Archive for November, 2008

FINALLY, ON THE WAY TO FLORIDA!

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

One of the most stressful parts of “being on the road” is making sure that you can actually get from show to show.  We have a pretty cool customized rig that we take very good care of because it is the “magic chariot” that gets us from place to place (comfortably).  Because we were only home for a few days, we needed to get the truck into the shop to fix a small oil leak and a couple of minor things. When Cindy and I went to pick it up on Friday, the truck would not start.  Now, I’m not much of a mechanic but figured it had to do with the batteries.  We were able to get a service guy to give those batteries a jump , the engine turned over, and everything seemed fine.  We drove it back to the warehouse and left it for the night.

Saturday proved to be a bit of a challenge.  We attempted to start the truck again – no luck.  In order to prevent any problems on this tour, we decided to get new batteries and start fresh.  Ethan and I pulled out the old one (3 of them) and went on the hunt to find new ones.  These are major-league batteries – about 1000 cranking amps – so they’re not that easy to find.  Once located, we went back over to the truck and began hooking them up – dozens of cables linking the starter to one battery, jump cables linking battery to battery, cables that operate the lift gate on the trailer, and a few more that provide power to the generator and the rest of the rig.  Lots and lots of cables!  We got them all hooked up and….nothing.  The truck still wouldn’t start.  Now, it was also starting to rain – and it was getting much colder.  After talking to a more knowledgeable mechanic on my iPhone, we disconnected all the batteries and started again.  This time we made sure that all the connections were VERY tight and secure (as tight as our cold hands would allow). And this time, it made a really strange noise…like the starter was going bad or something.  After one more attempt, it cranked and started!  Hooray!  But just in case, I made another call to the mechanic and we chatted about that “strange” noise in the starter.

This morning when we arrived at the truck, it cranked right on – no problems!  We are all praying that we don’t have any complications on this trip.  When we get back, I’ll get it into the International dealership in Lynchburg and have it all checked out.

As we drove today, the rain across the Southeast was persistent.  Traffic was extremely heavy from all the travelers heading home and most of them were driving very, very slow.

We spent a good two hours today driving around 35 mph.  Needless to say, we didn’t make good time getting to where we were going – FLORIDA.  We have a full week of performances there starting in Madison on Tuesday and moving on to Fort Pierce (Sunrise Theatre) and then to Delray Beach (Crest Theatre).  Warmer temperatures here we come!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a celebration commemorating the harvest of the Pilgrims in 1621. It’s a day marked by religious observances and a traditional meal (which generally includes turkey). But, mostly, it’s a day where we all can reflect on the things and people in our lives for which we are thankful.

I have a lot to be thankful for –  a beautiful and caring wife, parents who are healthy and happy, a great family, wonderful friends (and employees), and a business that continues to thrive in spite of the economic downturn.  And that’s just the beginning.

I hope all of us take some time today to reflect on the good things in our lives, rather than concentrating on the challenging ones.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

It’s good to be home.  I was sitting in my office today talking on the phone when I looked out the window and it was snowing!!  Now, it’s not that cold here – only about 42 degrees – so it was weird to see snow and sunshine. It snowed several times over about an hour.  If it could be WARM and snow all the time, that would be awesome!  I’m not a big fan of the winter season.

We leave on Sunday for sunny Florida.  We’ll be performing in Madison (12/2), Fort Pierce (12/4), and Delray Beach (12/5 – 12/7).  After Florida, we’ll head up to Georgia for a show in Carrolton and Cedartown.

I just found these pictures on my iPhone that I took last week in New Bedford, MA.  They are from the Zeiterion so I thought I would share.  This is the marque and the other is the stage while we are setting props and reviewing light cues.

ZEITERION PAC AND THE GARDE CENTER

Monday, November 24th, 2008

We are back home after the last of our shows on Friday and Saturday.  Friday night, we performed in New Bedford, MA at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.  It’s a very cool, fully restored vaudeville theatre in downtown New Bedford.  Ticket sales were fairly strong and we ended up with a crowd of about 800 enthusiastic audience members!

Several of the area magicians came to see us (always nice when we get the support of the local guys) including Kevin Burgess and Marc LeBlanc (who works with Lynn Dillies).  Some friends of our from years gone by were also there – Loren and Wendy.  We worked with both of these guys over 10 years ago when we still did an occasional performance on college campuses.  It was great to see them again – and to meet their daughter Teaghan.

After the show, we packed up the trailer and drove back to New London, CT.  We had two shows here on Saturday – a 3pm and a 7pm.  Load in would come bright and early – around 8am.

Everyone did great, considering we were working on very little sleep.  The 3pm show was almost sold out – a great crowd and a nice mix of ages.  This was a shorter matinee – only about an hour – so there was no intermission.  After the first show, we grabbed a bite to eat and reset for the 7pm performance.  This would be the full show so we had a few more things to get ready.

The audience started flowing in around 6:30pm.  The crowd was smaller than our afternoon audience but what they lacked in size they made up for in enthusiasm!

After packing the show down, we decided to drive a few miles to get closer to home.  We stopped for the night in New Haven, CT…and then got up early on Sunday to finish the trip.  Some 11 hours later, we pulled into Lynchburg.  We’re home for the week!

BEECHWOOD MANOR, CT

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

We arrived in New London, CT last night so we would there for the workshop this morning at Beechwood Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  This is a beautiful place with a caring staff.  Jeanne picked Ethan and I up at the hotel at 8:30am and we were there by 8:45am.  We started working right away with the therapists – teaching them some simple tricks and exploring the therapeutic value of each one.  I’m always amazed and encouraged by the positive response “magic therapy” receives when presented to therapists! They laughed as they learned each trick…and then realized just how beneficial these tricks will be for their clients.

We did this same type of workshop last week in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  The DAILY GLEANER sent a reporter and the article made the front page of the area paper.

Today, there were a couple of reporters who came over to Beechwood Manor from THE DAY newspaper.  They watched the therapists learn and then they watched the clients struggle to master each trick.  The smiles, laughter, and satisfaction of each person was evident throughout the room.  I met so many wonderful people, each with their own story, their own challenges, and (now) their own magical talents.  ”Bingo Mary” learned a few tricks…and she’s 108 years old!

After a couple of hours, it was time to head back to the hotel and pick up Keith and Cindy.  We needed to get on the road this afternoon.  It’s a short drive to New Bedford, MA (slightly over an hour) and we wanted to arrive in time to get the truck to the loading dock of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center before traffic got too bad.  Keith made a call to Justin, the TD, and he met us to help us get into place.  This will make load in for the Friday performance so much easier!

Before we even arrived in New Bedford, we received an email from the reporter from THE DAY newspaper in New London, CT.  Seems they had their article online before the middle of the afternoon!

It was a great day and tomorrow should be fun!  The STANDARD TIMES (New Bedford newspaper) selected us as a BEST BET for family entertainment this weekend.

DRIVING AND DRIVING

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

We spent a few days driving from New Brunswick to Massachusetts and now, we’ve had the last two days to relax a bit in Springfield, MA.  We did some Christmas shopping, washed some clothes, answered lots of email, and made a few phone calls.  It was time that we all needed just to regroup and get ready for our last week on the road before heading home for Thanksgiving.

This afternoon, we stopped at Target and picked up a few necessary things.  I’ve needed some new windshield wipers for the truck for a while but wanted to get the RainX type.  Found them today…along with the RainX spray that will help keep our windows clear during the winter ahead of us.  In spite of the cold, we cleaned the outside while Cindy cleaned the inside windows.

Tonight, we’re in New London, CT.  I’ll be doing a workshop in the morning with therapists at the Beechwood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  After spending some time with the therapists, Ethan and I will work with some of the clients.  We should be wrapped up by 11am (because we’re starting early) so we can make the drive to New Bedford, MA for our show there on Friday at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.

Our show on Saturday is back here in New London, CT at the Garde Arts Center.


FREDERICTON, NB – DAY TWO

Monday, November 17th, 2008

We are back in the USA after spending another day in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  The show on Friday night was very well received by the community.  When we left the theatre to check into the hotel, there was a small group having a private party there.  They were also at the show.  As Keith checked us in, I talked for a few minutes with the group.  By the time we drove the rig around, the group had grown considerably and they were waiting for us to arrive.  I spent a few minutes more talking and signing autographs.  It was incredibly humbling to have so many people want to spend a few moments with us.

On Saturday morning, I made a visit to the Stan Cassidy Rehab Center to work with some of the clients there.  I spent some time working with the therapists and Ethan and I worked individually with a variety of diagnoses – from spinal cord injuries to pediatric disorders. The 90 minute workshop went quickly.  I hope it was as rewarding for the clients as it was for me.  This is one of my favorite things to do when we have the opportunity.  The DAILY GLEANER (local Fredericton newspaper) was there and will be running a story on Monday.  Jeff Crawford, a local photographer, was also there to capture the magical moments. I’ll be able to share those with you once he has them posted on his site.  I’m sure he captured some amazing faces as they performed their magic!

After the workshop, we went back to the hotel and quickly made our way to the town Farmer’s Market.  It was going to close promptly at 1pm but we wanted to make the best of it.  Food booths and craftsworkers were everywhere…and we sampled a lot of the food!  Mini donuts, Indian pastries, deep fried sweet potatoes, and a lot more – delicious!

The weather started turning bad and by mid afternoon, it was raining fairly hard.  We made our way back to the hotel just to relax for the rest of the day.  In the early evening, Cindy and I went to dinner at the local Vietnamese restaurant across the street.

Today, we drove back across the border through Houlton, Maine.  Passing through Canadian Customs was very easy.  Getting through US Customs proved to be a bit more of a challenge.  When I presented my paperwork to the officer, he questioned whether I had completed them properly.  His supervisor came to the window and continued the questioning.  She eventually said that I had the wrong forms, that I had exported our equipment into Canadian commerce and would need to hire a US broker to get it back into the country.  I’m a stickler for details when it comes to this stuff so I knew this was not right.  Eventually I was asked to park the rig and come inside.

Once inside, me and the supervisor had a little discussion about the difference between exporting equipment permanently and an E29B Temporary Allowance Form (the one I had completed and was processed by US Customs in Calais, ME only days before).  After a couple of phone calls, she realized that I had in fact completed all the necessary paperwork, that everything was in order, and that she was wrong. She didn’t apologize for the 45 minute hold up but she did send back the original officer who had me complete one more piece of information before sending me on my way.  Welcome home.

FREDERICTON PLAYHOUSE – FREDERICTON, NB

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

We left Saint John this morning around 9am.  It was a short drive to Fredericton up Highway 7.  The show tonight is at The Playhouse – a very intimate and great venue.

The rain had stopped and it was clear weather for the drive.  When we arrived into the Capital City of New Brunswick, we knew that we would be driving into a “construction zone.”  The city is building a new conference center next door to The Playhouse so getting into the loading dock would be a little tricky! Actually, the loading dock IS part of the construction zone.

Jeff, the TD, walked me over to the construction site manager.  He walked me through the route I would need to drive the rig but not before I was outfitted in the proper attire.

After walking the route, I jumped back into the truck and started the drive through the construction zone to the loading dock where the crew was anxiously awaiting our arrival.

Once we were at the dock, load in was really easy.  Cases came straight off the truck and into the backstage area.  Things seemed to clip along at a good rate and the show went up very quickly.  Keith has really done wonders saving time by using the new light board.  Ethan has fallen into a pretty good routine of setting up the show.  And Cindy, as always, handles all the details that keep things moving smoothly.

We have had great shows here in Canada.  Tonight was another near capacity house with a very enthusiastic audience.  Because they haven’t had the type of illusion production that we offer in these theatres, the audiences were genuinely intrigued by each of the illusions.  I could see it in their faces or as they whispered something to the person sitting next to them.  And once they experienced the “magic,” they responded with great applause and appreciation.  And this wonderful audience in Fredericton gave us a standing ovation at the end of the show.  I had the chance to meet many of them in the lobby afterwards.

The “meet and greet” continued into the lobby of our hotel.  When we arrived to check in, a group of people who had attended the show were also having dinner at the same hotel.  They were very nice, shared their favorite tricks with me, and I signed a few autographs.  They made us feel very special and very welcome.

Tomorrow, Ethan and I will head to the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Center for a workshop with some of the clients.  I have to go to bed…it’s 1am!

IMPERIAL THEATRE – SAINT JOHN, NB

Friday, November 14th, 2008

After a good night’s rest, I was up early this morning for a big breakfast.  Our load in is set for 11am since it’s a 8pm show tonight.  We all met at the truck and made the short drive up to the Imperial Theatre.  Inside and out, this place is spectacular!

I pulled the truck around to the back to the loading dock where Jim (the TD) met us and helped direct traffic.  The crew was inside finalizing the light plot and getting ready to help load in the show.

Once the equipment was on the stage, the day ran so smoothly!  The crew at the Imperial is so organized and willing to help – truly a team effort today.  Scenery was up, intelligent lighting in the air, focus was complete, and we started into sound check.

After sound check, dinner had arrived.  Everyone took a well deserved break and we enjoyed a great meal. We even had real plates and silverware!  We’re so used to eating with plastic forks on paper plates, this was a real treat.

Doors opened at 7:30pm and we could hear the audience make their way into the theatre.  The light show started on time and you could hear the excitement building in the house.  By 8pm, they were ready and so were we – the show started with enthusiastic applause before we even performed our first illusion.  There’s nothing that gets a performer’s energy going than an enthusiastic crowd!  Great volunteers made the evening even more enjoyable for us – and the Saint John audience.  When we finished the second half, we were humbled by cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Our first show in Canada was a positive, wonderful, memorable experience!  Thank you Saint John, NB and everyone at the Imperial Theatre!

WELCOME TO CANADA!

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

We were up way too early this morning after a very long day yesterday.  We got to bed around midnight and woke up at 6:15am.  We needed to be on the road to Saint John, New Brunswick by 7am…and we were.  I ran across the street to Dunkin Donuts and picked up a dozen along with a very large cup of coffee.

We hit some traffic around Lowell, just outside of Boston.  Once we made it through that mess, we were on our way to Canada.  Hours and hours of driving through “wilderness” and we crossed the border into Maine. The first thing we saw was a sign that said, “Watch for moose on the roadway.”  We stopped at a McDonald’s somewhere around Brunswick, ME where the lady behind the counter reminded us, “You will probably see bears.  They’ll run from you but do NOT confront the moose!”  No worries, we won’t! Here’s one of many signs that lined the interstate.

We stopped just outside of Bangor to top of the diesel tanks before making the drive through eastern Maine – the “outback” as the station attendant referred to it.  Highway 9 East is beautiful but there’s nothing out there.  As we pulled in Calais nearing the U.S./Canadian border, the sky was beautiful.  Cindy was clicking pictures as fast as she could.  This is a view from the Mill Street Bridge as we approached U.S. Customs.

I ran inside the U.S. Customs Office to present my paperwork.  I needed to get my Certificate of Registration – the document that details exactly what equipment we are bringing into Canada.  Without this piece of paper, coming back into the States can be a real problem!  Once that paperwork was stamped, we drove across the bridge to Canadian Customs.

From here, it was really easy.  A.E. Horne & Sons brokered our stuff into Canada.  All I had to do was mention their name and I was escorted to an off-site warehouse.  The paperwork was waiting.  I presented our passports for immigration and we were on our way.  At the border, we also entered a new time zone – Atlantic Time – and lost an hour!

We arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick around 7:30pm, checked into our hotel, had room service deliver up some food, and are now officially “crashing” for the night!  Tomorrow, we’ll be performing at the beautiful Imperial Theatre in downtown Saint John!