I’m beginning to recognize the signs of snow. The sky seems to drop towards the earth and hangs like a thick slab of concrete. From the warmth of the indoors, it’s hard to imagine how the temperature drops so quickly but it’s easy to feel it every time the door opens and let’s a blast of air in. Sometimes the clouds roll back to reveal the blue sky that was up above all the time and there is no snow. But today, it was different. The light outside dimmed until it was the perfect backdrop for the thick white snowflakes.
I waited it out sitting by the fire with coffee and eavesdropping on snippets of conversation. I never hear a full conversation, out of politeness and also because people speak so quickly and with such a thick accent that I can only pick out single words at a time. That’s a problem when I’ve had conversations with the people that I am beginning to call my friends. It’s especially difficult on the telephone. It must be the same for them so I am trying to remember to speak more slowly to give them a fighting chance.
When the snow stopped, I went exploring in Bristol and on a side street I stopped outside a sign that said “Top Hat Magic Supply”. I was peering through the window into the darkness when the door opened and I met Dave Vaught.
He turned on the lights and a small ball of brown hair ran towards me. “This is Merlin” Dave said. It turns out that Merlin, a very well behaved Yorkshire Terrier, is part of Dave’s magic show. He’s the end result of a handful of white doves in a cage and a wave of a magic wand.
Dave has been interested in magic for as long as he can remember. He started performing when he was 15 years old and in 1981 devoted his time to being a full time performer. He’s a Master Illusionist and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, one who is happy to share his secrets with other magicians if only to ensure that he is never accused of dealing in black magic. In the Bible Belt, that’s important. He’s performed on cruise ships, on TV and at festivals and private functions across the US. He says that the more intelligent his audience is, the easier it is to spin magic. “First graders (6 to 8 year olds) are a tough audience,” he says because they see things as they are with no added complications. “Magic can sometimes be disappointingly simple,” he says.
In a corner of Dave’s shop is a small stage with some of the equipment needed for his illusions. There are photographs of his wife apparently asleep in mid air with her hair hanging towards the floor and a tall box which she crawls into and lets Dave segment her body into four parts with swords. The magic happens when he rearranges her body and her head appears where her torso should be. She’s a very trusting wife.
Brick and mortar magic stores are rare these days and people come from miles away to visit the shop. Sometimes it’s closed because he’s performing and even Dave hasn’t mastered the illusion of being in two places at once.
Categories: An American Adventure