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?”
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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).
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