A phone call from the blue

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

-Martin Buber

A little background.

I often speak to other magicians about the craft of magic. These lectures are a bit like a TupperWare party. I speak to them in the front of the room and the back of the room has a sales table. It’s another way to try and squeak a living out of this thing called magic. Last year, I wrote about a tour that included Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs and on into Hollywood.  The stop in Tucson was sort of a bust. For a number of reasons, sales were dismal, attendance was worse. These nights are disappointing but, at least, I got to meet a few old friends and spend a bit of time in an interesting little town.

So I am down to the wire last Tuesday. The decks are stacked, the props arranged, I am almost ready to get in the car to go to work. The only thing I need to do now is find my car keys. As I am rifling my various pockets, my cell phone goes off. I glance at the area code. 520. Hmm, Tucson. I answer it.

A raspy voice says, “Doc?”

“Yup that’s me, who is this?”

Even raspier, “This is Jim Tucker.” I wanted to clear MY throat to see if I could clear HIS throat.

I recognize the name. He has been a customer of mine in the past. Last time I saw him was a lecture I did in Tucson, about a year and a half ago. He bought some things. I remember him buying a coin trick that I was selling.

“Yah Jim. Ya caught me trying to get out the door to go to work.” Distracted, trying to locate the keys,  “What can I do for you?”

“Well, we had this shooting down here.”

In an attempt to be glib, I said, “Yah, it made all the papers”

Aha, I find my keys.

“Yah well I took two bullets.”

Long pause… and the enormity of what he just said settled around me.

I said what most people I have told this story to have said… ” Whaaat?”

He goes on to explain that his wife was shot as well but she is released.

“You mean you are still in the hospital? Are you in the same hospital as Gabby?”

“Yah, she is down the hall.”

Now I had to sit down. Suddenly the urgency of getting  up to work melted away and was replaced by the enormity of the fact I was talking to one of the victims of the horrible shooting who was in the same hospital as the Congresswoman. The event just became personal for me.

One bullet went through his calf but the other one somehow involved his clavicle and had, mercifully, stopped millimeters away from his spinal column. Sparing him from what could have been paraluyzing or even fatal. The bullet’s path also affected his vocal chords, hence the raspy voice. They are keeping him there for observation. He will make it – miracle of miracles.

My jaw is hanging open now.

“Well, Jim, I appreciate your call.” But now I am real puzzled.

“What on earth can I do for you, Jim?”

“I just wanted to call you and say thanks.”

Hunh?

“I bought that coin trick from you awhile back. I just wanted to let you know that the Doctor’s want me to keep my hand active and your coin trick is the only thing I can do with my hand. So I am focusing on learning the moves and practicing it all the time. I am thinking of you all the time I am doing it. So I thought I would call you. ”

You can knock me over with a feather at this point.

“I know you are busy and I don’t want to take up any more of your time.”

“Jim, it’s ok… I can be late… it is ok, really. I don’t know what to say other than, I am thrilled that you are still with us and I am over the rainbow thinking that some little thing that I do is, in some small way, helping you recover from such a lifechanging event as you are going through. If there is anything I can do to help, send you some more stuff, offer words of encouragement, whatever… just say the word.”

“No. It’s fine, just wanted to say thanks.”

We mumbled a few more words to each other and hung up the phone. I sat there in my office – thunderstruck.

Still trying to sort out what that little phone call ‘ground zero’ means in the grand scheme of it all.

Shaking my head in disbelief.

Happy 2011 to you too!

2010 starts strong

As last year wound to a close, it was evident that it was a big year by any standards. I was still mildly euphoric over being named the Academy of Magical Arts Closeup Magician of the Year. The trip to Japan with son Mack was just one of many  other high points,

I didn’t have much time to ponder how it all fit into the grand scheme of things. The winter schedule required focus as I was doing 4 to 5 nights a week in Snowmass and beyond. I put my head down as I got into the grind of ‘winter in Snowmass’.  After 33 years here in the resort, it is was like putting on an old pair of slippers but it was evident that I wasn’t as young as I once was.

Late one night in mid February, the phone rang. It was the chairman of the Board of Trustees from the Castle. I had been nominated again this year for Close up Magician of the Year *and* Lecturer of the  Year. Since my first nomination in 1998, I have garnered 8 nominations for Closeup and 5 for lecture. I was finally awarded Closeup Magician of the Year last year, so I was frankly surprised that I might be up for it again. Plus this year, I was flattered that the lecture I present to other magicians, that I have been giving for years was also up for an award.

Excitement really took off when the season ground to a finish and we turned the corner into April. I left for LA a few days ahead of the event to have some time with Mack. Last year, none of my kids were able to go out for the ceremony due to other commitments. Ironically, that was the year that I won and none of my kids were there to see it! This year, Mack is already there at UCLA so he did his best to clear a few days in his law studies to be with me.

View from the hotelI secured a room at the Hollywood Hills Hotel above the Castle and overlooking all of Hollywood. LA is easy to take if you can be above it all and not have to drive around in it!

Mack and I  thoroughly enjoyed each  other’s company again by taking in a 3D movie at the huge LA movie theater and lunching at some sidewalk eateries.

Saturday night is the traditional night before reception for the nominees and special award

winners. This is a fun night because at this point, no one knows anything about the winners. The special awards, like Literary Fellowship, Lifetime achievement and others are not as secret as the other awards and so it was fairly easy to pick out the honorees among the international stars who were milling around the Inner Circle. It was an already busy Saturday night but add in all the folks from the reception and the Castle was absolutely buzzing that evening. We pretty much closed the place that night.

The next day, Sunday, the front desk suggested a day spa experience right next door at the Hollywood/Highlands complex. A steam and a massage seemed an ideal way to prepare for the night. Topping that off with a snack at the Shabu Shabu restaurant next door and we were ready to groove. We sauntered back to the room to get dressed for what would be a grand evening.

The Avalon avalon exterioris a great little theater right off the corner of Hollywood and Vine. We made our

way through the red carpet and photogs clicking their cameras and interviews with guys with

microphones. Finally entering the lobby that was thoroughly decked out with food and flowers, it was a grand scene. The  food was ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ and lots of it. They didn’t scrimp on any thing. We sampled the sumptuous buffet and  had a couple of stiff drinks to fortify ourselves.

The boys arrive at the Avalon

The boys arrive at the Avalon

Making our way to our seats in the orchestra section, there was much back slapping and hand shaking. As we settled in amongst the other nominees  and luminaries, I began to wish I had spent more time on an acceptance speech.

Neil Patrick Harris strode out on stage and started the show which was comprised of a mix of magic, comedy and awards. After some pleasantries and the opening act, the category of Lecturer of the Year is the first surprise of the evening and when Gay Blackstone and Mark Wilson

Magic legends, Gay Blackstone and Mark Wilson presenting me with the wand.

Magic legends, Gay Blackstone and Mark Wilson presenting me with the wand.

called my name, I was genuinely taken aback. As I made my way to the stage, I tried to remember the vague thoughts I had had that afternoon about something to say. I mentioned my inspiration for a good magic lecture was my late pal, Bob Read from England. Between the bright lights and adrenalin pump, I babbled the general thoughts. Mack assures me I didn’t make a fool of myself. A good thing. I made my way back stage for a photo shoot and official stuff. It was a circuitous trip back through the crowd to my seat so since the Close up award was coming up soon, I stayed ‘handy’.

wh

Jeff Probst, Doc, Whit Haydn

Jeff Probst of Survivor and Whit Haydn, the vice president of the Academy appeared at the podium to present the Close up category. I got light headed as they read the names of my fellow nominees. When they called my name as the winner, I was genuinely shocked. Besides being the only nominee who lived further than 20 minutes from the Castle, it is very rare that a nominee gets two awards in the same night (only two prior).  It is in fact very rare that someone has won Closeup Magician two consecutive years, (6 times prior). I was on cloud nine.

The rest of the show was wonderful. To see so many great folks recognized and honored was heartwarming. I found myself caressing the beautiful boxes with wands inside…to convince myself that I had actually won!  The after party took place right there at the theater and as the evening took on a dream like quality, the back slapping congratulations continued long into the evening.

I managed to squeeze out a few extra euphoric days in California to reconnect with some old friends and spend another night at the Castle. Coming home to Colorado, I had a busy stretch of traveling that needed my immediate attention and focus.

Now it is is time to figure out what this all means. I have never really been the ‘competition magician’. For 33 years, I just stepped up and did the show. I never saw the point of it.  But without even competing in a contest I found myself in this unfamiliar territory. Now I have won it. I am thrilled, but still unsure of what it all means in the grand scheme.

A good pal of mine commented, “Thank God, it comes in your maturity so that you know how to make best use of it, that it is a sign of a life’s work accomplished and not an indication of “what might be.” Thank you Max for that perspective. And thank *you* for taking the time to read this.

Southwest Roadtrip Nov 09

November loomed up as not being very strong with bookings so I turned to a different faucet for money and booked magic lectures through out the Southwest. Phoenix, Tucson, Palm Springs and San Diego. The tour would end up at the Magic Castle where I would work for two nights in the Inner Circle’s WC Fields Magic Bar.

Flying was not really an option. Besides I hate flying these days, it is just not easy on a person, plus it is expensive. So I made plans to drive between all the destinations. My eight year old Taurus was a dream vehicle for this little jaunt. Very comfy and it goes like the wind.

The first haul toward Phoenix was the long solo run.

The road goes on forever and the party never ends.

Monument Valley...the road goes on forever and the party never ends

After 12 hours of driving and listening to some fascinating things on the ipod, I pulled into Highwater Ranch and the home of an old Santa Barbara pal from 40+ years ago. Jim and his music collection helped me form my eclectic musical tastes. I had not seen him in probably 20 years. An overnight stay with he and is wife set me up for the final push into Phoenix.

Roadside scenic pullout betw Flagstaff and Phoenix

Roadside scenic pullout betw Flagstaff and Phoenix

An interesting interlude on the radio.. I was sailing through the Navajo nation, listening to 50’s and 60’s rock n roll… Elvis and Roy Orbison Buddy Holly but when the station break came on, the DJ was speaking entirely in Navajo which has a curious sort of oriental lilt to it. Fascinating. But when the commercials came on… every 3 or 4 songs, one ad was for Alcoholics Anonymous and the next was an ad addressing the pitfalls of carrying weapons. Apparently these two issues are foremost in the minds of the Navajos. That pattern happened EVERY time there was a station break between the songs.

The ride through the mountains from Flagstaff down into the Valley of the Sun was spectacular.

Kind and gracious friends and Fred the dog and Rosie the cat welcomed me into the sanctuary of their home for a few days as I worked on the book I am writing and did a few lectures in the PHX area.

Lectures are tough these days. Corporate work has slowed for those of us who work those circuits so the lecture trail is well trodden by some pretty heavy weight workers. The trip down to Tucson emphasized that. I was the fourth guy through there in two months. When you depend on back of the room sales, and the ‘tree has been shaken’ a lot before I got there, well, I was disappointed. I did get to visit an old Snowmass pal and ate at Poco y Mamas and had a truly memorable meal.

Back up to PHX for another fun intensive sessions and better sales. I had a chance to reconnect with some good magic pals. Good sessions and fun exchanges.

A quick four hour drive to Palm Springs for the next stop was made easy by listening to Malcolm Gladwells Outliers. What a great read (?) or listen.
It is a controversial theory as I found while discussing the book with friends on the road. Love the 10,000 hour rule. Those were my days at the Tower.

My host in Palm Spgs just lost his wife of 40 years a few weeks before. I told him that I could find other places to stay but he insisted that I stay with him in his lovely home. He really wanted the diversion. And divert we did. We had several spirited chats about magic and life and the pursuit of happiness. It was a great two days. Good lectures and responsive audiences made the layover a lot of fun. Connected with a lot of folks I haven’t seen in a while.

San Diego was just a skip and a jump and in three hours I was there. Stayed with friends (thank god for friends) there and the first night was a lecture in Jack White’s magic museum. What a great location! and who should appear for the lecture but Bob And Happy Elliott,  friends from Long Island who I haven’t seen in 10 years or more.

Bob and Happy Elliott old friends from Long Island, now in San Diego

Bob and Happy Elliott old friends from Long Island, now in San Diego

We had a lovely visit and a grand time. Sheets and Swiss were in the house along with some bright and knowledgeable guys.

An otherwise fabulous time in SD was diminished slightly by the bad news that one of my earliest influences in magic who just turned 65 in early November, was diagnosed with colon cancer and the outlook is bleak. A bunch of us went out to see him and we laughed and joked and did tricks and brightened up the day for all of us. JC is in my thoughts and prayers a lot these days.

magic pal Jim Patton

Magic Pal Jim Patton

A brief stop along the road to LA for coffee with another great magic pal and then to the Castle for lunch with crazies.

A well deserved nap set me up for an unbelievable night. Jill and her gang of 60 people packed the bar and we whipped and shouted all night long. Same thing was on tap the next night. A whole different group of crazy writers and assorted tv folks descended on the house and jammed up the parking lot for awhile. They all finally got in and the place was set ablaze again. We had a grand time. Sunday was a much more leisurely day. While grazing on the buffet at the Castle I saw David Regal and met his wife. Bob Cassidy and I hung out with the ghost of Jules Lanier. The Magic Castle is truly a magical place.

Son Mack is buried in the throes of the end of the first semester of law school, so we didn’t see much of each other.

I, once again, experienced the phenomenon of time evaporating in LA. I would awake before 9 every morning and with all best intentions, hit the deck with a list of things to accomplish. Suddenly it was noon and then it was time to start thinking about getting ready for the Castle and then it was time to GO to the Castle. Frustrating and infuriating but I didn’t get nearly enough done as I thought I could. Love/hate LA. I still ask myself, “Could I live here?” I still don’t know and am not a lot closer to the answer to that.

Son #2 arrived in the cluster buzz of LAX on a Sunday night. NOTE TO SELF: Don’t travel in and out of LAX on a Sunday night. Brutal traffic jams and too many people.

Ryan and I finally make it back for last call in the Castle. Sunday nights mark the end of the week for the performers. Often the magicians who are ‘on deck’ for next week are also there, soaking in the vibe. So I got to see a lot of folks in a relatively short period of time.

On Monday, we met up with some Colorado friends and rediscovered and shared the splendor of the Huntington Library and Gardens. huntingitonThis is a wonderful place that not many people know about. The Gardens are amazing and the soft November sunlight tinged the whole experience like a Maxfield Parrish print. www.huntington.org

And here is another one question for you… why is it that the trip back to Colorado always takes longer than the trip out to California? I can’t ever figure that one out.

This is the last major road trip of a great year. Abundance sums up my 2009. Financially it wasn’t that good but many wonderful things took place and I am blessed. I take great comfort in all of the things that were accomplished this last year. Life didn’t start at 40 .. 50 was not much better.. finally as I put in time on my 63rd year, it seems like life is getting better.

Thanks again for your interest in my life and times.

And how about *this* ?

So here i am, checking out of the supermarket and my cell goes off..
503 area code.. Oregon… unfamiliar number… so I quickly answer it…”Hello Mr Eason?”
Well, this has all the earmarks of a sales call so, without giving the guy on the other end any time to say much.. I
explain what I am doing, can’t talk, can you call me back in about 10
minutes?

I heard ‘Of course, sir” and punched the button.

I get home with my groceries and am unpacking when the number shows up
again – incoming. A very polite man calling me Mr Eason explains that
he is a helicopter pilot in Iraq calling from there.

Ah… hello!? Wait a minute .. you are calling me from Iraq!? yup.

He is a magician that I met nearly ten years ago at a lecture in
Portland. At that lecture he saw me perform Kate and Edith and (like
me when I first saw it…) bought it immediately. He was calling to
tell me that thanks to that routine…(and his own natural comedy
abilities plus some other strong tricks) he was the stand out winner
in the base talent contest.. in which 57 (!) other acts were entered.
He was simply calling to say thanks for the inspiration.

Ya coulda knocked me over with a feather.

I felt like a jackass.
The ‘simple’ act of getting a call through from Iraq is not an easy thing and I arrogantly
said… call me back! I mean, I had no way of knowing that … But he did make the effort to call back and I have to say…it made my week.

Sometimes …it isn’t all about the money…

Notes from the Florida Highway Fall 2009

As the weather turns cooler here in the mountains, kids are back to school, vacations are over and business really quiets down.
fall by the river

Aside from the occasional special event, there is very little going on so it is time to pop the periscope up and see what else might be going on around the country. As it turned out, one of my long time clients in the telecom industry was planning a trade show in Orlando. Once the details of that job were nailed down, I looked at the calendar to see how I could augment the time down there.

A few inquiries to friends who have used me in the past for private parties turned up a pretty full schedule for two weeks. It wasn’t quite the ‘every night in a different bed’ tour but it was close.

I arrived in Tampa airport and “picked ANY car” as per the tv ads. I surveyed the row of cars in my rental category and noticed one Prius, a hybrid. Never having driven one before I thought that this might be the car for me for the two weeks. It turned out to be a wonderful experience…once I figured out how to start the thing. (I found out there *is* a youtube video on the starting procedure… no real surprise there-)there are youtube videos for nearly everything, but I hadn’t had a chance to review it so the first few times I started the thing, it was done by trial and error. Once I got the hang of it, it ran like a top and got about 45 miles to the gallon, which was impressive. I had a slight smile on my face any time I was behind the wheel. It was kind of like the feeling I get when I type on my MacBook. It is an awareness of the fact that I am using a superior system .
FL Prius

After two weeks of driving it, I remain very impressed with it…as was everyone who rode with me during that time.

With my trusty iPhone in GPS mode I made my way south to St Pete Beach and the first stop on this magical mystery tour. A long time fan who is a muckity muck in a wellknown financial firm came through by hosting a party for his friends, even though he and is wife were headed to Japan in 2 days! I gladly shared my limited intelligence on Tokyo and again experienced the giddiness I feel when I think of Japan. much information to share with them about my limited exposure to Japan. He had been there before but she hadn’t so my insights were happily received. A wonderful warm group of their closest friends attended the party and it was a wonderful evening.

The next morning, following a walk on the beach (note to self: start those beach walks early in the day and not close to noon!) I Prius-ed up the coast a few minutes to Treasure Island and the next stop and another old friend from the old days. She is a real ‘Steel Magnolia’- a term I hadn’t heard before but refers to a southern belle, who was soft as a magnolia flower on the exterior but hard as steel on the inside. I discovered on this trip that when she was young she rode bicycles with Jimmy Carter in Plains, GA. This is a woman I met nearly 30 years ago. She was one of a few trophy wives married to older rich men who seemed to flock to the Tower in those days. Her husband died and left her extremely well off. She owns an 80 ft Marlow yacht that is totally tricked out and reflects her keen sense of design and color. Her top floor penthouse shows also spotlights her artistic sense. She lives her life like she damn well pleases. She loves my show and as long as she is not on the yacht and in her top floor penthouse, she will throw together a party of her favorite people and we all get a great show.

When I got there she insisted we drive a short distance to see another couple I knew from the early days of the Tower. Another trophy wife is now caring for her aging and failing husband. He barely remembered me On the way back my host revealed that her health is failing as well. I realized that this MAY be the last time I see her and have fun with her eclectic circle of friends. So the show that night was cathartic in the enthusiastic response from the circle of friends. Maybe everyone there felt the same way.

The next day I headed for an “undisclosed hideout” on the east side of Tampa Bay. This is a lovely couple that I met at a magic convention. Besides being a natural magician he is a computer genius so we jammed on many projects over a restful couple of days and celebrated Stacie’s surprise birthday! My pal has access to this yellow Ferrari and so I took a little ride in it. Quite the machine. More car than I need that’s for sure but a fun afternoon of zipping around the east bay.
Yellow Ferrari's are faster than any other color.

A wrinkle in the plan occurred when I slept so hard that I rolled over on my glasses. and snapped the frames. So it was off to Lenscrafters for a new Rx and new frames. Progressive lenses technology made the next few days pretty exciting visually. Any one who has spent any time at all with these new fangled lenses knows what I am talking about. I feel like my head is bobbing around a lot trying to find the sweet spot for clear viewing. Very exciting and slightly nauseating. How special.

Sunday I rolled into Orlando for the trade show at the Marriott World Trade Center with my long time client DCA Services. I am blessed to have a faithful client who uses me at every show. I am an integral part of their marketing program and included in many different phases of the company. Three days of wearing suits and shaking hands with old and new friends and I was ready for the next stop.

Tuesday night following the show and the debrief dinner, I peeled off from the group and headed north to Ocala and sanctuary with a dear magical friend. Though it had been a couple of years since we spent time together, like the old friends we are, we just picked up where we left off. Our traditional Sushi dinner at Tony’s was stellar as was the companionship. Blessed!

It was right about here that I got word that “my” dog Lila ran into a skunk and didn’t fare too well. A blast right in the kisser sent the household into an uproar. Lila dashed into the house and before anyone could react had managed to rub her nose on every piece of furniture and loose blanket as well as the rug and then downstairs to Kati’s bed and blankets. Needless to say the house reeked for some time and though the girls did a great job of deodorizing everything, when Lila gets wet now, the odor still comes through! I felt terrible that they had to deal with this unpleasantness and I was unavailable to help. Nothing worse than skunk. I doubt she learned anything from the encounter though.
I put “my dog” in quotes because 4 years ago Kati HAD to have this dog. So we went through the considerable hoops to acquire Lila, the miniature schnauzer I have spoken about in these pages. The dog identifies real well with alpha males and females, so she took to Alison and I very well but she is not the cuddly dog that Kati was after so I sort of ‘inherited’ the dog. I love her dearly now and so I guess it is “my dog” though it started out differently. I am very thankful to both Kati and Alison for dealing with a stinky dog!

Thursday I arrived at Magic and Design (MAD) and prepared for a show and lecture. Eliot Hitchcock has devised a performing station loosely based on a blackjack table. He has managed to add smoke, lights and a whole lot of flash into this … thing. He calls it a magic bar but it really isn’t because you don’t sell drinks out of it. It is an interesting idea that is still in development. I had fun working with it but I am not sure that all the bells and whistles make the performance any better. The personality behind the bar is ultimately what the audience remembers. I did a little consulting with him on this projects and gave him a bunch of suggestions. I hope he takes some of my ideas and runs with them. He is on the right track but it is still very much in progress. I wish him the best. He is a good guy with a great heart and he loves magic. All good. A week night, a not so easy to find location, meant that the attendance was soft and the lecture was fun, just not a lot of folks.
Hitch's magic bar

Headed to east of Orlando and a little more sanctuary at a wonderful italian villa on the shores of a lake. Restful and wonderful connecting again with old friends and their two adorable daughters. A stellar dinner with Terry Ward and his beautiful wife who is also a cast member with 20 years with Disney! So much experience! So much talent! wonderful.

The last stop was on Monday and a show and lecture at Wizards in the Seralago resort in Kissimmee. Ironically this is exactly the place that we stayed when we did a family vacation …18 years ago! Back then the ‘Showroom’ was the “Kid’s Club”, a place we dropped the boys off for a little alone time. Very eerie, apparently though, only to me! The room was packed with magic fans -some magicians but a lot of friends -some from Colorado who aren’t magi. We rocked the room. The after show lecture was a spirited exchange of questions and fun. I was so honored that Jack and Mary Kodell came to see me. Jack performed on the Ed Sullivan show in the 50’s! Mary his beautiful wife was a songbird who sang on every major stage in England 40+ years ago. Together they are treasures.

Reluctantly I drove the Prius back to the rent car drop off and began the arduous trip through the airport to home. The threatened snowstorm mercifully held off and I made it home late that night with my head swimming with images and experiences. Love Florida in the right seasons …Summer is NOT the right season!

Lila was as happy to see me as I was to see her.

lila

Huge in Japan

I am huge! in Japan…

2009 is shaping up to be a big year for me. On the heels of being awarded Closeup Magician of the year, I have just now returned from a 2+ week tour of Japan. Let me explain.

Two years ago, when I was working the Magic Castle, I stepped outside for a little fresh air. I was approached by a rather stern looking Japanese fellow who introduced himself as Ken Kurita. In broken English, he asked me if i was interested in lecturing in Japan. When asked for more details, he produced a piece of paper that was packed with information. Among all this info was a schedule that was one night after another of lectures in different cities including two on Sat and two on Sunday.Of course I would be traveling with an interpreter, Shigeo Futagawa, a reknowned coin magic expert. Shigeo would be with me every step of the way. I had actually done something like this in Germany and Austria several years before and I knew how hard it was. I smiled and nodded and politely told him I would think about it.

The info kicked around my desk for all this time. I would occasionally come across it, read the whole thing and shake my head thinking that this was a trip for a younger man. But I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

As 2009 rolled onto the calendar and bookings appeared somewhat slim, I got another email from Ken asking if I had given this any more thought. I asked for the names of those who had preceded me down this road. Every one of them expressed the opinion that this was an opportunity not to be missed. I agonized over the decision knowing how isolating it is to be in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language and having one person be your conduit to understanding. I remember the feeling of being in a capsule and the only way out was through one person, my interpreter. Everyone around me was talking about magic but I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. It was like a nightmare. and they wanted me to do 12 lectures in 14 days? I could not get myself to say yes.

Then it dawned on me that my son Mack was graduating with his Masters from CU and would be available to come with me and help. I told them that the only way I would do something like this would be if Mack came along. They eventually agreed so we moved forward.

The planning began in earnest and I again tried to figure out the proper things to bring over for sale. Deciding what to bring and how many is always a tricky proposition. After much deliberation and discussion, we packed our bags and readied ourselves for this adventure.

I had agreed to work the Magic Castle the week before so Mack joined me mid week and we ‘did the Castle’ in grand style. Packing the Castle with old friends and new, we had a great run there. Occasionally leafing through a guide book to Japan, we really had no idea what we were about to experience. The pages could only produce a two dimensional understanding of what lay ahead.

What lay ahead was the grandest adventure I have ever had.

This is where the travelogue portion is supposed to be. “Then we went here and then we went there” can be boring unless someone has an understanding of the geography. To keep it simple, we started in the western part of Japan and slowly, with 8 stops, made it eastward towards Tokyo, our final destination. We made a couple of side trips that took us to the north coast and then a couple of stops on the south coast before we cruised into Tokyo. Most of our travel was on the bullet train-the Shinkansen. These trains are amazingly fast (100+ mph), quiet and efficient. We loved traveling on these trains.

On the weekends, we did two lectures a day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, often with a train ride in between. These were brutal days but Mack and I formed a strong understanding of the pace and once we understood what we needed to do, we did it. And it worked.

I am composing the blow by blow description of Japan for those interested, as well as a photo album. I’ll let you know when these are ready for viewing. But for now, just let me say that this 2+ weeks in this fascinating culture was epic on many levels. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, and several levels that I am still assimilating. It is a trip that has changed (and will continue to change) our lives forever. Immersing ourselves into the totally foreign culture and way of life, opened our eyes to things I never thought I would see or feel. Their culture is 3000 years old while ours is 300 years old. There is something very deep and profound about how they live.

I have been deeply effected-positively- by the time there. I can’t wait to go back.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to do such a trip at all. The fact that i was able to share it with someone else made it even more special. The fact that that someone else was my son was over the rainbow.

doc-and-mack

Spring 2009

Life has been so full these days that, sometimes, I just sit and stare off into space and try to get my mind all around it all. Luckily I have the just the place to do that-my porch.
porch

Spring! The valley is coming alive. The trees are all budded out and the lilacs are permeating the air. Serious porch time has provided me a place to try to make a little sense of it all. Spectacular moonrises over this fabulous valley can take your breath away.

The past month has had road trips and magic gatherings, meetings with wonderfully productive corporate and association folks, fishing expeditions
bass
and spirited interchanges with old friends and new ones- all interspersed with personal triumphs and failures and reunions with my dog.
lila
grad-and-sis
The capstone event of the past few months has to have been the ceremony at CU where Mack was awarded his graduate degree. The ensuing celebration was well earned and high fun. Sibling mixing was a joy to see. Younger sis hanging with BMOC brother was enriching for all involved.
the-graduate-and-his-dad

One of the intertwining threads with all that is going on, is my pal, Jake. He continues to be one of the grounding elements of my life. During the difficult two years since his house burned to the ground, he has battled with adversarial insurance companies, felonious builders, insane county and local building inpectors. He recently – finally- moved into his new house, which BTW also has a lovely porch! He and I, with so much history, have had fine times connecting with those glory days in the Bay Area prior to coming out to CO on our motorcycles.

Looming up is the adventure of the year. I head to LA shortly for a week at the Castle from May 26th – the 31st.
The Fabulous Magic Castle in Hollywood.

If you are reading this and you are in LA and the timing fits, please give me a call. I’d love to host your visit to the castle.

The Castle week will be a terrific launch pad for the 16 day trip to Japan with Mack. Preparing for such a trip is thrilling but at the same time daunting. The details of such an assault are staggering. Weight limitations, projected sales numbers based on rumor and hearsay, logistics of the different legs of the journey have me reeling. Last minute changes to the overall plan continue to fly in my face. I try to keep my eye on the budget and stay focused. Then I open up another guidebook for Japan and I eventually find myself staring off into the distance, trying to envision the scope of the adventure ahead of us. This will be huge.

Then, I find myself on the porch again.

And then there’s this…Jake’s wIfe Julia has just fought a successful battle with cancer. The mother of my children goes in soon for some corrective and painful foot surgery.
The fact that people around me are dealing with health issues sets my mind to reeling in a different direction. In the midst of everything happening, mortality rears its head. The physical aspects of our existence here on the planet are meshing with the spiritual parts of why we are here and what we are doing, and how to conduct ourselves while we are doing it. My mind swims.

Excuse me, I have to go out on the porch again.

One of the Grandest nights of my Life Part one

In January I heard from the Board of Trustees of the Magic Castle that I had once again made the short list of nominees for Closeup Magician of the year. I have been fortunate enough to be on that list more than a few times before. I have always arranged time to go out there on the chance that I might actually receive the distinction but I have managed to get nosed out for all those years.

I’ve brought each of my kids out for these in the past years. This year, prior commitments and schedule conflicts on their parts plus the sour taste of disappointment meant I was flying solo on this trip.
I have gotten so used to just being a nominee that I didn’t take this very seriously.

For someone who is used to having to change planes at least once when leaving the mountains, the direct LAX Aspen flight is a joy. The down sides are that the that CRJ airplane is like a miniature plane or torture device. Mercifully the two hour flight goes quickly.The other drawback is that it dumps you into LAX as opposed to a smaller more manageable airport. But once through that mixmaster I took a delightful detour through Santa Monica, a light bite of some sushi and a couple of cold Asahis and I was ready for LA.

I glided through the traffic in an elegantly understated Altima toward the hills of Hollywood.

My hotel was in the shadow of the Castle. The renovations at the Highlands Gardens Hotel are quite nice and the gardens are just coming into bloom so that wonderful perfumed air is wafting all around. A welcome change to the high altitude dried out nasal passages I landed with. Spring is one of my favorite times to be in Southern California. The sun shines differently there and I love the way the scented air permeates everything.

This notorious place is where Janis Joplin died.

This notorious place is where Janis Joplin died.

The Castle was absolutely abuzz that Saturday night. The night before reception in the Inner Circle of the castle was a starstudded event for magicians. The following names may not mean much to some of you. But for the magicians reading this, it was grand.
magic-castle-exterior

The winners of the four categories, Closeup Magician/Parlor Magician/Stage Magician/Lecturer are a secret. The other awards like Literary Achievement, Special Merit, Lifetime Achievement are not as cloaked in secrecy so the game became, which one of the people in the room was to get what award.

My pal Louis Falanga was fairly obvious choice for Literary for his contributions to recording some of the modern day masters for posterity.

Eric Eswin got a special award for his many years as the secretary general of FISM (The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (International Federation of Magic Societies).

I spied a dear friend Bob Fitch who has coached everyone from Broadway actors to magicians. He was to receive a Life time Achievement award.

Howie Schwartzman, a giant in the sleight of hand world, was to receive a special fellowship.

Guy Hollingsworth of the UK was to receive the Magician of the Year award. Guy is a lawyer by day and sleight of hand innovator/performer by evening. He is an elegantly dressed gentleman who is a charming and skilled performer.

It was grand fun rubbing elbows with these celebrities of magic. All this was going on in the Inner Circle where the WC Fields Magic Bar is located. I love the space. I helped design the bar area so it feels like home!
wcfbar

The rest of the castle was swarming with regular people. It made it even more bizarre by occasionally seeing folks from the reception. Every corner of the castle had clusters of people. I bounced from person to person thoroughly enjoying myself. I greeted a huge number of folks. My pal Jim Patton, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years, made a surprise appearance and I felt honored that he had driven up from OC to see me. He backed me up as the bartender on several occasions in the past so we have much to talk about. My pal Tom Frank made a special effort to come up as well. There were many many others who were all wishing me well, it began to dawn on me that, ‘Hey, I might just win it this year!’. I have had that feeling before but it was strong this time around.

I stumbled home to the Gardens at about two and slept the sleep of the dead.

I love being at the Castle. I remember walking into the place 30 years ago and felling overwhelmed by it all. It is so much different now.

(To be continued)