The Latent Geek Gene


Magic tells you two things, about practitioner and witness.

For the practitioner, the indicator is obvious. A magician is inherently a geek. God knows where that DNA comes from, but that defective gene takes hold like Alzheimer’s and can’t help but make itself apparent to everyone — because magic requires that you publicly make a jackass out of yourself.

It’s more layered with the witness, however. I’ve found there are three types of magic spectators, which often underscore a larger personality trait (like the geek gene, but more subtle):

  1. The skeptic. A skeptic isn’t interested in watching the actual trick. A skeptic wants to catch you doing something that will reveal the secret.
  2. The believer. The believer is less interested in  how you do the trick than in being entertained. Magicians always prefer the believer, perhaps because we know what a silly thing it is to tell somebody you want to show them a mystical lie.
  3. Kids.

That last one is hand’s down the best witness, regardless of kid. Not only do they accept the presence of magic; it’s a perfectly acceptable answer to the inevitable question, ‘How did you that?’ Children typically will not ask  ‘Do that again,’ as adults usually ask.

Instead, they’ll respond ‘Do more magic. Make this disappear. Make that disappear. Make me disappear.”the magician-1

I had the profound privilege of being asked for more magic by two 5-year-olds this weekend, who finagled a sleepover at my mother’s house during my visit. I had recently suffered a severe bout of IGS (Inner Geek Syndrome) and had bought a preposterously expensive brass magic trick and was eager to bring it to the boys.

It’s a clever but simple trick: a cube with three colors. Choose a color, put the selected cube in the brass container, close it, and I guess the color. I add a dash of patter: Hold the container tight and think of the color while I read your mind.

I was surprised that Rafael, my nephew and one of the spectators, learned quickly what he was to do. He told me to close my eyes. With my hands. And turn away. Then he showed his buddy, Angel, the color as Angel stood on the restaurant bench, looking over Rafi’s shoulder. Rafi closed the container, handed it back. Angel sat between us, witness to both.

‘Ok, Rafi, think hard about the color,’ I said. Rafi furrowed his brow in concentration.’

I milked it. ‘I’m getting a feeling, Rafi. I’m entering your mind. You’re thinking about candy. And firetrucks.  And I see the color…yellow!’

‘What?I’ Rafi exclaimed in a tone that suggested he had the learn the tone use in bafflement.

Angel, though, did something equally remarkable. He leaned toward me, put a hand on my shoulder, and looked me in the eyes. ‘It was yellow!!’ He was either congratulating me on the luckiest guess ever, or simply telling me, in all earnestness, ‘Good job, champ.’

And so it went, through the night and into the morning when we woke up. ‘Can we make something else change color?’ ‘Can you make me as tall as you?’ ‘Can you make this flashlight disappear in your booty?’

Finally, as we finished breakfast, Rafi asked me the greatest question question any IGS suffer wants to hear:

‘Can you read my imagination again?’


I so wish, more than you can possibly know know, Rafi. That would be true magic.



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