By Mark Aldrich
“I did not want to learn how to perform the tricks; I wanted to perform magic. With a capital M. I wanted to be astonished, too.”
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I wanted the ultimate magic kit when I was a kid for my birthday, which arrives like a tedious habit each November 18, but as with so many things in life, disappointment lay in the fact that the magic kits grew more complex, more “magical,” only with higher prices.
Each kit included a “magic wand,” which was just a wooden dowel painted black, or, in the more expensive kits, painted black with a white tip, because a white tip on a black stick is the same thing as classy. The photo of the kid on the magic box with the white tipped wand often showed the kid in tails and with a top hat. I am sure that because of kids like me—or because of a kid named me—the toy companies needed to add the disclaimer to the box that read, “Hat and tails not in package.”
In all of the kits, from simple to pricey, the tricks were easy to follow, both for the performer and, unfortunately, for his audience. Most of the tricks in magic kits are the basic shell game and some variations of them—balls and cups—or they include a set of pre-marked cards or a dummy set of all aces or all jokers. I was always all disappointed.
The lesson for me in kit after kit, for year after year (my parents were patient people, and my mom still is) was an easy one to learn that I nonetheless rejected again and again: Magic is only possible through a scheme or a cheat or the act of hiding the fact that you, the performer, have cut corners away from the eyes of your adoring public. This seemed like more nonsense to me from grown-ups about life, and thanks to my belief in my own skeptical view of everything except my own skeptical view, I distrusted anything grown-ups told me. Anything? Yeah, everything.
As a result, I would lose interest in each magic kit within weeks or months, but, man, I wanted a new kit every single birthday and/or Christmas.
For me, most magic kits emphasize the word “trick” and lose that word “magic,” and I think what I always wanted out of a magic kit was to learn a trick that would take its performer for a ride as much as it did the audience. I did not want to learn how to perform the tricks; I wanted to perform magic. With a capital M.
I wanted to be astonished, too.
I believed that such magic existed. And every birthday, I believed that it would arrive in a cheap cardboard box of tricks with easy-to-lose balls and cups. (Dear owners of the house at 4 Sheraton Drive: I know it’s been thirty-five years, but you probably have not found every plastic ball or black magic wand with a white tip.)
Somehow I was never disappointed; the magic simply wasn’t in this particular box, see? Perhaps it was in the one next to it on the shelf, which we did not buy, I told myself. Maybe it will be included in next year’s magic set. This is perhaps the closest I have ever come in life to a form of faith.
Memo to my eight-year-old me: Ah, well. Life’s magic does exist. It truly does, and your incipient faith was not a mistake. It was merely limited to cardboard department store boxes. Life’s magic astonishes its performer, and will indeed take him for as much of a ride as it will his audience, so you were right in a way. Life’s magic is not “magical,” and does not include stardust flying around and applause, which sounds boring, but it is deeper. The magic may in fact be in the next moment or the moment just behind it on the shelf. Or in the memory just created.
Mark Aldrich is a journalist, award-winning humor columnist, and writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirtieth season. His website is TheGadAboutTown.com.
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Meghan Jenkins is an actor, comedian, radio personality, model, brand ambassador for Pineapple Clothing, and author of the forthcoming book, The Adventures of Pizza Alien.
A social media influencer, in the spring of 2020 her photos of life in quarantine led to an invitation from Maxim magazine to participate in a cover model contest for which readers could submit votes. Her grassroots campaign against professional models brought her to a third-place finish.
She is currently the host of the live comedy improv show The The Ding Wrong Show, recorded on Zoom and seen on YouTube:
She is a cast member of the upcoming The End of the World Podcast with Derek Erik:
In 2018-’19, she was one of the on-air personalities on The Ding Dong Show, recorded each week live with an audience at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, California.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.