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Photo of magician Emile autographed to Buma

Magic is for the birds!

It was towards the end of the 1960’s and Emile who was a trained draftsmen was presently unemployed in his profession, leading him to driving a taxi in order to make ends meet.  Though Emile was getting booked as an entertainer, it was not nearly enough to cover his expenses.

At times, Emile was driving two back-to-back shifts and using the street curb in front of the magic store as a taxi stand. It was not an unusual sight to find Emile asleep in his cab curbside when we arrived at 7:30 am to prep the store for opening.

It was on one such morning that we found Emile pacing back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the store clearly highly agitated.  Upon seeing us he immediately ran in our direction. “Buma I need an appearing cane.  In fact two I need two appearing canes one for each pants front pocket.  Wait a minute Buma, maybe I need four appearing canes! Two for my pants and two for the pockets of the jacket I wear in the cab.”

As his hands moved along his body, obviously counting the pockets he was seeing in his mind, he said aloud to himself, “Damn too many pockets!” After only a slight pause to ponder, Emile began again. “Money clip!” he shouted.  “I use a money clip!”  By this time Buma was looking at Emile with grave concern, for he had known Emile since the 1940’s and couldn’t fathom the Emile standing before us.

Having unlocked the store’s door to begin our morning routine we all entered the store and its warmth.  Once inside we learned the source of Emile’s agitation and his sudden desire for as many appearing canes as he had pockets.

Driving the graveyard shift in the San Francisco of the late 1960’s was inherently dangerous. Thus Emile like all taxi drivers lived in the constant fear that one night his number would inevitably come up and he would be the victim of a robbery or something even worse.

It just so happened that his number had come up just 4 hours earlier.

No sooner had the fare gotten into his cab at Aquatic park then Emile’s throat was the recipient of a knife blade being held to it. Its holder instructed Emile to drive straight out third street bridge to what then was San Francisco’s no man’s land of those days.  Though Emile did as instructed the knife pressure against his throat never let up.  Third street of those years was nothing but abandoned infrastructure and urban blight.  It was in this area Emile was told to: pull up an alley, get out of the car, hand over his cash and prepare to die.  It was at this moment in the process of grasping his pocketed money clip containing his night’s receipts that he inadvertently also grasped the silk attached to his pocketed Walsh appearing cane.  As his hand thrust forth with the cash, the silk attached appearing cane somehow triggered and expanded directly into the assailant’s face, startling him into a shocked state. Emile immediately retreated to his taxi and drove back to the curb in front of the magic store where he had been reliving the incident over and over in his mind, addled in the knowing that the inadvertent triggering of the Walsh appearing cane had saved his life.

Reaching for the Walsh appearing canes Buma handed over, pro bono, two to Emile.  He briefly examined them and shook his head pocketing only one.  Emile said “to replace the one I left on third street.”  Walking out the door to his parked taxi he added looking over his shoulder “no more graveyard shifts for me”.

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