Thursday, November 06, 2008

Busker du Jour

Street Magician, originally uploaded by reggiemateo.

Not as bad as you think

I don't know what you have to do to flip a pickup on the freeway, but I'm pretty sure it ain't pretty.

Was working myself into a tizzy about a dozen things out of my control, when I saw the reason that traffic was all backed up. The big white pickup was on its top, tilted a bit on the engine side. Air bags deployed, fire engine and meat wagon on scene. Traffic on the other side of the freeway backing up because of the rubber necking. Guess my day wasn't as bad as I thought. After a few rainy and chilly days, were back to 75 degrees, blue skies and sunshine. Protein drinks and going to the gym. A good woman and a humidor full of cigars. What have I really got to complain about?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A day at the office

Tumbling Dice, originally uploaded by rosendahl.

Trick dice and hustlers

I’ve been reading “The Magician & The Cardsharp” a book about Dai Vernon’s quest to locate Allen Kennedy and learn his legendary center deal. While the book has been more of a historical novel, than I would have thought, I’m enjoying it.

The world is full of mythical characters, that are as real as we make them. Having studied Vernon’s penchant for seeking out gamblers since I was a kid; I patterned my own search for gamblers, con men, buskers and other human oddities. More often than not, I didn’t have to go to far to find these people. In fact, most of these people came through my Magic Shop door either in Cincinnati or Seattle.

There was this fellow I met in seattle. A strange and interesting guy. He came into my shop “Seattle Magic”, on 1st Street in Pioneer Square. I was standing at the demo pod smoking a cigar when he entered. African American, mid sixties maybe, a mail man dressed in a mail mans uniform. He saw me shuffling cards and asked me what I do. I thought he might be a magician and busted out my standard opening of having a card peeked. . bla. . bla . . bla. He liked my tricks and asked if I do any gambling stuff. I did a quick 4 handed poker deal where I dealt him the 4 aces. He asked me what I was doing working at a magic shop. I tried to sell him a trick deck, then invited him to look around. He discovered in a corner display case, a collection of old dice and dice cups. We talked about them a bit. This guy was a little off. He spoke with his hand in front of his mouth as though there might be some sort of surveillance going on. That was about it for our first meeting. He came in a few days later dressed as a security guard, and had a few goodies to share. He had a a bunch of “tops” & “fronts” (mis spotted dice and regular dice that match) that he said that he had made. This changed the game and I closed the store and invited him into the secret “Magicians Only” back room. He totally dug the scene, a dimly lit back room with 4 large display cases displaying all the gimmicks not fit to be displayed in the layman showroom. A card table in the middle of the room with 4 close up pads and a large cigar ashtray in the middle of the table.

I was curious to find out how you make trick dice. We made proper introductions, his name was Lee. Lee wouldn’t talk too much about how to make the dice, but he did give me a serious lesson about the trick dice that he had and made me an offer to sell them in the store. I accepted. I had sold the cheap version that just rolled 7’s and 11’s with one die with all 5’s and the other just 6’s and 2’s. The sets he had were 6-4-2, 5-4-1 & 5-3-1 with the matching regular set as well. He quickly showed me that with these combos he could create a huge advantage in hitting any numbers he wanted. I asked him about dice switches and he showed me a couple that he was fond of. I asked him how this looked, and performed a shuttle pass into my left hand, as I rolled the dice on the table with my left hand I lapped the regular dice with the right. It fooled him badly and he asked me what I was doing working in a magic shop.

The next time he was in, he was dressed like a Greyhound Bus driver. What a crazy cat, all these disguises and the whole hand in front of the mouth thing. We would get to be good friends and he confided in me that not only did he make the dice, but he also made juice tables and other electronic devices. This went on for a while and I pleaded with him to let me see his juice table. It was months before he let me see it. He had me drive 20 minutes out to a grocery store parking lot, where his van was parked. The Seattle rain was coming down in sheets as we got drenched going from my car to his van. We got in the back of a cargo van where there was this large 5’ x 2.5’ table painted up like a backgammon board. Lee took out a pair of clear dice with blue spots and worked his magic all over that board. I had agreed to help him sell the table for $5,000. I told him that anyone serious about buying this piece would want to see it in action and at least video. I shot the demonstration and got to say once again, quite an education. I would later give Lee a key to the store and let him set up shop in my back room, with his tools, calipers, drill press and sheets of plastic, I watched him make trick dice with the artistic flair of a pianist.

I’ve met a lot of people like this in my life and have always felt very lucky to have crossed paths with such unique humans.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Guess who's allowed to vote!

Q: Can convicted felons vote in california?

A: California allows former felons to vote, but the state prohibits voting by people incarcerated in prison or on parole. According to the California Constitution and Elections Code, "A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age." (Cal. Const. Art. II, Sec. 4; Cal. Elec. Code Sec. 2101) This means that California residents who have a felony conviction can vote after completion of parole, while on probation,or if they are committed to county jail with a felony conviction.