Mount Shasta enroute to a magic show

72 Hours: Californian Secrets

I’m just back from a whirlwind magic performance sweep of California. The first secret was for me. Even as I flew from Heathrow to San Francisco before a connecting flight to northern California, I still didn’t know where exactly I’d been booked to perform my show. It could have been for a wedding, an awards night or a funeral for all I knew (yes, I’ve been booked to perform at one before!). I only knew that it would be held in a secret location. It was a two hour drive from the nearest small airport. I was escorted by an actual cowboy who worked at the estate. He greeted me at the airport. Then on the way he filled me in on the specifics of this mystery booking…

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It turns out I would perform in an enchanted forest, of sorts. A private location tucked away in these magical Pacific woods I had heard so much about. I could only reach my evening performance by catching a golf cart and driving up the mountainside. The road wound up through the mountain from my chalet. The rush hour traffic amounted to the sight of deer scampering every which direction.

Secret photos as a magician in California

The next secrets however were to be kept from my audience of course. They then grilled me over dinner about the things that fascinated them in the show.  Even over a good Napa valley red wine, this magician keeps his secrets under wraps. Magic Circle magicians don’t swear to the tune of Indocilis Privata Loqui for nothing (this roughly translates from latin to shut your trap).

A short plane ride back took me down to San Francisco the next day. Obligatory photo from the plane, below. We landed over some fascinating sprawling fields of who-knew-what? …

Well kept secret salt ponds San Francisco
Spectacular salt ponds outside of San Francisco

(Next secret, soon untangled thanks to Atlas Obscura) They’re salt ponds that apparently turn these incredible colours because of the algae in the water. The pools dazzle spectators with all sorts of chemical alchemy before our eyes.

The next evening I flew back to London. But before that I was graciously shown around by San Francisco local, fellow magician and actor Christian Cagigal. He performs engaging theatrical magic and presents the famous original San Francisco Ghost Walk. We zipped around in his car up and down the famously steep hills that seem to defy gravity (in a way that would’ve brought tears to Escher’s eyes).

The fog swept in as we crossed the legendary bridge. It vanished before our eyes as we reached a hilltop viewpoint across the bay. Not far from there, little did I know our driving tour would take in the old homestead of another legend in the Seacliff Distrcit, magician Charles Joseph ‘Carter the Great’.

House of 'Carter the Great' a secret gem of San Francisco

Carter used San Francisco as his gateway to the world as he took his show to riper markets overseas. He actually died in the same decade that the Golden Gate was built – the 1930’s. Because of his travels and because he died in India, I’m not sure if he ever would have seen it completed.

Anyways, not long after our ‘visit’ with Carter, I bought my final secret of the trip. It was a loaf of San Francisco sourdough bread. I buried it in my carry-on ready as a souvenir present. It seemed better than a butter tray cover shaped like a cable car. Salty bread ready to nosh on in London when the whole trip seemed just as ephemeral as the fog that made the city vanish in an instant. -CH

Say hello and drop me a note in the comments below. Thanks for coming along with me and I hope to see you again after a few more turns in the trail.

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