One of the things I've been considering a lot lately is trying to perform more magic outside the confines of sitting with someone at a table. What can I do when I'm cooking dinner with someone? What can i do when I'm on a walk with someone? What can I do when I'm in a kayak with someone?
This is not just because I think it's more interesting for the other person if something takes place in this type of setting (although I do think that). It's also because different settings afford us different opportunities. In certain settings we can pull off a miracle that wouldn't be possible in other settings. So if your mindset is always only "What can I do seated at a table" then you're overlooking opportunities for some real miracles elsewhere.
I want to talk about a trick I performed just earlier this evening (and this post will be late because of that). This is weird for me because usually these posts marinate for a long time. But in this instance I want to write this up soon after it happened, Tuesday night, the 13th of June, 2017.
I've been seeing someone new recently and we're in that stage where laying around in bed together is a perfectly reasonable activity to schedule a full night around.
At one point tonight we were doing the thing where you write or draw something on someone's back and they have to guess what it is. I'm just assuming that's a common thing. Is this not a common thing? I'm just going to assume it is.
You might be saying:
"Andy aren't you fucking 40 or something? You're rolling around in bed with people and drawing on their back?"
That's right, bitch. Don't be jealous.
So we're talking, listening to music, and aimlessly writing on each other's skin.
"Try to guess what I'm drawing," I said, and I drew a fire hydrant (so romantic). She didn't get it.
We flipped around and she told me to guess what she drew on my back. I didn't get it either.
"It's a teddy bear," she said.
"Did you have a teddy bear as a kid?" I asked. "What was its name? Draw it on my back in cursive and I'll see if I can get it."
She scribbled something on my back. I genuinely had no clue what it was.
"Paco," she said.
I froze. Then I propped myself up on my elbows.
"You had a teddy bear named Paco?" I said.
"Uhm... yeah...?" she said, wondering why this should be such an issue.
"Turn on the light and open the nightstand drawer."
She did, and I told her to pull out a little plastic box that was in there, under a bunch of other stuff. The box is the kind that has a clear plastic top with a little hinge on one side and snaps shut. You might see safety pins or something like that sold in a box like this. This one had a blank piece of stiff card, about the size of a business card inside.
"I found this box when I moved in here," I told her. "I thought what was in it was weird, but I also thought maybe it was important to someone because they had kept it in this box, so I held onto it."
I took the box, opened it, and dumped the folded card in her hand.
She opened it and found this:
The method is, in part, Mark Southworth's, The Box. This is a favorite utility item of mine. I don't know if it ever got hyped as much as other similar items but I like it a lot. First of all, I like that it's small. And secondly, I like that it's examinable. Not that I've ever had anyone express much interest in the box itself, but just for my peace of mind and feeling no need to hide it away, I like that aspect. Some could argue that the box itself is a little different than what such a box would normally look like. And that's true. But the great thing about doing magic in the real world and not taking credit for it is you don't need to justify everything. "I found this box," covers all sorts of sins. If I said that at the beginning of a magic trick, you might still be suspicious. But if I say that at the climax of a trick that you didn't even know was occurring, you don't have time to question the box. When you perform magic like this, there is no beginning of the trick, because it's integrated into their normal life.
The other part of the method is taking advantage of the situation. I recognized that there were times when we were in bed together where her back was towards me or mine was towards her (no, not when she was wearing a strap-on, you sicko). My back is towards her, and it's mostly dark, and yet we're still engaged in a close interaction, I thought. There's almost no other situation where you get that set of circumstances, so that means it offers opportunities no other situation does.
So I put The Box in the nightstand on her side of the bed, and I had a folded piece of card and a little pencil on my side of the bed. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I had a rare opportunity to write a "prediction" in real time with my "audience" right next to me and not have her ever know it. This is something you don't get when you're sitting at a table together.
And the drawing on each other's back was, serendipitously, just the perfect moment for it. I didn't have to ask her to think of something random or think of something personal in the context of a trick. It's something that came up naturally in the situation we were in. She drew the teddy bear and I immediately knew what it was (but pretended I didn't) and drew it along with her, almost simultaneously, on the card. Then I asked for the name of the bear and I didn't know what she wrote but it only took a second to add the name after she told me what it was.
How did she react? Well, how do you think you'd react if a message from your old teddy bear popped into your life 20 years later? She flipped out. Her eyes got big, she opened her mouth as if to say something, then covered it with her hands. She looked back and forth between me and the card. Said, "What... is... going... on...." And then threw her head back and laughed.
Did she think of it as a trick or something else? Well, fundamentally I guess she probably knew it was a magic trick. She knows I do magic. But—and this is a thing I have a hard time explaining here—you can do magic that is so interesting/fun/entertaining, magic that feels relevant and perfect to the moment, that people just want to live with the experience, not break it down and search for a method or whatever. The question of "is it a trick or not" is not really a thing people concern themselves with after this type of effect.
If I had said, "And I predicted that you would draw a bear and say the word Paco!" then the whole thing has a different feeling to it. And then trying to "figure it out" becomes a priority.
This is the—perhaps counterintuitive—truth about performing magic in this style. You might think, "Oh, if you do something really personal or powerful it's going to face greater scrutiny." But I've found just the opposite. It's the meaningless, magician-centric, tricks that people tear apart. Because what else are they supposed to do with them?