Archive for February, 2007

THE TASKS AT HAND

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

We are home!  But that doesn’t mean “down time” or “time off.”  Sometimes people think that our only job is performing and when we come home, we’re “off.”  Being self-employed is more than a full time occupation.  There’s always something to do and the list is a constantly evolving, ever-growing thing.

Cindy is very busy right now working on the house.  We’re making some significant changes because we’ll be putting the “compound” on the market this spring.  With David and Kylie heading out on their own at the end of the tour, it makes sense to sell – it’s just too big for us.  It’s the cornerstone of “simplifying our lives.”

David and Kylie are in the office trying to catch up on things.  David is also in the process of training Keith to advance shows and get him familiar with the office system.

I’m trying to get a handle on next year’s tour schedule – returning phone calls to people who have requested information and are looking for a performance date.  Every day it seems I fall behind a little further on this one!  My computer reminds me – daily – how many people I need to call.  Right now, I’m about 85 calls behind!!  I hope to catch up on many of them today – which means a crazy day on the phone.  Yes, it would be more simple if we put this in the hands of an agent but we’ve tried that before (three times) and it just doesn’t work for me.  I’m more “hands on” than that and like dealing with our buyers on a more personal level.  Yes, it’s much more difficult and time consuming but it’s what works for us.

With that in mind, I still have some things to get done before the official work day begins so I’m off for a second cup of coffee.

GREENVILLE, OH T0 CHARLESTON, WV

Monday, February 26th, 2007

When we woke up this morning, there was a big change in the weather.  The temperatures were much warmer and the ice and snow had already begun to melt.  Instead of glaciers everywhere, there were small ponds and puddles of water!

We drove back over to the Arts Center and got there around 1pm.  All the guys were there, ready to get the equipment off the stage and into our truck.  Keith had lined the equipment up the night before so it was all ready to go.  Everything went out quickly and we were on our way by 2pm.

For the most part, the driving weather was all pretty good – rainy but not too bad.  We arrived in Charleston, WV around 6:30pm; grabbed dinner at the new Peking Chinese Buffet next to the hotel; checked into the hotel and got some rest.  We’re going to be on the road EARLY in the morning so we can get home before noon (I hope)!  We have so much to do and we’re only going to be home for about 10 days before the tour kicks back up again – for almost 2 months!

Off to bed!

DARKE COUNTY CENTER FOR THE ARTS – GREENVILLE, OH

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

We were up very early this morning to head out of Fort Wayne to Greenville, OH. It was only about 90 miles away but there isn’t a major interstate so we knew it would take a bit longer – and it did. We arrived in plenty of time to meet up with Nolan (who was already at the hotel) and grab a bite to eat at a nearby McDonalds. Then, it was off to the venue – the Darke County Center for the Arts.

According to the weather forecast, there is a huge storm moving through the middle of the country – from Texas to Minnesota – that is going to bring rough weather our way. When we started load in, the weather was hanging in there. It was cold but no precipitation in the air!

We worked with a great crew of students and professionals today. They did some fast work when we arrived to clear some additional areas of the stage so there would be plenty of room for all the equipment. Once the stage was cleared, the equipment started moving in. We weren’t able to bring the truck right up to the loading dock because the trailer is too large and there was a really sharp turn that I just couldn’t make. So, David brought it down on the lift and then up on the ramp to the stage.

Once in, set up moved along quickly. Drops were up. Intelligent lights were hung. Focus was complete. And then came the task of writing cues on a Strand Board (an older Strand that I’m just not that familiar with). Thank goodness Keith and Nolan KNEW how to operate this board and get the cues in!

The weather started to turn bad around 6pm – just like weather.com said it would. Freezing rain started to fall but the audience still arrived. We were surprised at the HUGE crowd that came out in this weather. By showtime, there was significant icing outside. What was even more incredible was just how GREAT this audience was! This was such a fun show for me to do. The theatre is beautiful and the audience was responsive to everything we did – including laughing at the bad jokes! There’s no way to put into words how it feels to have an audience the “clicks” – it’s so much fun to perform when you have an audience like that.

One of the most meaningful parts of the day came just before the show.  Keith Rawlins at the DCCA had arranged for me to do a brief pre-show talk with anyone who was interested in more information on the Healing of Magic program.  I was shocked to see that there were so many people in attendance that they actually had to turn people away.  I had the opportunity to share the concepts and applications of the program with a great group of people who then moved on into the main theatre for the show.

It was really cold on stage – especially stage right where Cindy and Kylie work. Keith, the director at the DCCA, brought over a couple of heaters so help knock of the chill. He was an outstanding host – and even brought in some hot food for us before the show…above and beyond our hospitality requests.

By the end of the show, there was so much ice and snow on the loading dock that there was no way we could load out safely. We packed everything down and got it all lined up. We’ll head back to the theatre tomorrow – Sunday afternoon – and load out. It’s supposed to be 40 degrees in the afternoon. With these heavy cases on ice, someone would have gotten hurt really bad.

We’re back at the hotel…ready to go to sleep…which is where I’m going now.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

The weather is starting to warm up a bit now that we are moving south. Still, there are several feet of snow on the ground here in Indianapolis. I guess, last week, they had a big snow storm move through the area and you can still see the results. It makes getting our rig and trailer into parking lots a bit more difficult because the snow is just piled all over.

Last night, we stayed in Rensselaer, IN – the town I grew up in. This morning, I met up with some relatives that still live there – my Aunt Terri and Uncle Jay. It was so good to see them. It’s been a long time and we had a great breakfast get-together. Afterwards, Terri dropped me off at the hotel and we hit the road.

If you’ve ever lived in Indiana, you know that Pizza King is “an Indiana tradition since 1956.” It’s difficult for us to drive through the state without finding a Pizza King. And even more difficult to explain why that pizza tastes so good! So, as we left Rensselaer, we made a stop at the local Pizza King.

We’re in Indy tonight. Cindy flies into this airport tomorrow and then we’re off to Fort Wayne. I can’t wait to see her!

ST. CLOUD TO ST. CHARLES

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

We’ve been making our way from St. Cloud, MN to St. Charles, IL. Yesterday was one of those days. We had hoped to arrive in St. Charles early enough to settle in for the night and kick back. Unfortunately, we stopped in Madison, WI and Kylie heard something “leaking” for one of the trailer tires. Turns out, we picked up a nail and the tire was going flat. As we walked back up the side of the truck, David noticed that our recently repaired axle seal was also leaking fluid again. It was 1pm on a holiday Monday so weren’t sure we would find someone to get this fixed.

We pulled into a diesel repair place – Polk Diesel – and they worked us in right away. Right next door was a tire repair place so we dropped the trailer there and pulled the rig into the garage at Polk. It turned out to be a very long afternoon of repairs!

I don’t necessarily mind paying for repairs – paying for them twice, however, does bother me a bit. We just had this axle seal fixed in St. Cloud and it lasted all of three days! I’m sure there are lots of reasons why it didn’t hold but I believe there was one very significant reason.

As the guy started to pull the tires off and start the repair, he noticed that there were some very important springs missing from the brakes! If you remember, we had a bad experience in West Virginia only a few weeks ago while going down Sandstone Mountain. It lead to having lots of work done to the brakes. They are working great but we noticed that they always seemed a little hot when we stopped. Turns out, they were! The springs hold the brake pads in place so they don’t rub on the drums. Ours were rubbing big time – and getting hot!

Repair

Then, as he put the oil back in the axle, he asked if we had done any suspension work lately. Well, we recently had new shocks put on the rig and I guess the mechanics forgot to adjust one side of the suspension. He fixed that too.

We would have not have discovered any of this if this seal had not started leaking again. And, we’re heading to Colorado next month so having these things fixed gives us confidence that we can make that trip safely. I’m taking the rig into see Tommy (our mechanic) as soon as we get home to do the big “once over” before we head West.

We were back on the road around 4:30pm and arrived in St. Charles, IL about 7pm.

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This morning, Tuesday, I had the privilege of speaking to the students of Wheaton Academy in their morning chapel service.  Joseph Jones, the Technical Director of the Fine Arts Theatre at Wheaton, had extended an invitation to stop by on our way to Ohio.  It was a very difference experience for me.  As I was introduced, I stepped in front of about 600 students and performed one illusion, the Torn and Restored Newspaper.  This is one of my favorite illusions because it is so visual and unbelievable!  And it was a nice seque into what I had planned to share with the students.

We left out of West Chicago/St. Charles and we’re heading toward Indianapolis.  I pick up Cindy on Thrusday.  I can’t wait to see her!

PARAMOUNT THEATRE – ST. CLOUD, MN

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Our two days in St. Cloud, MN were pretty cool…and frustrating. As soon as we pulled off the interstate exit, we stopped to fuel up the rig. As I walked around the truck, I noticed that we had a leak in the rear axle seal on the tractor. Just down the street from the truck stop was a repair place. I stopped and talked with the guys who said they could fix it but it was already 3:30pm and they wanted to be out of there by 5pm. I took off to get everyone checked into the hotel so I could get back fast. There’s a huge boat show happening at the Civic Center so parking is really tough in the downtown area right now – and that’s where we were staying. Once checked in, Cindy and I took off for the repair shop and the guys were waiting for us. They pulled me right in, after helping me drop the trailer, and had us fixed by 5:30pm. They were great and took a huge load off my mind. I hate mechanical problems on the road!

Back to the hotel, get our luggage inside in sub zero temperatures – frozen by the time we made it into the hotel and just ready to get some rest.

I was up early on Friday morning to get the truck started. These temperatures have been really tough on it but it’s hanging in there. This morning, it was a slow start. And then I realized we were completely parked in – there were cars all around us, not in proper parking places, and no way out of the parking lot. Load in was early on Friday so, after some frustration and creative back-and-forth, I finally got the truck to a place where we could get it out.

The Paramount Theatre is a beautiful venue – built in 1922 I think and very well restored. The crew, under the direction of Chuck Norwood, was excellent. They had us loaded in fast, doors closed and heat back on the stage! Because it was an early load in, the day moved along at a good pace and we had time to stop for lunch. We ordered some great Thai food from one of the local downtown restaurants. After lunch, we finished setting up and were ready for the audience to arrive by 5:30pm. Doors open at 7pm.

The audience was INCREDIBLE and AMAZING. It was a full house – over sold actually. They set up additional chairs in the aisles and across the back of the theatre. They audience was such a pleasure to perform for – with me from the very beginning, laughing at every bad joke and responding to all the magic. When the show was over, they were on their feet before I even said “thank you and good night.”

Saturday morning, we had an early show for a private function. On of the local business men bought out the Saturday performance for some of his clients, friends and local charity organizations. The show moved quickly and very smoothly – no problems, no worries. Great audience.

As soon as the show was over, I had to drive Cindy to the Minneapolis airport (about 90 minutes away) so she could catch a flight back to Virginia. So David coordinated the load out and all of them (Keith and Kylie) did an outstanding job of getting it all packed up and put back on the trailer. I hated to be gone but they were on top of it all – THANKS!

Cindy had some troubles with her flights. Snow in Cincinnati caused flight delays but she made it to Charlotte with only 10 minutes before her flight. She RAN through the airport and made it to the gate only to be told that the flight was closed and there was no way she could get on. She would be stranded in Charlotte for the night EXCEPT that the guy at the gate came and got her and escorted her to the plane so she could get home! It was a long, stressful day for her!

Today, Sunday, we’re taking it easy and making the drive toward Wheaton.

THE STATE THEATRE – EAU CLAIRE, WI

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

What a great audience last night! We loved every minute of performing in Eau Claire! We arrived early at the venue – which was hard not to do since it was right across the street from our hotel – but had some trouble getting into the loading dock. Another trip around the block and a much WIDER turn at the corner gave us the extra room we needed to pull the rig into the narrow alley leading to the loading area.

The crew got us in quickly in spite of the fact that the lift on the trailer was practically frozen in the sub zero temperatures. It moved slowly, even with several hundred pounds of equipment on it. As the cases rolled onto the stage, we started opening them up so things could start to warm up a bit.

The local paper, LEADER TELEGRAM, had a nice article with a color pictures and that helped generate tons of ticket sales. We were told the phones were ringing off the hook on Tuesday and Wednesday building up to a capacity crowd at the State!

The show went well – great volunteers and crew. We did a new show order so I felt like my timing was off a bit but the audience didn’t seem to notice. This is a great place and we would love to bring the show here again.

EAU CLAIRE, WI

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

We flew back to Minnesota on Monday and, with only minor delays, arrived on time. The biggest problem was getting our luggage. It took almost an hour for them to get the bags off the plane and into the baggage claim area. Our hotel was close to the airport so it was a quick trip over and into the truck. Keith met us there, had the truck started and ready to go. We finally pulled out of Minneapolis around 6pm, heading for Eau Claire, WI.

Yesterday, David and I did a workshop at one of the local high schools working with some really great students. These guys responded so well to the magic therapy program, working hard to learn each trick, challenged by the process and then became extremely creative in their storytelling as they performed for one another. You could watch the transformation in their self-esteem. So many other challenges – frustration tolerance, problem-solving, sequencing, communication, dexterity, etc.

We were finished by noon, joined up with the rest of the team and went out on the town to do some shopping. I spent a good portion of the day on the phone. The night ended fun as we converged on the local Buffalo Wild Wings! We all played the trivia game while waiting for the food and Cindy won – name displayed on the screen for all to see! David came very close to winning the second game – second place, still not a bad finish considering you’re playing people all over the country at the same time.

Today is our show at the State Theatre – a Valentine’s Day performance. Ticket sales have been exceptionally well and we’re hoping for a great show tonight.

REIF CENTER – GRAND RAPIDS, MN

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

We arrived in Grand Rapids, MN and while we’re not in a blizzard, it is still very COLD! I think it was -24 degrees last night. Today, the weather man was hoping to get to 6 degrees!  My mom called about an hour before the show and told me it was 70 degrees in Little Rock.  I need to start booking southern tours in February!
We pulled into the Reif Center around 11am to start loading in. The crew met us and they were ready to go. These guys were great all day and John, the Technical Director, had the lighting hung, patched and geled saving us hours of time. We moved through the day quickly and finished up in time to actually sit down and eat – together!

Today was Keith’s first day with us on the road. We’re in the process of making the transition to a new team starting in May. Keith will be our new Production Manager handling much of the technical aspects of the show. He’s going to do a great job.

The audience tonight was GREAT! It was a sold out show and we were all grateful that people ventured our of their warm homes to come to the theatre. We had some great volunteers on stage with us and the responses were excellent. I got great feedback in the lobby after the performance. A HUGE thank you to David Marty and his staff for making our day at the Reif Center a memorable and enjoyable one.

After we loaded out, we headed over to the Country Kitchen for a quick bite to eat. As we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a young man who looked at us with big eyes and said, “Your show was AWESOME!” It’s great to get that kind of response. As we walked in to be seated, another group of Senior Citizens looked at us and said, “It really was awesome!” echoing the comment they had just overheard from the child. Magic has a way of transcending age and touching people in a great way.

Dinner was good…and now it’s time to sleep!

GRAND RAPIDS TO GRAND RAPIDS

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Much to everyone’s disappointment, we all agreed to postpone the performance in Rockford on Saturday evening.  The weather went from bad to worse during the afternoon.  By the evening, we had about 15″ of snow and below zero temperatures.  It just wasn’t safe for anyone to be out in this kind of weather.

We stayed in the hotel all day working on projects and trying to relax.  When I got up this morning, I called the Michigan State Police to check on the roads.  All highways and interstates heading out of Grand Rapids were in treacherous condition.  I was told to go east toward Lansing; that the roads were wet but clear.  I knew the storm was going to move that direction so woke up Cindy and called David and Kylie.  We got ready as fast as we could and were on the roads by 9am heading EAST to go WEST, SOUTH to go NORTH.  This was going to be a backward trip.

As we drove toward Lansing, the roads did NOT get better!  It took us more than 3 hours to drive 60 miles!  Treacherous – dangerous – scary – snow-packed – icy.  Those are better words to describe I-96 East.  And they didn’t clear up until we started south on I-69 toward Fort Wayne, IN….and not until we got south of Coldwater, Michigan.  It seemed like we were in the clear until we got on the Indiana Toll Road heading toward Chicago.  Around South Bend, the roads got bad again.  We watched a guy towing a MotorSports trailer almost wreck when he lost control of his trailer on the roads.  We pulled over to make sure he was okay, gave him some names/numbers of towing people and got back on the road.

The weather finally cleared completely and we made great time getting through and around Chicago.  We made it all the way to Wisconsin Dells, where we are spending the time.  It is DANGEROUSLY cold outside with temperatures below zero and windchills that are breath-taking.

In the morning, we’ll pick up Keith as we drive through Minneapolis and head on to Grand Rapids, MN.

God kept us safe today.  There’s certainly no doubt about that!