By Tom Nussbaum
I don’t like magic. It freaks me out. Perhaps, it’s because magic is not easily explained and I am one who wants quick, simple answers to my questions. Or, perhaps, it is because I have been placed under a magic spell that prevents me from appreciating the black art.
My aversion to magic probably began when, as a young child, a family friend would mysteriously pull quarters from my ears on his visits. It drove me crazy. I would retreat to my room, lie on my bed with my head hanging over the edge, and shake my head until something, hopefully another quarter, would fall out. No coins ever fell from my ears. An earwig did, however. And a gross, yellowed wax covered Q-tip. And the missing piece from my Mr. Potato Head set, which was, ironically, an ear. And, most mysteriously, a lottery ticket from Ancient Rome with the numbers III, VII, XIX, XXIV, XXV, and XXXIX on it. I don’t know if they were winning numbers, but I suspect I missed the claim deadline.
As the years passed, I would watch famed magicians perform on television and stare with confusion, frustration, and anger. “Dad, how’d he do that?” I would plead on the verge of crying, as a magician would pull a rabbit out of a cracked-open egg and then reach down the rabbit’s throat and pull out another magician. Dad didn’t answer, so I would turn to find him staring in wonder, mesmerized by the devil-work being performed on Ed Sullivan’s stage.
Years later, I asked my mother how she had met my father. Imagine my surprise when she told me it was at a magic show. They apparently had been seated with a large group of people, many of whom did not know each other. While Mom and Dad were not introduced until after the performance, she studied him through the whole show, fascinated by how intently he watched. Mom decided that night she was going to marry Dad. And she then put her spell on him.
It was then I realized that, perhaps, I hated magic because I resented sorcery for introducing my parents. My mother, as anyone who knows me knows, was a difficult woman who had a powerful crippling effect on my sister and myself. Now, one might ask, how could I have subconsciously resented magic for its role in my parents’ meeting if I didn’t know about its role until years after I had developed the dislike? Well, the reason is simple. It must have been magic!
I have made a point to avoid magic acts on TV or in the real world my entire life. I do not watch specials on TV featuring the day’s most famous, most prominent magicians. I have no interest in going to Las Vegas to see Criss Angel, David Copperfield, or David Blaine confound audiences. And I surely never watch Fox News, where misinformation magically becomes reality and lies become truths.
I do not watch magic-themed films. I can’t. I have never seen the 1953 bio-pic Houdini. Likewise, I never saw the 1978 Anthony Hopkins film Magic or the more recent movies Now You See It or The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. My screaming at the screen certainly would ruin the experience for the other theater-goers. But, what’s worse, my tears would ruin my popcorn. Oh, you say, it is the twenty-first century and I can watch films in the privacy of my home. Yes. I could. But my gasping and shrieking would irritate my roommates, Penn and Teller.
I even break out in a cold sweat when I hear songs with the word “magic” in their title, classics like “That Old Black Magic” and “Black Magic Woman.” I have suffered nausea when listening to “This Magic Moment,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” But my most severe reaction occurs when I hear the hit song from the film Xanadu, “Magic.” I find myself immediately doubled-over, hurling into the Olivia Newton-John.
On the other hand, I do not respond violently when I hear “Magical Mystery Tour.” The reason should be obvious. There should be no mystery about it. The song and album were, after all, by The Beatles. And their music is pure magic.
And I do not hate my magicJack telephone line. It is my connection to the U.S. It is what I use to call family and friends back home. I use it to make business and 1-800 calls. But most importantly, I use it to vote for the acts on America’s Got Talent who are not magicians.
But, as much as I hate magic, I fervently wish a magic spell could be found to eliminate the partisanship in U.S. politics, the unforgiveable waste and hypocrisy in U.S. government, and the looming downfall of democracy as we know it. If that were to happen, I might look at magic differently.
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