The Amazing and the Impossible

I don't know if I mentioned it, but I'm writing a book about Houdni. The working title is "The Amazing and the Impossible." I don't know if that will be the title. That's why the word "working" is in front of it. I'm working on it.

Every now and again, I figure, I'll write a little something here about magic and maybe even Houdini here, as much for myself as anything.

* * *

Stories, like magic tricks and comedy bits, start out as perfect little things. There’s a magician I know by the name of Eric Mead, he does beautiful coin magic, including this glorious little illusion that’s called 3Fly. In 3Fly, Eric starts with three coins in one hand -- each held with the fingertips -- and none in the other.

And then, with the tiniest shake of the hands, suddenly there are two coins in the first hand and one coin absurdly materializes in the other. It happens so fast that you feel a bit disoriented.

The magician slows down. No, watch closely. And with that, another coin disappears from the first hand — that first hand now has just one coin — and two coins appear in the other.

At this point, of course, you know what must happen. Magicians do it different ways, but in the end, the third coin must fly over to the other hand. And it does. The first hand is left empty. The second hand now has three coins. It is elegant. And it is gorgeous. There are numerous close-up magic tricks that you might call "classics" -- the cup and balls, three-card monte, the ambitious card, the disappearing handkerchief, on and on.

But it seems to me that 3Fly is magic at its very core.

Eric Mead has been working on his version of 3Fly for many, many years. And he says this: When he began he had a perfect vision of this illusion. He would perform it in his mind … and he would perform it with his hands but without any coins in them. He would perform it again and again, with his eyes closed, with the coins vivid in his mind. The 3Fly was flawless in his mind.

And he has spent a huge chunk of his life trying — desperately trying — to make his version of 3Fly look and feel exactly like what he had imagined all those years ago. Every time he comes out of the ethereal, takes this trick out of his own mind, he finds that there are compromises to make. He doesn't want to compromise, though. No artist does. He's a wonderful magician and so, at this point, he can perform 3Fly so it appears flawless. He can peform it so well that it would amaze anyone.

But, see, there's the rub: Eric Mead like all magicians doesn't want to amaze.

Eric Mead, like all magicians, want to do the impossible.