have babbled all night. We had Asian food and went on a pie quest, then I stayed the night at their house and spent the morning in a very long discussion with Lili about a million things. She had to focus on the Hollywood Burlesque Festival that week, so this was really our only chance to catch up. It was awesome, but far too short. I love these people. They are heart and soul to me.

May 22nd – 23rd, 2017

Monday I started my week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. My … 14th(?) engagement at that amazing establishment. I was greeted with ‘Welcome Home, Mr. Hannibal’ as I was ushered in the front door.

Yeah, welcome home, indeed. The old familiar sights, sounds and smells … here I am, once more. Home, showplace, playground. The happiness in that place, the magic .. I’m rambling. Four shows a night, late close-up. I love my work and I was especially ready after my long weekend at Beyond Brookledge.

Just before my first show, I was asked to help facilitate a proposal. This happens every so often and I was really happy to oblige. I had the couple seated at my table and … you can view the results here: The Proposal.

I stepped out into the main bar area, after. Pretty good crowd, especially for a Monday. There was a young woman called Monique there with some friends. Now, I’ve known Monique for a few years; she enjoys the Castle and she likes the Hannibal show, and so she’s often on my guest list when I’m in Hollywood. We’re casual friends. The group spotted me and said hello, they were in great spirits and really happy to be there. Who wouldn’t be. Monique asked if she could buy me a drink and I told her to surprise me. A few minutes later, the valet brought a tasty beverage back to my dressing room. Nice. Welcome home, right?

I make my living primarily by reading people. Little signs and body language broadcast how the act I’m doing is going over … when it’s time to do a move. So tell me: how did I miss the (now obvious) signs she was sending me?

I got a text from her, asking if I’d like to hang out after I was done for the night. A bite, or maybe a movie at home? I let her know how late I’d be getting out (around 1AM) but if she was still interested, sure.
I thought nothing of it. A friend wants to hang out a bit. Cool.
“Why don’t we meet at your apartment?” she suggested.
I thought nothing of it. My place is close to the Castle, so sure. Cool.
We met at my place and we drank some wine and watched part of ‘Chef’ and talked about … various topics. She touched my knee, my arm. She laughs easily and honestly. Her smile is almost always there, and genuine.
I thought nothing of it. This was pleasant. She’s interesting. Maybe I should ask her back to the Castle later this week, see if she’s interested in me. She’s really pretty and I really like her and maybe I have a chance of … romance? Cool?

Let me stop. Yeah. There’s a happy, affectionate, intelligent woman in my apartment at 2AM, and there because SHE asked ME … and I’m wondering if she MIGHT be interested in me enough to meet up later for a dinner date at work. How can I be SO bright and SO dim at the same time?

Finally, she recognized (thank God, who knows how long I might have remained oblivious) that I just wasn’t getting it, so she told me flat out. “Listen, I think you’re really beautiful, and I’ve been physically attracted to you for a really long time and … I’d like to stay the night, if you’d like that, too. Nothing has to happen, I’d just really like to keep talking and fall asleep together.”

I still came close to not understanding. My brain just didn’t process …
Look, for a few years I’ve been shown by several people I really cared about that I’m just not that physically attractive to them. Verbally, casually … and I get it. My girth does not lend itself to the typical Western social norm of ‘attractiveness’. Plus: I’ve been through some big storms, lately. Sex has been used against me as a weapon and as a punishment. I had completely convinced myself that … in a purely sexual sense, that that part of my life was over.

And she put her hand on my face and she looked into my eyes and I saw real desire. She wasn’t acting. More, she was leaning in to kiss me.
There was a spark I haven’t felt in a very long time, and we were kissing honestly, deeply … and I let myself relax into the moment. That also hasn’t happened in a very long time. She was warm and soft. I could smell her skin, and lightly, her cologne and a vague hint of whiskey. Her kiss tasted of wine and a sweetness I don’t have words for.

She stayed.

She stayed well into the next day, until she had to leave: her family was coming into town, and she had some prior commitments. I watched her ride away and wondered in my betraying brain if I’d ever see her again.

I busied myself about my week. The Castle rocked every night and I was in my element, taking the people on my magical 20 minute journeys. I had a giant of the industry compliment me publicly on how I handled a particularly tough crowd. (Read: drunk) I was loving every minute of it.

I had an extended day with my friend Lindsay, who is nearing her one year wedding anniversary and happier than I’ve seen her in awhile. Lots of conversation, lots of jokes back and forth, lots of catching up. We had dinner at the Castle (with a rainbow of Macarons for dessert!) and watched Murray Sawchuck’s show (dazzling, but I was disappointed he didn’t do his signature CD act) then off I went to work while L enjoyed the rest of the artists.

Wednesday I joined my friend Andrea Marie for food in Hollywood. We eased our way past the colorful people on Hollywood blvd and to our chosen restaurant … which was closed while they shot a show on the street it was on. Welcome to LA. We Ubered (it’s a verb, too) over to Toi and had a splendid Thai dinner among the sights. Seriously, check it out sometime. Again, stories of Faire (AM is a Rennie, too), catching up and an all around great evening. I could get used to this city, you know? Afterward we headed over to the Castle where she met up with some friends and I did my ‘job’.

My LA friends really have a way of bringing my joy to the surface, and I treasure them all.

And Monique, you ask?

We had ourselves a nice, though brief, romance. We talked. We shared. Talking on the phone, texting back and forth. We made plans for part of the weekend, and we hoped for more time together. As it turns out, because of Memorial day, I had an extra day on the apartment, and so we had our first actual date. (May 29th) I took her to 25 degrees for my traditional Orange Whip and truffle fries, then to the final night of the Hollywood Burlesque Festival. Lili had asked me to do a number in the final show, so here we were. My friends: Monique is an absolute delight. She understands my passion for my work and my humor. She literally spreads joy everywhere, and her laugh is never far away. Beautiful, sophisticated, yet not afraid to be vulnerable and honest with me. It was a great date.

For my act, Lili wanted ‘Bookends’ (the elf boot story) I wasn’t sure it was the proper thing to close a burlesque festival, but I trust Lili so of course, that’s what I did. My last act of magic in my whirlwind two weeks in Cali, and it went over huge. Laughter, tears, people’s hearts were moved, and the woman who was there with me was looking on with adoration.

We went back to my place for the final night, and talked into the wee hours, and loved, and held each other.
The next day we soberly said ‘Farewell’ and parted. There’s a whole country between us.

But we communicate every day. And when she knows I’m going through rough experiences, which of course I still am, she calls and gives me her time. She heals my hurts. She posts her affection for me publicly on her social media. She tells her friends about me. She makes art for and about me. She’s still interested, and I finally understood. We don’t (as the saying goes) ‘complete’ each other:

“Two beautiful, whole people. Two people who worship love and sow joy. Two complete people with beautiful scars that fit together … beautifully.”

We are making plans to be together soon, in North Carolina, so she can see Christopher’s hometown. Did I mention she likes Christopher a little better than Hannibal? Seriously. We aren’t labeled: For now we are simply taking it as it comes and patiently enjoying each other. As it should be.

My friends and fans have noticed that I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m wearing it proudly, and it’s easing the journey.

So, there you are. Renewal in three parts. My twelve days in California renewed my purpose, my heart, and my motivation.

I feel beautiful, again.

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May 11, 2017

Journal

Bit of a whirlwind, the past couple of weeks. The Monthly Monday Magic show pulled about 15 people. Strong audience, powerful feels, but I question my ability to draw people anymore. This wasn’t helped by the small crowd at Citylight the following Sunday. The people who came were awesome … but I’d certainly like to attract more.

Short travel to Greensboro to see Lexie in Peter Pan: she’s powerful and rules the stage, but doesn’t have the confidence in herself offstage, yet. She cannot see how she affects people. (Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar?) Toodles almost stole the show, he’s a natural. The following night was a corporate show in Durham, followed by dessert and a deep conversation/ confessional with Katie A. (which was more needed than I knew). I see some things from a better perspective. Time to leave Faire? I think so … I never want to dread working, and I know that bitterness wouldn’t be helpful at all to that atmosphere. It was a great run, and lots of laughter happened … I want to part on good terms and on the proverbial high note.

USO Warrior Reset – three great days in Jacksonville. I’m getting the groove better, feeling the message and relating to the group. I’m proud of my role, helping them connect with the USO team, and with each other. I want to reach out further than these boundaries.

Long time in the car over the past couple of weeks, lots of time to look at myself and what needs improving, where I want to go next, what kind of legacy I’m leaving in my wake, what does success really look like? I wonder if the help I’m giving really lasts.

Hollywood is upcoming, so I’m in rehearsals for that. Performance therapy … Eddie and Lili therapy … straight, hard talk and love on the west coast.

In my prayers I’m dealing with regret. I hope I’ve decisively broken some cycles … so people can heal and move on. Time will tell.

After the final day of USO I went over to Topsail, where i spent my summers as a boy. I collected some shells for an idea I had for a routine20170510_141906, then sat on the beach as the evening turned to twilight. The ocean was calm, and I studied the horizon, getting the nostalgia I’d left there when I was 12. The sea was bright green in the shallows, and rolling over to deep blue about thirty yards out. I reflected on the journeys I’ve been on in the four decades since I last sat there. Have i lived up to that boy’s dreams?

You know … I have. I’ve even exceeded what he imagined. I can be proud of this road. For the most part, I’m walking it well.

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The Guts of the Matter

“Deep inside, all folded up … where real magic happens? Is your signature and hers. Maybe.”

Me and my friends? We live to serve. We serve You, our audience. The artists, the performers, the show people. Dozens of different names and flavors.

We will perform sick and loaded up on medication. We will perform in pain, our backs hurting, our feet or knees screaming. I know personally that several of us have taken the stage with kidney stones in full press, barely able to stand upright just beyond the curtain, but full arrogance, pomp and swagger under the lights, smiles wide and voices booming for all we are worth. Even then, the little voice in the very back of our mind telling us: ‘You’re going to pay for this.’

We play with our hearts broken. We’ve taken the stage mere moments after a loved one has said something cruel, or even said goodbye. I got the call about one of my parents, fifteen minutes before curtain, and the house was full. I went on, and I delivered. I took it to the stage, and I left it there.

When asked to choose, I chose the art. Even though I lost almost everything else.

We go on and do our jobs. We strive to be better, to reach for excellence. (Not perfection. Perfection is a lie that is lethal to real art.) We were made such that we cannot do anything else and be true.

I do this for You.
I do this for Art.

Selfishly, the Truth is … I do it for me, more than anyone else.

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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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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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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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