Monday, October 09, 2006

Magishing Memories #1 - Freckles

After graduating from college, I was a professional magician. For about two years, I paid life expenses magishing.

I starved.

It quickly became apparent that to really do this, you needed a couple of things; (1) you needed to be away from family from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday matinee and (2) you needed talent. Since I had issues in both categories, I only did it for the aforementioned two years.

But it provided me with some incredible memories and experiences that I could not probably find in any other venue available to me. The grind and hustle was exciting for a young man still finding his position in the lifeline, but eventually I discovered I didn’t need so much the hugs of strangers. Now, an occasional kind word of unexpected, out-of-the-blue-approval and appreciation from folks whose name I will not learn goes a long way to supplement that which comes from persons from who I have memorized the freckles on their back. Memorizing the freckles of a son, daughter or spouse became more important than I ever thought possible.

But I digress. This is about magishing memories and an attempt to put them in some sort of order.

Magishing Memory #1:
It’s been said that “People love a mystery, enjoy a puzzle and like being fooled for fun.” Not necessarily. At a show for a DeMolay* formal dinner, a cocky young man who turned out to be the group’s President or Alpha Dog DeMolay or some other grand title, tried repeatedly to spoil my act.

When performing for a social group, it is not uncommon to use the group’s leader in the act, to provide him or her with some stage time. This is especially important if the effect being performed will make them shine. The reason for doing this is repeat bookings, good word of mouth and a higher potential for a unsolicited tip. If you can make an alpha dog look smart, strong or clever in front of any of the beta females, a folded twenty passed via a firm handshake is more likely to occur. In this instance however, the guy decided that he would attempt to turn the tables on the performer and in short, make the trick fail.

Without going into minutiae and giving away any magicain's secrets, I became aware about half-way through the routine that he had sabotaged the trick. This might be best compared to a standup comic facing a loud, rude, profane and potentially dangerous heckler.

After discovering his dirty work on stage, I momentarily paused as if in concentration and looked at his most satisfied smirk. A knowing glance passed between us as his look of “try to get out of this one, magic man” came into focus. I nodded and silently accepted his challenge and decided to remove the gloves and strap on my magician's brass knuckles.

I carried on and quickly worked through the problem and successfully completed the routine to a rousing round of applause, laughter and amazed looks.

But I did so at his expense. Before the routine arrived at its no doubt amazing denouement, I made sure he was made the recipient of embarrassing comments (much to the delight of the audience, I might add) and silly moments that passed as comedy. Ultimately, he appeared the complete fool.

Today when I think about that show, I am more than a wee bit uncomfortable for what I did to that guy. We were about same age, but I showed an immaturity that is embarrassing now. In truth, I didn’t handle it so well and I know that I could have achieved a pleasant result for all in attendance without resorting to magical fisticuffs.

Yeah, I won the contest but victory was not so pure, not so appealing. I suppose I learned more about me than what I was trying to "teach" to the young man that night. It just took about 20 years for me to figure that out. I wish I could apologize to the young man.

In the canon of Magishing Memories, it’s not a pleasant one. But it’s one that I dredge up now and again. Even now as I I consider it, I think it’s a pretty good memory to have.

*DeMolay is the official youth group for the Order of the Masons. The Order of DeMolay takes its name from Jacques DeMolay, who gave his life rather than betray his friends. Sounds like a prison gang to me, but what do I know?