LITTLE JACK’S CORNER
by Jack Clements
"In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair"
Among the many things Magic Inc. moved when it moved to its new location on W. Lawrence was my chair. I say MY chair because Susan Marshall bought it just for me some time ago and she announced, “This is Jack's chair and when he is here if you aren't Jack you shouldn't be sitting in it.” It is a magical chair and while I was sitting in it I saw some miraculous things. One was teleportation. Pedro was talking to a regular and he told him I didn’t like people showing me card tricks. With no sign of movement this guy vanished from being in front of Pedro and in front of me, sticking a deck of cards in my face and he said, “How does this look?” I was so startled by this impossible act of vanishing and reappearing that I said “Okay.” He showed me five more pathetic tricks before I regained my faculties and told him to go away. Which he did. Visibly. A few days later — same guy, different counter with Mike the demonstrator. He was showing coin tricks and I heard Mike say, “Jack doesn’t like coin tricks, so don’t show him any.” I blinked my eyes and there he was, asking me if I liked his method of rolling a quarter over his knuckles. Astonishment again. How could someone who had mastered this miracle of teleportation be so bad at handling cards and coins, and life in general? The next time he came in he started to approach me and I said, “don’t show me anything. Don’t ask me if I want to see anything. Don’t come over to say hello.” This is my idea of a hint and he took it. Sometimes I slip into Proustian remembrances of things past as if someone set them off. One day a little girl and a man came in and she called him Uncle Harry. I had an Uncle Harry when I was growing up. He had a habit of measuring things; tables, bookshelves, furniture. He carried a folding tape measure in his pocket and, as he passed something that looked worth measuring, he’d take it out and measure it. He was teased so much about this he switched from the cloth tape measure to the metal kind that hooks onto an object and snaps back after it finished measuring it. He did this furtively. He’d walk by something, say a coffee table, and without looking down he hooked the measurer on the edge of it, sneak a look at the length, let go of the hooked end and let it snap back into his pocket. We all pretended we didn’t notice. I only hope the chair will still cast its spell at the new location. There is hope that it will. There is now an identical chair next to mine, mostly for Elliot Cutler, a long-time regular. Just a short while go, after a pause in the conversation, with no lead in, he said, "You know, my friend insists there’s historical evidence that George Washington was a hermaphrodite." Things look promising.
Guest Column By Danny Rudnick
Originally published in The Tarbell Tribune - The newsletter for IBM Ring 43, on April 2015
In March 2015, the youth club of I.B.M. Ring 43 had a wonderful mini lecture from Francis Menotti before his regular lecture. He showed us some really cool effects with cards and coins from his DVD Treachery of Tricks. What stood out most for me was his amazing "Nevermore" coin vanish.
While the vanish itself is beautiful, I liked what he told us during his lecture. He said, "It's not difficult; it's knacky." What does that even mean?
Well, he went on to further explain that the move becomes easier with practice. He compared it to riding a bike: the first time you have no idea what you are doing, then eventually, after about 500 tries, you get it, and can't even remember what it was like before you knew how.
I think this is a great idea to keep in mind throughout our magic practice. Many times we try a move and it doesn't work out for us the first time. We fall flat, or we get caught, and think to ourselves, "This is too hard!" I get it. I've been there. Sometimes we don't even have to try a move to give up. How do you know it's too hard? You never even tried. Sometimes though you just need to keep at it. Eventually it will stick and you'll never have to look back.
In magic, there is always something new to learn, and there is always something more challenging to practice. This is one of the best parts of magic. No matter who you are or where you are, you can continue to push yourself and set attainable goals.
To me it's a lot like doing yoga. You go into a class and look in one direction to see a girl doing the splits, then you look in the other direction and you see a guy who can't even touch his toes. Even though it may be hard at first, you know you can make it with practice, and you also know how good it feels when you reach that goal.
So what are you going to do with that challenging move you've been working on? Are you going to give up, or are you going to keep reaching until the glorious day when your fingers finally make contact with your little piggies?
(Since Jack has been unable to write a new column for a few months, he has asked us to re-post this column from April 2009)
It's April; Time for March Madness.
Early in March I made one of my rare stops at a bar and when I sat down I was afraid I had died and gone to hell. The place was filled with screaming idiots and there were almost as many TV screens as there were people. The fellow sitting next to me asked how I was doing with my bracket. I thought that was a highly personal question, especially coming from a stranger and I told him so. He apparently thought I was joking and he lifted his beer mug and said “Cheers!”
I gulped my soft drink down and got out of there before the authorities arrived to round everyone up, and I checked my pulse and found I was still alive and not in hell after all. Actually I had stumbled into a den of the demented during something called March Lunacy or Spring Break for the Criminally Insane or whatever the occasion was.
My son called me soon after I got home and I told him of my close call and he said this was March Madness,and I said that was how I had it pegged and then he told me that was the name of what was happening and asked , “Don't you watch basketball at all?” and I said no. I'm not interested in looking at a bunch of guys with overactive pituitary glands running back and forth and bouncing a ball. It's hard to avoid so-called highlights on the late night news, and it always set my nerves on edge when they would show a ball going into the basket and call it ”miracle shot.” I'm sorry, but the basket rim is wider in diameter than the ball. Now if the ball was the wider one, THAT would be a miracle.
My son is very enthusiastic about most sports. I used to watch baseball until the strike and almost got back into it and then the drug addicts took over and former 250 hitters started hitting the ball so often and so far that sometimes it was never seen again.
Football? A game played by hulks who have their I.Q.s printed on their backs for the amusement of their intellectual inferiors in the stands.
By avoiding sports for so long I don’t know the terminology any more. In football, I don't know what the secondary is. I have no idea what a nickel defense (or is it offense?) is nor what is called a quarterback sneak, except it sounds unsportsmanlike. In basketball a player gets high praise for scoring a triple-double. I don't know what that is either but I'm sure his mother is proud.
After that call from my son I was distressed that he too was one of the rabble. My mind was all fuddled up and I headed out to Magic Inc. As I walked in Sandy Marshall, heir apparent of the venerable shop, was explaining that it's phonetically Day, not Dye Vernon because it's short for David.
Manager Pedro Nieves said he hadn't done the Braue Reversal in a while and wanted to get back to it. Head demonstrator, Ben Whiting, asked me to look at his Zarrow Shuffle which he was able to do without the slip cut, and I asked him to help me with the Elmsley. A customer said he couldn't find his Erdnase and he asked if he could look up the Erdnase system of cull shuffling.
By the time I left my mind was at ease. It was just so nice to be around people speaking in a language that made sense again.
(Note: The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Magic Inc.)
July 16, 2014
AN EAR FULL OF CIDER
There's a story that's been around for a long time. I first read it as written by Damon Runyon. It goes like this:
A man is talking to his son. He says, "Son, you're ready to go out in the world now on your own. I have only one piece of advice for you. Some day when you stop into a bar you'll encounter a man who will take out a deck of cards. He'll bet you that he can make the ace of spades jump out of the deck, fly through the air, flip over five times, and pour cider in your ear. Do not take that bet, my son. Because, if you do, you're going to have an ear full of cider."
For several years, if l had bet against Sandy Marshall each time I thought he was wrong, I would have had so much cider in my ear I could have thrown a big Halloween party with plenty of cider for all. Now I never would have bet against Sandy because I have never wanted him to fail. But there were times when I was sure he was wrong.
After Jay died, Magic, Inc. became a victim of bad management. The shop was virtually ruined. The shelves were almost bare because no new stock was ordered. The hours were changed from opening at 12:00 noon to opening at 2:00 P.M.
When Sandy and Susan Marshall came in from New York to take over the management, the situation was so bad that Sandy said it was two weeks from folding. He said it was disastrous but he thought he could save it. I didn't. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to discourage him. Magic, Inc. had been in hard times for so long I didn't see how he could bring it back. I was afraid Sandy would lose the money he was going to put into it.
Well, he put money into it, and soon the shelves were filled with stock. Booklets printed by Magic, Inc. hung on a line that stretched the length of the store. He changed the opening time back to 12:00 noon, staying open until 6:00 P.M., and 7:00 P.M. on Friday nights. It started to open on Sundays. One of his greatest moves was hiring Pedro Nieves as store manager. The highly intelligent and talented Pedro wanted to continue the store's long history and worked long hard hours to keep it going.
I still didn't think it would work out, but at least the store would close with panache. Indeed it not only stayed open but is now busy again, with old and new customers and magicians hanging out exchanging ideas, and it's back to being what a magic store should be.
I was glad my prediction was wrong and grateful that I didn't bet because I didn't want cider in my ear.
When the Harry Potter books phenomena was at its peak, Sandy decided the store should get in on it. He told me he was going to order copies of the soon to be released volume, price the books to compete with the big stores, and start selling at midnight, the same as the stores would. Borders and Barnes and Noble were still in business then, and had regular book-buying customers and locations that were ideal for selling.
Magic, Inc. had none of these advantages.
Sandy asked me how many books I thought he should stock. I said ten and to myself I figured the seven that didn't sell would make nice Christmas gifts.
He said, "I'm ordering a hundred."
Damn it, I thought. They've all worked so hard to get Magic, Inc. running again only to have it fail because of Sandy's high rolling optimism. The next day he told me he had changed his mind on the number of books he was going to get. I was relieved.
He said he was going to get two hundred. I was going to miss the store.
The fateful day arrived.
It was a Friday night. The store closed at 7:00 P.M. and Sandy took the staff to dinner. They reopened the shop at 9:00 P.M. A few people trickled in, but by contract they were unable to sell the new Harry Potter book until midnight, the official time for the book's release. By 11:00 P.M. the shop was packed, and there were long lines down both Carmen and Lincoln Avenues with people waving money and credit cards. By the end of the night, all the books were sold out and they had to take orders from people who had missed out. Best of all, four television networks came to cover Magic, Inc., the shop on Diagon Alley, and the next day Magic, Inc. was back in business, big time.
Sandy has rolled the dice again. On the store's 50th anniversary in the present location, he's producing a mini convention (which really isn't all that mini). On July 17, 18 and 19, magicians from all over the United States and even one from Germany will do shows and lectures throughout the days and evenings.
For me, the best news of all is what is planned for this Thursday morning at 11:00 A.M. There will be a new street sign on my street, Carmen Avenue, which will say "Honorary JAY MARSHALL Way." I suspect when that goes up I will have a few tears in my eyes.
But at least I won't have cider in my ear.
I GOT YOUR PULLED PORK RIGHT HERE
With the help of a cornucopia of pills, I can usually function well enough to make the casual observer think I am a normal person with just the same everyday ups and downs as anyone else. I have some skills as an actor (less than DeCaprio, more than Stallone). These are the times when I am sound in both body and mind. When I am troubled in just one of these areas I come across as a tad eccentric but charming and witty. When I am unsound in body and mind at the same time, people two blocks away from where I'm walking will say, “My God, there’s a crazy man heading this way.”
I recently had a session of being cuckoo and physically impaired simultaneously which is one reason why it’s been so long since my last column.
Sciatica hit me first. I sneezed while I was putting on a sock and my whole body fell apart. The pain was too severe for me to even wish on Criss Angel. A few pills the size of those given to horses before a big race modified the pain but didn’t help with the limited movement that accompanied it.
Then came an onset of depression. Deep depression. I sit and cry and I look out the window and wonder why all of those people passing by can seem so oblivious to the slings and arrows of this mortal coil. The only thing that gets me through the day is my wife Lillian reminding me that these spells have come before and eventually they always go away.
So now I am back to my normal state, which means I am stressed out much of the time but not all of the time.
A column overdue? Well, as my last column was only a brief outline of my life, it didn’t tell things I do and think about, which are the causes of much of the stress.
So here are a few, in no particular order:
What is pulled pork, and where is it pulled from, and is it possible to push it back?
I know people in the theatre do not call the play Macbeth by its name. They call it “The Scottish Play.” This bit of foolishness is all right for legitimate actors, writers, and directors, but people who have once had a walk-on in a summer stock play and may not even have had a line will call it that. They think this makes them part of the theatre world when they are really just sounding silly. Now that I think about it, I think it’s ridiculous for the legitimate theatre world as well. They do not call Hamlet “The Denmark Play,” nor The Tempest “The Play That Is On An Island.” Henry the VIII is not referred to as “The Play About This Fat Guy Who Eats A Lot And Has His Wives Beheaded.” I could give a few more examples, but this is adding to my stressful nature.
When I ask where something is I too often get a reply like “It should be on the kitchen table.” I already know where it SHOULD be. I want to know where it IS.
Many people now pronounce the “t” in the word “often.” No harm done, but it does make me edgy.
The same is true of “different than” instead of “different from.” I come across this in newspapers and magazines and one of the latter is The New Yorker, which means the end of the world is probably near.
It’s unlikely for me to get through the day without someone saying, “Can I ask you a question?” I always say “No.” I used to say “You just did” but that was too baffling for them to understand.
There was a celebrity elephant parade in Cincinnati. I don’t mean the elephants were the celebrities. The people who rode on them were, and I had a tenuous connection to the term celebrity because I had a cult following from my radio and nightclub work. The elephants were all lined up and gently lowered their heads so the riders could get on. Looked okay to me. When my turn came, I asked the trainer how well mine behaved and he said, “I don't know. Betsy ain’t been rid yet.” My complexion suddenly matched the skin of the pachyderm. When Betsy stood up with me sitting just in back of her head, I learned that an elephant looks even bigger when you are looking down from it than it does when you are looking up at it.
I have a few hundred more examples but recalling that elephant ride has made me nervous so I have to end this column and decide which pills I need to take.
About our columnist: Jack Clements is a noted boxing authority, comedy writer and greeting card writer. He has a great love for jazz, and fortunately for us... MAGIC. Jack is also “The Wizard Bouncer of Magic, Inc.” Little Jack's Corner is updated as often as we can get a column out of Jack.
NOTE: We are in the process of archiving all of Little Jack's Corner's columns for ease of navigation. They are temporarily tucked away while the elves do their magic, but they will be back up online in the next few days. Thank you for your patience :)