Sunday, June 2, 2019

Atlantic City Hard-Boiled

Years ago my teacher Doug Conn told me that Gazzo told him that Atlantic City was good. By the time I got there Gazzo had left. For those of you who don't know already, Gazzo is probably the most famous busking magician in the world.

I met him.

He's English.

And the rest of us just eat crackers and live in his shadow.

My life has always been, a day late and a dollar short, of Gazzo. When Gazzo was being honored by Penn and Teller on their TV show, I was in a run down motel room somewhere, sick, broke, and it was raining.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, I needed a good place to work, because I was in rough patch in my life, it was the second time in my life a woman had left me and took my children away from me. I was homeless and alone and crazy.

Living in Atlantic City, for all those months, just made sense, it's a town full of lonely, homeless, and crazy people.

So I got up like I do every morning, early, having my cup of tea (english style- black tea with milk and sugar) and a cigarette, on the porch of a cheap motel, reading the paper and judging the weather for work.

As I was reading the paper that morning, I noticed an article about two girls who had been kidnapped, hooked on heroin, and used as prostitutes in Atlantic City. They were discovered when one of them was found screaming naked in the street, in front the cheap motel she had escaped from, I couldn't help but notice the name of the motel, it sounded familiar, and then I realized it, it was the one I was staying in. Of course there could have been no way I would have know this the night before, because it was a pretty regular occurrence to hear gun shots, screaming, and sirens in that part of town all night long. But what I should have known at that point, was what kind of day I was going to have.

As I walked to work I got panhandled for a quarter a thousand times, I half expected the shop owners around town to come out and ask me for a quarter too as I passed by them.

When I got to the pitch, I had my morning chat with a shop manager closest to the pitch. He didn't like me and was trying to figure out how to get me banned from working there, it wasn't personal, he didn't like any of us buskers, but he talked to me for the same reason I talked to him, it was a tough town full of dangers and when we hung out together there it was a sort of solace.

The reader may not know, but I am half Dutch/Welsh and half Hispanic (don't ask me how that works) and I can speak a little more than gibberish in Spanish. There's a reason why I tell you this.

A few shows in, I noticed a group of Puerto Rican gang fellas watching me especially after I passed the hat, and on my next show I saw them interspersed in my front edge and out the side of my eye, just behind me I noticed one of them with a machete, they were surrounding me and I heard one of them in Spanish barking off the plan to rob me. So I stopped the show, and in Spanish, I scolded the leader, saying, You do this to me in front of these Anglos? I have the same blood as you, we are supposed to be brothers, but this is what we do to our own? don't we have it bad enough here?

I said more, but suffice to say. They knew I wasn't Puerto Rican, but they got the idea. Their leader nodded and they left. I'm pretty grateful. Out of caution I moved down the boardwalk.

Some time later, down the boardwalk, I was doing another show, and this lady kept yelling at me to hurry up and do a trick, now anyone that has seen my show, knows there are only seconds between tricks so I got fed up and told her, you know I think you're just rushing me so you can have a reason not to tip me! I took off my hat and held it front of her and said, you want me to hurry up, tip me and I'll hurry. She had a look on her face like she was found out, so I said, That's what I thought!

When the show was over and everyone had gone, there was a lone white guy standing there grinning, and he pulled up his shirt and pulled out a large hunting knife and said, You know I was coming over here to rob you, but you were so funny I'm just gonna let it go.

I was stunned as I watched him walk away, and then after a minute of nothing, an old man walked half past me, and stopped, turned slowly toward me with a hypnotized face and shouted,


Friggin Gazzo.