Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pic du Jour • From the archives • Session Shot

Tom Frank rolling coins

This pic was taken by Homer Liwag in his Hotel Room at the Paramont Hotel in Seattle, WA when the Copperfield show was in town.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Back

Hello friends! It's me again. . . back after a bit of a holiday blogging break. Actually, while vacationing in Tijuana Mexico, Polly and I were married after a Tequila and over the counter Vailum binge. A fight broke out at the drug store where the sales person was having trouble convincing me that I couldn't purchase 10,000 10 milligram Vailum Pills. I was taken into custody and Polly was upset with having to blow our wad (that was dog eared for pills, booze and cheap motels) on bribing our way out of that country.

All's well that ends well.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pic du Jour • Holy War

Holy War

Both Sides Now • by Joni Mitchell

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

Jimmy Talksalot

I met a couple of buskers yesterday from New Orleans. Jimmy Talksalot and his buddy Jorde. Jimmy is a student of Doug Conn's. I love magic and magicians. Always fun to make new friends. They said they had come find me and so they had. It always makes me a bit uncomfortable when people talk me up. Jimmy said I was a legend, I corrected him and told him I was a hack. The best hack I know. . . but a hack none the less. He said that I am one of Doug's heros. He gave me Doug's phone number and I called him on my way home. It was good to talk to Mr. Conn after all these years.

Jimmy and Jorde got their performing permits for the Promenade and were out there today working. Jimmy has a nice show with with some coin, ball, rope and cigarette magic. Jorde had his one man band rig and is learning magic from Jimmy. They said the Eric Evans and Sonny Holiday will be out here in a few weeks. Looks like there will be a lot of magic at the Promenade. Good thing the Universal City Walk is finally going to allow me to perform there after 6 months of persistence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That Old Black Magic

Black Magic
James More aka "Black Magic" has been entertaining the masses at the Promeade. Years ago there was a little magic shop on the second level of the Carew Tower Shopping Arcade in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. Appropriately it was called the Carew Tower Magic Shop. I've had recent conversations with Ryan Swigert, Jason Wethington, and Mike Johnson. I'm not sure how many, if any of you were ever there, but just like Seattle Magic, there was always an air of what's on the other side of the secret magicians only back room door, like the smell of. . . . cigar. And the sound of cards shuffling.

At any rate, James was there too. It's fun to remember. . . at least the IRS thinks so.

I watched James dazzle the crowd with some very nice coin work and he finished with the cups.
Ionia

In my IM

FYI: Breaking in a deck ritual: Remove jokers, do Ortiz's Si Stebbins Secret (couple of overhand runs and a 2 in faros) a few riffle passes and I'm set

Just read your blog

Doc Dixon

Friday • Lunch at the Magic Castle

I arrived at the Magic Castle shortly after noon. You never know who you might see. I was happy to see Chris Korn. We bellied up to the downstairs bar where he ordered a Bloody Mary and I broke in a new deck of red Tally-Ho Circle Backs. I asked Chris a question I seem to ask all card men at some point, "Do you have any ritual or technique to breaking in a deck?" He said he liked to give a new deck a few LePaul Pressure Spreads, then turn the deck over and repeat. I had never head that one before, but could easily see how that would break the spirit of the deck and aid in the breaking in process. I would be interested in any other techniques that people use to break in a new deck. If you have one, send it as an email or just add it as a comment. Enquiring minds want to know. . . OK just mine. . . but I'm still interested. Performing in the Close Up room was Harry Monti, a child hood mentor of Chris Korn's in St. Louis. We chatted with him a bit. If you haven't figured out yet. . . I love the Magic Castle. So may great memories there from a lifetime ago and many yet to be. I haven't worked there in over a decade, but would love the opportunity to show my stuff to a new generation of Castle Members and their guests.

The place was PACKED. There were lots of Christmas Parties dining in the dining room all the way down to the party room in the basement. Good Job Magic Castle on booking these parties and continuing the legacy of the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. The place was so busy, that Aye Jaye, Korn & I ate at the bar between the downstairs and upstairs. It was good seeing Aye Jaye again, he cracks me up and makes me smile. A carney through and through, he told me about his mom and a bit about his childhood growing up as a carney.

It was also nice seeing Jon Lovick and a few other new friends. After lunch we went down into the library where we spent some time talking to Billy Goodwin, esteemed Castle Librarian from Oxnard. He showed us a nifty trick using the shoe lace on one of my shoes. He had me put my foot up on a chair and performed what seemed to me like an impromptu Dean's Box style linking ropes except with no box and linking the loops of the bow on my shoe lace. It was a two phase routine where on the second phase after the loops are linked the spectator is left in the magical moment with the loops linked as you walk away scratching your head.

Let it never be said that magic is not alive and well in the City of Los Angeles. . . The Entertainment Capitol of the World!!! There was a rumor that Kenner and Liwag might be making an appearance at the Castle that night. Not sure if they showed or not. I left around 3:30PM and went to work on Hollywood Blvd.

The winter air gets a little crisper and the people walk a little faster. I called Aaron Fisher (who lives near the Castle on Orange) to see if he wanted to hang out a bit before I went to work. He was busy getting ready to go to the Castle where he would be performing in the WC Fields Bar.

So I went to work with break-dancing troups on either side of me. . .oh joy! I did my job, made some people happy, made some money, then came home to Polly who is on her 3 week Christmas vacation from shooting on HBO's hit Big Love.

Friday, December 15, 2006

thurston

Friday

Feeling absolutely terrific! Spent the afternoon and evening yesterday with my girl, chillen at the crib. It was another beautiful day in the mid seventies, blue skies and sunny.

Today, the plan is, to go to the Castle for lunch with Aye Jaye then set up shop at Hollywood and Highland and settle in for the evening. My shows are good lately and my head is back, screwed on right. I had a tough spell there. Professionally, it is by far the most frustrating thing, to want to perform well, but to have such a heavy heart that it effects the vibe of the show, at least in my mind.

Getting back on track again. . .

Feeling better and not a moment too soon. Momentarily, school will be out and the full, frontal, frenzy of the peak holiday shopping season will be at hand. Lock and load my retail brethren, I am fully stocked with Stripper Decks, Stripper Deck Books, and Mental Photography Decks. I also have a dozen Soc-O-Magic. Tis the season. I am looking forward to a good evening on the street. Hollywood & Highland is a FREAKFEST and I'm always happy to be a part of the craziness.

Crowd gathering in LA is as tough a as anywhere in the world, if not tougher. People are jaded, they've seen everything twice. The competition for your attention is fierce! At peak spots like Venice Beach, The Santa Monica Promenade or Pier, Hollywood & Urinal etc. . . you have HIGH END Retail, Restaurants, Hotels, Theaters of all sorts, Liquor stores and strip clubs, famous people and they're names on stars on the sidewalk. Now add in an amplified street act every 40 feet with at least one break dancing troupe per location. What to say? What to do? How to get things started. I used to be very aggressive in getting people to stop and watch. That was years ago. Anymore, I'm looking for just a tad more commitment in my audience. It's kind of a zen approach. I take all the pressure off myself by putting on some music I enjoy, lighting my cigar, sitting at my table, removing my cards from the tuckcase and trying to seem as uninterested in anyone's attention as possible. I know that it's usually only a matter of minutes before I start reeling them in a little. Steeple Chase Coin Rolls and Expert Card Handling along with a giant cloud of cigar smoke. That's what I'm talking about, someone who will sit through that. . . . that's the commitment I'm looking for. . . these are my people.

People don't really want to clap. Why should that matter to me. They barely smile. That used to bother me a lot. Now I recognize the real proof in the pudding, (whatever the fuck that means) is that, they are still standing there. The ebb and flow of people coming and leaving during a performance is the constant distraction of rejection. It's a heavy thing and not for the meek.

"The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time" James Taylor

The only real way to engage the audience fully is to have them convinced that you are loving what you are doing, at the very moment in time. The more fun you have, the more fun they have. . . it's an easy equation. But when those sneakers in your head, start tumbling around and emotion and circumstance close in. . . . well. . . welcome to the real world.

Peace

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Another day another dollar. . .

It’s been a wild ride. All these years of doing magic for a living. It’s been more than a living, it’s been a life. The work I’m doing now on the street is as tough as it’s ever been. . . but that’s they way it is, I embrace it, deal with it and somehow make it work.

I love magic, but also like the role of entrepreneur. I miss the satisfaction of creating something, dreaming it up and doing it. There’s so much opportunity everywhere you look. Sometimes, I get it in my head, that to do anything else with my life would be to admit having wasted my whole life. WRONG!

I am good at a lot of things, I’m a great sales person and an excellent manager. It might be time to play “Million Dollar Idea Of The Day”.

What to do, what to do? Need to start thinking. The last couple of weeks ripped a huge scab off my healing heart. This shit with Buster was an unexpected kick in the nuts. I can’t let it drag me down.

As my Dad says, “Plan your work and work your plan” well to date, there’s been no plan and not much work. Just getting by, but that’s something too.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jackson Browne - Looking Into You - 1974



Well I looked into a house I once lived in
Around the time I first went on my own
When the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of
And my friends and I were one
Now the distance is done and the search has begun
I've come to see where my beginnings have gone

Oh the walls and the windows were still standing
And the music could be heard at the door
Where the people who kindly endured my odd questions
Asked if I came very far
And when my silence replied they took me inside
Where their children sat playing on the floor

Well we spoke of the changes that would find us farther on
And it left me so warm and so high
But as I stepped back outside to the grey morning sun
I heard that highway whisper and sigh
Are you ready to fly?

And I looked into the faces all passing by
Its an ocean that will never be filled
And the house that grows older and finally crumbles
That even love cannot rebuild
Its a hotel at best, youre here as a guest
You oughta make yourself at home while youre waiting for the rest

Well I looked into dream of the millions
That one day the search will be through
Now here I stand at the edge of my embattled illusions
Looking into you

The great song traveler passed through here
And he opened my eyes to the view
And I was among those who called him a prophet
And I asked him what was true
Until the distance had shown how the road remains alone
Now I'm looking in my life for a truth that is my own

Well I looked into the sky for my anthem
And the words and the music came through
But words and music can never touch the beauty that I've seen
Looking into you -- and thats true

The inside of my brain

Is a dark place. The walls close in a little every day. Confusion mounts and my inner voice isn’t always on my side. But like a wave of cosmic fresh air Polly Lucke breathes new life into me everyday. She, who admittedly, “Thinks I’m OK” is a God send and a blessing. For those of you keeping score at home, we are still very much in love and have pledged to not let the weight of these unfortunate circumstances fuck our relationship up.

Nobody knows better than us the quality of care, concern, love and discipline we were providing in our household. Nobody loves this kid more than me. While I guess I would never win father of the year, ANYONE who knows me and has spent any time with me knows how I feel about my kids and the quality of the care I provide.

On the other hand, there’s a extraordinary amount of legal documentation arguing quite the opposite. His underhanded lowliness of jumping on that bandwagon was a stroke of evil genius. He must get that from his mom’s side, or perhaps just Moira’s influence over the years. Touché, an obvious weakness that he is continuing to exploit.

So, which is it? Am I the abusive, crazed, drug addicted monster that has driven him to run away and threaten suicide or is this a fucked up teenager who needs some help and will do and say anything to get his way, which I guess is blowing off another year of school and not coming back here.

It’s a new week. Time for a fresh perspective and some short term goals. I am a good person, I have a lot to offer and I’M A GOOD DAD. Just ask any of my kids that won’t talk to me.

down the rabbit hole

A rabbit down a rabbit hole, not to some, happy go lucky, place where cat smiles hang in the air and caterpillars smoke hookahs on mushrooms. Nope! This was not to be the fate of this poor, fluffy, pink nosed, whisker twitching, ignorant bunny. Getting away from the pack of angry and hungry dogs that were quick on her tail. . . that was the pressing concern.

All she could think of was protecting her baby rabbits. Really. . . quite a shame. Well, one could say, that the dogs ate well that night.

cards

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Untold wonders beneath unsuspecting grins.

A hand comes into frame very slowly. As the forefinger and thumb rotate gently, silently, friction, magic! An old silver dollar instantaneously appears into view.

The story is about a man who believed in magic. He would sit and meditate and practice sleight of hand. The notion was, that until he could actually perform true feats of magic, that it was completely OK to resort to magicians trickery.

Every week he had a private magical ceremony in his kitchen, it was a dirty mess, with plates, glasses and silverware piled up in the sink. Hard crusty half eaten pizza leftovers from the other week on the counter.

He would light inscents on either side of the table and a few candles. A large circle was in the middle of the table and an overhanging light dropped down right over the circle. He placed his left hand directly above the circle. From a few inches higher the silver dollar was dropped into the left hand. It’s caught and you can see the tension and the hand grips tight. This tight dramatic clenched fist image is a strong symbol. Then slowly, the hand is opened, only to reveal that the coin is still there.

Close up on magicians eyes. Disappointment, yet determined. Another day.

Why would anybody want to do real magic? If they could, don’t you think that they might just lead a low key, yet extravagant, lifestyle. . . sitting at home conjuring up $1,000 bills.

What could be so good about being able to make that stupid coin disappear anyway. I asked him and he had some trippy, dippy, psycho babble bullshit answer about the coin representing opportunity and the actual disappearance of the coin occurring at a moment in time where a pulse of pure energy and love, I had to stop him. It was clear that my boots were not tall enough for the ever increasing level of bullshit I was being subjected to.

I like magic as much as the next magician, but this cat was tripp’en. What was curious about his schtick, was that he really seemed to believe that one day, he would open up his hand and the coin would actually be gone. I could tell by looking in his eyes, the longing and desperate need to fulfill his quest. Stupid as it may have been. He wanted to believe that that strong symbol of the fist foretold the future in a time where reality with be dealt a fatal punch, the earth will open up, Noah’s Ark will dock in Long Beach and all the animals will get off and visit friends at the zoo. Fairies will run rampant, even more so than they already do today. I see a Doug Henning retro bean bag bedazzled beheading machine all polished up and ready for network consumption in an era where the magic was as good as the acid.

What’s happened to the world. Where is Doug Henning’s dream now? Dead with him I guess.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pic du Jour • off the internet

Don't know who he is, but I can say, I like what he's doing. . . . carrying on an honored tradition of the cup and ball worker.

Thank God for Fucking and Football

Mind run a muck. I don’t know what to feel. I feel like I’m letting him down, I feel like I’m letting all of my kids down. I know the painful answer to relationship building with these kids is TIME. And I get the feeling it’s going to be a long time.

Don’t go down that dark path of self doubt and destruction. Keep going, even though you don’t feel like it. Keep my eye on the ball.

I may sound all doom and gloom, but the reality of the situation is Polly is taking VERY good care of me. It’s still 80 degrees in the first week of December, I’m still nude sunbathing and walking on the beaches. . . . . ooh. . . boo. . . hoo. . . poor me.


I will go out there this afternoon, to the Promenade at Santa Monica and offer the mild mannered mysteries of my magic in exchange for the pleasantries of a smile, a wink or a few bucks. . . whatever fits your lifestyle. I think it’s time to start selling some decks! Drivers start your engines.

My weekend was fucked money wise. Never really got fully engaged in the process. Cellini used to say, half the battle is just being there with your stuff. So, I went out, I was there with my stuff , but that was about it. I did a couple of shorter sets and wasn’t feeling the magic.

Now I have to play catch up on a tuesday. I’m gonna rock the room. I’m gonna be a pitchen fool. Alternating shows with pitches should guarantee an even mix of revenue. My mission today is to perform “for” someone not “at“ them. I will take the time in the early part of the show to establish rapport, introduce myself, and create a tone and pace for the show before it even begins. I have a problem of always wanted to dive in there right off the bat. Card tricks to get the crowd. How do I slow down the process, build the crowd and waste time till I feel like there are enough people to start?

Attitude is everything. I walk a tight rope out there. One mental slip, landing on a tizzy can send you home early, like this last weekend. Now I need to get back up on that horse and invite the next motherfucker to try and knock me off.

Bla bla bla bla bla, I’ll say it. I got no idea how it’s gonna go, but I will show up, and put on he best show that I can. Maybe even throw in something new or different. Just need to stay positive. Hand out business cards and talk about holiday parties during the pitch. This is peak season, fourth quarter. You wanna get in the game? I want to get in the game!

I haven’t said it in a while here publicly, but I love Polly Lucke. Man, do I love this woman. She has been so swell through all this shit. We lie in bed and talk about childhood memories. Having grown up in Cincinnati's Hyde Park neighborhood 25 years ago, it’s nice to be able to talk about those same places and the people that we were back then as teenagers. Oy.

We went to the same school, The School for the Creative & Performing Arts. Cricket went there, my brother Mike went there, Harvey, Mark Mounts, Rich & Roy, Sue Block and Stephanie, Jonnie Snow, and Andy and Stuart who became a Elvis Pastor. . . for real.

Boy, it’s a wonder that anyone gets through adolescence at all. But we do. . . . and here we are.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday

Need to get with the program, can't let this all get me out of whack. GET FOCUSED, STAY POSITIVE, BE BUSY, WORK HARD, LOVE HARDER.

No one knows better than me, that the one thing you can count on is. . . shit. Yup. . . as the saying goes, "Shit Happens". It's an indisputable fact.

BUT, it's how we deal with it, that shows the world what's in our heart.

Well, pardon me if I smile, with this mouth full of dripping shit.

You can't kill me, I won't go away, I am a fucking cockaroach. I'm the energizer bunny. I'll empathize you to death. Don't fuck with me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Another beautiful sunset at Venice Beach

Difficult day of street performing. Just wasn't into it. Lot on my mind. Closed up shop and decided to take a walk on the beach. Missing my kids.


Click Pic to enlarge this beautiful sunset.

Wondering what Buster is doing. Wonder how he's doing. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Ricky Jay, David Rudd and an evening of magic

David Rudd, a buddy from Seattle had a trip planned to see Ricky Jay's show with his wife. Unfortunately she was unable to attend. Fortuantately for me, he asked me if I wanted to go!! Hell yeah. Buster broken hearted, ball busting bullshit. . . but yeah I'd love to go to the show. Polly and I have our tickets for Jan. to see the show. . . But to see a hot ticket in town TWICE now that's good.

The show was a delight. I've been a Ricky Jay fan since the first time I saw him perform on the Diana Shore Show on TV, in the 70's. He's certainly carved out an interesting niche for himself in the spectrum of the entertainment landscape. Actor, Author, Magician,Card Cheat & Thrower, Historian, Freak; Ricky Jay always entertains and looks like, if you don't dig it, he might just kick your ass.

On the night we saw him Carl Riner was there with a party of 6. As expected his card handling was beautiful. He opened with a version of McDonald's Aces using queens and talked about stuck up bitches seeking out each others company. He used much nicer words than that. Not sure if this is the routine from Erdnase or not. Anyways a great routine to open with. He connected well with everyone in the 84 seat theater.


It's a good show directed by David Mamet. The Malini "Multiple Card Selection", always a crowd pleaser. Love the way he handles and controls the selections. OK, I'll say it, "I go for this kind of stuff. " His dealing demonstrations and gambling routines flowed as beautifully as his words. Can you tell I'm a fan? His cup routine a work of art. A charming interlude with an old atomaton and a playing card restoration. Card throwing demonstration, again probably what he's best known for. An entertaining evening. Thanks Mr. Rudd.

David Rudd lives in Seattle with his wife Michele and their son and new daughter. Here is a clip of Dave at one of the the Alki Beach Sessions.



After the show we went to the Magic Castle to see Mike Close work. We were not able to to see his show but did see Derek Hughes in the Parlor. Nice set. We chatted briefly with Arthur Trace. Dave had seen him in NYC at mostly magic last time he was there. We went downstairs and hung at the bar. Chris Korn was there, Mike Close, Jon Lovik, Dave Rudd, myself. Had a nice time Geek'en out on some magic.

Thanks again pal for a memorable night.


Friday, December 01, 2006

From bad to worse

Yesterday was a really tough day for me. It started with me taking Buster to school to talk to his school counselor before first bell. We were out of the house by 7:00AM. I dropped him off, told him I loved him and sent him on his way.

By 9:30AM I was getting a call from a guy from the County, Child & Family Services, saying that I needed to come in to deal with the allegations of child abuse and endangerment. It was as if Buster had summoned the soulless spirit of my ex wife Moira. He knew all the buzz words and how to get them all excited about my pot use.

Now the same ugly process has been started here in California. Both the Child Abuse Investigator and a Therapist that we have been talking to asked why not let him go to Cincinnati. I told them, as I saw it, that I thought that this would teach him that whenever he wasn't happy, he could threaten to kill himself to get his way.

Against my better judgement and with great pain he will be leaving today. We had him booked on a 11:00AM flight that was cancelled due to bad weather in the midwest. I'll take him to LAX again tonight to see if he can fly out on an 11:00PM flt.

I let him know last night, that there was NOTHING that he could do from preventing me from loving him fully and unconditionally. I told him that my door and my heart will always remain open to him.

Pain, confusion, tears and fears.

He told the shrink and the investigator that his Aunt Annie had said that he could live there. She did not extend this offer. She said that he could visit for Christmas. So, here is yet another year of school flushed down the toilet for him.

I wish there was something I could say to him other than goodbye.

We were home from the airport by 10AM. Nothing was said on the way to or from the airport. We got home, I asked him if he was hungry, he said yes; I made him eggs, bacon & toast. Not a word was said as we ate.

This is killing me.

Why do I feel like I'm a shitty person and a horrible dad? I swear to God, I've tried to do my best for all my kids.

Where did it all go wrong?

What's going to happen to him and why can't I help?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Buster

Where did you go my happy son

I used to push you on the swing and take naps with you.

I fed you and stayed up at night with you

I sang to you and loved you. . .

And believe it or not, you used to love me

and come to work with me

You were on the road with me as a 3 year old performing in Comedy Clubs

I potty trained you on the road, in a van with a kiddie potty and no mommy

You demo'ed in my stores and street performed

I didn't know any other 9 year olds who could make $100 in a day at festival

We did homework together every night, even though we didn't like it

Where did you go my happy son

To hear it from you, somehow I have beaten, even the desire to live out of your, fucking deranged, teenage mind. Today you told me that if I didn't let you live with your Aunt Annie and her family, that you were going to kill yourself. Then you assured me that you were telling it, like it is.

Tears flow out of my eyes and my stomache wretches, as I absorb the pain that is searing deep within my heart. I believe with all my heart and soul that the best place for you is, in my care. Call me old school, but I wonder if skull cracking isn't a better way to discipline. I've been soft shoeing around you since you got here over 3 months ago.

I pray for clarity of mind and more compassion than the day before. More compassion backed with unconditional love. Patience and more compassion.

You didn't want to move to LA and now you are refusing to participate in your own life, unless it involves your death.

Helpless

I will love you and show you the way. I will never give up on you.

I love you

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dai Vernon • Cups and Balls

A troubled mind finds aching hearts

Frustration

Things spiral out of control at home and tension fills the air. Buster, trapped in his depression, so much so, that he can't even think it, let alone see a way out. Polly and I had a talk with him this evening, it did not go well. So much confusion, so much compassion. I wish he would let me in.

This is real life, this is my life. This is not easy. I am up to the task and have more love in my heart and more patience than he could possibly dream. I can't say that I know what I'm doing, but what I do know is; I'm doing the best that I can.

A day at the races


I did something neat yesterday, went to a magic session at the Race Track. Hollywood Park is without a doubt the nicest horse track I've ever seen. Aye Jaye had assembled a nifty little mix of eccentrics to enjoy an afternoon of magic, friendship and of course, horse racing. It was Aye Jaye, Carl Ballantine, Arthur Trace, Danny Sylvester and myself.

It was a real treat meeting Carl Ballantine. I was very appreciative to Aye Jaye for setting up the meeting. I've always been a big Ballantine fan. He cracks me up. It was a pleasure chatting with him about his long illustrious career in show business. We had an interesting discussion about the state of magic, and the entertainment industry.


Two characters out of a story, I was in heaven taking in all the sites, sounds and smells of the track. We bet on the races, won some lost some. . . easy come. . . easy go. Arthur (a recent FISM winner) is here from Chicago working the Castle for a couple of weeks. He showed us some nifty sandwich moves and some other things he's been working on. He's staying with Aye Jaye while he's in town. I look forward to seeing his FISM Act in the Palace this week. Should be fun.

It's always great seeing my soul brother Danny Sylvester. He showed Arthur his Sylvester Swivel an original card move as well as his Sylvester Pitch with silver dollars. The boys were geek'en out pretty good as I chatted with Ballantine and ran to the window to place another bet. I asked Danny what was going on in his life, he told me about a recent gig near Vegas as well as an upcoming gig in China. He and his girlfriend just got back from Ohio, where they celebrated Thanksgiving with Dan's family.

When comedy goes wrong

The apology

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Venice Beach. . . a real freak fest. . .

I don't know what to say about this guy. He's famous. . . probably the most famous street performer to ever work Venice Beach. I remember him from 20 years ago. . . and he's still here. . . amazing. He cruises up and down the strip playing his fender strat-o-caster. Whatever. . . I think he's cool. Venice is a totally laid back pitch. I'm really digg'en the scene. One dollar at a time I'll get my rent paid AND make the world a better place. It's the least I can do.


Here's a kid who when I started my cups and ball routine, said, "I can do that trick". I let him and he did a great job. He did the Vernon routine right out of the book. Really quite amazing when I later thought about it, I tipped him a few bucks. It takes a lot of guts to perform under pressure on the spot.

The sun set ant the end of the day. I feel so lucky to be able to appreciate such simple beauty day after day. I put my shit in the car, lit a cigar and walked out to the waves to feel them crash at my feet. So this is winter in LA. . . I'll take it. After Venice and sundown I drove a short distance and worked Santa Monica for another couple of hours.

Friday, November 24, 2006

There's no business like show business

I took a walk last night. I wanted to smoke a cigar while digesting my turkey, pie and Crown Royal. It must have been 10 PM or so. I walked up Victory and after a while crossed the street to double back. I looked in some store windows and was heading towards a storefront that I’ve wanted to peer into since moving in the neighborhood. It’s a toy train store. Took me back to my years in retail. I was looking at the Christmas Specials, on starter toy train sets, through the plate glass window of a dark store. Then I noticed some movement in the back of the store. There was a guy working . That took me back too. It took a toll on my marriage. She could never understand why after a nice Thanksgiving day with family, I would have to go down to my magic shop and toy store and make final last minute preparations for the busiest shopping day of the year.

That was then and this is now, and it wasn’t me working late on a holiday. My mind wanders in and out, then like a rubik’s cube being hit by a hammer, shatters with pieces flying.

My job is to spread the love and joy in my heart through the performance of my magic. “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician” ain’t dat da truth. Acting happy when your heart is breaking can be a real challenge. I need to have a strong weekend and the increased pressure to produce while bogged down in my own head makes it uncomfortable. But that’s what makes me a pro. I do my best to create the illusion, take my audience on a little bit of a journey and deliver the home, safe and sound.

It’s going to be a great weekend for shows regardless of how I feel.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chet Baker in Tokyo ' 87 - My Funny Valentine

How do you spell relief?

He's back and we haven't really asked him about anything just yet. We just wanted to have a nice Thanksgiving. There will be plenty of time to work things out. . . like the rest of our lives.

It was a nice Thanksgiving. Words cannot describe the relief to know that he was safe, back home, taking a shower and getting ready for Thanksgiving Dinner. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders, shake him violently and say, "WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 80 HOURS!!!!!" I didn't, I tried not to project any negative vibes. I think he needs to talk to someone about what's going on in his head, and I'm going to to my best to see that that happens. . . but ultimately, it's up to him. What's that joke? How many psychiatrists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one. . . but the light bulb has to want to change.

I'm thankful that Polly has stood by my side with love and compassion through these though episodes, early in our relationship. She loves me and Buster. I was always a package deal. This episode has brought us closer together and strengthened an already solid commitment. I'm so lucky, I feel like I've got a second lease on life. Now all I've got to do is make good.

Mama Tried • by Merle Haggard

The first I remember knowin was that lonesome whistle blowin
And a youngins dream of growin up to ride.
On a freight train leavin town, not knowin where I was bound
No one could steer me right, but mama tried.

Was the only rebel child from a family meek and mild
Mama seemed to know what lay in store
In spite of all my sunday learnin
For the bad I kept on turnin and mama couldnt hold me anymore.

And I turned 21 in prison, doin life without parole
No one could steer me right, but mama tried, mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleadin I denied
That leaves no one but me to blame cause mama tried.

Dear old daddy rest his soul, left my mom a heavy load
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes
Workin hours without rest, wanted me to have the best
Oh she tried to raise me right, but I refused.

And I turned 21 in prison, doin life without parole
No one could steer me right, but mama tried, mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleadin I denied
That leaves no one but me to blame cause mama tried.

Ricky Jay in LA!!!

The Geffen Playhouse is honored to present the astonishing Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants for a limited run in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre.

Long considered one of the world's greatest sleight of hand artists, his career is further distinguished by the remarkable variety of accomplishments as an author, actor, historian and film consultant.

"Enthralling ...

the most coveted tickets in town."

Ben Brantley, New York Times.

Time Magazine raves,

"Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants is ... dazzling, sell-out crowds nightly ... it's the smartest show in town."

Don't miss this holiday gift to Los Angeles!

With only 84 seats, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre at the Geffen Playhouse is his most intimate venue ever.

Tuesday - Saturday $75 - $85
V.I.P. Packages available $115 (3 front rows)

... in consideration of the intimate nature of the performance late-comers will not be seated - no one under 17 admitted

Buster is back • Happy Thanksgiving

xfiles

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

buster

IM from his account to a girlfriend in Cincy

Trying to cover all bases I log onto Buster's AOL AIM Account as him. Here's what popped up.


NeddyTeddy: who is this?

BustaJohn: John's Dad

NeddyTeddy: I thought so

BustaJohn: really worried

NeddyTeddy: Me too

NeddyTeddy: I'm sorry you have to worry so much

BustaJohn: I know he's hurting, but this isn't a good way to go about things

NeddyTeddy: I told him this

NeddyTeddy: and he went and did it anyway

NeddyTeddy: I'm sorry, I love him very much, but this was a stupid move..

BustaJohn: how long had he been planning it?

NeddyTeddy: I don't know

NeddyTeddy: He had mentioned it lightly

BustaJohn: I think he just snapped the other night

NeddyTeddy: And I told him "That's a stupid idea"

NeddyTeddy: Yeah not coming back was.. a good snapper

BustaJohn: would he go to Seattle?

BustaJohn: he didn't take any money

NeddyTeddy: I dunno... he said he liked his friends in Seattle

NeddyTeddy: That's all I really know..

BustaJohn: well thanks

BustaJohn: If you hear from him please let me know

BustaJohn: just want to know that he's alright

BustaJohn: who is this?

NeddyTeddy: Michelle

NeddyTeddy: Sorry

NeddyTeddy: lol

NeddyTeddy: I coulda said somethin

NeddyTeddy: >.<

BustaJohn: thanks

NeddyTeddy: No problem.. I'll keep my ears open for anything

BustaJohn: Call my cell number

BustaJohn: later

NeddyTeddy: All right, any time is a good time?

NeddyTeddy: No wait?

BustaJohn: ANYTIME

NeddyTeddy: Okay

NeddyTeddy: Later

Tick Tock

I though he might hang in the Burbank foothills. Not sure why I thought that, went on a hike to look for him in an area that we’ve hiked. An hour into it I realized how ridiculous this was and headed back, hoping, he might have returned.

My mind is going to plenty of worst case scenarios even though I’m trying to control negative thoughts. Last night a couple of cocktails, wings and Monday Night Football, was a good diversion for a few hours.

Tonight I’ll go on down to the Promenade and try and work. Need to keep my spirits up, Need to be optimistic that he just needs to cool off before returning.

I feel so empty and helpless. My boy is out there hurting, not knowing where to turn. I feel so bad my heart is breaking. I’m worried and pissed and hurt. I just want to help him.

He could be anywhere. I hope he’s OK.

24

It's been over 24 hours since Buster disappeared. Stomach in knots and wishing I had a valium to calm my nerves. This shit has been going on since he got here. Not running away, but the back story. The way he deflated in Cincinnati last summer when he was with his mom. The shit he's starting to piece together about his mothers ability and or desire to be a parent at all. It's painful shit, but at least she's consistent. I've had custody of him since he was two years old and I've done the best I could through the years. I'm his biggest fan and strongest advocate for a kid that just wants to be away from both his mother and myself.

To my dismay, my mind has chosen this time to attack all psyche weaknesses and prey on self doubt. I can't tell you how it feels to have 3 out of your 4 kids NOT want to talk to you. . . in person or on the phone. Good, now let me kick myself while I'm down. All I want is to do is show them how much I love them. Talk to them, laugh with them and be a part of their lives. Fuck, who and I kidding. At that age I saw my Dad twice a year. . . and that was probably too much for me at that time. Ahhhh perfect, now lets squeeze the balls of the past and try and make me feel even crappier.

Nope, not gonna happen. Need to get a grip. Can't afford to tailspin out of control into an all out tizzy or depressed funk. I am not the bad guy here. I was doing my job as I saw it important to do. Seeing 4 F's on his report card a week ago, getting his 3 week Christmas Vacation in Cincinnati yanked for not meeting the minimal requirements of a passing grade. Gimmee a fuck'en break! I try to engage him in discussions about making positive changes in his academic approach (magnet school, home school, vocational) as well as talk to him about his mom and his feelings. There have been points where we had very full conversations about all that but most of the time he withdraws into himself; goes into his room and reads a book. Polly and I have made beautiful home for him here in LA. He is a part of a loving family who thinks the world of him and just wants to see him do well.

I am not the bad guy here. There were consequences to his behavior. At the 5 week point, he had an opportunity to turn things around. He didn't. And it's not like I was taking valuable family time away from him, he wasn't even going to see his mom. He was going to stay with his Aunt Annie and her family. Truth be told, it wasn't about going back to see family, if he had his way he would spend the whole time hanging out with his friends there. But we all knew that. Minimum effort would have got him his free 3 week vacation with friends.

Now he's run away. Teaching me a real lesson I guess. What could he possible be thinking?

Here's the picture I took to the North Hollywood Police Department yesterday morning. I filed a missing persons report. Have contacted the School Police and talked to his school Counselor. We had all met last week to discuss his grades and put in place some communication tools like daily progress reports. Once again, he wasn't digg'en it. Talked to his Aunt Annie and Cricket's boyfriend Larry. Strangely or perhaps predictably I haven't heard from Cricket. Whatever, stay focused, keep my eye on the ball. I am worried about my boy. I love him so much, if anything bad happened to him. . . . Don't go there. He'll be fine, surface and. . . . . . who fucking knows what's going to happen? Tune in tomorrow to see if he shows up or hops a freight train to Tulsa.

Teen Runaway Statistics

Between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America each year.

One in seven youth youth will run away from home before the age of 18.

Parental substance abuse is the largest predictor of runaway behavior in youth.

Runaway/homeless youth are 50% male and 50% female, though females are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines.

Prior to leaving home, nearly half (43%) of youth reported being beaten by a caretaker.

Forty-one percent of youth who’ve run away had been abandoned by their parents or caretakers for at least 24 hours.

A little over a quarter of youth who’ve run from home have had parents or caretakers request sexual activity, and 32% have been forced to participate in sexual activity against their will.

Forty-one percent of females seeking shelter report being pregnant.

Seventy-five percent of runaway and homeless youth have dropped out or will drop out of school.

Twenty-six percent stay in unsupervised and possibly unsafe places for one or more nights.

Twelve percent spend at least one night outside in a park, on the street, under a bridge or overhang, or on a roof top.

Thirty-two percent have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Monday, November 20, 2006

In my "In Box" • From my niece Nikki

Just wanted to let you know that John posted something on Myspace at 3:45 AM... dunno if that helps. Here is the post:

"I'm actually not going to Cincinnati for Chirstmas break because my dad is an ass basket who likes to play mind games....

FUCK

bye"
301254897_3975860f5d

To freak or not to freakout. . . that is the question

Eye twitching uneasiness as the afternoon rolls on. Buster is either skipping school or run away. I'm not freaking out, just worried. Polly left at 6AM and I checked in on him then. He appeared to be sleeping. I went back to bed for an hour and was puzzled why I didn't hear him getting ready for school. I checked his bed, but he was not there. His pillows were under the covers and made to look like him sleeping. My heart stopped, like he had vanished. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on. I looked around the house and couldn't find him anywhere. The cell phone was on the back lawn near the fire pit. That's odd. I checked the last number dialed was a Cincinnati number at 1:17AM Pacific Time. So, he left somewhere between 1:17 and 6:00AM. Where. . . who knows? Why?. . . I've got a pretty good idea.

The last words he said to me last night were "Fuck you, I hate you more than anyone else in the world". Now I sit here questioning my own parenting results. My poor son is getting so lost in a delusion that he can live with someone besides me; his reasoning has been skewed. There are rules, expectations and consequences and trust me, he ain't diggen'em. So here we go, the antics of a depressed teenager.

I flashed back to my own 16th year on this planet. It wasn't a happy memory to recall, but timely. I was a very independent and financially self sufficient teenager. I bought my own car at 16 and was performing 6 days a week at Kings Island Amusemant Park in my hometown of Cincinnati. I was making $300 a week for doing 6 twenty minute shows a day, this was back in 1982 with no expenses except pot and gas. Good bread for a punk. My mom must have made some comment and I decided to disappear for a couple of weeks. It was fun, me and this chick bounced around from friends house to friends house. It was in the summer, I worked everyday, just didn't go home. I was a total fuck to a mother who couldn't discipline worth a damn. There were no rules and I still broke them all. Where is my boy? I hope he shows up this afternoon or evening.

I can hear my mom saying to me, "I only hope I live long enough to see your kids as teenagers. . . and I hope that they are all as bad as you were". Well, I guess she would have liked this.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday • Venice Beach

The marine layer rolled in and looked like I felt. Hazy and gloomy. There was a mild chill to the air as I struggled to get my shows off the ground. Issues with Buster, school, parenting and life weigh heavy on my mind.

I ran into Chris Korn and another magician from Illinois named Joe Dobson. We didn't chat too much, just caught up a bit. Chris invited me to his birthday party next week, so I guess well have some more fun then. It's wild in a city as big as LA, how many magicians I run into while I'm out and about.

I finished up my work day around 5PM, went home, had some pizza with Polly and Buster; then we all walked to the movie theater and saw the new James Bond movie that had excellent playing card theme opening graphics and animation.


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View Trailer • Click Here

Friday • Lunch at the Magic Castle

This was the second week in a row that I went to the Magic Castle for lunch on Friday. It amazes me how close I live. In good traffic, as it was on Friday, it took me 10 minutes door to door. Although it was a lighter crowd than the previous week, I was not disappointed with who I saw. I saw Aye Jaye as I parked and we walked up together. He sang a little ditty and showed me the fresh blue chicken eggs that he had brought for Gay Blackstone. We entered the club and he continued singing for the hostess. I find Aye Jaye's attitude and personality refreshing and I think he's a lot of fun to be around.

While Mr. Jaye was schmoozing the staff, a fellow in the gift shop caught my eye as he looked very familiar. We both recognized each other about the same time. It was Alphonso! I have only seen him a couple times over the last 20 years, but when I lived here in the 80's, we were both fixtures at the Castle. He walked me outside and pointed to where he lived back in those days. A nice apartment, only a few blocks away from the Castle. For the last 17 years, he has, and still does, live in North Hollywood, less than a mile from where I live. I think we'll be seeing much more of each other. We talked about the old days hanging out in the corner with Vernon and Jennings. . . those were the days. Cigar smoke and cocktails, card tricks and the history of our lives being formed and molded at the feet of the masters. It really was a very exciting time.

We went upstairs and ran into Billy Goodwin, card man extrodinare, and librarian for the Castle's extensive research library. I had no idea that he commutes 5 days a week from Oxnard to Hollywood to do this.

After lunch he gave me the full tour of the library and told me about the current renovations going on. It's obvious that he takes this job seriously. Mr. Goodwin, in my opinion, could be one of the most underrated card me around. He is gifted in his ability to construct high power diabolical routines that are both entertaining and real foolers. I look forward to hanging out with him more as well!

Lunch was good. At the table were: Pete Biro, Ron Wilson, Joe Someone or other, Aye Jaye, Whit Haydn and myself. It was nice to finally meet Mr. Haydn after all these years of mutual friends. I am pleased that I am starting to plug into the magic community here in my new home of Los Angeles. It's odd, I asked both Alphonso and Billy if they get together with anyone and session regularly, they both said no. Why do I feel like this is about to change and things are about to get more fun? I know. . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

Working on a new collage

As part of my creative recovery, I am spending time doing some things that I enjoy, but don't do enough. . . Like collage. I find it very relaxing to sit around, cut up books, use the scissors and xacto blade, finally spray adhesive to create something you might call art. I like where this one is heading. I only do colleges (most of them are theme collages) when the subject speaks to me. I love toys and have a long history with them. Not in the sense that I played with them when I was a kid, but having owned two speciality toy stores (FunKIDelic Toys & Carew Tower Toys) and a dear friend who has a world class toy soldier and vintage toy collection who taught me to appreciate the subtle beauty and simplicity that is the notion of "Play Value".

Toys are nostalgic, unless you a little kid. I remember playing with Lincoln Logs and Barrel of Monkeys, Operation and Clue. One of the things I like to do in my college work is stick in one element that just doesn't go. Something to give it a bit of contrast, maybe a handgun or something. I'm just in the preliminary stages of cutting out, haven't really even thought where anything is going to go yet. The pics were just a casual toss of my cut outs onto the dining room table. Guess we'll see where things head as I finish up my cutting.

Click on the pics if you want to blow them up. Some of my previous work includes Colleges of: Picasso, Dali, Photorealism, Playing Cards, Magic, Charlie Chaplin, Comic Books, Pop Art, Norman Rockwell, Ralph Steadman and more. It's always been a secret fantasy of mine to show my art in a gallery. Wouldn't that be cool. So many dreams and delusions. I just love it!