Magic, music and Montreal – Part 2

by Steve Brock on September 14, 2011

Last time we saw that I wished I liked jazz more than I do. So then, why would I go out of my way to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer?

The answer lies within another trip taken when I was 14.

At that age, my family took a trip to the East Coast. One of the highlights – at least for me – was our time in New York City.

This photo taken on a trip to NY many years later reflects the vibrancy of the city, but none of the magic that rainy day when I first visited Manhattan.

Back in The Journey to the MagicCastle– Part 1, I explained my passion for magic as a teenager. Hollywood may have had Hollywood Magic and The Magic Castle, but New York had Al Flosso’s and Louis Tannen’s, two of the most famous magic shops in the country. You can read the history of Al Flosso’s (the oldest magic store in the US which was at one time owned by Houdini) here.

So when we found out we were going to New York, I begged my parents to go to these two stores, both of which were in mid-town Manhattan. They agreed.

What, in their minds, should have been a quick in and out of some specialty store for their son became a journey of Odyssean proportions. Even though this was the middle of summer, on this particular day it rained. Not this wimpy spittle we call rain here in Seattle, but a Noah-like deluge. We were soaked within ten seconds of leaving our hotel.

Then there’s the whole issue of using the subway and finding your way around when you’re a first-timer to Manhattan. It seems so easy once you know the layout and systems, but on this day, it took us what seemed like forever just to find Al Flosso’s.

Once we entered the upstairs store, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed at first. Somehow, I expected a labyrinth of stacked books, ancient and mysterious illusions and cabinets filled with gaudily-painted tricks. Instead, the place had a worn, thread-bare feel to it. Al, I learned years after the fact, died later that year, so perhaps we caught him at a bad time. Or maybe this was the way the store always appeared.

Still, I bought a book on card tricks and left pleased with at least having visited this well-known establishment.

From there, it took another seeming forever to go the ten blocks or so to Louis Tannen’s. Here was a more modern, efficient showroom that offered more choices than my budget or my parents’ soggy patience allowed. So I quickly settled on an Okito Coin Box and we departed, my magic shopping spree satisfactorily completed.

We had two days in New York and we’d just spent half of one of them wading our way to places that meant nothing to anyone else in the family. Teenagers don’t show their appreciation all that often – I know I didn’t display as much gratitude for this wet morning as I felt inside.  But something must have shown through…

After a late lunch, the skies remained as porous as ever, so we decided to do something indoors: we were going to see a Broadway matinee. When we checked the theater schedules, my heart practically beat in reverse. One of the shows that had tickets available was The Magic Show starring Doug Henning at the Cort Theater.

Now my parents referred to Doug Henning as “that long-haired hippy-like rainbow guy” due to his hairstyle, mannerisms and attire despite his being one of the most famous magicians at the time (yes, this whole story dates me, I know). So when they agreed to get tickets to see his Broadway play (really, a musical/magic show with a minimal plot), I couldn’t believe it.

Yet an hour later, we sat freezing in our wet clothes in an air-conditioned theatre on Broadway…and I couldn’t have been happier. Even my brother and parents admitted afterwards that they enjoyed that part of the day.

So again, what does this have to do with jazz and Montreal?

You can probably guess. But I’ll fill you in on the details next time…


If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here


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