Monday, October 17, 2011

on falling in love

You have to wonder, when does it happen?
Yesterday, I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to take in the Houdini exhibit. I went with Jesse, a friend I haven't know for very long, but an excellent museum companion. He wandered quietly, and had interesting facts tucked up in his head, and, every now and then, he asked a question. While we were walking the museum's short, broad corridors, admiring vaudeville broadsheets and reading placards, he asked me when I had gotten into magic.

As far as I can remember, I've always loved magic. Fairytales and miracles and talking beasts, yes, but also, and with fervency, the flourish, color, and bright deception of magic made for the stage. I love the story of it. I love the way a magician stands up in front of you and tells you, with his hands and his words, two things at the same time. One is true, and one is not true, but it's the magician who chooses which one you should believe.

When I was kid, I saw David Copperfield perform at a theater that normally held things like the touring productions of  lavish Broadway musicals, or the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty, or single-star shows that might fill 3,000 seats. It's the first magic show that I can remember. Mr. Copperfield wore a black suit for most of it and a gold one for part of it. He made a tissue from a woman's purse dance, and then burst into fire, and then turn into a rose. He caused a motorcycle (gold, in my memory) to materialize in the middle of the audience. He flew. I was young enough to convince myself that some of it might be real. But I was also fascinated and delighted by the likelihood that none of it was, that I was being fooled and tricked by this man with ridiculous hair to believe in impossible things.

I already loved magic though. It wasn't Mr. Copperfield who convinced me.

With most things that I love, I can point to the moment of tipping over from fondness or moderate interest to full-blooded commitment. I fell in love with the stage while taking a bow at the end of The King and I in that same theater where Mr. Copperfield flew through a silver hoop. And my eight-year-old self realized that  all that darkness beyond the lights was filled with several thousand people who were moved enough to clap. I fell in love with my dog at first sight. I fell in love with Rothko's paintings the first time I went to a museum alone.

I can often point out to myself the period of time when I've fallen in love with people. When I've gone from liking and chatting and saying hello, to making a permanent place for them among the furnishings of my head.

But I don't remember falling in love with magic. I just did, somehow, without noticing and before I could imagine doing anything else.