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Stories from the Road Part 1

Have you ever wondered what it might be like, to travel around the world, perform onstage, meet new and interesting people, and have the opportunity to really experience different parts of the world?  I am lucky enough to get to do this, because I'm the lead assistant, and the wife, of Jeff McBride, who is, in my humble opinion, the best magician in the world.

 

Together, we travel to Europe each year.  We've performed and taught in England, Holland, France, Germany, Finland, and in Asia, most recently in Singapore.  Our stage show transcends all language barriers, and helps us make friends wherever we go... and that is the real magic.  What follows then, is a glimpse of what I see as we go, a view into the world of life on the road, from the girl who left for Las Vegas to marry the mage.

 

...One of the interesting parts of being on the road is the feeling of waking up in a hotel room, and not quite knowing where you are.  That happened twice to me on this adventure; once I thought I was home, and once I thought I was in a different town.  Our mornings often start with questions. "What time is it?  When do we have to be at the theater?  What day is it?  Where are we?"  Once all that's squared away, the day can begin.

 

Blackpool is right off the ocean in England and it is positively blustery in March.  The wind whips by the hotel; great gusts go howling through the theater, shaking and rattling in the wings.  The Wintergarden is an amazing theater complex.  There are several bars and coffeeshops, little candy stores and cafes, a gigantic beautiful theater and several lecture halls.  It's our big day here, Jeff is lecturing for several thousand magicians at four o'clock, and then we're the closing act on this evening's show, which starts at seven.  We've been trying to puzzle our way through the exchange rates, and figuring out what to sell our magic merchandise for.  It's about 1.4 pounds to the dollar here.  England is the only country in Europe that doesn't use Euros.  God save the queen, and thank you very much. 

 

Blackpool England, is home of the largest convention for magicians in the world- three thousand of them, all intent on having Jeff's autograph and a photo with him... so, for me, it's an exercise in being gracious, and remembering that we only get the chance to make a first impression once. I've heard too many stories of "oh, I used to really admire so-and-so, and then I met him in person and he was such a jerk.... "   We try to smile and be pleasant and make chit chat and not be too prima donna ish-- even if we're both starving, and are really trying to get out of the convention to go eat-- of course, we have time for a photo and an autograph... Sure, show me your card trick...  Really, I honestly do like magicians a great deal, it's just sometimes hard to be charming when starving.

 

I was looking for a sign, something that would be a hint of things to come, as we were driving from the airport in Manchester, England, to the convention in Blackpool.  I spent most of the drive looking out at the English countryside, and marvelling at how green everything is here (even the tree trunks)... and looking out at these old 16th century manor homes and farmhouses along the way.  Suddenly, a beautiful, giant rainbow was hugely present, shining out of the overcast sky to greet us. 

 

We spent the afternoon in the theater, working through our rehearsal for about two hours.  We managed to get all the lighting and sounds cues set, and ran through the whole thing once.  As we were leaving, we got swamped in photos and autographs for a half hour, and then we walked over for dinner in an Italian restaurant, with Michael and Hannah Ammar.

 

(the next day...)

I had a lovely time walking around Blackpool, in the wind, the rain and the chill.  I saw the beach here, with the pier and the tower, and what the Wintergarden looks like from a distance.  Sights from my walk include a miserable juggler out in the rain, a bored looking balloon manipulator in the mall, lots of "mum's day" signs, and a girl with a crystal imbedded in her  front tooth, ("roight, 'cause diamonds are so bleeding expensive, y'know").  I bought a bum bag- don't call it a fanny pack over here, (fanny means a woman's private parts)- to carry cash in, at Jeff's request.  When I returned to the Wintergarden, I found myself at the Egyptian art exhibit... silent and still in front of a statue of Sekhmet, the lioness-headed goddess, for awhile. "Sa Sekhem Sahu,"  translates as Sacred Breath, Pure Force, Highest Being.  An unexpected connection for meditation... You never know what you might learn on tour.

 

Jeff taught for five hours today, and I spent the last two hours of his class napping, hidden behind a table, sort of listening to the voices in the room blending into the sounds of babbling water.  After the class, we spent some time in the dealer's room.  This convention has three thousand magicians attending, and the dealer's room was absolutely the biggest one I've ever seen.  There must have been at least a hundred different dealers there, selling little secrets in plastic wrappers-- silks with little phrases on them, like "God is Love" for the Gospel magi, or "Happy Birthday" for those who do kids parties, dozens of sets of linking rings, plenty of apparatus-magic, flowers made of feathers, coin tricks, card tricks, balls that float, champagne bottles that appear from inside a balloon, and machines that make magical accent sounds on cue.  It was an astounding array, and absolutely exhausting to walk through. ("Mr. McBride, one more autograph, please??!")

 

And then it was another four and a half hour long magic show... of toilet-riding British comedians, cartwheeling lady magicians in bathing suits, flying men, body-builders balancing on each other- clad only in gold paint and tiny bathing suits, violins that float in mid-air, men molesting doves, balls that sparkle, lots of box tricks, quick-changing costumes, and ... oh, and some Asian girl doing what looked a lot like Jeff's act, with masks and cards.  Afterwards, I got to meet the mayoress of Blackpool, and manifested a magic bubble for her entertainment and mystification.  Ah, magic... it's a sublime and ridiculous art at times.

 

You know, the one thing I really don't like about Europe is that so many people here smoke cigarettes and cigars- everywhere, in enclosed areas, in restaurants, in the bathrooms....  In America, we have euphamisms for bathrooms- we call them restrooms, or ladies rooms... here you just ask where the toilet is- which, in America might be considered gauche... Language is interesting.  No elevators here- only lifts.  And another thing that's interesting is that the money increases in size as the value amount gets higher- the fifty pound note is bigger than the twenty, which is bigger than the five-- Making change during the sales after Jeff's lecture wasn't as much of a nightmare as I had been afraid it might be, I had four very nice men helping me, and we rounded everything up or down to the nearest five pound note.  Just when I've figured out the exchange rate and gotten comfortable with it, it'll be time to go to Amsterdam, and it's all different there, though after spending a few hours in the coffeshops, I'm sure it'll all make more sense.

 

I guess jet lag effects different people differently.  I tend to take a longish nap in the late morning, while Jeff falls asleep really early at night.  Today, after a quiet breakfast of criossants and a banana, we read for awhile in the conservatory, surrounded by brilliant light streaming in through the windows.  I'm about halfway through Carter Beats the Devil, and Jeff was pondering Alice Bailey's "Ponder on This" for a little while.

 

The English countryside is absolutely beautiful.  When the convention wrapped up in Blackpool, Jeff and I went to visit our friend Ginger Gilmore, at her home.  The wind was flowing through the grasses in great ripples, looking like water almost, and I finally understood the phrase "amber waves of grain."  We saw some pheasants and other birds, too.  One thing that struck me as interesting, was that, even though we're staying waay out here in the countryside, Ginger, our hostess, is meticulous about making sure all the doors are locked, and the gate is closed, and the cars are alarmed...  It seemed odd to me, until Jeff explained that there are travellers (don't call them gypsies) who come through, and if they can get in somewhere, they can squat there, legally for up to ninety days before they have to move on.  Ah, now I understand.  No, no roomates, thank you.

 

We spent the early part of the evening in animated conversation, about time and space and how to master them, about Alice Bailey's thoughts on the difference between happiness, joy, and bliss, and the alchemical process of the Firedance and the Work we do there.

Stories from the Road Part 2 >>