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From Four to Five

March 28, 2011

While sitting in Uptown’s Crew Bar and Grill having a Blue Moon and some wings I was witness to a bit of magic.

If you’ve ever had a chance encounter that you absolutely new to be something other than coincidence or if you’re like me and simply don’t subscribe to that word then this story involves you.

“You want one of these?” my bar neighbor to my left asks.  “No thank you, I’m just waiting on my wings…  Aren’t we all?”  I reply.  “That way I can fly away from this place.”  “It’s a nice metaphor,” he says.  “I often find myself sharing pitches of flight and fancy freedom,” then I laugh a little loudly at what I just said.  This was the ice breaker.

Here I sit sharing with a perfect stranger my 7 day future status of unemployment and here this man sits being a friendly inspiration.  We discover a song we both like and through chance of a google app/asking the barkeep find the artist to be Death Cab for Cutie.  Next, Linkin Park comes on and I let him know the name.   “Are they from Lincoln Park?”  I kind of giggle both at the fact no one has ever asked me that question and at being disillusioned to a really good marketing name selection.  “It’s like Broadway; almost every major city has a Lincoln Park,” he says.  “That’s true, I say.”

Details come with the what do you do’s.  He works on algorithyms, discovering the function of different applications and programs and I’m (for 7 more days) a book store manager and total nerd of the written word.  Fantastically, he’s a collector and runs through a name of first editions he’s acquired along the way including Atlas Shrugged and The Great Gatsby and A River Runs Through It.  My lunch is almost over.  I get on a rant about literature, what I want to do, and what I would do with this soon to be vacant Phoenix building of Uptown.

“I’m John,” he says.  “I’m Nick.”  “Nice to meet you,” we say.  We shake.

Having already been a great lunch, I’m paying the bill ready to return to work.  Yet, he asks what I have in the works and I briefly elaborate on my endeavors to monetize my skill set that I’ve been playing well with these last few years i.e. hosting, writing, performing and being a pleasant, poetic critic.  As he offers words of reassurance and wisdom one line lands particularly well, “No one in America has the insight that you have because of your circumstance and your having lived here.  No one.”  I smile.

Gathering my coat, he acknowledges he knows the happiness in my future with the go to saying, “blessing in disguise.”  Old sayings exist for a reason.  They’ve rang true for many, many years.  Almost up out of my seat he asks to show me one more thing.  I agree, very receptive and curious as he takes out his wallet.

“Everywhere I go, you know, this place isn’t that expensive, if you were ordering another drink I’d by you a beer or something, but anyway, wherever I go I always have four dollars.”  He pulls four dollars from his wallet, shows them to me front and back and folds them in half leaving them in his hand.  Fascinated, I watch and listen as his story unfolds as do the bills with a flip of his hand and nothing up his sleeve; now he holds five twenty-dollar bills.  “So, my friends ask me, ‘John can you do $100s?’ and I tell them yes but I don’t.  You see I have to be careful with this power I’ve been given, so that I don’t abuse it otherwise I’ll lose it.”

“I’m a magician.”

“That was fantastic,” I say.  “I can do about 50 or 80 others but listening to you I really thought that was the one you needed to see,” and he places the hundred dollars back in his wallet.  “All dogmatic association aside, that was truly a blessing for me John, thank you.”

After exchanging contact information and agreeing to drop a line sometime I walk back to my closing store.  Cheery as can be and reminded of how time is changing for all of us I remember that we each have our stories and our tricks to share but when do we?  When is the last time you’ve ventured into that simple ice breaker?  Someone somewhere needs it, however small.  Whether a blossoming flower or bursting butterfly or the art of aging,  transformation is beauty through every moment we create.

The stranger next to you is only a stranger until you both speak.

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