Thoughts on products, performance, and doublethink in the magic community.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Girl on the Bus

I’m amazed at all the magicians I’ve met here in Israel. One of my teachers is a cousin of Ariel Freilich, and a classmate’s brother is a Canadian professional magician. I even met someone from a different school who’s seriously into sleight-of-hand. And at the time I’m writing this, I’ve arranged to meet the head of the Israeli magic scene, a professional performer who organized Israel’s first international magic convention, which took place several weeks ago. Say what you will about the Cafe, but it’s a great way for magicians around the globe to connect.

Despite these incredible resources, I don’t have as much interaction with the magic community as I did in the U.S. This is not such a bad thing. I’m becoming more creative and a better thinker about magic.

But how are my performances going? I’ve had more crazy experiences than I can describe and I’m enjoying performing more than I ever have. So pretty damn well, I guess.

I’ve performed several times on Ben Yehuda street, Jerusalem’s main bar/club area. One memorable experience involved five young Australian exchange students and two Israeli teenage guys. The Aussies has a good time for a while, but eventually lost interest, leaving me with the two Israelis.

For my opening effect, I did a two-card transpo, but also superglued my feet to the ground. Allow me to explain.

After the guys saw the cards change, nothing else mattered to them. I tried flourishes, pulling cards out of my mouth, my best tricks, but to no luck. They just wanted to see cards change. And they were quite insistent on it. I never felt physically threatened at any point, but they made it as difficult as possible for me to leave. One of them even grabbed my sleeve (non-violently) and pulled me back in. The chutzpah!

They offered me a significant amount of money for the secret. After I declined, they tried to buy the deck, believing that they could figure it out themselves.

They were some of the most enthusiastic spectators you could imagine. However, their level of excitement made it harder for me to perform, turning them into a sort of heckler! Who knew such things existed!
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In Israel, everybody knows each other. There are over six million people living in a country about the size of New Jersey. Anytime you go out, you’re going to see at least several people you know.

And if Israel is small, then the community of American Jewish kids spending a post-high school year here (that’s me) is even smaller. I’ll put it this way. If there’s a group of American teenagers on Ben Yehuda, I with either know one of them or we have a common acquaintance.

People I met in the airport waiting area a month-and-a half ago have approached me and asked me to perform for them/their friends!

Still, Ben Yehuda is often a battleground of drunks and broken glass. People there are not the easiest crowd to work with. So I’ve ‘diversified’ and found another, albeit unlikely, place to perform – the buses. Everybody in Israel, even schoolkids, ride the buses, because cars are expensive (100% sales tax!) and impractical.

I take out my cards, nonchalantly do some flourishes and color changes. This catches peoples’ eyes and they tell me how cool/weird/crazy it is. I ask if they’d like to see something and go into a mini-performance. If the person is more reserved, but I know I have their attention, I ask if they’d like to see something. However it works out, riding a bus is boring as hell and people like something to take their mind off of things.

The angles are difficult and there’s not much room to move, but you can still interact with people. At one time, I was performing for someone next to me, two people in the seat behind us, and one person in the seat behind them.

I enjoy it more than I can describe.

Several days ago, I was doing color changes, and an attractive Israeli girl behind me broke into the most beautiful smile. She was smiling while I showed her the tricks, and she kept smiling even after I put the cards away, and the ride continued. I could still see the grin on her face as she walked off.

That’s what magic is all about.

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