Tag Archives: Hannibal

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings

New Love

I had lunch today with a friend, an artist I respect who worked with me on a project a few years back. We talked about art, and possibilities and the challenges of the future. Opportunities were presented, plans were jotted down, and I left with a feeling of hopefulness, but also something more.

I’ve been jaded for about two and half years, as I watched the world I lived in and trusted crumble slowly to pieces. I’m left with my talent, my wits, and lots of time. I’ve lost a lot, but this story isn’t about loss. It’s about love. New love. A love I found on my way home from lunch.

I’m respected. I do good, quality work that I can be really proud of. I help and heal people with my art and my voice. I have a gift and I haven’t shirked in using it. I’ve always felt I could be a great partner to someone who truly believed in me. Someone who would stay beside me when I was overjoyed, sad, kind, or mean. I found that person. It just so happens to be me.

It’s okay to love me. It’s okay to sacrifice for me … so I’m going to. I’m going to plumb the depths and really love the man I am. I had to reach the bottom, I had to be betrayed and mocked and stepped on, but I recognize my strength. I will rise above all of this.

In my flailing post on Facebook, a gentleman I used to attend church with asked me: “DO you have any Jesus left in you at all? Let Him be a shining light for you.” All I could think was: “Man … where the hell have you been for the past few years? Why haven’t you come to me before this to hold up your Jesus lifesaver?”

In me? There’s the concept and beautiful idea of the forgiving, all-loving, healing, magician Jesus. I can strive to BE that, and love my neighbors AND my enemies … #rebeljesus makes wine, loves everyone, heals the sick and flips some freaking tables when the pompous, holier-than-thou, thieves in the temple are desecrating the idea of love and forgiveness. BUT FIRST, I must love myself. I must allow the Magdalene to anoint my head when I need it.

With the love I give myself, I’ll be better able to serve my art and my audience. Love breeds love. I forgive me. I love me. I’ll be there for me, even in the darkness. I’ve spent too much time trying to beg love from those incapable of giving it, so now it’s on me. I’ll stumble, sure, but in the end, I will win.

If you think this is just a self serving post, well … you aren’t wrong. Sometimes these are just for me. Perhaps, though, you’ll find some wisdom here you can use … I hope that’s true, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary

1/7/17

Very chilly night, but here I am. Sitting on my back porch, sipping lemon tea and nibbling a raspberry Pop-Tart. Foolish man.

I’ve come to terms with being alone and not being lonely. My work helps. I’m marketing and spreading my brand in order to secure the work I need in the future. Lately I’ve been paying dearly for not planning, for letting sadness and depression keep me down. Little steps, I’m going to be okay.

There was snow last night and into the daylight. My green backyard is white and glittery, sparkling in the light from the street lamps.

My best friend’s sister had babies today. Twins, one of each. Born on (to me) a lucky numbered date. They are beautiful and pure and perfect. Touched me a bit …

Today, look for the pure and innocent. The virgin snow, the burning, constant light from the stars.
The human sunrises being born every day.

The world is you.
The world is me.
We will make of it what we please.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Diary

Another Mr. h

There’s this guy I know … met him once or twice, but I know deep feelings and events of his life because of the transparency he exercises in his art.

In 1988 he was trying to make it in the music industry, and had just decided to give up for the sake of stability in his family. He was literally putting a ‘for sale’ sign in his front yard when he received the first of two calls.

The first call came from one of the coolest bands in the world. Socially relevant, trendy, college based sound. Cooler (at the time quite a feat) than REM and U2 combined. The were heading out on a world tour and wanted him to play keyboard and percussion. He would be featured on the next album and, if things worked out, become a permanent fixture.

The second call came from perhaps the least cool band in the world. A band that had a minor hit four years prior, and had a small but hardcore, rabid group of fans. The lead singer (and sole lyricist) had abruptly left and the band was looking to fill his shoes in order to fulfill a contract. They wanted Mr. h’s heart and his brain in their sudden new path.

So … what do you do? Guaranteed money and a world tour with a hot band, or artistic control and uncertainty in a band that had assuredly passed its golden years?

Mr. Hogarth chose the lead singer gig with Marillion. Nearly 30 years later, they are releasing their 17th album in September. The music has saved and inspired my life for decades. They aren’t mega rockstars, and they prefer that. They make a comfortable living outside the conventional music industry, and still maintain a small, hardcore group of fans. He’s found bliss and love.

The band he turned down? “The The”. Also still around, the leader/ songwriter Matt Johnson is the only consistent member.

Why am I telling you this? My life has come to a similar crossroads, and I’ve choices to make. My personal life has been altered in a major fashion and one of the few upsides of the upheaval is a new freedom. I can choose my next path without having to consider the consequences for anyone else. It’s my call, my choice. There’s comfort and terror in that, but it’s much less scary that having to decide for six people.

I can do … anything. The determining factor is my will and tenacity. What do I want?

You know what’s great? I don’t know! That is fantastic and exciting. At the moment I am adrift, and waiting. Watching. I’m not leaving my craft, but I am looking for different, challenging venues to display it. 

Soon, it will present itself, and I’ll choose. I will stay true to my heart and my art … and I’ll shine. Fame and money are the least of the considerations, though they play a role.

I have been given this gift, and can’t wait to share it. Stay tuned …

1 Comment

Filed under Musings, Public Diary