In the most recent issue of Genii, Richard speaks of his early memories of Circle Magic in NYC. His sensory description of the long glass case in an arcade brought back long lost memories of my first exposure to a "brick and mortar" magic shop. Many years ago, my mother and her friend would take their yearly trip to NYC. On Broadway the huge Fascination neon sign under which Mike Tannen and Circle Magic resided attracted them. They returned home with a tale of a courteous and talented, redheaded magician who tickled their funny bones with a presentation of The Egg Bag. The only way they would allow me to take possession of my first trick was to demonstrate the effect and teach it to me. They did and with great glee. Along with the Egg Bag came a small white magic catalog.
The Circle Magic catalog became my dream book. Waiting a year for them to make their annual trek to the city to buy another trick for me was too long. The postal service then became my conveyor of illusion. How Mike made any money from my mail-order patronage is a mystery. Incredibly, a dollar plus twenty-five cents postage and handling mailed to Circle Magic would, in a week, be transformed into my latest magic treasure. That week of waiting gave the most pleasure. Every night before falling asleep, my mind worked overtime to try and imagine what secret of nature my new magical powers would disclose. The day the mail arrived with a brown paper wrapped package with my name on it was a mini-Christmas.
Eventually, it would be me making the journey to NYC. It wasn't a journey to the City necessarily; it was a trip to Circle Magic. The walk from Port Authority to that Fascination sign on Broadway was never short enough. As I entered to see Mike standing behind that long glass cabinet with the smell of popcorn and the ringing of the pinball bells in the background, temporary paralysis set in. The sight of the spun aluminum pans, finger choppers, feather bouquets and fans of jumbo cards was intoxicating.
The routine was always the same. Mike demonstrated the props de jour. My choices were made and the modus operandi explained. He took my money and wrapped my purchase in a bag. Since other activities in the City were planned, I had to endure them. They were nothing more than perfunctory diversions that served merely as a delay until I could get home and admire my new possessions.
Those treasures are still with me. The directions carefully preserved. The Egg Bag and certain early purchases are bagged and labeled with a brief description of how they came to be in my collection. Assuring their longevity, they now reside with my son.
Mike, Circle Magic and the Fascination sign are all gone now. What still remains are the childhood memories of a truly fun part of my life. Those thoughts were tucked away and just recently brought to the forefront when Richard told of his own experience with Circle Magic.
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