The Magic Castle

I was eight years old, and I was standing right up next to the TV. Normally the parents would have scolded me and told me to sit back down on the couch, but not this time. I had my finger pressed to the screen and listened as David Copperfield was going to let us pick which train car he made disappear. I moved my finger up, then left and left again, down and right, up and back down. By the end of it, my finger was on the caboose, as was everyone else’s in the world (assuming they followed directions.) I was enraptured. He had read my mind from across the television. And now, I watched as he made the train car disappear.

I knew it wasn’t Magic, but it was something that wowed me and something I couldn’t figure out.

Magic was one of those hobbies which came and went, I never had the focus to really devote myself to it beyond a few simplistic card tricks. But I would dutifully come back to it every few months and I always enjoyed a good Magician special on TV.

I’ve reached an amateur level where I understand most of the mechanics and tricks without being able to recreate them on my own.

So when the trip to LA was lining up I discovered the Magic Castle, an entity and organization which had escaped my view throughout my life.

I was excited about this from the start and I knew it would be a highlight of the trip. Brian and I both packed our suits, ties and shoes and when it was time to get ready to go, we looked good. We made Penn and Teller jokes all night as I’m about a foot taller than Brian.

As we’re taking the elevator down, we’re in it with three people in t-shirts and shorts obviously curious why we were dressed to the nines. My cell phone tweets as I get a text message, and as the door opens to the elevator I pull it out, frown and look at Brian straight-faced as I say “My stocks are down.” It was completely spontaneous, but it just was how I felt. Dressed in a well fitting suit, staying at a four star hotel, and about to go out on the town. In truth it was a text from K telling us to have fun at the Magic Castle.

We get the guy in the top hat and red tailed jacket to hail a taxi for us, and we head off to the Magic castle. We had dinner reservations at 9:30 but we had both eaten around 4 so we weren’t too hungry.

When you arrive at the Magic castle, you enter the ante room where you check-in. Then after checking in you have to speak the magic words to an owl on the book shelf for it to reveal the bar area. It’s silly and absurd but an amazing piece for the feel and aura of the place. I won’t tell you all what the magic phrase is, but it was cute.

So we end up chilling in the bar and discover that the close-up magician’s last show has only 1 seat open. Now the  There were two Asian guys in line in front of us who decided not to split up so it came to Brian and I, we sort of looked at each other and he was the first to say “You go.” I tried to, but honestly, I wanted to see Eugene Burger very badly. Thanks Brian!

The show was fun, short and entertaining. He did some awesome tricks which boggle the mind.

They work very hard to make the Magic Castle feel right. It’s a Victorian home, lots of wood, carvings, paintings etc. They also disallow any photography inside the place etc. I wanted to get a photo with Eugene but I followed the rules, settling for a handshake after the show.

I reconvened with Brian who was chatting with a girl at the bar, it ended up that she was the daughter of one of the head honchos at the Magic castle. It was a fun conversation, discussing various things before it was time for our dinner reservation. We got seated and relaxed, ordering just appetizers each. We tipped well since the waiters obviously didn’t want us to order so little. The food was great. From there we got our tickets to the 11 o’clock show with Jeff McBride.

JEFF McBRIDE. Do you know who he is? He’s awesome! Watch this Youtube video. He’s another Magician I had seen numerous times on TV and actually watched one of his teaching DVDs. He’s a judge on CelebraCadabra, a reality show on VH1 that makes C-list celebs into magicians. In short, he’s amazing. And his show did not disappoint. Brian and I discussed his show for the next few days trying to figure out his tricks but a number of them completely escape us.

In short, it was mesmerizing and fascinating to watch a master work. We were in the second row and it was an experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait to go back.

When we left we asked the front desk to call a cab for us and we stepped outside to wait. As we’re waiting we strike up a conversation with this other couple who had called a cab but had someone jump in before them. So when our taxi pulls up we go to get in and they pick that moment to ask to split the ride with us. I should have said no, but I’m too damn nice.

Their hotel is on Sunset, the girl says the name and when the driver doesn’t immediately confirm that he knows where it is she begins reeling off the address. It’s moment’s later I realize that both of them are drunk. Now, I don’t have great drunkdar, I really can’t tell unless they’re slobberingly drunk. We’re chit-chatting and we get to the address the girl had named off and it obviously wasn’t her hotel. So this sets the driver off (who had previously cursed at a guy in another car) and the woman begins trying to quash the fire while the drunk guy in the back begins muttering that he’s going to get out as soon as we stop, wherever it is.

We end up making it to the hotel, the driver had known the address. They get out and the guy has to go get change. He flashed the driver a Franklin before half stumbling inside to get change. Brian had tried to stop him as he could make change but we end up waiting a few minutes for the guy to come back out. The fare had been $17 and they gave the driver a twenty.

Brian and I are apologizing the entire way to our hotel, we didn’t know how drunk they were. He’s a nice enough guy, just tired and since he’s a foreigner he has to deal with people not understanding his accent and such. We tip him well and call it a night.

Man, that night was awesome.

Returning to Improv

After I left SAK as the house manager I stepped away from improv really. I was burned out and I just didn’t know it. Over the past few weeks K and I have gone to a few shows and then last Saturday I had an audition to join the Tuesday night cast.

The audition, I felt, went fairly well. Even the part where I stepped off the stage and took a fall. Thankfully I’ve been a clutz for over two decades and I was able to catch myself and bounce right back up, however the fall was rather surprising and guaranteed my adrenaline was flowing.

The procedure after the audition was that I would either get a phone call if I was accepted or an email if I wasn’t ready. I’ll admit, I was fairly confident I would get in, but I had the little voice in the back of my mind nagging at me saying that I was rusty, that I wasn’t good enough, etc.

Thankfully I was wrong and the call came not more than 30 minutes ago. And so it is with great joy I proclaim my full return to Improv.

Ribbit

“Be nice to Bernice!”

That was written on a sticky note next to the phone when I worked at the college radio station, WREK. Her story changed depending on who was telling it to you, but the consensus was that she was an older woman who lived alone and spent her time in front of the tv. One day she misdialed a number and got the WREK call-in line, discovering a phone number which almost always had someone there to answer she saved the number and began calling it frequently.

I remember clearly the first time I had a call from Bernice. I was playing some beautiful classical music and the phone rang, the latter being quite unusual during my show because I did the morning shift, 6am to 9am. It was quiet and let me play classical music, low stress, nothing big. So when the phone rang, I answered it.

“WREK.”

“Can rats climb up your drain pipes?”

That’s how the conversation opened.  She had an odd question and called WREK for some reason. I realized it was Bernice and so I let the conversation go on, I had another 10 minutes before the music ended.

“I think so… why?”

And off we went through her babbling story telling about finding a rat in her house and how it must of come through the drain pipes, the evils of rats and such. It was an unusual question and I genuinely tried to be helpful in answering it, I did think rats could climb up drain pipes. That story came back to me this morning after sleeping very deeply.

Yesterday K and I were in transit for approximately 13 hours, from Atlanta down I-75 to US-82, which crossed Georgia to drop grand mom off before getting on I-95 and taking it down to Titusville to pick up Mattie from K’s mom, then heading into town to try and pick up a CD for next week’s episode before finally heading home.

K and I had been getting ready for bed, both in the bathroom (which I had used previously when we first arrived home.) I lift the toilet lid to throw away a tissue, and both K and I jump back in surprise as a frog stares up at us from the bowl. I drop the toilet lid again and K and I just stare at each other in surprise.

I don’t know how he got into the toilet. There are a few possibilities:

  1. He hopped into the apartment when we were unloading the car and the door was open for periods of time, made his way to the bathroom and leapt into the toilet.
  2. He has been in the apartment and found his way to the toilet over the past few days.
  3. Teleportation.
  4. He came up the pipes somehow.

In any case, the frog was quickly removed from the toilet via a plastic bag and a hand. To be released outside, leaving K and I to laugh about it as we finally called it a night and fell into a deep sleep.

I stand by my answer to Bernice: animals can come up drains.

Tears and Laughter

This weekend was emotionally draining. Though, at the end of it, everyone was smiles. I’ll save a more lengthy write-up for later this week as I just got home an hour ago after 13 hours between leaving my brother’s home and arriving at mine.

I shed many tears and cried a fair bit through the weekend, my mother was an integral part of my life and saying goodbye to her is very difficult. I miss talking to her on the phone, I miss hearing her laugh, I miss her puns and so much more. But many things were said and shared this weekend to remind me of so many good times and good memories.

Also this weekend was an event mom would have dearly loved to be in the middle with the family coming together, playing together ranging from Poker to Charades to Guitar Hero 3.

I should also note that the Jarrett clan is looking for any family brave enough to stand against them in a Charades battle, we welcome any and all challengers. We rocked out with some amazing skills in Charades this weekend, by far some of the most fun we’ve had.

More stories to come.

It’s been a year

This weekend makes it a year since mom died and the week has gotten progressively more and more difficult. It’s coming on the back of working 16 out of the past 17 days (including weekends) and so my body, brain, heart and soul are just exhausted.

Tomorrow K and I will make our way up to Atlanta for a family gathering, we’ll pick up my grandmom on the way and we’ll be there through the weekend.

If you’re a friend in Atlanta, it is possible that Saturday night I’ll be looking to go out but more than likely this is a weekend wholly devoted to family and I won’t see any of you. My trips into Atlanta seem to echo this trend frequently and I’m sorry, but this more than others holds true to this meaning.

Sunday will be a memorial service and the actual burial of mom’s ashes at a plot in Roswell. It is just a family event, so no details are forthcoming.

Thank you all for your support over this past year.  It’s been tumultuous and has had many highlights, of which K has been a shining star, I don’t know how I would have survived this past year without her by my side.

That being said, I still miss mom each and every day. Many many times something has happened and I’ve wanted to pull out my phone to call her, only to remember that I can’t.

Adrenaline

I’m okay.

On the drive home from work, I’m slowing down for a stoplight and a bicyclist pops out between cars and hits the side of my car. He flipped off his bike and broke my driver side mirror. Let me tell you, time has never moved slower as I watched him come off his bike.

I stopped and began to pull off, opened my door as he stood up and picked up his bike.

“Are you okay?” I went to stand up out of the driver seat and felt the car begin to pull forward as my foot came off the brake, I had forgotten to shift gears to park and so I quickly sat down and regained control and pulled into the parking lot. I tried to play back the last thirty seconds, had I not been paying attention? How did this happen? Was it my fault? Is he okay? The questions raced through my mind as I pulled into a parking space at the 7-11.

As I shifted into park I checked my rearview and watched the guy bicycle away. I was perplexed by him leaving but relieved that he was okay.

Anyways, I parked the car and got out, looking around just trying to take stock of the situation. Two guys came over. One offered his info as witness to the guy riding off, he hadn’t seen the impact. And the other guy who came over kept telling me to wait for the police just in case someone called in my tag and assuring me it was alright and that he had seen the whole thing from the car next to me. He even said he tried to stop the guy from crossing but couldn’t.

I called 911 to be sure it had been called in, and waited. The chill hit quickly as the sun set and the cold front laid it on. I waited maybe 30 minutes before a cruiser pulled in with a young lady officer. We only chatted for a few minutes, I told her all the details but decided not to get a report. I took her card and she assured me that if it did somehow come back to me I was covered since I had waited for her and my 911 call was logged.

All in all, I only need to fix the mirror and hope the young guy is alright. I don’t know his story or why he rode off so quick but I’m calm and okay.

Can’t wait to call my mechanic and see if they can get a mirror for me, or to go hit the junk yards and see if I can easily find one.

Oaen’s Excellent Adventures

Having played Dungeons and Dragons for a while now, a new character is refreshing especially when he’s not like anything you’ve played before. I find myself all too often falling into a mercenary fighter role, sometimes a valiant hero but that’s much less common. So when I knew I needed a character, Oaen (pronounced Owen) was about as different as I could get.

See, Oaen is 3’4″ tall and about as smart as a rutabaga. As a player, I go into every gaming session looking for stunts to pull which should, in all honesty, end up in the death of poor Oaen. The problem is that Oaen is built, in terms of the game, to be damn hard to kill. Let’s give you a rundown of the latest gaming session.

You know what? Screw that, here’s the story from Oaen himself.

***

Continue reading “Oaen’s Excellent Adventures”

From a character came a whole world

A few years ago I devoted a great deal of time to developing a fictional world, complete with language, history, characters, politics, geography and much more. I still have most of the documents on my computer, though I haven’t looked at them in a while. It’s a hobby which comes and goes depending on my time and moods.  I don’t know if I’ll ever return to the first world I created, the stories petered out and all that was left was to continue to trudge through my lexicon as I attempted to make more and more words.

Much more recently, I’ve had a world blossoming in my head, all from the simple concept of a character. The setting is “Steampunk,” a term used to describe a world without the internal combustion engine, when steam power provides all. Sometimes that world involves magic, but not always. Usually clockwork and steam power has advanced such that it can now mimic much of today’s technology. It’s often Victorian or maybe western in settings, but not always. With this setting in mind, I came up with a character named “Silas Strauss.” A young, barrel-chested man. As my image of him came into a more clear focus I realized that Silas worked in the blue-collar realm, not a Prince or nobility of any sort – he worked and enjoyed it.

His work though eluded me for a long time. Did he work onboard an airship? Or on a train? In a factory? What was it. Eventually I realized he worked either shoveling coal or laying rails for the trains to move on. And from there the world exploded around him, it’s amazing when you discover the key element how much more can come to you. I quickly had to grab a pad and scribble notes to myself.

“Silas Strauss – Burly and barrel-chested. He is the Serviceman of the 7th Rail Squad for the 4th Battalion in His Royal Majesty’s Exploratory forces, his duties alternate between laying railroad and shoveling coal on board one of the engines.”

Imagine the times when we had to first lay railroad rails across the US, exploring into the deep unknown. But imagine if the land was even bigger, what if it had been the size of Asia? One railroad track would obviously be too few as the forces would be huge, laying track for multiple trains only made sense! If your kingdom was big enough and you had the supplies, you could lay two, three or four tracks simultaneously allowing trains to run supplies and keep the forces mobile. Your supply line would be crucial for this large of an exploratory force.

And Silas is a small cog in the machine for these forces. How would life be? He’d work day in and day out. He wouldn’t suffer the fear or questions explorers on the high sea might, the tracks would always be behind you, meaning you could always find your way home. But you’d also know just how far you’d be from home.

The world grows more and more in my mind, my notes in the Google Docs folder are piling up. I guess a story might come out of this. At the least, I’m hoping to put together a steampunk costume for D*Con.

Diesel

K and I took Mattie to the dog park this weekend, the drive there had us worried because it was raining and we weren’t sure if this would all be for nothing. Driving with Mattie in the car is heart wrenching for me, she whines and whimpers from her kennel and so I hate taking her anywhere without it ending in fun – in hopes one day she’ll be excited about car rides.

We got the park and it was still a very light drizzle, so we decide to hop out and wait it out under the pavilion. While there a man came over with a truly massive English Mastiff. Don’t underestimate my meaning when I say massive, this dog on hind legs may not have been as tall as me, but his head was massive and he could have played the Monster in Disney’s Sandlot movie.

The mastiff’s name, as it turns out was Diesel and he was very sweet. K and I asked his owner about what it takes to own such a big dog and he laughed as he ran us through the evening routine. Simply put, the dog isn’t an apartment dog, it needs a big house and yard. Even though Mastiffs won’t run very much, they do still need the space.