Tag Archives: Gifts

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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June 25, 2017

Tampa, Florida

Masters of Magic show at the Magic Emporium

Afterward, as I’m chatting with people and packing up, a lady approached. She took my hand and shook it, then pulled me close for a hug. As she did so, she said nothing, but she held my gaze and the expression in her eyes was so meaningful that I felt tears welling up in my own. You could feel it through the room, and all around us, for a moment, everyone was quiet.

My words have reached deep inside some people, and sometimes they just want to let me know. Some people can say more with their eyes than their mouths. And I can listen with my eyes –often better than with my ears.

I hope she felt my mutual gratitude.

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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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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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Cruel Serendipity

“Please tell me how you did that.”

I hear this more than any other audience utterance. I suspect more and more, as my career in this wonderful craft continues, that people want to believe that, at least at some level, what I’m doing is real. Real magic, supernatural power. They long to have faith in something greater than themselves. This is one more reason not to tell them: exposure of the work would only spoil the fantasy. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I’ve had people believe so strongly that they attribute my skill to being ‘in league with Lucifer’. Yes, in 2016. Some demon at my command … finding lost cards.

I am convinced that most magicians, the ‘buy the latest fad’ group, especially, are looking for real magic also. The one trick that will solidify their reputation and shoot their career into the ‘big time’. The big secret is … it doesn’t exist. There’s not an effect or a routine that will create real magic.

But real magic DOES exist.

It happens in the feeling, love and hope you leave with someone. If you are an entertainer, you are giving relief to the weary world, some of whom may just be barely getting by, longing for love and hope … and here you are, with your gift.

Sometimes, the situation is more dire.
I was busking in uptown Charlotte on a recent Saturday night. There was a game happening at the arena and several good sized events, so the crowds were happy and large. I was feeling great. About 10PM a woman came up the sidewalk with three children in tow. The oldest of these was about seven. The woman was very clearly under the influence of something. She hustled the kids up to my table and told them to watch my show, then sat down on the sidewalk and promptly went to sleep.
I couldn’t wake her. Security couldn’t wake her. Meanwhile, all I can think to do is entertain the children, keep them distracted. An ambulance came, and mom got help … I pulled cards and coins out of little ears and didn’t panic. The kids went with the police, mom went with the ambulance.

I stood there with a broken heart and cursed the universe. I cried and felt sorry.

Later I realized the truth and the magic of this. I was there at just the right time. I had a specific set of skills that helped those children deal with a horrific situation. I was precisely where I was supposed to be at just the right time. I could ‘what if’ for hours, but because I was there, I made a difference. Did I save a life? Did I save four lives? I don’t know – what is important is: I was there and I gave love, hope and a measure of peace where there was none. That’s real magic. That’s stone into bread.

You have within you the seeds of hope and love. Have them ready, be generous with them. Fly your flag and use your gifts.

Make Magic Happen.

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