Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Spencer’

SIGHTSEEING IN AKITA, JAPAN

Monday, June 16th, 2014

The conference officially ended today (Sunday) at 12noon.  I was able to squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing before I need to catch my next flight on Monday back to Tokyo and on to Istanbul.  The first stop – coffee at Tully’s!

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The pastry item next to my “honey milk latte” is a ham and gooey cheese thing.  :-)  It was very good and inside, yes there was gooey cheese!

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After some food, were were off to explore the area.  First stop was a little shopping area where I could pick up a souvenir for my office that would remind me of Akita.  Next, we were going to go to the Art Museum.  As we approached the plaza, we could hear chanting and singing.  As it turns out, Japan was playing in the World Cup today so there were hundreds of fans watching the game on a giant television screen on the side of one of the buildings.  They were pretty excited!  This is me with one of the “cheerleaders” of the group…

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There are statues and artistic representations of the Namahage everywhere.  He is considered the “protector” of Akita but the tradition dates back hundreds of years.  Here are a few of the ones I liked:

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As we walked through some of the shops, it became very clear that the Japanese are very creative and will invent (or sell) almost anything like this toilet game…

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or these brushes to clean your dishes…

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And so many choices for snacks…

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But there were a few familiar things as well…

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The last stop of the day was a walk through Akita City Park.  This is a beautiful space in the heart of the city.  I took a lot of photos but wanted to share these….enjoy.

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Tomorrow morning, I’ll take the bus back to Akita Airport and fly to Haneda Tokyo Airport…and then transfer to Narita International Airport.  My flight for Istanbul leaves in the evening and I should arrive there at 5am!  I’m sure I will be totally rested :-)

ISLS CONFERENCE – AKITA, JAPAN

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

After a few days at home, it was time to hit the road again – this time by plane.  I’m heading off on an amazing 7-week adventure that will take me to 11 cities in 9 countries….and countless airports.  The first stop was Akita, Japan to present at the International Society for Language Studies.  I left Lynchburg for Charlotte, NC…to London, UK…to Istanbul, Turkey…to Tokyo, Japan.  Once I arrived in Narita International Airport in Tokyo, I had to transfer to Haneda Airport (about an hour away) in order to catch my flight to Akita.  After getting to Haneda Airport, I spent a very short night in a local hotel before continuing on to Akita…unfortunately, it was incredibly difficult to find the place and I walked the street by Kamato Station for nearly an hour before finding the hotel only 1.5 blocks from the train station.

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The hotel itself was very nice but I was shocked by the small size of the room – only a bed and an incredibly tiny bathroom.  It’s a good thing I’m a little guy!

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I have to confess that, after flying for 40 hours I was exhausted but totally unable to fall asleep.  I just laid in the bed thinking about what time I needed to get up.  I finally dozed off for about 3 hours before my alarm woke me to head to the airport for that last flight.  Thankfully, Haneda has a Starbucks!

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It’s very quick flight to Akita from Tokyo so I was on the ground and at my hotel in less than 2 hours.  Unfortunately, the hotel wouldn’t allow me to check in before 2pm so I stored my luggage and started out on the search for food.  There are tons of things to do and to eat close to the hotel and this was an opportunity to explore.

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This are is close to the Akita Train Station so there are lots of restaurants and shopping areas close by.

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The art museum is just up a couple of blocks.  This big warrior is outside of the building to promote one of the exhibitions taking place there. I couldn’t help but get a picture!

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I met up with a colleague from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (who is also attending the conference) and we were able to track down some food in a nice, affordable restaurant decorated in 50′s USA movie memorabilia and USA license plates.  The food was great – spicy ra-men noodles with sesame!

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After lunch, we had killed enough time to get into a a hotel room…I was looking forward to this!  I dropped off my bags, jumped into a very hot shower and let the water run over my body.  It felt fantastic!!  I stayed in the room for the rest of the day to try and get some rest and to see if I could FaceTime with Cindy.  We hadn’t spoken for a few days and I really wanted to hear her voice and see her face.

Later in the evening, I was on a quest to find some chocolate milk before calling it a night and going to bed.  I found a “7-11″ type store called Sunkiss only a couple of blocks away.  I bought was I THOUGHT was chocolate milk but I was fooled!  The brown carton and cow that “suggested” chocolate milk were actually more symbolic of the “coffee milk” that was inside the carton! Definitely NOT what I was expecting!!

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After finally falling asleep, I was up early the next morning for the first day of the International Society For Language Studies (ISLS) Conference being hosted by Aikita International University.  Higher Education professionals and those who are involved in linguistics and communication were in attendance.

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The conference was off to a very good start.  Following the opening session, there were dozens of 30 minute sessions being offered for the remainder of the day…and over the next 3 days.  I presented with a friend and colleague, Melina Alexander, from Weber State University in Utah.  Our presentation was on the use of magic tricks to motivate second language learners to develop and improve their interpersonal and pragmatic language skills.  The presentation was very well received and I believe I made some positive connections for the future.

9-Kevin-Melina-ISLS

 

Now that the pressure was off, I would be able to enjoy the next three days of this conference.  I attended several presentations – some of them were fascinating and interesting but there were a couple that seemed bit more controversial and “out there.”  Still, it was an interesting and challenging conference that provided me with some great insights into the world of “language studies.”

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Once again, that night I was back at the “7-11″ for some late night snacks…and this time I bought ice cream.  I thought I was buying a very traditional ice cream sandwich; in fact, I was buying something much more!  Two layers of vanilla ice cream separated by a thin chocolate bar and sandwiched between to very think waffles – amazing!

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IT’S MARCH…

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

I haven’t been writing in my blog nearly as much as I once did.  Much of that is because I’m connected to so many people through Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare that you know my day-t0-day activities without having to write them here.  But I know that some of you aren’t connected with me so, please, take a moment and do that:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kevinwspencer

Twitter: @kevinspencer72

The last few months have been incredibly busy.  In January and early February, we toured in Florida performing for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and warm temperatures.  In February, we moved the show to the Midwest where we toured Iowa – where we also performed for wonderful audiences in beautiful places and COLD temperatures!

After a nice run through Iowa, the team flew back to Virginia for a few days while I made a visit to Kansas State University to work with some of their drama therapy students.  Over several days, an amazing group of people gathered to prepare for an exciting research project happening this summer at the Flint Hills Summer Fun Camp.  We will be exploring the impact that learning/performing magic tricks can have on the executive function skills of children with Autism and ADHD.  This will be the first multidisciplinary, arts-integrated intervention model designed to document this type of program!

After a few days in Manhattan, KS, I drove back to Kansas City to present a 3-hour workshop at the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders.  This was a wonderful opportunity to share the Hocus Focus program with special educators across the U.S.  The workshop was overwhelmingly received with more than 40 schools signing up to participate in future research.

Once things wrapped in Kansas, I was on a plane to College Station, TX where I would meet up with the rest of the team.  We had a great show and spent several days working in the area:  3 television interviews, 1 newspaper interview, 1 radio interview, 8 workshops for 205 special education students in 7 schools, and 2 professional development workshops for 53 teachers and therapists.  It was a productive week!

We drove on to Amarillo for a performance at the Globe-News Theatre.  This is a truly spectacular theatre – one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.  The audience was amazing and we wrapped it all up with another standing ovation.

As I write this, I’ve been partnering with Lone Tree Performing Arts Center and Developmental Pathways in Colorado.  It’s been a busy week working with a variety of young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout the Metropolitan Denver area.  But it has been an amazing experience!  Tomorrow is the last of our events here and then I’ll be on a flight to Virginia on Sunday to spend 36 hours at my house…just in time for another snow storm.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – IASE

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

It has been a very busy summer so far.  I was home for only a couple of days after my trip to Tobago before making another trip to Vancouver, B.C.  This time, I was attending the International Association of Special Education biennial conference.  This was a gathering of special educators from38 countries around the world.

IASE-OPENING

I had the privilege of presenting some research on the benefits of learning magic tricks for individuals with autism.  And I was able to show a quick video clip of the documentary I’ve been working on, MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT. You can watch it below.

MATD-video-image

The conference was a fun time to connect with some old friends and to form some new relationships.  As a result, I have some very exciting projects in the works…but more on those later. There’s a lot to write about but I need to organize my thoughts first.

I know this is quick entry but I’m sorting through some photos from Magic Camp in Ohio from last week.  I’ll be sharing these with you soon!  In a couple of days, I’m off to Atlanta to speak at the Southeast  Homeschool Conference on how to engage students in learning through the arts.

TOBAGO DAY THREE

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

I woke up this morning to beautiful weather in Tobago.  The last couple of days have been unusually rainy – but today, the sun is out and it is warming up!  This is the view from Paradise Point Villa – the name of Alice and Danny’s beautiful home).

Paradise-Point-Villa-View

After coffee, we made our way back down the hill to the village of Castara to have breakfast at Cheno’s.  This is such a quaint village and once you arrive, you find that the people are kind and generous.

Entering-Castara

First we needed to make a stop at the big clay oven where the ladies were going to be baking bread today.  We wanted to place an order because the menu was intriguing.  Kristen, Alice, Susan, and I walked through the gate as they were beginning to fire up the oven, placed and paid for our order:  coconut tarts, coconut drops, coconut roll, raisin rolls, pone,  and pumpkin bread.  She was a sweat lady hiding behind a very serious facade…but I finally coaxed her into letting me get a picture.

Bread-Lady

We walked back up to Cheno’s for breakfast – which was delicious – and then walked around Castara for a few minutes.  I picked up a couple of souvenirs for Cindy and then we drove back up to Paradise Point Villa to pack our bags.  Today, we would be moving to the Magdalena in preparation for the DISES round table that officially starts today.  But I had to take one last picture of the Castara beach…

Castara-beach

 

Before driving back up the mountain, we all wanted to check our the beach.  The fishing boats were coming in with the catch of the morning.  They cleaned and prepared the fish right there on the beach.  Of course, Susan and Kristen jumped right in to help them out.  I’ve got video of that “cleaning process” that I’ll post soon.  But check out these fish!!

Castara-Fisherman

We packed our suitcases and then relaxed for a bit at Paradise Point Villa.  We had to kill a couple of hours while our bread was being baked in Castara.  Finally the time came to make our departure.  Mark and Danny drove the suitcases to Magdalena while the rest of us returned to Castara to pick up the bread…which wasn’t quite ready yet.  We still needed to fill time for another hour.  Fortunately, that’s not too difficult to do in a place like this.  We picked up a soda and sat down but I was too enticed by the ocean so I took a walk up the shore.  Here are a few pictures.

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Life on the beach

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As I walked up the beach, I was able to see these little crabs running along the sand.  When I came up to the rocks, there were hundreds of them – and they weren’t so little anymore.  See if you can find the crabs on this rock.  They are definitely there and they are NOT small – just nicely camouflaged!

Crabs on the rocks

 

I needed just one more picture before picking up the bread – and here it is:

Welcome-to-Paradise-Tobago-Day3

 

The bread was finally ready for us to pick up – and we had a LOT of bread!  As we walked up to the oven, you could smell just how amazing it was going to taste.  We carried several brown paper bags of bread to the car in anticipation of sample each one.  It was time to leave Castara and make the one hour drive to the other side of the island and to the Magdalena. But the journey was anything but boring.  Along the way, we saw a HUGE lizard cross the road; stopped to help a sheep that had tangled himself around a post; discovered a new fruit that was amazing; and saw two caiman gators as we entered the Magdalena.

Tonight was also the official opening of the DISES Round Table.  We’ve just wrapped up our first gathering over dinner…and the day starts early in the morning.  So, good night.  I’ll write again when I can.

 

TOBAGO DAY ONE & TWO

Friday, June 14th, 2013

I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying. I was up at 4am, at the airport by 4:45am, and on my first flight at 5:30am. With connections in Charlotte, Miami, and Trinidad, I finally arrived in Tobago around 10pm.  Several of us are staying with Alice, I arrived in Tobago last night after a long day of flying.  Several of us are staying with Alice, one of the leaders of DISES.  We arrived at her house close to midnight.  I dropped my luggage in my room and was fast asleep.  This morning, as I stepped out onto my veranda-style balcony, I was able to see the view of the island for the first time.  It was breath-taking!

View from the room

The following morning, after everyone was awake, we made our way down the hill to Cheeno’s for breakfast.  This is a small, quaint restaurant in the village of Castara.  The breakfast menu is extensive – bacon and eggs or bacon, eggs and toast.  The food was excellent and the service was charming.  These small villages have a way of making you feel at home even when you’ve never been there before.  They did make one request of us…don’t feed the chickens.

Chicken Sign

After breakfast, we explored the village.  There is this amazing area close to the beach where a group of woman bake bread they sell on Saturday.  All kinds of bread but I was especially intrigued by the coconut rolls and tarts.  We’ll be heading back on Saturday to buy some for sure!  But check out the oven.

Ladies baking bread

Bread Oven

 

After a late breakfast, we drove back up the mountain to Alice’s house.  It didn’t see as though the rain was going to stop anytime soon Susan, Kristen and I decided to make the best of it and explore the rainforest behind the house.  The trail leads down the hill to a river and waterfall that dump directly into the bay.  By the time we made it to the river, we were drenched.  Taking the plunge into the waterfall was a no-brainer…and the water was so nice!

Waterfall

The challenge of hiking down the hill is that you also have to hike back up!  What we thought might be really difficult wasn’t actually too bad.  We were soaked from head to toe…and ready for a hot shower!

After Hike Drenched

 

We chilled out for a bit in the afternoon, took our showers, and then all of us drove make down the mountain for dinner at Marguerite’s.  Rhonda was our hostess and the menu options included stewed fish, stewed chicken, and stewed goat – all service with vegetables, salad, beans and rice.  I went with the stewed goat – and it was amazing.

Goat for dinner

 

After dinner, we walked over to Marvin’s – one of the local gathering places in the village.  It was a great time to enjoy each other’s company and relax.  After great food and company, we drove back up to the hill and talked well into the morning…bedtime came around 2:45am!

SIOUX FALLS, SD

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

THE WASHINGTON PAVILION – SIOUX FALLS, SD: 

This was the first time I’ve been to the Washington Pavilion and I had a great time working with Regina and Michele.  During our five days together, I conducted a workshop for occupational therapists; visited 7 schools; worked with clients at Sanford Children’s Hospital; did an in-service program for therapists at Avera Health; worked with clients at the Veteran’s Hospital; made the rounds at Avera Hospital; and brought the show to the stage of the Washington Pavilion.  In total, we were able to directly impact the lives of more than 300 individuals.  More importantly, we were able to lay the foundation for continuing this work long after my truck left the loading dock.

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A reporter from the Argus Leader attended the workshop for therapists.  She did a bit of video to demonstrate one of the tricks and wrote this story.

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In advance of the show, I made several area media appearances including four radio stations (from rock to country) and an interview on the KSFY Morning News.  The interview on KSFY went very well but the highlight for me was something that I always ask to do but rarely get the opportunity.  Shawn Cable actually let me do the weather forecast and then tweeted about it!  You can check out the video HERE.

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You may remember reading last week we had a little trouble with the truck.  I had to replace a fuel injector while we were in Lincoln.  It all worked out and things seemed to be running great…until we left Omaha for Miami.  Suddenly, that familiar black smoke started pouring out of the exhaust and we heard that knocking noise.  Eli immediately pulled it over.

Truck-Towed-Omaha

We called a tow truck and, yes, here we are again – held up in a hotel room waiting for them to repair the truck on Monday.  After that, Chase and I have a mad dash driving experience to get us to Miami before Tuesday night.

Here are a few pictures from the week in Sioux Falls:

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30-Kevin Autism Girl

31-Kevin-KSFY Studio

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LIED CENTER – LINCOLN, NE

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

From Grand Forks, ND, we made our way south to Lincoln, NE…but not without incident.  We made it through the snow storm in South Dakota but, as we pulled through Sioux Falls, a loud banging noise could be heard coming from our engine.  We immediately pulled off the interstate and shut it down.  Black smoke was pouring out of the exhaust – not a pretty sight!

We called a tow truck who pulled us into the local International Dealership where we left it on the lot and got a hotel room for the night.  We also picked up a rental car so we could continue the trip to Lincoln the following morning.  But that also meant we would be leaving the truck in Sioux Falls to get repaired.  That’s something that always concerns me…

We arrived in Lincoln for a week of great activities prior to the final performance at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

LiedCenter-building

It was an awesome schedule where Nancy worked to make plans for me to work in many of the Lincoln Public Schools with some amazing kids.  I also had the chance to work with several Family Service groups after school.  I also had the privilege of speaking to the 70 education students and faculty in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska.  While I was a little nervous about this one, it was so much fun – and, I hope, these future teachers could envision some creative ways to teach their students.

After an amazing week, here’s the video summary!

LINCOLN-Video

On Tuesday, Chase and Keith drove back up to Sioux City to pick up the truck – hooray!  While I was having a great time working in the schools, they were bringing the show to Lincoln…just in time.  As it turns out, we blew out a fuel injector.  Loud noise and a couple thousand dollars to fix it but, at least we are back on the road again.

In the meantime, the local paper did a great article on the upcoming show at the Lied Center.  You can check it out here.

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We had an AMAZING AUDIENCE for the performance on Friday night.  The audience was perfect – energetic, excited, enthusiastic, and ready to volunteer!  There’s no way a performer could ask for anything more.  Check out this theatre – and almost every seat was filled!

Lied-seating

In the end, the week in Lincoln was incredibly special.  Thank you Bill, Anne, and Nancy and the wonderful people of Lincoln for making our week so phenomenal!!

 

GRAND FORKS, ND

Monday, April 15th, 2013

After wrapping up an amazing few days in Aberdeen, SD and waiting out the snow storm that hit afterwards, we were on our way to Grand Forks, ND to perform at the Chester Fritz Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Dakota.  We arrived safely, got checked into our hotel, and got some rest before show day.

Saturday morning, we pulled into the loading dock of the Chester Fritz.  The crew was waiting and ready to start the day….which went very well!  We loaded in, set up, teched the show, and were ready for dinner by 5pm – outstanding crew!

Loading-dock

Cases made it from the truck to the stage….

Cases-stage

Seating

Scenery, lights, sound, and illusions get put into place….

Drops-Lights

We tweaked the lighting cues, focused the intelligent lighting, and moved quickly through the remaining things that needed to be done.

Sky-cube

Grid

 

Doors opened at 7pm and the audience streamed into the theatre.  I could tell they were going to be a fun crowd as there was already a sense of excitement in the air!  Unfortunately, Cindy was still very ill for this show so it was “just the guys” performing on the stage.  Chase and Eli did a great job of picking up the slack and making the show run smoothly…and the audience rolled with us!

THANK YOU Grand Forks for being such a great audience!

After the show, we were told that another Winter Storm Watch was now in effect and the region would be expecting between 8 – 18 inches of snow!  We needed to be able to start heading south as quickly as possible but the snow was supposed to arrive in Grand Forks starting around 4am.

Thankfully, the storm slowed a bit.  When we woke up, the storm was now predicted to hit Grand Forks at 1pm – several hours later than expected.  This brief reprieve gave us a few more hours to get out of town.  We drove for a couple of hours in clear skies on great roads…and then, it all started to change.

Icy-road

We had to pull of the road around Watertown, SD to give the storm some time to travel north.  It was brutal – wind, snow, white out conditions, blizzards, cold, freezing rain, ice….all made for treacherous roads.

Truck in Ditch

 

Tonight, we are in Sioux Falls, SD just a few hours from our next stop – LINCOLN, NE!

ABERDEEN, SOUTH DAKOTA

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

After a few days at home, it was time to head out again for our tour in the Midwest.  First stop, South Dakota!  Eli, Chase, and I left Lynchburg and three days later, we arrived in Aberdeen, SD.  There had been plenty of advertising in advance of our show including this article in the ABERDEEN NEWS.

Aberdeen-news

MONDAY – APRIL 8

The first day in Aberdeen was spent working in several places:  first at Project Search and then in some of the schools with incredible kids.  We worked in elementary, middle, and the high school with students who could improve their skills through learning some simple tricks.

Kevin-Alex-Aberdeen

Actually, the high school workshop was one of the most fun!  In the photo below, I’m doing a little magic for a group of high school guys.  You can see the expression on their faces as five $1 bills turned into $500.

Kevin-CentraHS-HundyBoys

After a few tricks, I spent some time teaching all of them a trick or two.  One of the students, Josh, learned several tricks but he also had great stories.  Once again, the Aberdeen News captured the day in a nice feature story.

Josh-paperclips

TUESDAY – APRIL 9

The next day started with a radio interview on one of the local arts programs.  This was broadcast live – and I love these kinds of interviews!  They are spontaneous and you just have to go with the flow.

Following the radio interview, Chase and I were on our way to St. Luke’s Avera Health Hospital to do a 3-hour continuing education workshop for physical and occupational therapists.  When we arrived at the Hospital, Dalita (the director of rehabilitation) had everything ready to go.  I walked into the conference room and we kicked into gear.  It’s amazing to me how quickly 3 hours can go when everyone is fully engaged in learning.  Chase and I spent the afternoon working with clients in various rehabilitation departments until about 5pm.

Avera-HOM

Eli spent the day driving to Sioux Falls to pick up Keith and Cindy at the airport.  Unfortunately, horrible weather was also moving into the region – horrible as in ice and snow storm!  As a result of all the bad weather, all flights were delayed in/out of Chicago.  They finally landed a few hours late and, by that time, ice  was destroying Sioux Falls.  Trees were breaking.  Power lines were snapping.  Roads were in rough shape, covered in ice and snow.  This turned into a BLIZZARD with more than 20 inches of snow falling.  Thankfully, they made it back to Aberdeen safely and we had avoided the storm.

SiouxFalls-ice

As it turns out, this was not the end of the adventure.  Once they made it back to the hotel, Cindy started to become very sick.  By 3:30am, we were in the emergency room at the very same hospital where I had done a workshop earlier in the day.  She had picked up a virus or (most likely) some sort of food poisoning during the day.  We spent the next several hours at the hospital trying to get her feeling better.

Cindy-hospital

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 10

After getting Cindy back to the hotel around 7am, I grabbed a couple hours of sleep before it was time to drive over to the Aberdeen Civic Theatre to start setting up for the evening show.  There’s no way Cindy was going to be able to do a show so we were also going to have to do a little “adapting” to pull it all together!  Chase and Eli did a great job of splitting up her responsibilities during the show.  In the end, it all came together well.

We pulled into the loading area, Stacy and Dawn were there to meet us…along with a crew of guys to help get unloaded.  Let the day begin – again.

Aberdeen-Theatre-Inside

 

I made a couple of trips back to the hotel during the day to check in on Cindy.  I wanted to make sure she was resting comfortably and that she was taking the medications she needed.  Stacy was so understanding in all of this and even put together some chicken broth for me to take back to her.

When I returned to the theatre, it was almost time for the doors to open.  The guys had figured out most of how the show was going to run – who was going to do what – but we still had one issue to resolve.  I had promised many of the people in the Aberdeen community that I would, in fact, be “cutting someone in half” during tonight’s show.  It doesn’t make any difference how many new, cutting-edge illusions you have in a show.  If you don’t cut someone in half, it’s just not a magic show!  With Cindy sick in the hotel, Chase volunteered to step into her place.  And he did a great job with the performance!

Chase-getting-In-Cube

THURSDAY – APRIL 11

After the show, the snow started coming down in Aberdeen.  We had been spared for the last 3 days while much of the state was slammed with snow.  Interstate 90 from Sioux Falls to Rapid City was closed.  And city officials were still trying to pull together things in Sioux City.  As we o up on Thursday morning, it was clear that we were not going to be going anywhere today.  I was supposed to be doing some Hocus Focus work in Sisseton – a small community about 90 miles from Aberdeen.  At 5:40am, the decision was made to close schools…which means I got to stay in for the day and try to catch up on some work.

Snowy-truckSD

 

FRIDAY – APRIL 12

This morning, we left Aberdeen for Grand Forks, ND…show here on Saturday night at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.  And guess what?  It’s snowing.