The Magician & The Mark
Episode 02:20:2023 - Prompt: Trust
Where trust took me…
A noteworthy skill hidden on my resumé is magician’s assistant.
On the scale of art and spectacle, my magician, who I’ll call A.P., was closer to Meredith Monk, the avant-garde composer and interdisciplinary artist, than to David Copperfield, named the “greatest illusionist of all time” by Oprah. Over decades, A.P.’s shows doubled in production value, but he never lost the trust he earned from his audience by…
Keeping his tricks pure.
Once, sitting on the sofa inches away from my face, A.P. casually performed a trick with my own deck of cards. It began simply, like a cliché. I picked a card (any card), looked at it, and put it back in the deck without showing it to him.
As the trick grew in complexity, coincidence after coincidence played out based on the initial card I drew. I saw no sleight of hand, and A.P. shared no reaction for the enormity of what I thought was happening in front of us. I was freaking out! I took the cards and threw them. I demanded of A.P.:
“Am I incredibly lucky or is it the trick making me think I’m lucky?”
Thanks for reading That Place You Love! Subscribe for free & get involved.
Years later, I was in Chinatown, NYC.
I had just moved back after working as A.P.’s technical assistant on tour where my job was to prepare his props, which included the classic cups & balls trick. When I found myself watching a man perform the shell game (a pared down version) for bets on the street, my familiarity gave me the confidence to pick the right answer every time. Soon someone was winning bets off of my calls.
This winner turned to me and said, “You should be making money, too. You should lay down a bet.” My eyes lit up at the thought of fast cash. “I don’t have anything on me,” I said. This new friend replied, “Go to the ATM. I’ll match it, and we can split the winnings.” Off we went to an ATM machine, but I had already came up with my own plan knowing I had nothing to withdraw.
“If you’ve got cash,” I said, “You could put it down for both of us and split it with me once it’s doubled.” His face went blank, and he ran down an alley. I went back to the shell game, but they had already packed up. I then realized I was the mark the entire time and narrowly missed being robbed at an ATM machine (that would happen fifteen years later in Los Feliz!).
After I ruined A.P.’s card trick and asked if it was me that was lucky or the trick, he said, “I told you from the beginning. I’m a magician doing a trick.”
The difference between a magician and a con.
We ask the magician to trick us. That’s the pact. A con artist uses the magicians tricks but hasn’t asked our permission. Knowing the difference is the greatest skill we have when it comes to giving anyone our trust.
YOUR TURN: I had a hard time deciding what to write for TRUST, from abandoned dogs to mean girls to signing release forms seconds before going under anesthesia. Don’t worry about getting it right or wrong. Just write 150 - 200 words on TRUST (basically, my section about A.P.’s card trick at 180 words).
POST YOUR STORY IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.
Click the HEART when you read anyone’s post. Heart = Heard. Don’t comment on my or other people’s stories. For more about the rules & intention of this Zine, check the About page. Any questions, bring them up in the Forum.
My mother avoided a scam today. I mean, today, the very day this post arrives in my email. I trust the universe to show me ways and paths, so clearly I must share about my mother's not trusting.
Here's the scam: someone (this guy had a heavy accent, and right from the beginning, Mom suspected he was trying to make himself difficult to understand) who claimed to be from Verizon called and demanded $130. He said her service would be turned off unless she paid up. Mom, whose Verizon service had legitimately been turned off a month ago (long story, involving an old account that we keep trying to close but that Verizon resurrects every once in a while) was immediately in high anxiety. Her TV, phone, and internet service are all Verizon. She's so frail she can't get up from her chair without two people lifting her. The TV and phone are her world.
Scared as she was, she didn't lose her wits, which, at 92, proves her to be an amazing, strong woman who's a good role model for her three daughters. The guy began bullying her about the money and that's what made her suspicious. Finally she asked where he was calling from. He refused to answer. She hung up and called me.
So this is a little story not so much about trust as it is about knowing when not to trust.
They could have met during the war: he, a former military man and she, who once worked for said military. Only it was 40 years later, and they met in the wilderness of social media.
He made the first move, commenting on her looks. She responded, flattered and curious. He looked dignified, comfortable, well-fed. He said he lived in a warmer state and recalled her homeland fondly. She asked about his daily life.
And she asked me to look him up, and I did, alarms going off.
Concluding that his photo was stolen, his identity a fabricated pastiche, his hints at meeting part of a ploy to steal – I advised she break off communication immediately: Trust me mom, this guy’s a scam.
Her brusque reply: Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s fun writing back and forth. Who cares if it’s the truth?
I hung up the phone, feeling guilty and sad.