Sunday, October 06, 2013

Master of Escape

And if you're trapped
And failure seems imminent
think of Houdini
that fabulous immigrant!
Break those chains with all you possess
-Ragtime

On a furloughed day, I rode the rails north to break into and escape from the Houdini Museum.  I pondered my own Houdini pivot of cultural diplomacy work, of which I will discuss later.

The place's address was on 7th avenue, but it wasn't really on 7th avenue- the first test of finding Houdini.

But oh, Erich Weiss.  Of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin fame.  In the museum, I found a young King of Cards in an art nouveau poster showing the young musician and his famous sleight of hand.  Speaking of hands, apparently Houdini was shot in his left hand.

After a show with the Dr. Hill medicine show in Kansas, which a young Houdini was working in, some gamblers forced Houdini to pick a gambling that had closed for the night.  Houdini picked the lock, but then shut the door before the two hoodlums could get in, he locked himself inside the empty place.  But Houdini didn't count on the gamblers shooting through the grate of cellar window.  He raised his left hand to stop the shot, and the weak fusile lodged a bullet in his left hand.  The bullet was never removed (I told my mother there was still glass in my hand!), but gave Harry a better pivot to slip his clenched hand out of cuffs.


The museum was full of chains and old cuffs that the master escapist had loosened his way out of, and trucks crossed in chains that he had exited.  All along with old pics, handbills, posters and letters from Harry himself.  I loved a particular letter with his likeness.  It short, the place was absolutely amazing. A real marvel.

I, Harry Houdini, known as the King of Handcuffs, at last becoming tired of so called  FAKE EXPOSURES and MEDIOCRE magicians, who claim to DO MY ACT, because they possess a lot of false keys and springs, do hereby challenge any person in the World to duplicate my release from Cuffs, Irons and Straight Jackets, under test conditions.




And one of the most terrifying trips to the bathroom I have ever had.  As I was walking to the bathroom,  caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  My heart skipped a beat.  I sized it up quick, and laughed.  I investigated around the door just in case.

My heart beat fast as I entered the bathroom.  I checked the open stalls, and locked the door behind me, and I was still peering over my shoulder the whole time.

I took another stroll through Houdini's accouterments, before heading north.  I walked north because I wasn't sure where else to go, and it seemed like a good direction.

As I was walking north, I passed a pizza shop called Two Brothers.  It is a dollar slice place around midtown.  I recognized it from the last time two brothers were strolling through Manhattan and needed some cheap pizza.  Harry and I were in line- I don't remember if we were about to order or to pay.

A guy in a suit in line was handed a slice of pizza.  He puts down the slice and says to the Hispanic guy behind the counter.

"Hey, give me the bigger slice." the fellow in the cheap suit said.


The guy behind the counter said no, and that he had already touched it.

"Yo," he said in New York drawl, "give me the bigger slice."

The counter guy said no again, so the Yankee said: "this is why you work here," and stormed out.

Harranza and I were stunned.   In my dreams, I take a slice of pizza and fling it at the back of that fellow's cheap suit.

I recognized the place, so I stopped in for a slice of solidarity.  Just one of the two brothers this time. I had a slice, and slipped an extra buck in the tip jar on behalf of the Two Brothers Rockower.

I caught the 1 up the West Side.  Up to Columbia, Gotham City's Ivy.  I wandered around the campus, noticing collegiates laying out on the sunny lawn.  I took a corner to a part of the quad, and founded Him.



As this was a campus, and it is perfectly acceptable to lay down on the lawn, I lay out under the pensive bronze statue.  In grey hood, I rested on my backpack as I read "Thus spake Zarathustra" softly to myself.

I lay there all afternoon, pondering the different light cast on the statue and laughing to myself that I could easily touch this one--something verboten in museums.  There would be no chiding this time, even gentle, like when I touched the Hand of God in Paris. Add this thinker to the collection (Philadelphia, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Baltimore, New York).

1 comment:

Abba said...

You have to be 75 to utter those words...