I used to walk Bardstown road in the Highlands when I lived in Louisville, KY, getting myself partially inebriated on local brews. On on particular occasion during my walk home, I met a cool group of people coming out of a gas station that I was going into. I’m pretty sure they struck up the conversation and invited me to their little porch party at an apartment, less than a block away. I hung out with this group of four for a couple hours, and we had some laughs, and I ended up doing some magic for them.
This turned into a regular thing, as they were always partying on the porch, and I was always walking home from a bar. They would invite me up, and we’d chat for a couple of hours. It was strange, but we never became “friends” – we never got personal.
Mostly we talked about conspiracy theories. It was never about magic. Maybe every other time, or every third time I’d go over, they would bring up magic, and ask me if I could do something for them. I did mostly mentalism and card tricks. I had this great book of Annemann’s (about mentalism with cards) that I was studying, so I practiced on the group. This went on for about five months. (Mid-April to mid-August.)
Then, I had a bout with an odd brain disease. Spontaneously Low Cerebral Spinal Fluid Pressure/Spontaneous CSF Leak. It’s a long name, I know. (My friend Rhonda said, “Only you, Matt. Only you gonna get somethin’ like this.) Anyway, what it really meant was that I had a mind crushing, debilitating headache for two solid months, and I spent my days looking on WebMD and other medical sites, and trying to contact doctors who would actually try to help me. I’ll write about that someday, but I assume that most doctors thought I was trying to get drugs, and they dismissed me. It ended with two spinal blood patches, and the second one took. It didn’t cure me completely, but the headaches went away.
After this ordeal, I began to head out to the Highlands again. Another interesting side-note was that after all of this happened with my brain, I was able to get a gigantic buzz after drinking just one Bud Light draft. Anyway, I was walking home after a night out, and I ran into one of the guys from the group I had been hanging with. This was the beginning of November, and to them it probably just looked like I quit hanging around. He asked me how I had been, and where I had been.
I thought about how to explain what had happened to me as succinctly as possible. I began, “Well, I had some, uh, brain issues…”
Before I could continue, he responded, “Yeah. Nobody can do the things that you do without it taking some kind of a toll, you know?”
I was about to continue, when I realized – I had said “brain issues” and this guy thought I meant I had some kind of psychological imbalance, or disorder. I was going to clear this up with him, and then another thought hit me – he was so impressed, or taken in, with my magic and mentalism, he thought it was taking some kind of a toll on my body.
I didn’t want to disrupt this process, so I just agreed by saying, “Yeah, I had no idea it would come to that.”
Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out one of those huge cowboy belt buckles, a big shield with a protruding revolver, and gave it to me. “Here, you deserve this,” he said.
The situation was surreal. Unexpected, and surreal. He just handed me a belt buckle. Odd.
In January I moved back to Pennsylvania, and I haven’t seen him or the group since. I still have the belt buckle. I still don’t understand why he gave it to me. The belt wasn’t a compliment, but it added to it.
The fact that he thought my magic was real enough to have some kind of a physical effect, or at least a psychological effect on my body, that was the best compliment ever to my magic.