When I was a little boy my dad was building a house. One of the people he had hired to help with the house had a side business as a magician. He and his wife did a magic show for my birthday when I was little. I remember the wonder. I remember trying so hard to figure out the tricks. It wasn’t that I was a skeptic it was that I knew Henry couldn’t be magical because he helped build houses. Houses were like magic tricks then. If you could build a house you could build a magic trick, and if you could build a magic trick you could figure out the blue prints of the magic trick.
I remember even at that early age watching for things that were fast. Slight of hand that required me to blink or miss something. I didn’t see much that was a give away then, and I remember him not telling me when I begged for him to explain how the tricks worked.
Years later I got a magic trick set and a juggling set for Christmas. Marked card, plastic cups with a hidden chamber and foam balls were in the set. Also included were a rubber false thumb and “silk” handkerchief as well as a yellow rope/cord and a large metal ring. I quickly learned the trick where the rope would be tide to the ring and then be pulled off magically despite having been tied on twice. I had the blueprints. I didn’t have to figure out the tricks, I had to figure out the presentation of the tricks. I distinctly remember trying to impress my uncle Jim with some of the tricks that Christmas. He tried to feign enthusiasm, but eventually when I asked him, “Did you see how I did it?” He squirmed a bit and explained to me the tricks.
Magic tricks are rarely about the magic. They’re about the story. They’re about the strain and failure of the audience. You try to see how it’s done, but the failure to figure it out makes it more engaging. They’re like jokes: the non sequitur is really what makes the joke work. It isn’t the logical flow but the illogical flow that actually makes the joke funny. Your mind searches for the connection because you know the obvious connection isn’t right.
I’m thankful that my parents hired the Professor. I’m grateful that I had the chance to be surprised, wowed and educated at such a young age. I’m often please with the number of things I do remember. I subscribe to a ‘magic’ podcast to continue to learn tricks, scams and magic. I love being wrong, it keeps me wondering.