Next month in Brooklyn I will get my chance to attend as I am also scheduled to perform for guests in the VIP Oddities Lounge (sponsored by Atlas Obscura). I look forward to both performing at and perusing the Holiday of Wonders Oddities Flea Market in December.
The Oddities Flea Market, an intriguing event that occurs seasonally in New York, LA, and Chicago, contains, "an endless sea of strange and unusual objects...curated for fans of the macabre." I have been wanting to attend for the last couple of years, thinking I could pick up something interesting for the Suitcase of Wonders.
Next month in Brooklyn I will get my chance to attend as I am also scheduled to perform for guests in the VIP Oddities Lounge (sponsored by Atlas Obscura). I look forward to both performing at and perusing the Holiday of Wonders Oddities Flea Market in December.
As readers of this Diary know, I, Smallini, the World's Tiniest Magician, have performed variations of Harry Houdini's illusions in the past as part of the Suitcase of Wonders theater show; Two of Houdini's stage illusions that I still perform are the Vanishing Elephant and Water Cell Escape. And two that are still in development are Metamorphosis and Walking Through a Brick Wall.
I have been working on the Wall for the better part of a year. Lately, I have completed construction on the curtain frame, which I briefly stand behind during my transposition from one side of the wall to the other. I designed the frame in Tinkercad and cut it out using the Glowforge laser cutter. The curtain itself still needs to be cut and sewn (the red cloth pictured is temporary).
My version of Walking Through a Brick Wall is predicated on the building of the wall onstage in real time using actual mortar and miniature cement bricks. The construction of the wall takes approximately eight minutes while the audience sits and enjoys refreshments and a live musician. The transposition itself occurs in the blink of an eye, and afterwards I give the wall away to a lucky spectator as a treasured souvenir.
After trying out several methods to accomplish Walking Through a Brick Wall, I've finally set upon one that I think is highly deceptive. In fact, this illusion might be the most deceptive I've ever performed. Anticipated assumptions about the secret of the effect are sure to include trap doors, powered motors (servos), thread, magnets, or even a double (I can assure the world that there is only one Smallini). None of them are employed here.
Despite all the time and effort I've put into this illusion, I don't think it will be performed more than a few times; The cost of materials is too high, and the presentation's unusual length of time prohibit it from becoming a mainstay in my regular act.
Not wanting to have all this work go for close to naught, I've decided to film the performance and make it available for viewing on the world's YouTube. This will be a tricky undertaking as I want to make sure the deceptiveness remains intact within the screen viewing experience. So the performance will have to be shot in one take, and I will have to make sure Mr. Widdle's hands (which build the wall and handle the props) stay in the frame at all times. If I can maintain the high level of deception while also producing an artful and professional experience, I hope Walking Through a Brick Wall will be a proud record of one of my highest magical accomplishments.
Every weekend an old lady sells trinkets, clothing and used DVDs at the same spot around the corner from where I live for as long as I’ve been in this NYC neighborhood, nearly seven years. In all that time, I’ve never seen anything she’s sold that’s remotely interested me, until yesterday afternoon, when I spotted a gleaming cone-shaped glass cover, also known as a cloche.
But let me rewind to yesterday morning, when I was playing handball with my son at his schoolyard down the street. We heard sirens blaring outside the yard, sounds that don’t normally turn your head if you live in New York City; A firetruck, and ambulance, they pass by several times a day, sometimes a lot more. But these siren sounds seemed different, more sustained and concentrated. Something was happening on the street down from the schoolyard, but I didn’t see smoke or hear guns or shouting, so we continued to play and I forgot about them.
Later that day I walked past the old lady who sells her stuff on the street across from the back of the schoolyard. I spotted the cloche, a fine looking thick glass cover with a dark wooden stand and a brass knob on top. I was surprised to see such a nice piece among her usual assortment of junky items. I knew I wanted it for the Suitcase of Wonders, thinking that I could perhaps “animate” something underneath it, or failing that, simply use it to display a unique item. The old lady saw me eyeing the cloche and told me was fifty cents. I said, “Great. I’ll take it!” and handed her the money. She asked if I wanted a plastic bag for it, and I declined, telling her that I lived around the corner so I would just carry it.
When the old lady heard I was a neighborhood resident she asked if I had heard about what happened this morning. She said a man in her building (that she was sitting in front of), jumped from the fifth floor onto the sidewalk. That’s what all the sirens were about earlier. She said the man’s wife had just left him.
The shock of that news stayed with me as I walked home with the cloche. Most likely, I will always be reminded of that tragic incident when I look at that piece, never mind my walking past the building regularly and probably getting a chill. I briefly considered getting rid of the cloche because of that dark association, but after playing around with it for a while (testing out an animated skull - of all things! - underneath it, I decided to keep it for the Suitcase of Wonders. I know the episode will always be there, under the glass, a little reminder about life and how it can be taken, sometimes by our own hand.
Last month, while performing at an event for Atlas Obscura, I finally tried out an idea that had been in development for a while.
Many years ago, during the first performances of Suitcase of Wonders, Smallini would speak to the audience by way of P.T. Widdle’s mouth. While moving the Smallini figure slightly with his fingers in full view of the audience, Mr. Widdle would speak as Smallini during the magic tricks. For a couple of reasons this technique never really quite gelled in my mind. First, I noticed audiences looking back and forth between Smallini and Mr. Widdle standing above speaking, which distracted from them seeing all the action on the stage. Secondly, and quite frankly, I never felt fully comfortable with my vocal acting as Smallini. While I did like the patter I wrote for him, my natural voice didn’t seem to be Smallini’s, and I could not find an accent that I thought fit quite right. Eventually, I dropped the idea of Smallini speaking altogether, deciding that it would be best if he were silent throughout the show.
Even though I enjoy performing with the silent Smallini, I’ve never fully lost the notion of him speaking again in some way. Not long ago, while doing research for my Houdini tribute show, I listened to the fabled and brief recording of the famous magician addressing his audience. I liked the tinny sound of the recording and the halting, confident way Houdini spoke. I thought Smallini should sound that way if he ever spoke again.
At the start of the Vanishing Elephant trick, Smallini is on the stage apron in front of the curtain. He’s positioned there as leftover blocking from when he used to perform a prelude to the main trick. Before raising the curtain I move Smallini a little bit with my fingers on his clear acetate stand that sticks through the back of the curtain. The audience always smiles and giggles at this.
During a rehearsal of that trick, it occurred to me that if I ever wanted Smallini to speak again, it could be as introductions to the tricks when he’s standing in front of the curtain. While this would solve the problem of the audience missing action on the stage while they looked back and from between him and Mr. Widdle, I still would not feel comfortable voice acting Smallini in real time for the reasons I previously stated.
Then I realized that “real time” was the problem. The Houdini recording gave me the idea that I could perhaps fashion recordings of Smallini that play as he introduces the tricks. For the Atlas Obscura show I created two introductions - one generic and one mentioning the specific event. I recorded my own voice but filtered and changed it so that it was higher pitched and slightly distorted, sounding similar to the Houdini recording.
At the start of each trick, Smallini stood in front of the curtain. I reached around to the front of the Suitcase and flipped up the handle, revealing a brass switch. I flipped the switch and a red light right above it turned on. Smallini then began speaking. During the introduction I stood to the side with one arm reached inside the theater (moving Smallini), and the other holding a (fake) cigarette. When the introduction was finished, I flipped the switch (and the red light) off, put my cigarette away, and turned on the music for the next trick.
One of the introductions went like this: “Hello Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Smallini, the World’s Tiniest Magician. Thank you for coming to the Great Forgotten Garden Party, and enjoy the show!”
I’m pleased with this new way for Smallini to speak. In the future I plan to customize the introductions to specific tricks, while also incorporate some subtle bits of business for Mr. Widdle to engage in while Smallini is speaking, like looking impatient or bored. I’m also toying with the idea of removing my arm from the theater halfway through the introduction, and Smallini would still be speaking and moving (that would involve some simple robotics under the stage).
Several days ago the Suitcase of Wonders appeared at Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers, NY, as part of the Great Forgotten Garden Party, a big wonderful summertime event put on by the Atlas Obscura organization.
Invoking the spirit of the 1920’s garden parties commonly thrown by Minnie Untermyer (wife of prominent layer and civic leader, Samuel Untermyer) at her scenic estate overlooking the Hudson river, this updated version contained both a vintage and current vibe. Throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, one could hear live performances from a Slavic brass-band, a string-based soundscape, a world-renowned theremin player, and a groovy house/nu-wave/disco sounding band.
The gardens were decorated with lovely mood lighting, and guests were scattered throughout the grounds (many dressed in some version of period attire), picnicking on blankets while dancers frolicked about and water nymphs played in the garden waterfalls. As part of the event, purveyors and demonstrators (including a bug whisperer) were set up around the grounds for guests to happen upon serendipitously.
At sunset, there was a ceremony involving dancers carrying lit torches and some chanting, before more drinking, music and merriment.
The Suitcase of Wonders was set slightly back from a gravel path that surrounded one of the “lower gardens.” Nicely manicured with more than adequate tree cover for summertime shade, the lawn attracted several small parties of guests who set out their picnic wares over their blankets.
Since it was a walled garden, my back was to an iron gate set into the long ivy-covered wall. The Suitcase theater faced the garden, where I set up two comfortable chairs for people to watch Smallini’s performances.
I was happy that guests would have to wander a bit in order to find me. I loved the idea of them happening upon this miniature magic show theater during a stroll. And that’s exactly what happened throughout the late afternoon and into the evening. Every so often, guests (mostly couples) would stop on the path and look curiously at the theater, and me leaning against the gate “smoking” a cigarette (see Fake Cigarettes entry earlier in this Diary).
After inviting them to have a seat for a brief performance of two or three minutes, I began the show. Most guests did not know what they were going to see, although some people did seek me out after noticing the listing in the program (described as a miniature magic theater, featuring Smallini, the World’s Tiniest Magician).
The performances went splendidly, with very few minor glitches. I was especially prepared for this event, knowing I would be outdoors and performing for three hours (with a half-hour break).
Reactions from the guests couldn’t have been better. They were charmed, amazed, and delighted. My new introduction by Smallini on the apron of the stage at the start of each trick went over well, I thought. After flicking on a switch just under the handle of the Suitcase, a red light came on and Smallini began by introducing himself and welcoming you to the Garden Party, in his recorded Houdini-sounding voice. This automaton simulation (controlled by my fingers behind the curtain), worked as a nice opening before the curtain was raised for the magic performance.
I cycled through my repertoire of a current half-dozen tricks several times throughout the course of the event. My one new trick, The Princess and The Guillotine (working title), was exciting to perform for the first time, and I was relieved that it went over well.
Daytime monarch butterflies that fluttered around the foliage as I performed gave way to evening fireflies that blinked and glowed around my audiences - a slight that was truly special. As the sun set, a black cat ran across my path during one performance.
It was also during dusk when I thought as I spied the initials “DB ‘69” carved into the wall next to the gate behind me. It gave me chills to think that the infamous Yonkers serial killer might have been at this spot years ago.
As the picnickers rolled up their blankets and headed for the upper garden to listen to main musical act, I was left alone for the remaining thirty minutes of my scheduled time, presiding over the theater, which now had its orange-tinted exterior lights turned on. Before wrapping up a few more guests wandered by (they saw the theater lights from a distance) and I performed in the dark for them. The Suitcase theater has its own lighting so the stage is clearly visible.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed performing at this throwback Garden Party in a hidden treasure of a location. The Atlas Obscura people were professional and a delight to work with. Reflecting on the event after a couple of days, my only regret was not applying a little mosquito repellent :)
I, Smallini, the World's Tiniest Magician, have been engaged to perform at an unusual and enticing event next month. Hosted by Atlas Obscura (the online magazine and travel company), the third annual Great Forgotten Garden Party is held at the Untermyer Gardens Conservatory, overlooking the Hudson River in Yonkers NY.
I am looking forward to performing at this event, as I very much like the Atlas Obscura organization, and I'm intrigued by this interesting location. I will be part of a menagerie of unique performers, demonstrators and purveyors that guests will encounter all afternoon and into the evening.
I am also excited to debut the new version of an illusion I haven't performed for over twelve years - the Princess and the Guillotine. It is much more streamlined and contains an extra effect not in the original version.
I look forward to reporting on this event next month.
A continuing delight of living in New York City is seeing shows at the New Victory Theater on 42nd street. The New Vic is New York’s only theater that presents professional children’s entertainment from around the world year-round: “theater, dance, puppetry, circus, opera, physical theater and other types of performance art from around the world.” [wikipedia]
Two years ago I took one of my sons to see magician Jason Bishop at the New Vic. My son was selected to come onstage, where Mr. Bishop changed a crumply dollar bill into a crisp fifty dollar bill that my son was allowed to keep. Talk about a moment that he’ll never forget! At intermission, I asked him if he was looking forward to the second half of the show. He replied, “Yeah! I hope I get another fifty!”
Last month my whole family attended a performance of SNAP!, an ensemble of young South Korean illusionists that the New Vic described as, “Mixing dexterous sleight of hand, Chaplin-esque vaudevillian comedy, and ingenious visual effects, SNAP! conjures a marvelous, magical cabaret perfect for the whole family.”
SNAP! was a lot of fun. One of the great things about the show was that it contained no dialogue. Magic without patter presents many challenges for performers, in terms of communicating a story and maintaining clarity. I think it’s easier to do when the structure is vaudeville and/or cabaret, like SNAP!. Even so, care must be taken to make sure every movement is understood and does not confuse the audience. I experience this in my own act, which is also silent. There are times when I sometimes wish I could just say something to clarify what is happening or move the action forward. On the other hand, it is freeing not to have to worry about a spoken script, language barriers, and other potential perils that accompany a spoken word act.
Highlights of SNAP! for me included the cigar-box-juggling and magic act, which was probably the best act using that type of juggling that I’ve seen. The boxes were decorated to look like books, which seems like an obvious choice to make given the shape of the boxes, but I’ve never seen that done before. Like most of the acts in SNAP!, the box juggler also used manipulative magic and technical tricks to wonderful effect.
Although a little slow (my kids were futzing in their seats, and my wife yawned a little), the “Alchemist” act had an amazing effect of an appearance and vanishing of a large metal ring. As the magician slowly turned the ring in his hands, it looked like it was slowly dissolving (with sparks flying) right before your eyes.
I was delighted to see that one of the first magic tricks I ever bought was used extensively in this show. The red Dancing Hank was seamlessly integrated into a larger routine throughout the show where the hank escapes from a bottle and flies around the stage. I still own my Dancing Hank and even used it in my act years ago where it appeared out of a mini Chick Pan and danced around my Suitcase (more about this trick in my book, “A Look Into My Act,” available on this website).
Then there was the routine using a trick found in most magic sets today - the DLight thumb tip. Even though most people in the audience probably knew the basic secret to this effect, it was a beautiful and funny routine, which of course, fools you in the moment.
There were other fantastic bits of business throughout SNAP!, including a clever take on the old hand shadowgraphy entertainment, and some cool projection visuals. The show left the children and adults in the audience cheering, and I left the New Vic once again with a warm feeling inside. I’m so happy my kids get to see professional live entertainment of the caliber that living in New York provides, and at a venue as impressive and venerable as the New Victory Theater.
Max Maven in 2007 (wikipedia)
Recently I attended an evening lecture at Tannens Magic Shop in New York City. It was by the great Max Maven. Although the room was small (accommodating maybe fifty or so persons - packed very close together), it was professionally lit with tasteful displays of magic paraphernalia, both of which contributed to create a wonderfully mysterious ambiance, perfect for a magic show/lecture.
Actually, the last time I had been in Tannens at night was for a magic show (Magic After Hours by Noah Levine, who uses the setting of the old magic shop as an integral part of his performance). Credit for the elegant interior design of the shop goes to owner Adam Blumenthal, who is also a professional lighting designer.
So even though this was a lecture, the feel of the room combined with the stature of the speaker made it seem like we were about to witness a performance.
Maven stated at the beginning that the structure of the lecture was to be a performance of a trick, followed by an explanation and questions from the audience about the trick. There were to be three tricks, an intermission, then three more. Some ground rules were established (like not asking questions during the performance part), and a display of items for sale (lecture notes, tricks, books, etc.) was pointed out, to be made available during intermission and after the talk.
Then the show/lecture began!
True to his word, Maven performed an amazingly simple, yet powerful mind-reading trick (followed by stunned applause), then immediately explained the method, before actually teaching the trick to the audience so that they could perform it themselves if they chose to. Questions specific to the trick were then taken.
As this structure was followed for the next trick and the one after, I noticed something interesting. Maven was receiving applause (and “Oohs” and “Ahhs”) not only for his performances but also during the explanations. Owing to how great a performer, historian, and generally interesting person Max Maven is, his comments about subtleties, reasonings, little side facts, and anecdotes, were just as entertaining as the actual performances.
This reaction, of course, is no surprise, given that the audience was comprised surely almost entirely of magicians. Of course, they would be as enthralled by the explanations as to the performances - they’re magicians after all. But I couldn’t help wondering if maybe, just maybe, laymen would also be entertained by the explanations as well. What if a magic show for the public also included the explanations?
I’ll pause here to acknowledge the heresy (in the magic fraternity) of that last statement. It’s the sort of thought that could get one thrown out of magic clubs, derided by professionals and amateurs alike as “exposure,” a magic anathema of the worst sort. The first rule of magic, forever unquestionable, is to never tell the secret. Every magician, heck, every layman knows that! Indeed, the canon of magic literature contains deeply thought out treatises about the myriad ways to ensure, amplify and extend the holy grail of the spectator being thoroughly fooled and remaining so for a long, long time after the trick has ended.
So let me say that first off, I’m not suggesting that every magic performance should be followed by a flat-out reveal of the secret method, ala The Masked Magician. I’m not even suggesting that Maven’s lecture, exactly as I saw it, be presented as a magic show for the public. For one thing, he would not be teaching the magic to the audience, nor would he be selling merchandise related to the learning of the tricks - two staples of a magic lecture. Rather, the “show” might be trimmed to the performance and then the explanation (“This is what I did” instead of “This is what you need to do”).
Many magicians argue that in most cases spectators do not benefit from learning the secret of a trick. They get disappointed when they find out how simple a secret can be, or they are simply confused or just plain bored. To some extent I agree with all of that.
However, magic is an artistic endeavor, and as such there should be no hard and fast rules. I believe there can be cases when an explanation (note: not “exposure” or “reveal”) of a trick is a valid artistic choice, no matter how convoluted that may seem on the surface. Examples can be seen in some of the work of Penn and Teller, performed in their style, of course.
As I reflected upon Max Maven’s lecture, I imagined just a performance instead, typical of basically every magic show - in this case, six tricks performed and that’s it. Of course, it would have been amazing, with the audience left happily scratching their heads in wonderment long after the show, just as Maven intended. What then, if the explanations (just as entertainingly presented) were included? What would the differences really be for the audience? There’s no doubt that the experience would be different - but for better? For worse? Or just different?
Let’s break it down, imagining an audience of laymen. Perhaps the show is billed as (apologies to Max Maven), “An Evening of Wonder and Understanding” or “An Evening of Amazement and Apperception.” The audience experiences a trick - they are stunned. They applause. There is a beat or two and then Maven talks about the method, gently and coying at first, not revealing all the nuances and subtleties just yet. He explains in a way that conveys his respect and thoughtfulness about the method(s) and history and all the details surrounding it. As with the performance of the effect, he builds momentum in the performance of the explanation, where at the end there is a revelation of appreciation, joy, and respect by the audience that mirrors, in a sense, the result of the performance of the trick.
What then? Will the immediate explanation of the effect diminish the experience of wonder from the performance, especially down the road, when recalling the evening one hour or one week later? The answer to this question will differ for different audience members, just as with general reactions from a magic performance - some will be blown away more than others, for whatever reasons. But based on my experience from this lecture informing my conjecture of this hypothetical lecture/performance (and trying to minimize my involvement and love for magic), I can imagine laymen that would recall both the initial wonderment and the subsequent fascination of the explanation with equal enthusiasm. The question then becomes, is that a lesser experience and recollection than just the performance and it’s remembrance?
In other words, can the spectator savor the initial amazement (remembering the feeling/delight of being fooled), and then also love the explanation; the cleverness of the method, the circumstances surrounding development of the routine, the little subtleties the magician employed, the history and personalities of other individuals involved, the stories about previous performances of the effect - all these were included in Max Maven’s entertaining explanations, and most of them, I believe, would be understood and appreciated by laymen.
An analogy that comes to mind is a book reading/lecture. A piece of art, the book, is read by the author (the performance). And then the author discusses the book (the explanation). The audience is at first mesmerized by the reading; They are taken in by the story, swept away in the world the author conjures. That is the magic trick. Then that spell is broken as the author explains his/her motivations, context, history and other interesting information surrounding the writing of the book. But during that explanation, another spell is weaved - one of appreciation, respect, and revelations. Combined, the event is a success. Having heard the explanation the audience still keeps the story within them, maybe loving it even more.
Can the same thing be possible for magic? Since this is a thought experiment, probably never to be undertaken by any reputable magician, we can only surmise. But my takeaway is that the experience of a magic lecture as a public performance (given the right magician, material, and structure) is a legitimate artistic choice, leaving the expected wonder firmly in place, while potentially including a new and exciting avenue of experience for the spectator not yet explored by magicians; one that might actually enhance the value of the amazement and the appreciation of the art.
I, Smallini, am very pleased to report that excellent progress has been made in the development of my version of Houdini's Walking Through A Brick Wall. With the aid of Mr. P.T. Widdle, we ran through a full "walk-through" (Ha!) of the illusion on the Suitcase of Wonders stage. This included building the wall in real time using a trowel and a bucket of mortar (both mini-sized, of course). The result was a solid and heavy structure of quite an imposing nature, most certainly so for any individuals who might attempt to walk through it.
While the method is complex, it is also progressing well. I should be ready to run this illusion with music and lighting very soon.
I am happy to say that it is still possible to procure a magic book "find" in an ordinary book store these days. Magic books are notoriously hard to come by in used book stores as they are most often scooped up by dealers and collectors before they have a chance to hit the shelves. If you can find a used book store these days, chances are there might be a copy of "Magic for Dummies" (actually not a bad book) or some such title tucked away in the Games section.
An exception here in New York City is the famous Strand bookstore on 14th street. Downstairs they will often have at least a dozen copies of very good used magic books, usually Dover titles. Last week, I saw the spine of this beauty, "Secrets of Magic" by Walter B. Gibson (famous writer of The Shadow radio series). The cover is fantastic, and when I opened it I saw that it was a first edition, published in the year of my birth, 1967.
It's such a fun book to leaf through, containing fantastical dream-like illustrations and wonderful prose from Gibson. And I am happy to have found it serendipitously, the best way to discover a magic book in my opinion.
It was a rainy night in Astoria, Queens when I first saw it, idling on the street in front of a Greek restaurant. It was so long that it looked like it took up half the block, yet it was so black that it looked practically invisible in the darkness, illuminated only by some orange-colored light from a streetlamp above. As I slowly walked past it, I noticed a small handwritten sign in the back window: “For Sale”
The next day, that 1969 black Cadillac Deville was mine.
I can’t remember if I had the notion the night I saw the car or maybe it was the next day, but by the end of the week I was sketching out ideas to turn this shiny black behemoth into a magic car. What is a magic car, you ask? In my mind, it was an automobile that had some tricks built into it. The first one that occured to me, and maybe it was this image that prompted me to buy the car in the first place, was that of a human-sized rabbit being “pulled” out of the trunk. As it happened, I already owned a pretty nice rabbit costume (how I came in possession of that is another story). I envisioned showing the empty trunk to a spectator selected from a crowd, then closing the trunk. Presto! When opened again the rabbit would appear.
Another idea I had for the magic car was color-changing hubcaps. No method was ever devised for that. I also pictured a Pepper’s Ghost-type illusion (seen from the front) involving the slow transformation of someone into some thing in the passenger seat. Finally, I was thinking of an effect involving the car windows going up and down - not really sure where that was going.
But the image of the human-sized white rabbit popping out of the trunk of this giant black Cadillac, that was what sent me to Olga’s Garage in Astoria - that and a need for a new transmission. Olga was beautiful, I remember that, but she delivered the bad news that the piece of metal separating the trunk from the back seat (where the rabbit would be hiding), was too thick to cut through, even with a blow torch.
From there, the rest of the short-lived dream of a magic car vanished. However, I enjoyed owning that boat-of-a-car for another year or so before it broke down in Kissimmee, Florida, where I traded it in for a white Beretta.
Is there a magic car out there? If so, I haven’t seen or heard of it. Has there ever been one? Will there ever be one?
My Magic Cadillac didn’t turn out the way I envisioned, but it did turn out to be magical for me, as it was the car in which I went on the first date with my wife, right after the fire department put out the small fire that was burning on top of the engine as I pulled into the movie theater parking lot to meet her.