Mar 082013

Two years ago, Henry and I tried futilely to find a magician for Chooch’s 5th birthday rager.

Granted, we waited until the last minute, in typical Appledale/Robbins fashion.  We moved on to clowns, but struck out in that party entertainment park, too. (We did find one, but someone wrote a review saying she stole from the party guests.)

“I can’t believe you don’t know any magicians!” Henry scoffed, because everything is my fault, always.

(Maybe not, but at least I had two friends there who knew how to make balloon animals! )

A few months later, through our mutual friend Erica, I met and became friends with Rick, a real life mentalist!

In an effort to not only give a small mom and pop magic shop a boost, but also provide a meeting ground for those in the know, Rick organized a Magic Mob to descend upon the Cuckoo’s Nest Magic Shop on the Southside. Kind of like Record Store Day, but with less Cure albums and more torso-splitting swords.

NEWSFLASH: The magicians were not all wearing black capes, as I had imagined. I just can’t stop stereotyping!

Rick asked me to take photographs to accompany the article he wrote for a national magic magazine, and then mistakenly added, “Well, why don’t you check with Henry and see if he’s got any plans on Sunday—-”

I started cracking up. Like Henry actually has his own life, with his own agenda!

“—oh that’s right,” Rick continued. “I keep forgetting we’re in very different relationships.”

So that is how Henry, Chooch and I found ourselves commingling with approximately 58 magicians and rubber chickens for two hours on a Sunday. And, after hearing about what was going down, Janna wanted to come too so she tagged along with us. I mean really, when does “We’re hanging out at a magic shop” NOT sound like a fun idea?

I hadn’t been to the Cuckoo’s Nest probably since I was in high school and it was in a different location further down the street. (So, we’re talking about 17 years here, OK? I only act young.) I remember walking in with my magic-virgin friends, buying a bunch of cheap novelty tricks with my mom’s credit card and meeting my first real life “punk,” complete with mohawk and safety-pin in nose. (I think I have a picture of him somewhere.) For a suburban teenager, this was life-changing. Nearly two decades later, the shop still had that same laid back “anything could happen here” feel. Like Amazing Larry could walk in at any moment!

The face of a child who wants it all.

In addition to congregating in solidarity, Rick encouraged everyone to spend some money. (There’s a fine line between magic mob and loitering, after all.) As a thank you for my photographical services, he gifted Chooch with some cash.

Chooch, after spending most of his afternoon coveting an entire rack of puppets, settled on a rabbit puppet so that Fox will have a friend. He promptly, and obviously, named the new puppet “Rabbit.”

“He spent all day with his sweaty hand shoved inside that rabbit,” Henry muttered. “We were buying it whether he wanted it or not.”

I think the owner, Tom, was especially grateful that he didn’t need to dunk the puppet into a vat of Clorox and Febreeze at the end of the day.

Puppet Perusing = serious business.

Chooch’s frenemy Katelyn was there with her parents, Chris and Kari, and collected quite a haul. She was piling up all of her merchandise on a counter near her mom, and when she walked away, Chooch grabbed one of the items.

“I’m hiding this from her,” he whispered deviously to Kari and me.

“Are you sure you’re prepared to face her wrath?” Kari laughed.

When Katelyn came back, she started rooting through all her stuff but didn’t immediately notice that something was missing. Chooch, slinking back into a corner, was nearly bursting with impatience.

“I THINK SOMETHING IS MISSING!” he blurted out on a bed of giggles.

Katelyn rolled her eyes and snatched the magic trick from behind Chooch’s back. Totally anti-climatic.

God, Chooch and I have the exact same flirting strategies.


Several times throughout the afternoon, the line to check out snaked all the way to the back of the store. On a normal day, that probably would have sent me into an anxious frenzy. But because I didn’t have to actually stand in the line (just harrass people with my camera), I was totally OK.

I did, however, feel like I was in the way a lot. Probably because I was. But that is not uncommon.

For most of our sojourn at the Cuckoo’s Nest, it was nearly physically impossible to move because so many magicians filled the narrow store.  It was an interesting social experiment for me. Average Day Erin would have walked into that shop, said “Holy shit” and then walked right back out. But on this day, I dealt with the incessant human friction because I was on a mission to collect photographical evidence. And again, Average Day Erin would have snapped some covert pictures and then ran. It was an interesting sensation to blatantly point my camera at a roomful of strangers, openly being a creep.

And true to my hypocritical nature, I dodged all of the other cameras to the best of my ability. (I noticed that Janna ended up in almost every since photo that the Cuckoo’s Nest posted on their Facebook page, which made me LOL. Maybe some up-and-coming magician will hire her as their assistant. THAT is a magic show I’d love to go to.)

The shop windows eventually succumbed to all of the magical breath and became coated with fog.

“When’s the last time a roomful of magicians were able to make a window fog?” one of the magic mobbers joked and I laughed because that’s what you do when someone makes a joke and you get it.

The Cuckoo’s Nest had a couple of demonstrators on hand and this guy Vince was my favorite, even though he forced me to volunteer for a card trick. I hate volunteering because I always feel like I’m being primed and primped as a laughingstock. Chooch and some other little girl kept trying in vain to volunteer but Vince was all, “No, you’re both too small. I need someone who can reach the counter” and then used magic-eyes on me to bend my will.

God, I’m such a magic slut!

I think this was his way of retaliating since I had my camera up in his grill all afternoon.

Vince’s trick was really awesome. But my favorite was when he lit a small piece of paper on fire IN THE AIR and then it DISAPPEARED. I liked it so much that I shouted, “Do it again!”


I’m a magician’s best audience member because in addition to being pretty gullible and naive,  I don’t pay very good attention so they really only need to exercise a semi-sleight of hand….

…like another magician, Paul Gertner, did during his card demonstration. He purposely slowed down his card-dealing so the crowd could catch him as he cheated, but I still didn’t get it.

It’s amazing I can even leave the house wearing a matching pair of shoes, really.

Paul turned a dollar bill into a $50. I almost died.

Who needs pick-up lines or roofies when you’ve got that trick?! It works on even the thickest of blonds! (I know this because I am blond and thick.)

Paul Gertner amazes.


I made Janna pose with these stage balls and she immediately dropped one.

“Now you have to buy that,” chided Tom the Owner. She looked all panicked about that and I began to openly mock her, which is what my fake college degree is in.

“Way to go Janna!” I cried. “And you were worried about the kids,” I joked to Tom.

Meanwhile, Janna had fished 35 cents out of her pocket in case Tom was serious.

It felt really good to be a part of something like this. Supporting your local brick and mortar shops is so important. I for one am guilty of bitching when a store I like closes, even though I know that I played a small part in their economic failure because I’m so quick to buy from Amazon or some stupid behemoth chain. (Target, I can’t quit you.) I am going to at least try to buy everyone’s birthday presents from real life stores from now on.

Andrea, you might be getting a Whoopie Cushion this year. Don’t worry — I’ll least draw Lil Wayne’s face on it.

Don’t drop his balls.

In addition to the rabbit puppet, Chooch also bought two small novelty tricks, but left the store with an entire birthday inventory in his head. I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting the Cuckoo’s Nest very soon. Get your tricks ready, Vince.

 [If you are local, please visit the Cuckoo’s Nest! It is rife with items to aid your next office prank or amateur ventriloquist hoe-down. FYI, you can shop online, too! For more (and better-written) information, here is what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had to say.]

  4 Responses to “Magic Mob!”

  1. This is amazing. Your pictures are great and it’s such a sweet idea to do this – like small business Saturday only way more awesome. I love that rabbit!

  2. hmmmm, might be where Christmas gifts for grandkids too old for stuffed animals come from…. Thanks. and pics are amazing!

  3. Thanks you very much for your support, pictures, and great words. In my opinion this was post-gazette worthy

  4. The Cuckoo’s Nest is one of my favorite stores in Pittsburgh. It’s part of our unique identity. I was happy to support it, and I’m glad to see all of the attention this event has created. Well done, Rick!

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