Last November (in the event that this blog lasts long enough, I mean in 2012), my wife and I ventured into Gibbol’s. Being from Ft. Wayne, IN, she had never been there, though she had taken me to Stoner’s Funstore, which we later found Gibbol’s is modeled off of, as the owners of the two stores are related. Suddenly, I found myself immersed in magic again. The seal was broken. I walked out with a new Hot Rod set and another bit of close-up magic closely related, and she was entranced with a prop item for doing an Ambitious Card routine. Okay, why they recommended that to her as something to start off with, I have no idea, seeing how there’s an awful lot of fundamental work that needs to be learned before doing it, but that’s a whole different story. She was happy with her item, so that was all that mattered.
On my way out, I grabbed a card for the local Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) chapter, Assembly 8, and went to their website as soon as I got home. This led me to a link to the local International Brother of Magicians (I.B.M.) chapter, Ring 1, website and I found out about a lecture Ring 1 was hosting given by Dan Fleschman, a local magician who has been working the restaurant scene in Colorado. We misunderstood who was all invited to the lecture and ended up crashing. While we were there, the first person to approach me was Harry Monti. Harry (and I’ll probably rave a bit more about this man, later. Hell, it’s not just likely, but more like inevitable) was warm in welcoming me in, and had I known more about him at the time, I would have probably been way too much of a fanboy and gotten flustered. But, as it was, we just talked together like two fans of magic. Combine that with the few other new people I met, I felt welcomed in and was looking forward to my first meeting with Assembly 8, which was, due to the way the calendar fell, the next night. Now, if anything, Dan’s lecture was pretty inspiring to me.
Now, for those who aren’t part of the magic scene, when guest lecturers come in, typically the lecturers are not just magicians who do a series of tricks, but they’re working performers. Most of the time, they’re selling tricks and lecture notes, but they also give advice from their perspective about working both from a technical and performance perspective. Most of the advice you’ll find in books or on video, but seeing it life with the chance to do some Q & A brings it all to the forefront and you see it in a very practical way. Dan’s lecture was no different, and seeing this all in practice just pulled me in deeper. I already had the magic bug, but now I was getting hooked deeper.
So, now the next night, I headed to my first Assembly 8 meeting. The tone here was a lot different. After the business meeting portion of things, we got into magic. At that point, basically there was a theme for the evening and anybody who wanted to perform that night could. I probably saw as many tricks backfire as worked that night and found a new appreciation with this group. Even if you went up and the trick failed, the group was with you. They might laugh, but they have all been there, so they are laughing with you. I got a good sense that this is a nurturing group. The majority of the members (and this applies to both clubs, which share a large amount of the same members) are hobbyists. There’s a smaller group of semi-pros who still keep day jobs and a handful of pros that do this stuff as their sole income. Once again, I saw Harry, but this time, the warmest welcome was from the assembly’s Vice President, Dan Todd. Like me, he works in databases and we hit it off. Seriously, Dan’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and any organization that has him as a representative has a serious asset.
What I found at that meeting, and later when I went to a regular Ring 1 meeting, was a group of people who had, in general, been doing this a long time and loved to help build new people up. In a future blog post, I’ll discuss what I see as the differences between what the two local clubs offer their members, but for now, I’ll just say I’m now a proud member of both clubs and their respective national organizations, and the past ten months dealing with these people has been a great source of joy for me.
What I can finally get to, though, is what I’ll probably discuss the most in this blog (or at least for a while in the beginning).
When I toyed around with magic as a kid, I learned a few tricks and worked the hell out of them. In the case of the Hot Rod, I had the moves down pat, but then, it really is an introductory trick into this stuff. Now I’m older and pretty much starting out again, I see so much available out there. Add in the availability of tricks, books, videos, etc., that the Internet makes available, and it becomes too easy to get caught up in buying the new shiny or learning a new move just enough before getting distracted by the next in a never-ending line-up.
In just the ten months I’ve been doing this, now, I’ve started trying my hand at busking magic and also competed in my first competition. (I didn’t place, but the experience was worth it!) What I found in this time, though, was that there’s so much out there available, but the stuff that I see working best, either for me or for the performances I watch, works because of a lot of fundamentals that aren’t necessarily pushed by the vendors, even though, when you watch the lectures or read articles by the pros, are absolutely necessary for the best work. Uh, that is why they’re called fundamentals, after all.
I’ve started back in with a magic course that was offered as a correspondence course in 1928, The Tarbell Course in Magic. I’m starting back with the course doing it as it was originally intended. As it was a correspondence course, you had seven to ten days between the arrival of each new lesson. Now, in 1941, the course was restructured as a set of books that is a serious library of magic, and I’ve got those, also. The beauty of the original course, though, is that the lessons and the amount of time given for each lesson make a pretty solid base for all sorts of magic as you develop the methods and sleight of hand and performance skills.
As I’m writing this, I’m into lesson four, and intend to proceed through the 61 originally intended weeks developing my skill. I’m probably going to discuss a good amount of what I find along the way, but for those who aren’t part of the magic community, I’m going to try to do this without giving anything away. A couple of reasons for this. First, I’m not going to give any of the secrets away because as a magician, that’s just bad form. Secondly, I find that sometimes if I know how something is done, some of the mystique is lost, and I don’t want to take that away from anybody else. I still like to be amazed, and I like it when the people around me still have that “Wow” moment.
So, now I’ve got the initial preliminaries to this blog out of the way, I’m ready to start focusing on the next topics. Sorry that I didn’t take the short way around to get here, but if you’ve ever talked with me, you’ll know that’s typical of me.