It's all an illusion

I was performing at a convention for magicians a few years back.

I had been attending this convention for many, many years, going back to when I was 11 years old.  The first year I went to it, I was part of the “Junior Magician’s Magic Show” with a couple of other kids who were kindred spirits: Squirrelly, awkward, and looking for some kind of attention and acceptance.

At the time, the cape that I wore that had been made for me, just about touched the floor. (When I gave that very same cape away last year, I tried it on, and it just made it to my waist.) I was quite little back then.

As I got older and got more experience, I was asked to perform at that convention numerous times. Sometimes I would be a featured act, and other times, I would act as the emcee. It was always fun to talk magic to some of the other guys and roam around the room where the dealers set up their booths, showing off the latest tricks that were for sale, and that after seeing them demonstrated, you “just had to have!”

I was different than many of them. The majority of them were there because of their love of magic. Some just enjoyed watching it, and others were practicing magicians, eager to learn a new slight or “talk shop” to another prestidigitator.  For them, it was a craft. An art. A skill.

It was all that for me, as well…but different. I loved the magic. Had for as long as I can remember, but my real goal wasn’t to “amaze” as much as it was to “entertain.” I liked to use it as a tool, along with the comedy I enjoyed doing. The only other comical magicians I had ever seen were those who did it silently, who “mimed” their act, doing it to music. I talked. (Oh boy, did I talk!) And to me, the laughs were more important than the “ooooos” and “aaaaaaaahs.”

I gained a reputation as one of the few that attended the convention that made a living from the craft. It wasn’t just a hobby for me. It was my profession. And, there were a few “old-timers” that resented that I did comedy along with the magic I performed, as if it were lessening, or diminishing the art, or craft. One time, I heard they didn’t invite me to perform at a convention because they heard I had used some “risqué” material during one of my shows. Really? I had gotten the premise that they were referring to from a book on magic that was written back in the 1930’s. I wasn’t being crude, or dirty. I was just being suggestive. There was no convincing them of that. It bothered me, until I was reminded that those guys weren’t making their living doing the magic and getting up there in front of the people. I was told that I should ignore them, and that if I were going to listen to them, then that’s all I should do: politely listen, and then let it go out the other ear.

So, many years later, I was asked to perform at another one of these conventions, and they wanted me to close the show. I was honored.

I schmoozed a little during the day, went back to my room to take a nap and get ready for the show, and before I knew it, it was showtime.

It was fun. The show went very well and was very well received. A few applause breaks, and even a standing ovation, which blew me away!

After the show, an older man, someone I had known for many years, since I was a “kid” starting out, came up to me.

He said ‘You did a good show. Excellent show! I’m proud of you…you’ve come a long way. Actually, I’m surprised. With your talent, I always thought you would have “made it.” What happened?”

I told him that at one time, I wanted to be rich and famous, “but now that I’m older, I wouldn’t mind just being rich” and gave him a smile.

He shook his head. “No, I’m serious. I really thought were going places, that you’d be a real success… It’s too bad.”

I said “Jack, I guess my life has changed, and so has what I think success is, and this isn’t ‘sour grapes.’ If I would have had the notoriety and fame that I wanted, back at the age when I wanted it, I really don’t think I would be here today, and when I say “here” I mean alive. I had a taste of what that was like when I was on the road opening up for bands, and the lifestyle got a bit crazy.

Now, I think I am extremely successful: I love what I do, I get paid for doing it, and I’m still learning all the time. I’m in a loving relationship, I woke up under a roof today, I ate, I laughed, and I got to play with a dog. I really appreciate all that I have and I gotta look at that as being “successful.” 

Again, he shook his head and said, “No. You know what I mean. I really thought you would have made it. I alway dreamed you would.

If he didn’t understand what I just tried to share with him, he never would.

So, I looked back at him, shrugged my shoulders, smiled, and said “Someday.”

Let him have a dream

I’m living mine.

Sky Sands