Monday, September 23, 2013

            We are back in Valencia after an enjoyable few day in Vitoria, Spain.  The occasion for our visit was a weeklong event called Magialdía. The weeklong festival features magic for the inhabitants of Vitoria and beginning Friday morning there are a series of events intended for magicians only.

            We began our journey on Thursday when we boarded the 12:30 AVE to Madrid.  We were at Atocha some ninety minutes later.  We needed to get to Chamartín to catch our train to Vitoria.  Atocha is also called the South Station and Chamartín is also known as North Station and, as you might suspect, the stations are on opposite ends of the city.  That being the case we hopped a cab and some twenty minutes later we were at Chamartín.

            Chamartín is the ugly stepsister of Madrid’s rail stations.  It is very dark and was not built to accommodate the amount of daily traffic it experiences these days.  Consequently there is not enough seating to accommodate passengers who are waiting for their trains.  Some of the restrooms are only accessible by long flights of stairs that necessitate your schlepping your suitcases down the stairs and then back up.  It is often that one gets the opportunity to use the adjective lugubrious, but it is the perfect adjective to describe Chamartín.

            We boarded our second train at 4:20 and we would not arrive in Vitoria until 7:50.  By the time we got to our hotel it was close to 8:30 and we went to our room and unpacked.  We were staying at the Silken Hotel, which was very modern and very pleasant.  Oddly enough there was no Kleenex in the room and, given the fact that both of us were dealing with allergies, it was a bit of inconvenience.  Although there was Wi-Fi in the room it was both slow and spotty.  Other than that, it was a nice place to sleep for those three nights.

            I posted on Facebook that we had arrived in Vitoria and a minute later I received a message from Paul Wilson, one of the festival’s performers and a longtime acquaintance, telling me that a group of magicians were heading out for dinner at 9:30. The gathering point was the NH Chancellor, which was a block from our hotel.  We made our way over there and discovered a host of magicians in the lobby. We chatted briefly with several of them and were then introduced to the organizer of the event. We asked if we could join the group for dinner but it turned out they were heading for two rather small sociedades gastronómicas and all places were accounted for.  So, when the group left so did we, but our destination was a bar/restaurant called Sagartoki.

            Sagartoki is known for its pinchos and its tortilla española has won both first and second prizes in national competitions.  The place was jammed, but we managed to carve out a small space at the bar and tried a number of small plates besides the tortilla.  If memory serves me correctly we had a tempura of vegetables, one of shrimp, some croquetas and one or two other treats.  Fat and sassy we headed back to our hotel and turned in for the night.

            After breakfast we made our way over to El Palacio de Congresos where many of the events for magicians only were to be held.  We picked up our accreditation and a bag of goodies including a T-shirt, a rain poncho and a souvenir deck of cards.  Then it was off to the dealers’ showroom.  I exercised a bit of restraint and bought four or five new effects and I did so for a touch more than $100.  I gathered up all my treasures and off we went to a lecture by Alberto Figureido.  His focus was mentalism or mental magic depending on whom you ask.  He had a number of good ideas and his best piece of advice when working with a prediction involving a card or cards either in stand-up or stage settings was to draw a picture of the suit along with the value of the predicted card(s).  One should also announce the color of the chosen card.  Why? It’s because many Spaniards are still unfamiliar with the cards of a poker deck.

            When the lecture was over we caught up with Paquito and Gioco and the four of us went in search of lunch.  There was a restaurant offering a special for attendees and it was close to the NH Hotel and a good fifteen-minute walk away from where we were.  We were not disappointed.  We had a three-course meal with wine, water, and coffee for less than 10 Euros apiece.  After lunch we headed back for a 4:30 lecture by Paul Wilson.

            Paul Wilson is a multi-talented entertainer who is a magician, a con man, a writer, a director and a producer of television shows.  He has been the star is some of those shows.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Ronald Paul Wilson (born in Akrotiri, Cyprus and raised in Singapore and Scotland) is a close-up magician, and television presenter. He lives and works between London, Los Angeles, and his home in Scotland. He lives in Glasgow with his wife Julie and their two children Conner and Cameron. He is represented by David Boxerbaum at the APA Agency in Hollywood, CA.

He has studied sleight of hand, cheating and conjuring since the age of eight. After twelve years as an IT consultant, he became a professional performer and lecturer, studying film before moving into the industry.

Wilson was a second unit director, advisor, and actor in the 2004 film, Shade. He directed and starred in the opening titles, which featured expert sleight of hand with cards. He later appeared as Mr. Andrews, a poker playing card cheat. He also had a small role in Joe Carnahan‘s film Smokin’ Aces, in which he was also a magic advisor whose duties included teaching the lead actor to handle cards like an expert.

Wilson has worked on projects with Sylvester Stallone, Stuart Townsend, Jamie Foxx, Gabriel Byrne, Thandie Newton, Bo Hopkins, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Alicia Keys, Andy García, Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Piven. He also produced A&E‘s television show Mondo Magic, advised Criss Angel on his television show, appeared on Modern Marvels casino technology episodes, co-created, produced and starred in Court TV‘s The Takedown, and is the resident cheating expert on Italian television‘s Arcana show.

Wilson is currently a writer and presenter on the BBC‘s The Real Hustle. The show is now a hit in the United Kingdom, with series nine having aired on BBC Three on July 29, 2010. A United States version has been commissioned by Court TV.

As a magician Wilson’s television and film credits include the video series Royal Road to Card Magic (2005, L&L Publishing, based on a classic book The Royal Road to Card Magic from 1949), Hit the Road with Paul Wilson and Lee Asher, Knock ‘Em Dead, Twists Of Fate, The Restaurant Act, and The Unreal Work with Paul Wilson and Jason England.

Wilson has published several articles in MAGIC Magazine and Genii Magazine. His books include Chaos Theories, The Little Black Book, Obscure Acts, Omerta, Crash Course in Brain Surgery, The Inslow Effect, 13, Miracle Card in Beer Bottle, The Finnish Line, and over a dozen online manuscripts. Wilson is also the inventor of the “Triple Threat” version of Connie Hayden’s original gaff. Jamie Schoolcraft’s version of Paul’s gaff is known as 3CM. He is also credited as the artist who drew the pictures in Richard Wiseman‘s book “Magic in Theory”.

The lecture was most informative with some good advice about the importance of magic in the lives of others.  After his lecture we invited him to have a drink with us and we found a nearby bar and spent an hour and a half catching up with him and his current projects that include a documentary on the art of magic and a book on the con game.  I have known Paul for a goodly number of years from my contact with him at The Castle and at dean Dill’s Shoppe.  We only catch up occasionally, but when we do both my like and my knowledge of magic have improved.

            We returned to the Palacio for the close-up gala that started at 8:00.  There were five magicians on the bill and a presenter who is also a magician.  The two standout performers for me were Paul Wilson and Javi Benítez.  I had seen Javi before here in Valencia during the 24 Horas. He was a bit nervous in front of the sold-out auditorium, but his version of The Gypsy Thread is the best that I have ever seen and his closing effect – a tribute to his teacher and his inspiration, Arturo de Ascanio, was thrilling and the ending brought a tear or two to my eye.

            We caught up with Paquito and Gioco after the show and, as fate would have it, we ended up at Sargatoki once again.  It was jammed and we were fortunate to find a table outdoors.  We discovered that although most bar, restaurants and cafes in Vitoria have outdoor tables, there is no table service, per se.  You go up to the bar and place your order and carry it out yourself.  They will only deliver dishes that need to be cooked.  We ordered a variety of things, as well as a beer or two.  We paid the bill and then went off on our separate ways.

            There were only two things that we wanted to do on Saturday.  One was to have lunch with our friends Carmen and Antonio and the other was to see the stage show.  We had tickets for the first performance at 6:30.  After a quick breakfast at a nearby café we began our exploration of the city.  Our focus was the old part of the city where the Fournier card Museum is located.  The sun was shining brightly and there were many photo opportunities for Susan.

            We discovered that Vitoria won the award for the Green City of Europe in 2012.  The city is clean, well kept, laid out in a very orderly pattern with very interesting architecture.  It was a most pleasant morning and we walked far and near.  Little did we know that we would end up walking close to eight miles that day.  As 2:00 drew near we headed back to the Palacio to catch up with Carmen and Antonio. I popped inside for a few minutes and chatted with Toni Cachadiña, the dean of Barcelona magic, and Jesús Etcheverry, the author of a four book set on the magic of Ascanio. I also caught up with Luis Iglesias, the best simultaneous translator that magic has ever seen.  We worked together on the translation of Ascanio’s book on knives and, as it turns out, we will work together on another project sometime this spring.

            We had lunch at a nearby restaurant called La Mesa.  The food was excellent and so was the company.  When we finished Carmen and Antonio headed for a lecture and Susan and I headed back to the hotel to rest up a bit. The Teatro Principal, the site of the stage gala, turned out to be a fifteen-minute walks away from our hotel.  We took our seats in the sixth row and enjoyed a very diverse show with some very good magic.  With the exception of the presenter, Karim, I had not seen any of these acts before.

            After the performance we stopped off at you know where.  Afterwards we headed back to the hotel and packed up our things.  Toni Cachadiña had invited me to meet up with him and a group of magicians at a nearby pub, but since the start time was 2:00 AM, I passed on that get-together.

            On Sunday we caught the 10:14 train to Chamartín and the 3:40 AVE to Valencia.  We got home around 6:00 and unpacked.  It turns out that not only did I bring back many wonderful memories from Vitoria, but I also brought back a rather nasty cold. Hopefully I can use my magic skills to make it disappear.

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