Saturday, March 12, 2016

I'm gonna Teller story, but not with a Penn cuz we're on the Interwebs

Anytime someone mentions Penn & Teller I have to tell this story, so I'm finally writing it down. Maybe someday it will make it into a book, if I ever get around to writing the book. 

When I was in sixth grade, my mother was an executive (or maybe a financial analyst? Dunno, but seems like only the execs travel) at some vast corporation and they sent her on a business trip to San Francisco. Mom thought it was a good idea to take me with her. I believe it was summer, or somehow school was not an issue, although I feel this trip was probably a better part of my education from the University of Life.

We stayed at the Hyatt Hotel in Embarcadero Center, which stands to this day. They have an amazing atrium lobby and each floor's doors to the rooms open onto a sort of balcony hallway that's open to the atrium. In the lobby - still! - is an enormous bronze sculpture made up of circles, and a piano bar. I believe we stayed on the 11th floor (don't ask me how I know that). My mom would go to work during the day, and I had to stay in the hotel room so that if she wanted to check on me, she could call the room's phone. (No cell phones back then!) I didn't mind much as I got to watch whatever I wanted on TV, and I had my books and things to keep me occupied. Child Protective Services would have a stroke in today's world. When I got really bored, I would prop open the room door and stand on the balcony just outside to listen to the piano music floating up from the lobby. That's how I learned to love smooth jazz and piano pieces.

To make up for having to stay in the room all day, we would go out to dinner and then do things in the evening such as go to Fisherman's Wharf to shop. One of the events Mom took me to was Penn & Teller's magic show, except back then they had a third guy named Wier, and they were called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society. I think their show was probably more inappropriate for children than Mom anticipated, or than I understood, but my favorite bit was "The Mystery of the Peking Snow Duck" because it had a live rabbit* that they made disappear, and reappear, as most magicians do. The only thing I really remember about the bit now is the punchline — "That's Snow Duck!" It probably stuck because it may have been the only punchline I understood at age 10. Who knows.

After the show we were standing in the lobby waiting to buy a souvenir tshirt and Penn Jilette came out with the rabbit in a cage. Of course he was stopped by well-wishers, so I went over to look at the rabbit because I've always loved animals. I remember Penn asking me if I wanted to stick pencils in the rabbit's ears, and he produced a pencil out of thin air (of course), and I responded with a horrified, "No! You shouldn't stick pencils in rabbits' ears!" I'm sure he thought that was amusing, and he probably ruffled my hair, and that's probably why I believe in magic and faeries even at this age—who knows. That's really all I remember about my encounter with Penn. That, and I still have the tshirt. I wish we'd had it signed but you don't think about those things when you're 10, you're just happy your mom is buying you something you asked for. 

I've waited more than three decades to see another Penn & Teller show (mostly never have the time and money at the same moment), and to hopefully get my tshirt signed. I only live five hours from Vegas now. And you know, for the record, neither Penn nor Teller really looks any different than when I was 10 years old (perhaps they're slightly more stout these days because they can afford food now), so there has to be some magic going on there somewhere.

Anyway, that's my Penn and Teller story. Hopefully someday I'll be able to make an update saying I finally got my shirt signed!

*A note on Wikipedia says that the Legendary Peking Snow Duck was played by a white rabbit named Ross, and later a rabbit named Spelvin.