So… A few months back, say around May or June, I got an offer to cover Magic Live for Magic Magazine. The problem of course was that the baby, who had yet to be born, was due July 1st and going off to Vegas for a magic convention with a 6 week old at home didn’t particularly strike me as the best idea in the world. But I really wanted to go. But 6 week old baby.
So we talked about it and eventually Rasa said go. “You need to spend some time around people who speak your language.” And she didn’t mean English. She was talking about creative people, people who would get my references and jokes, people who would share their references and jokes with me. Well… Monki was born on July 12 and I had tickets to leave for Vegas on August 10, two days before her first month-iversary.
Now, it’s 2:30 in the morning on August 22nd and I was supposed to be on a bus on my way home from Warsaw, but due to bad weather in Dallas (my original first leg of three return flights) I’m finishing out a 15 hour layover in London Heathrow and figured now was as good a time as any to jot down a few notes about the past week and a half. It started with a crash.
Okay, it started with a screening of Jason Bourne, but that almost counts, right? In fact, if I want to get technical, it actually started two weeks before that when my mother, whose first words upon hearing we were pregnant were “Shit, now I have to go to Lithuania” (True story), surprisingly lived up to that prediction and came out to help with Monki (“No one puts Bubby in a corner”). Since she’d never been here before (and, let’s face it, probably won’t return) we figured we’d show her around a little bit. It worked out nicely – one day at home helping, one day seeing sights. She saw what Kaunas has to offer (The Devil Museum, Old Town) , did a bit of Trakai and Vilnius (thanks to Monika for any number of the things there), saw Klaipeda and Witch’s Hill with Lin and even did a crazy 36 hour round trip to Warsaw. What she didn’t know, though, was that two days after she got back to Vegas, I’d be there as well.
On the day of my leaving, Rasa’s sister and family came by and picked up mom, baby and Laika and took them off to Mažeikiai to stay while I was away. This left me in an empty house so I grabbed my case and went to the mall to wait for my midnight bus to Warsaw (yeah, pretty much the same trip I’d taken a few days earlier with mom). See, I tend to fly out of Warsaw since it’s considerably less expensive than Vilnius and if I’m on my own, the extra 6 hours over night doesn’t really bother me. But since I had time to kill… A movie seemed in order.
After that, and arriving in Warsaw before 5am (the McDonald’s is closed from 4-5) I waited to get in to the fast food haven (strictly so I could use the wifi – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I grabbed a booth and plugged in my laptop. I hadn’t actually intended on taking the laptop, but I had a couple of articles to write (you can read them in a week or so) and needed to get some work done. About an hour into transcribing an interview, though, things went kerblooey (yes, that’s the official term). The computer crashed and then I got the flashing question mark thingee. I restarted a time or two and eventually it got back on track and I continued my transcribing.
All was good, I did some work, went to the old town in Warsaw hoping a certain gift shop was open so I could surprise mom with a souvenir she didn’t buy and then I figured I had 2 1/2 hours to London and ten hours to Vegas — plenty of time to get the transcriptions finished and the articles written. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, this was not to be. Twenty minutes into the Warsaw–> London flight the same thing happened and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it back. So I closed the computer and watched movies/read books the rest of the way to Vegas.
Once in town, we surprised mom and dad (Faye was in on it the whole time) and I realized I’d need to take the hardware in to be fixed, which I did, which took all day (they said they’d call when it was done, stupidly, I believed them) which allowed me to hang out with dad and my niece Jessie and get some of the shopping I needed to get done, done. Of course, Friday night was already set for seeing Puppet Up!, the show I was doing the article about so it worked out that I could ultimately include my impressions of the production… something I wouldn’t have been able to do had my technology worked as it was supposed to.
The other nice thing about seeing the show was that my friends Willie and Peggy Etra are the musical director and a member of the cast respectively and even though we chat on Facebook, I hadn’t spent any face time with them in a decade and a half, at least. So after the show we were able to have a nice catch up.
Come Saturday though, I need to get back to work. Mostly. I finished the transcription and spent a lovely afternoon with Kim and Vic and family (it had been WAY too long – this seems to be a theme of this trip, eh?) and finished article one on Sunday before an afternoon visit with Nancy and Irv (you know, from the temple). But by then, it was time to head over to the Orleans to start Magic Live.
Magic Live is a semi-regular convention hosted by Magic Magazine and is often regarded as one of the best of its type anywhere. If you’re a magician, it’s a great place to meet people and learn about your craft from some of the best minds in the field. There are amazing seminars and workshops, fantastic gala shows and an extensive dealer’s room. This year, for one night only, there was also a Magic Museum curated by Lynetta Welch. It quite literally brought people to tears.
For me, though, it was a chance to meet old friends for the first time. Living 8000 miles away I tend to conduct my interviews via Skype and then write up my pieces and away we go. Here, I was able to meet in person and hang out with a number of people whom I had only seen on the computer or just talked to on the phone (like “Six” Muldoon, Bill Cook, Reynold Alexander and Chloe Bowie – whom I haven’t interviewed yet, but I should because her impromptu cold reading skills impressed two of the best in the biz). Of special note was spending several days chatting with Gene Anderson, godfather of the “torn and restored newspaper” and one of my own magical heroes. I also got to spend time with friends I don’t get to see enough since I’ve moved, like Richard Faverty and Mark Kornhauser and Scott Hitchcock and others I’m sure I’m forgetting (it is the middle of the night and I haven’t slept in a while).
Then there was the bar. Pretty much every night, I ended up in the Mardi Gras bar with Ian Rowland, Careena Fenton, and Joseph Daniels. We were the core, with others coming and going. Among those who came though was my old friend Erica Vanlee, who was one of my first friends when I came back to Vegas in 2003, and with whom I’ve shared many highs and lows. It was wonderful to not only be able to spend time with her catching up, but the best thing was seeing how happy she was with what was going on in her life. Then there was Kari Hendler, photographer extraordinaire whom I’d only known online but meeting in person was an absolutely highlight.
Also, while I was at the convention, I got a message from my friend Thom Jackson, who I hadn’t seen, really, since high school some 30 years ago (the adventures Thom and I had then, including teaching ourselves stunt work by purposefully getting hit by cars, should be the subject of another blog post). He wanted to get together for lunch and we did. It was a laugh filled 75 minutes of reminiscing and catching up, ending with Thom leaving to deal with a hostage situation (oh yeah, he’s now deputy chief of the NHP).
The nice thing about conventions, though, is you also get to meet new people who you hope will become friends. In this case, that’s people like the aforementioned Joe and Chloe as well as Kelli Maroney (who I met through my Facebook friend I’d never met before in person Daniel Ulin) and the incredible Ali Shelley who started out as a translator for an interview for a future profile piece and quickly became a fun conspirator.
The convention ended and I still had work to do and there were still non-magical friends to see. For some, like Jim Earp and Felicia Campbell, the timing didn’t work out while others (Matt Sorvillo and Josh Ellis) helped me in hearing that language Rasa knew I was missing (thanks guys… It was appreciated!). I even managed to sneak in a meeting with my boss (and friend) Max to get my next month’s assignment for David (and if you’re keeping track, no, at this point I hadn’t finished this month’s assignment).
By the time Friday night rolled around, I’d been able to spend a little quality time with my nephew Bailey and had dinner with mom and dad before packing for my return trip home. They took me to the airport on Saturday morning, where I was supposed to catch a 12:10 flight to Dallas… But as it was already delayed long enough that I’d miss my connection, I was rebooked on a flight at 9:30 Saturday night. So back mom and dad came. They picked my up and we got to spend the day together (well, I was writing my article) before going out for dinner with a great group of their friends. The daughter of the hosts, Amanda, and her guy Jake, ended up taking me to the airport where I did manage a seat on that later flight and where I was able to finish that second article.
The flight landed in London at 3:30 in the afternoon on the 21st, 90 minutes after my original connecting flight to Warsaw left so that’s how I ended up with this 15 hour layover. Naturally, I did what anyone would do – left my bags in the left luggage place and went into town to see a show. Being Sunday, there weren’t a lot of options. My top two choices, Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were dark so I picked In the Heights, which won the Tony in 2008 and was written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was brilliant. I was tearing up all through the second act. Then I caught the last train back to Heathrow and we’ve come full circle. My friend Anne Tall, for some reason was looking for a place for me to eat at the airport and discovered a 24 hour coffee place so that’s where I am, trying to stay awake and using their power and the airport’s wifi to make the most of my evening.
Fingers crossed there’s no more drama and I’m home a day later than expected but happy and healthy and ready for more adventures.