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Friday, December 12, 2008

Magic Show or Spanish Inquisition

Tonight after work I went for a mani-pedi, especially because weeknights are better for a chance to hang out with my little friend C. She's at the nail salon with her mom after school.

We have our routine down now. She helps me pick out a nail polish color (she knows all of my favorites). Then she sits next to me while my feet are soaking in hot water, and she decides how she will "quiz" me, which is an extremely mild version of what I imagine the Spanish Inquisition might be like, except that my Inquisitor is a slender 8-year old girl wearing pink sweatpants and I, her captive, am just winding down from a long day of sitting in front of a computer and then coming home on the train. Usually our Inquisition starts with a spelling bee or she grabs a calculator to test my mathematics skills. You try doing long division or multiplication in your head while your hands are being worked on by a manicurist. It's not easy.

Tonight Little C. has a new addition in her quiz-meistering, a student's dictionary which is really more like a abbreviated almanac. She was dying to quiz me on the Periodic Table of Elements (little did she know that she wouldn't be able to stump me quite so easily because I loved chemistry) but before she got rolling, I made her look up what an atom was. Little C. didn't want to--she wanted to jump straight into the Inquisition (why am I never the quizzer? I guess it's the 8-year old's prerogative)--but I told her that if she didn't even know what an atom was, then there's no sense in talking about the Periodic Table of Elements. She reluctantly read the description of an atom aloud ("the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element") before slamming me with two-lettered abbreviations (she got me on Fermium).

But then where the hell did these other elements come from: Ununtrium? Ununquadium? I thought Little C. was playing with me, but wouldn't you know it, there's a whole slew of elements that came out of hiding after I graduated college. It's hard to keep up, you know.


I was waiting for her to pull out her magic trick, but alas, no magic show tonight. The last time Little C. and I were together, I took her to the new science museum at Golden Gate Park. I think she liked the museum just fine, liked using my camera even more, and really liked the gift shop. But then I took her to the magic store down the street, Misdirections. I bought her one of those cheap plastic coin-hiding things. You probably had one when you were a kid. You pull out the tray and put a quarter in the hole. Then you slide it inside the case and there's some sort of lever that pushes a thingy-ma-bob and it hides the coin.

Little C. was very perfunctory with her magic trick, as she is with her Spanish Inquisition-style quizzing. She just kept hiding and unhiding the coin over and over again. It did not make for a very exciting magic show. Finally I told her, look, you've got to add a little pizazz to your act. Make up a story about this magic coin box.

"You mean I have to lie?" she says.

"No, not lie exactly," I try to explain. "You need to develop your patter. That's what magicians do. They have a fabulous story that helps to distract the audience so that they can't tell when and how a magic effect is done. The talking part of the act is called patter. You could also wear a sparkly ring or a fancy necklace and people would look at that too, and that would make it easier to trick them."

"Oh, good," she says, "because I don't want to lie." Bless her heart.

She went from having no patter at all to a fantastical 5-minute fable about a secret cave in Vietnam where behind a very special brick that only she could identify was this ancient carved jade magical box that hides coins through the use of mind powers, magic words (abracadabra just being one) and precise, flowing hand gestures. Actually, the story is so much more intricate than what I've described here. You're getting the condensed version because she does need to tighten her patter just a bit. I hesitate to say her act is a little boring, but because she's cute and very excited about her magic act, I pretend as if I've never seen this trick ten times already. Sometimes she goes around the shop and does her effect for each person getting a manicure.

I'm not sure which I enjoy better: the interminable magic act that consists of one very long and oft-repeated trick of hiding a quarter, or the incessant and thorough quizzing of a mind that's racking itself to do division to three decimal places without benefit of a calculator, or even a pencil.

Actually, I enjoy both forms of the Little C. Inquisition. It's not worth getting a mani-pedi without them. Although I need to buy her a few more effects for her magic show. I'm not sure whether the other customers appreciate her coin-hiding trick as much as I do.


ps.: It wouldn't be a proper post if I didn't free associate something here with a Monty Python skit, so for your general edification, I give you The Spanish Inquisition:


jeff CH December 13, 2008 at 1:36 AM  

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Assertive Wit December 13, 2008 at 6:33 AM  

There is a little girl in my nail shop who quizzes me all the time too LOL She asked me if I knew Spanish and I said no, not really...then she started asking me all these words in English and what they meant; coincidentally they were all the words I knew in Spanish...she called me a liar LOL truth is I took Spanish in high school for 3 years and I could speak it, write it, and understand it back then but I know very little and only basic stuff now...not enough to have a real conversation...turns out, everything I knew was what she was currently learning LOL

Char December 13, 2008 at 7:07 AM  

I feel cheated as my place only has rough and tough little boys that play with cars. But...I was in Atlanta one time and one woman there told a story from her childhood that gave me nightmares. Imagine me trying to keep a straight face while she was doing my brows!! It seems this woman raised her child indulgently and never made him mind. He grew up spoiled, thinking that the world owed him everything. Eventually he stole from someone and was going to be put to death (this is in old Thailand). While he was in jail, the only last wish he had was to see his mother. His mother comes to the jail and he asked to be suckled one last time. She resisted at first, but then granting his wish - she bares her breast to suckle him. He then bites off her nipple!!!! (I think I shreked) And derailed her for not protecting him. His dying wish cursed his mother. Can you imagine!!! I never went back to that salon.

paris parfait December 13, 2008 at 7:52 AM  

What a bright girl. She's lucky to have you around to challenge her and make her think. xoxox

paul c walton December 13, 2008 at 10:17 AM  

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Princess Lolly December 13, 2008 at 10:30 AM  


I really like your blog! Congrats on the 'blogs of note' fame and subsequent masses of readers...

I had to mention, however, waaay back on your 'Sweet Jane' post- in an old interview, Lou Reed mentioned that "Jane" was an autobiographical character. Now, I'm not absolving him of drug-related references ('cause there were lots) but I think you can feel free and clear to slow dance to a validated love song!

Side note- when I was 12 I believed that "Lola" by the Kinks was the best love song ever penned...sadly, when the lyrics were explained I may just have been scarred for life by my inability to differentiate male and female. Good times!

tangobaby December 13, 2008 at 10:46 AM  

@Assertive Wit: Sounds like little quizzing girls are not as unique as I thought... but at least they're interested in stuff they're learning in school and not talking about boys yet!

I'm still amazed what I can remember when under pressure. Maybe if you go to Spain you can pull it off somehow.

@Char: Holy sh*t! That is a HORRIBLE story. What would have made it even worse, though, is if she would have ruined your eyebrows while telling you such a tale, as trying to grow out bad brows is worse than growing out bangs. You seriously need a salon with a little cute quizzing girl. Apparently there are at least two salons that have this amenity. If you're ever out in SF, let me know and I'll hook you up with a mani-pedi and a math/science quiz.

@paris parfait: I think it's the other way around. If she wasn't there, I'd probably just read Allure magazine and not even give a moment's thought to the Periodic Table.

Are you feeling better? xoxo

@paul: thanks for the compliment, but if you read the post before this one, then you'll know that I like to write, so perhaps my blog isn't that impressive, but just a larger collection of stuff.

I don't even own a bike but thanks for the offer.

@Princess Lolly: Hey, thanks! Some of the subsequent masses are pretty cool people and only a few spammers for now.

I'll have you know that I had this IDENTICAL conversation with The Boy about Lola (due to the Sweet Jane reference). Apparently this was one of his favorite songs too, and then one day he found out about who Lola was. I think that threw his teenage mind for a loop, too. But I'll still dance to Sweet Jane no matter what the lyrics mean. It's just a great song!

Pamela Terry and Edward December 13, 2008 at 5:50 PM  

Such an interesting place you have here. Edward and I shall return for future visits!

nicole December 13, 2008 at 7:38 PM  

Sweet sychronicity- on the day of your kind comment to my whimpering on Tuning the Atom, little C. learns about atoms and learns a valuble lesson. I do need some patter.
I could go on & on in gratitiude but for brevity let me just thank you for your kind reminder. You and the baby blue piano snapped me right back to reality and happiness. Great, great blog!

Mari December 13, 2008 at 11:20 PM  

Hi, I really enjoyed your blog, wonderfully written and I think your photographs are beautiful! ( I checked out your links to flickr and jpg) Thank you

Brenda December 14, 2008 at 4:55 AM  

Just spent the last 15 minutes with you on your blog and flickr site. Love your photos of flowers. Hubby and I had a good laugh with your Monty video.

Congrats on your award.

Jackie December 14, 2008 at 6:33 AM  

Really fun to find your blog! Thanks for the time you take to post your wonderful 'stuff'!
Merry Christmas!

chaos in one body December 14, 2008 at 9:32 AM  

i love reading your post. always something interesting that sparks further stuff to add to my own blog.

its funny how you talk about this little girl in your blog. the last couple of months i have been bugging my sister to have a little girl. i am no way near having a child. i am still in school for my own major but as xmas is around the corner n i keep seeing all these little girl toys my wanting for a little princess to be part of the family is driving me crazy.

Mary-Laure December 14, 2008 at 5:16 PM  

Monty Python, YAY!!!!!!!!!

I soooooo need a pedicure, by the way.

Nic December 15, 2008 at 1:49 PM  

Little c seems adorable!
See my blog@ trying-4-a-baby@blogspot.com

Christina December 16, 2008 at 9:40 AM  

Little C is my hero! Damn, I am not where I need to be in math. lol

I need a mani/pedi, along with a coin trick and a Vietnam fable will make it just perfect.

Relyn December 17, 2008 at 3:22 PM  

Well, crap! I read Char's comment and completely forgot what I was going to say. I think I'll go do something peaceful now and get that ICK story out of my head!

Paris Atelier December 18, 2008 at 9:46 PM  

You are a riot! You have definately brightened up my very bleak day!!! With every word I read i fall more & more in love with your blog! Perfection! Thank you!!
PS I'm a closet Monty Python fan!