The Magic Castle Appoints Executive Chef, Alejandro

Chef Alex ArrietaWe just heard some tasty news and thought we should share.  Something we would never do with our desserts.  To be clear: we’ll share news about desserts and meals but will not share desserts ever and meals only sometimes.  In many ways we are like a dog.  Kind and loveable and loyal but don’t mess with our food.

Especially now that the Magic Castle has a new Executive Chef, Alejandro (Alex) Arrieta,
who will begin Feb. 7.

Chef Arrieta comes to the Magic Castle from The Culver Hotel, Culver City, where he served as Executive Chef from July 2018 until accepting the position.

Joe Furlow, General Manager of the Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) and the Magic Castle said, “We are very excited to welcome Alex into the Academy family and look forward to sharing his spectacular culinary creations with our members and their guests.”

Chef Arrieta previously served as Executive Chef/Partner at The Hook and Plow, Hermosa Beach; Executive Chef of 208 Rodeo, Beverly Hills; Chef De Partie at The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Los Angeles; Chef De Partie at Bouchon Restaurant Thomas Keller, Los Angeles; Executive Sous Chef at Ocean Avenue Seafood, Santa Monica; and Sous Chef/Banquet Chef at Hotel Bel Air, Los Angeles. He has been working in Los Angeles since 2003.

Arrieta has been awarded a guest chef appearance at Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa; developed new food concepts for the Radisson Hotel in Cancun, Mexico; and catered for such renowned companies as Louis Vuitton, Channel and Cartier. He had extensive knowledge of vegan and vegetarian menus, as well as items that are gluten free.

Originally from Bogota, Columbia, Arrieta spent much of his youth in Miami, Florida, where his father worked in the hotel industry. He began working at a hotel in the kitchen and immediately fell in love.

Over the years, he rose through the ranks, eventually relocating to Southern California, where he earned a Bachelor of Science/Culinary Management from the Art Institute of California.

Naked Magicians Coming to Washington

Washington-Center-for-the-Performing-Arts-The-Naked-Magicians-Backstage.jpgWe have an AI controlled software system that evaluates each article posted here on the often-read

It checks for relevance to magic or the variety arts.  It then looks to see if the story has been posted elsewhere by another magic blog.  And finally, it goes through a very sophisticated algorithm to determine the Joke Per Paragraph (“JPP”) factor.  The JPP rating is one of the more important data points.

The computer looks up all of the potential jokes that can be made about the article from our personal database and assigns a number.  JPPs over 13 are considered excellent.  JPPs under 4 are immediately rejected.

We received a very high JPP for this post but none of the jokes (and these were from our own collection — not randomly selected from the web) were too adult for our intended family audience.

Nonetheless, the article is newsworthy and certainly relevant to magic and those who crave magical news.  So, we’ll offer it without any of the jokes suggested by the computer.  Like a pilot flying without instruments, this one is on our own and we hope to land safely.

Two Australian magicians will be taking to the stage in Olympia, Washington on February 8th at the beautifully appointed Washington Center for the Performing Arts. They will demonstrate their absence of secret pockets or hold-outs by being naked.

Their name fits the act perfectly:  The Naked Magicians, Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne.  They told the Thurston Talk that “good magicians don’t need sleeves, and great magicians don’t need pants.”

The two have been together since 2014 and originally performed with clothes.

That changed at some point when they hit upon an idea that has apparently worked well around the world.  “We designed The Naked Magicians together as a crazy idea – something we came up with to premier the Brisbane Comedy Festival,” says Mr. Tyler.

They have performed in 250 cities, including theaters in London’s West End and even at the MGM Grand.

We’ve stayed many times at the MGM Grand and could not have maintained our perfectly sculpted Dad Bod due to the buffet and our lack of exercise and genetics and desire to stay in the casino till all hours in the night watching people while appearing to gamble and drinking high caloric fruit drinks with ice cream.  So, their run at the MGM is impressive.  As impressive as our cholesterol count but in the reverse.

Mr. Wayne said the duo loved being in Vegas.  “That was amazing. We both grew up watching and loving Copperfield. That was for me, probably the coolest part – performing under the same roof as the greatest magician/entertainer of all time.”

The show is rated R but apparently they don’t begin naked — like all situations except for birth.  They are dressed and then strip to their performing images.  “In the USA, we generally aren’t allowed to show our ‘magic wands’ so there’s normally props cleverly placed or held in front,” says Mr. Tyler, “but at times there’s just us standing on stage covering up with our hands.”

You can see them perform at Washington Center for the Performing Arts’ Center Mainstage, at 512 Washington Street SE, Olympia, Washington.  We realize we used the word “Washington” often in this post and that was detected by our algorithm.  It suggested a joke about our nation’s first president baring nothing but his wooden teeth.  We need to work on the software — no joke intended.

The Naked Magicians
Saturday, February 8, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
18-years-old and older – Includes male nudity, sexual references and coarse language.

Criss Angel’s Numerology Profile

Inside Magic Image of Criss AngelMagician Criss Angel attracts a ton of attention.

He just celebrated one-year at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and he got his numerology profile done by someone unrelated to Planet Hollywood or Las Vegas.

The Tallahassee Scene website picked out Mr. Angel for their Astrology Profile today.  We wrote that it was a Numerology Profile because we think it is.  There is very little talk about his stars or where he fits in the orb(s) that surround us and presumably have an irresistible effect on determining our fate.

To be fair, and why wouldn’t we want to be that, the author says this is not scientifically verified and not to be taken too seriously but it seems sensible to us.  Check out the essential formula using today’s date and some other number:

First, for the month, we take the current month of 01 and add the digits together: 0 + 1 = 1 (super simple). Then do the day: from 07 we do 0 + 7 = 7. Now finally, the year of 2020: 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4. Now we have our three numbers, which we can add together: 1 + 7 + 4 = 12. This still isn’t a single-digit number, so we will add its digits together again: 1 + 2 = 3. Now we have a single-digit number: 3 is the path number for 01/07/2020.

The practitioner then works out a single digit number and uses it with a Destiny Chart:

DESTINY NUMBER FOR Criss Angel: The destiny number will consider the sum of all the letters in a name. Each letter is assigned a number per the below chart.

We haven’t posted the Destiny Chart because somethings should be kept secret or at least only available at the original author’s post on a website.

We also haven’t given the final results of the process because we don’t want to convey conclusions that are not scientifically-based.

True, long-time readers of this site will recall that we used to read the bumps on the heads of those who sent in pictures to determine their intelligence and ability to avoid common colds.

And yes, this is the same site that was at one time just an advertisement page for psychics and mind-readers who claimed to tell fortunes for money sent by PayPal.

And of course, we got our start by predicting the outcomes of horse and dog racing in Central America horse and dog racing establishments.

But those days are gone.  We are no longer dependent on income derived from splitting the pot with horse and dog racing winners or psychics or bump-reading patients.

You can read the full analysis here.

You can check out Mr. Angel’s website here.

You can see our latest page where we read the bumps on dogs’ heads to determine their fortune in upcoming races here.

Can You Spread Germs with Playing Cards?

Inside Magic Image of Ask Alexander LogoOur field is magic not medicine or community health.

That being said, we were asked by a volunteer whether she could get germs from the playing cards we were using to perform what all agreed was an incredible performance of the seven column trick last exhibited by everyone’s uncle at a family gathering.

Our response was one of shock.  First we don’t believe in the germ theory generally.  We’ve never seen a germ without use of a microscope and even then, we couldn’t be sure if it was a germ or something round with little hairs stuck to the lens.

If we assumed that everything that was round with little hairs was a germ, we would never speak with two members of our immediate family.  (We don’t anyway but this would be an added reason).

Secondly, we had never been asked such an impertinent question.  We began our miracle by removing a deck from a sealed pack.  The only thing that add germs to the pasteboards would be our hands and since we always perform with non-latex surgical gloves, it seemed unlikely that germs could have taken up residence on the cards.

But we did some research on the subject and even sent a note to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.  They haven’t responded yet but when they do, we’ll update this article to make it more click-baity — even though we don’t have advertisements on the site.

We found many resources on the web that seems to confirm that playing cards — like all paper — can be a home for germs.

We didn’t want that answer.

We wanted to find information that supported our conclusion that we were right and the volunteer was out of line to even question our sanitary approach to magic.  We drink hand sanitizer but that is only when we run out of cough medicine and only to silence the voices.

But, try as we might (and did), we found nary a single article supporting our theory.  It even knocked down our theory that paper cannot be anything but sterile.  Why else would Irish Fish-and-Chips sellers put their delicious meals in newspaper?  Why would ice cream cones have a paper wrapper around their base? Why would our submarine sandwiches be delivered in paper clearly touched and folded by human hands?

It turns out, paper is a possible home for germs but not a great home.  Our cards have a fine coating that we hope resists germs looking for a new abode.  We don’t know what germs like and perhaps plastic coating seems too “plastic” and artificial for them.  Maybe they would rather reside where the high class microbes live on things like raw chicken, out-dated cheese, or our eyebrows.  (The last location is bushy and unruly — ironically the name of our old partner act when we were on the dance hall circuit.  We were “Bushy” and our fellow performer was “Unruly.”   We cut-up with jokes about eyebrows and messed up hair generally.)

If you would like to do your own investigation into the question you can check out the following links.  But, if you choose to live in a blissful sense of ignorance, you can ignore the links, use new decks for each performance, wash your hands before every show, never put a card in your mouth for any reason — even a magical one, never lick a card to attach to your forehead, and certainly never cough or sneeze directly onto a card you want your spectator to select.  If you are not going to do a force, you probably should avoid coughing or sneezing on the deck itself.  If you are doing fans and productions, without a spectator’s selection, sneeze away.  It is rumored that some of the great card manipulators would sneeze directly on their decks before performing to give an extra “grip” to the deck.  That is a rumor we just started for the purposes of this post.

We can’t and wouldn’t anyway, vouch for any of these publications or their content.  They are all links outside of so you should click at your own risk.

We do believe in internet viruses and so be careful where you go as you search for information on the passing of viruses and germs.

Carisa Hendrix Featured

Carissa HendrixCarisa Hendrix is more than an accomplished magician and world-record fire-eater, she is also a Persuasive Calgarians according to a great profile in today’s Calgary Herald newspaper.  But magic was not her first choice.  She was “seduced by the ‘glamor of magic.'”

Like many of us, she watched David Copperfield on television with her family.  She was able to “think outside the box” and correctly guess how the illusions were being performed.

Her intended career was to be a teacher.  But the lure of fire-eating and card magic proved strong.

“It’s never had to be a career; just what I did to survive. “

“The 32-year-old Calgary-born wizard is at the top of her game today, performing in iconic clubs – in her sexy personality Lucy Darling – setting a Guinness World Record for Eating Fire, inviting Penn and the TV show Teller and co-hosting Shezam, a popular feminist podcast on magic.”

Her abilities have been noted not only by her peers in the magic community (a tough crowd) but also magic clubs.  She  no longer needs to send audition videos.

“I wouldn’t exist if not for the other magicians who encouraged me, paid me to be their assistant when I was 16 and 17. It was money between hunger and no.”

Three years later, “I did everything – fire, acrobatics, chair dance, magic – whatever he wanted. I was making money until it was no longer scary.”

Ms. Hendrix is looking forward to a possible Canadian television tour to her North American club appearances.

“The magic has to be proven directly,” she says. “It’s just so powerful.”

Check out the full article in the Calgary Herald here.

Check out her great website here.

Nature and Magic has been a little quiet lately.  We believe that is mostly attributable to the writers and editors that staff our site and occupy our .0025 x .0015 room (in hectares) office here on Hollywood Boulevard.  They are taking vacation time in keeping with Hollywood tradition.

T. Nelson DownsThat tradition began with the studios back in the 1920s when Mary Pickford granted all of United Artists about two-weeks’ vacation at the end of the year.  Other studios adopted the tradition and soon all of Hollywood and the companies that served them observed the same policy.

It is now essentially law and if there is one thing readers of know, we follow the law without obvious or documented exception.

So, it is just us in this spacious office suite overlooking the street now festooned with holiday flags, banners, and things that are neither.  It is a glorious sight, despite the incessant rain.  It never rains in the greater Los Angeles area but this week is an exception.  So nature does not follow our policy in observing tradition or the law.  That is to be expected, we suppose.

Nature seems to follow its own course without regard for the lives of those affected by its vagaries.

We grow old, nature just changes with little care.  We make plans for events that are important in our lives, nature gives not even a nod.  Weddings are washed out, buildings are felled by earthquakes, skywriters are booked with a non-refundable reservation fee, and nature covers the sky with thick, opaque clouds to obscure the writing or ground the planes.

So what does this have to do with magic?

Our wonderful art is one that is thought to rise above nature, to be supernatural.  But the individuals that make the supernatural happen are human and ultimately subject to nature’s whims.

In the past six weeks we have learned of deaths and illnesses occurring to members and members’ families in our community.  More than a few Broken Wand ceremonies have been had.

We have also learned of births of children to magicians (and variety artists) and with the births come hope that our art will continue to grow and expand.  We’ve seen incredible development in the skills of young magicians around the world (even assuming camera positioning in the most perfect way).

The youth of our ranks will serve magic well.  Many (like us) will invent effects that have already been invented.

At the tender age of 13, we invented the Downs Palm and two sleights previously created by Cardini.  We were fortunate that our mentor did not ridicule us for such an audacious claim but used encouraging words to encourage us to read more to learn about those magicians who preceded our entry onto the scene.

Like nature, magic ebbs and flows.

We have seen dry times and, we suppose, wet times.  We couldn’t think of an appropriate match for “dry times.”

Doug Henning and David Copperfield reminded lay audience how exciting magic was; and encouraged thousands of young people to pursue it as a hobby or even a profession.

Now the excitement is created and driven not just by the big-time professionals but also the contributors to YouTube, Twitter and other avenues.  We’ve seen young magicians watching on-line videos over and over as they practiced or attempted to imitate the moves shown.  It always makes us smile.

Magic is an art with a great history.  It has survived claims of witchcraft, and devil worship.  It often led the variety shows that moved from town to town and was the fertile ground from which sprang Houdini, Thurston, and Blackstone.

Nature doesn’t acknowledge those who perform what seem supernatural acts.  It just bides its time.  Allows for births, relationships, deaths, and mourning.  After all of that it continues in its unpredictable but self-sure way.

We are merely here to accept its place in our lives and the lives of those we love and have learned from.  We can’t fight nature and its way but we can enjoy what it provides and hope to preserve its supportive, if always surprising manner.

Magic Lesson Learned

Inside Magic Library Cover Page for Happy Hollisters and the Perfect FarosLast week we did a short performance of our card artistry for a nice group of people.  They were so nice that we decided to add a new trick to our routine that has been developed over the years that have passed from when we were just 13-years-old.

It is the same routine.  Nothing has changed.  We used the same routine when we successfully auditioned for The Magic Castle to become a Magician Member (one of the highlights of our magic life).  We will add a new joke every once in a while and then it gets folded into the the ever stable dough of our routine.  The dough does not rise or fall.  It is the same dough we have been kneading since we had a corduroy three-piece suit and a fez.

The costume was our regular wear back in those days.  We were a huge Tommy Cooper fan — hence the fez — and we were very poor — hence the corduroy suit.  It was a bright brown with lapels wide enough to hide a deck of cards on one side and a thumb tip on the other.  The pockets were cut to allow access from the inside and outside.  The breast pocket was without a bottom so we could have things travel from it to our lower outside pocket.  It was an ugly suit on the outside but an incredibly functional suit on the inside.

The fez was perfect for the Sucker Sliding Die Box, that’s all.  Plus, none of our party audiences back then had ever heard of Tommy Cooper and there was no YouTube to which we could use as evidence that a magician could wear a fez.

But we got a new suit when we became a lawyer and we abandoned the fez (it no longer fit our now ego-inflated skull).  Our act was now stripped to the same five card tricks, neatly folded into a souffle of card magic.

Back to our point.  We sometimes wander far from the topic.  We don’t know why.  The path we take doesn’t usually end up at a bountiful country scene; replete with joyful animals and calm lakes.  We usually end up lost in a dark corner of a big city of conversation or discussion to which we have never been.  Those listening or reading feel helpless and not comforted.  Perhaps they worry that our train of thought has no tracks but is actually like a cartoon train that has jumped its track and is now running down cartoon animals and about to become submerged in the placid but deep lake.

Anyway, as we were saying.

We do the same five card effects each time.  We don’t change their order because each effect sets up the next part.  We don’t change our methods because they’ve worked well over the years, decades.

But last week we changed our routine and that led to our self-assessed downfall and failure.

The audience claimed to be delighted and that was nice, but we knew the truth.  The transition was unacceptable.  It seemed unpracticed compared to the first four effects and because we wanted it to fit the over all routine, it seemed forced.

Our routine is essentially second dealing and false shuffles and lucky forces.  To this routine we tried to include Lennart Green’s Stolen Cards.  We love the effect and love the simplicity.  By itself, it is a wonderful 12 minute routine.  We tried to make it a four minute routine and that is not possible.  In the midst of performing the four minute version of the routine, we knew it wouldn’t fit.  We had practiced it by itself many times and performed the 12 minute routine many times.  But now we were making it a component of a 15 minute routine.  It required a different deck and when it was done, it required a further deck change.

We wondered the whole weekend following the show, why we would try to change our act on the fly.  Was it pride?  Was it an homage to the great Lennart Green?  Was it a chance to make our life-long routine to something new?

All of those reasons do not justify what we tried to do.

Pride goeth before the fall.  Lennart Green doesn’t need our homage.  Changing our routine could not be for the benefit of the assembled audience — they had never seen our routine.

Our father, a great magician and fine teacher of great magic, had some great advice for us as we were starting in this wonderful art:  1) when you are not being chased, don’t run; 2) when there is nothing to do, do nothing; 3) stick with what works.

We broke all three rules.

The audience didn’t notice — we think — but we did.  We learned an important lesson.



The New Face of Magic

Ace Hotel.jpgYou know the Ace Hotel New York even if you have never been there.  Check out their website to see the iconic building with tons of history and literary connections.  If we are not mistaken (and their is a very good chance we are), our very favorite short story writer, O. Henry lived in one of the rooms of the building way back in the day.

Zach Alexander, Michael Karas and RJ The Magician will be appearing in their show The New Face of Magic tomorrow, December 14th in Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel New York.

So there is a fine mixture of the past and future awaiting  you.  Once you are seated and watching the show, it will then be the past, present and future.  We suppose that goes without saying and so . . .

The title of the show is fitting for performances by new magicians that push the art of the craft forward.

Mr. Alexander has been featured on ABC Morning News and is a member of our art’s very secret society, The International Brotherhood of Magicians.

New Face.jpgJoining Mr. Alexander will be RJ the Magician.  He truly is part of the coming generation of magicians.  His objective is not only to entertain but also “prove that magic and civic engagement can help contribute to modern society.”  He is a member of the International Association of Black Magical Artists; and was the winner of their 2018 “Rising Star” Award.

Mr. Karas is an international award-winning juggler.  He has toured the world for more than a decade with his very unique and comedic juggling routine.

If we were in New York, we’d stay at the Ace Hotel if only for the history and O. Henry’s legacy (assuming we’re correct about his residence there) but if we had a choice of nights to stay, it would be tonight and tomorrow to catch The New Face of Magic show.

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of New York city, you should check out the show and see these three amazing performers.

You can read more about the show and the performers here.


Magician Robert Ramirez is Much More

Robert RamirezRobert Ramirez is a magician amongst many things and is featured in The Pittsburgh Current today for those talents that are not within the sphere of magic.

Proof of his multi-talented skills is evidenced by his new show Robert Ramirez: The Musical Theater Magician live through Jan. 5, 2020, at Pittsburgh’s Downtown’s Liberty Magic.

By the way, Downtown’s Liberty Magic has a great website.  We don’t normally comment on the quality of websites because we feel inadequate about the layout of — and we didn’t just mention to boost our position in Google ratings — and we didn’t just mention Google to associate Google and its Google Search Engine with  We were just making a point why we point out great websites when we see ’em and instantly compare them with our site dedicated to providing the latest magic news for the professional performer here on

Mr. Ramirez’s musical abilities including the ability to play the piano and tap dance; plus perform magic tricks at a level that brings unsolicited praise from fellow magicians.

He became interested in our art when he was merely 8-years-old, after his parents divorced. He then branched into playing the flute, being involved in musical theater in high school and college and even took classes at the very prestigious L.A. based Upright Citizens Brigade.  As if that wasn’t enough, he found time to promote creative writing for children in California’s elementary schools through a program called the Imagination Machine.

We would posit that this was sufficient; but no.  He went on to star in the touring company of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights from 2011 to 2012.

Holy cow.  We can only do magic and really only with cards and really only with cards that we have prepared before performing and really only with one type of a deck in one color and whilst seated and without any potential bad angles and with special sticky stuff on our fingers.  Forget doing music or dancing.

Now here’s the strange part.  Once he finished the tour, he found it tough to get auditions. He hit a dry spell — like our hands and that is why we need the sticky stuff on our fingers but he was using the term “dry spell” as a metaphor not a physical sign of aging and dry fingers.

“I had realized I’m going to have to create my own work if I want to get out of this little rut,” he says. “So I started doing more magic and I started doing weddings or I started doing strolling gigs when I could.”

He served as a magic consultant on “America’s Got Talent” and appeared at the world-famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles and the Chicago Magic Lounge.  Soon his unique combination of skills brought him to the forefront.

“Now in the last two years, I got to a point where now I have to set time aside to do a theater show, do a musical, and then audition for that show,” he says.

Did we mention he also  has a comedy background and uses comedy in his performance?  We realize we shouldn’t ask readers to go back through this post to determine whether we mentioned it when we clearly could do it if our Tandy X1000 running WordStar 1.25 had an easy way to scroll back up.

“I don’t want to set that expectation because you may not get my brand of humor. Everybody loves magic, and there’s kind of not a ‘brand’ of magic. Either it’s going to feel whimsical and feel like magic or it’s not,” he says.

He is in to magic history and history in general   “Magic’s been popular for hundreds of years,” he says. “I think, when all of these historical events were happening in the world, what was happening in magic?”

Following the lead of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the show, In The Heights, to construct a show that he wanted to see, Mr. Ramirez put together an act that he would want to attend.  “Now all I do is I create magic that I want to see, something that I wish I was in the audience to laugh at.”

If you are in the Pittsburgh area, check out “Robert Ramirez: The Musical Theater Magician.” Various times. Now through Jan. 5. 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown. 412-456-6666 or

You’ll see it all in one place.  Visit Mr. Ramirez’  website here.

The Puzzle Box

Inside Magic Image of Couple Learning Magic's True SecretsWe had a chance to chance upon a puzzle the other day.  We love puzzles and seek them out, so maybe it wasn’t a chance situation.

We found a box at an antique shop here in Los Angeles.  It was plain on the outside, looked like it was made of oak or some sturdy wood.  We don’t know our woods well but what we do know is the difference between what we would call “Oak” and “Pine.”  It wasn’t Pine so, in our book, it had to be Oak.

It was exactly square and had a small hasp with a small lock but the lock had no keyhole.  It apparently was keeping the box shut but there were no lines in the wood indicating that the box opened at the location of the hasp and lock.

There were seams and lines on the bottom of the box and on one side.  The rest appeared to be carved or derived from one piece of wood, Oak-type wood.

We asked the dealer about it and he said he was told  it was from a salvage done at some place in the Arizona desert.  We asked what was in it and he said he didn’t know because he had never played with it enough to try to open it. We asked how much he wanted for it and that’s when it got interesting.

He said $250 for the box sounded about right.

We said we were thinking more about $10 bucks.  We asked how he could justify $250?

He said that because it could be holding gold coins from the Old West or at least silver coins.

We shook the box but heard no rattles and certainly no clings or clangs indicating coins were within.

The box was relatively heavy, about five pounds.  We figured that Oak — if it was really Oak and not just our binary classification of all woods — would not weigh five pounds by itself.  That caused us to think there must be something inside with the weight of at least a pound.

Gold could weigh at least a pound, silver was less likely and lead could weigh more than a pound.

We mentioned to the bespectacled antique store owner that because neither one of us knew what was in the box — if anything — we should probably try to figure a price that includes the risk that it would contain nothing of value.

He countered that we should figure a price that includes the risk that it probably had something of tremendous value.

We asked that if he thought it had tremendous value, why would he price it at only $250?  Why not $2,000?

He said he didn’t think he could sell it at $2,000 but at $250, it was priced right to match the risk.

How could we be sure that he hadn’t already opened the box and thus knew its contents.

He said he didn’t have time to do something like that, he wasn’t good at puzzles, and his store dealt mostly in furniture and artwork.  This was a strange item he picked up but hadn’t “messed with.”

His store was filled with chairs of different eras, quality, fabric and evidence of use.  He had beautifully framed paintings hung on the walls of his small but maneuverable space.

We offered $15.00 and hoped he would come down.  He didn’t budge.  He did, however, lift his glasses and wiped them with the tail of his shirt, conveniently not tucked into his jeans.  He replaced his glasses and gestured to take the box back for an inspection.  Still saying nothing.

“I could let it go for $200, I suppose,” he said without looking at us.

He handed the box back to us and kept his eyes down.  We thought he might wipe his glasses again.  But he didn’t.  He was just waiting for our response.

“$200 is way out of what we would call a ballpark,” we said.  “How about $30?”

He shook his head and said $200 was the best he could do.  He reminded us again that it might contain gold and that he had never opened it.

“If it could contain gold, why not open it and see?” we asked.

“It would ruin it,” he said.

We were amazed he had this much time to dedicate to this philosophical negotiation.  He had other customers in the shop and while they didn’t look like they needed his help, we imagined that part of being a shopkeeper was helping people find items they didn’t know they needed to buy.

“How would it ruin it?” we asked.  “Right now it is just a box that could contain gold or could contain sand and rocks.  But when we shake it, there are no sounds.”

“Well,” he said, finally looking at us, “it’s your choice.  $200 is my last and best offer.”

We had $200 on us — we just returned from the Poker Room at the Bicycle Club and had a good day.  But we didn’t want to waste it on something that could be nothing.  We didn’t think there was gold in it and we couldn’t see a way to open it without destroying it.  We figured we should just pass on it.  It would make for an interesting story one day; maybe today.

So those were our thoughts and deeply held beliefs.  We were going to pass.  But what we heard us say was, “How about $100.00?”

He extended his hand, we shook it, he gave us the box and we gave him a freshly minted $100 bill.  We looked at the image of Benjamin Franklin as we handed it to the antique store owner.  Mr. Franklin seemed to shaking his head in disapproval or maybe it was just our hands shaking the bill.

We walked out of the store into the bright southern California sunshine and squinted.  The store was apparently much darker than we thought.  We looked at the box in the light, hoping to find the secret to opening it without destroying it.

Then we started thinking crazy things.  Maybe there was gold in it.  Opening it would answer the question but not knowing for sure had value as well.

We got on the Santa Monica bus with the box in our lap.  A woman next to us asked about it.

“It is a box from an archaeological dig.  I was told there might be gold in it.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said and reached out to feel the wood.  “Is that maple?”

“Could be,” we said.  “Maybe oak.”

“We’ll its very pretty.  Where did you get it?”

“Right over there at that store,” we said as we turned to point out the shop but as we did we couldn’t find it.  There were so many stores in the strip mall, it could have been that we lost track of it.