(Fair warning, some of the videos posted have the occasional naughty word. I promise you that all magicians who do magic for children employ such language when they're not "on the clock"...and probably even more so if they're working at a liquor store. :P )
Welp, last night was my final night at the liquor store.
It occurs to me this morning how my time at the store and my story as a burgeoning magician are inseparable. Stick with me for a moment and I'll explain. Perhaps I'm biased because I'm feeling all the feels of a career change, but I think it's a lovely story.
Two and a half years ago I suffered a gut punch of a tragedy (details are light because it involves other people, and I believe there's virtue to taking the high road regardless of whether you receive the courtesy in return). Suffice that it was the most difficult thing I've had to face and it left me in search of a coping mechanism. I initially wanted to avoid addictions as a way to cope, but playing cards just bit me. At least it's relatively safe as far as addictions go. :P
In my youth I did some beginner level magic, enough to know about the Classic Pass. For the uninitiated, the Pass is a legendarily difficult card move - impossible to do invisibly according to even those who do it the best. In my youth I was certain I'd never be able to put in enough time to learn the move.
However, considering the circumstances, why not pick up a deck of cards in earnest for the first time in a couple decades? Every day I worked on the Pass for hours. I practiced until my hands were sore. I practiced until the skin began to peel from some of the contact spots on my hands. I practiced constantly to keep my mind from shifting to things that hurt more than my hands. (The next video is a clip of my early Pass, which I think was solid for a beginner).
(Recently I posted a clip to my Instagram which hopefully shows I've gotten better)
My commitment to the Pass led me to Xavior Spade (who, to my eye, has the best Pass in the world). That in turn led me to the man who would become my favorite magician, Pigcake. Yes, his name is Pigcake. (Should you look him up, be aware that his material is not for the easily-offended - but if you can endure his brand of humor, you will not find a better teacher or a more bottomless repository of tricks).
Two months later I was hired on at Schuler's Liquor, a store owned by the family of my friend, Kate, who would be my boss. If you're ever wondering why so much of my Instagram features tricks with alcohol behind me, it's because that store was where I refined my skill. All the time I was fidgeting. I eventually got to where I could stock shelves with one hand while shuffling and cutting with the other.
Eventually customers started realizing this and some asked me to show them or their kids
some magic. This led to people coming in and saying, "My friend said you could do magic. Can you show me something?" By the end, it wasn't uncommon for people to come in, not to buy anything, but to see a magic trick.
During this time, due to my past as an opera singer, I was asked to sub in for a band briefly at the Kansas City Ren Faire. I occupied my time between sets doing magic for random passers-by. I guess I was good because they asked me to keep doing it even after my stint was up. Afterward I won the award for "Best Solo Lane Act."
This led to doing magic at KC Comic Con for the organization.
In time I began posting videos of my tricks to Instagram, including performances for customers (watching some of the videos makes me wonder how I fooled anyone, but that's just evidence of my progress to this point, right? Right?).
One such video was a performance using Big Brother, created by Brian Connor. To my surprise, Brian found the video, liked the post, and messaged me. Over time, we became friends. Since then Brian has been self-sacrificially generous with his knowledge and time and helped me to grow as a performer, and was an incalculably valuable support through my hardest times.
This also got the attention of a certain Pigcake. :)
It was through magic and the regularity of the day job that I began to heal. And, over time, magic became less of a coping mechanism and more of just a way I could make the random person happy, perhaps in a fashion that was completely unique to them in their life. This transformation in my magic mirrored the slow, but ever-positive change in me. It was as if I changed with my magic.
To take a brief (but relevant) turn, recall that my education is in opera, so when I go out I enjoy karaoke. It was on one such excursion 16 months ago (riiiiiight before Covid), that I was out to do some singing and wound up showing the cutest girl in the bar a card trick. She was intrigued and we agreed to hang out later. 16 months on, Liz and I live together and she still puts up with me (and my card tricks).
Then Covid struck. In April our store closed for safety and, when it came time to re-open, I was the only employee who could return which, by default, made me the General Manager. It was a lot of hard work and, like all jobs, there was good and bad. But we kept the store open during an incredibly difficult time. After 9 months I stepped down. It was just too much and it was eating up more of my life than was acceptable. I probably stayed in that role far longer than I should have, but I have an emotional investment in the store and wanted to give everything I had for my friend. In the end, I'm proud of the work I did.
All of this, of course, is the Reader's Digest short version of events. The whole story contains more details than I could concisely include. Perhaps one day I'll write about more of them. But this does bring the abridged version up to last night, my last night at the store. So many customers came in to say goodbye and to thank me for the magic.
This is Reece. I remember her coming into the store with a tiara on, so I picked her up and sat her on top of the biggest stack of cases we had so she could be princess. She has been the first set of eyes on so many tricks I've come up with that are now staples of my repertoire. The little princess demanded her dad bring her in for my last day.
And here's Mike. Back in the day I showed him Crazy Man's Handcuffs and he had to learn it, so I taught him. I'd actually forgotten all about it until he brought it up last night and we got to do some rubber band magic for old time's sake.
It's kind of ridiculous how many memories I made here. Like all jobs, I'll miss the good times and be glad to be absent for the bad ones, but this job definitely had more good than any other job I've ever had. I'll miss Kate. I'll miss a lot of the customers.
And I'll miss doing magic for giggles, with no pressure on me in case I mess up. :P But all this time has, hopefully, prepared me for the big leagues.
Thanks for reading. It means a lot to me, in this moment, to be able to share this story with someone.
As always, if you want to support me in my new endeavor and get some sweet perks, Patreon is the place. I do plan to eventually publish my own guide to the Classic Pass, and that's where it will. :)