02/02/2011 04:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Magic Castle: Ex-Nerds With Birds

We all have hobbies. Some of us run. Some of us knit. Some of us hide birds in our pants. We find fellow aficionados, and we've got instant friends. There are running clubs, knitting clubs, and since 1963, a private club in LA where those who hide birds in their pants can gather and impress fellow bird pantsers. It's a romantic castle on the tip top of a hill in Hollywood. They meet there with card enthusiasts and those who like to play with coins. It makes for a magical time.

This Magic Castle is a cavernous mansion. Intimidating. Dark. Filled with secrets and trap doors. Private.  Most nights, though, they open the doors to muggles -- laymen, if you will -- those who have never once had a bird near their pants.  The mystery of the foyer alone warns visitors to not share what goes on behind its doors. And here I am, about to share what goes on behind its doors. I could probably get a lot of birds in my pants for this.

The Magic Castle requires that you know a magician member to grace the entrance. But here's the first secret I will reveal: if you send them an email, there's a good chance they'll email you back a golden ticket. If that's the case though, the mansion caretakers will force you to dine in the castle. Let me advise: these are magicians, not chefs. Magicians only know magic. Not only can they not cook, they seem unable to hire anyone who can. The dinner, while served in a gothic parlor, is overpriced and sad. It's probably best to finagle a friendship with a magician so you can forgo the food. Try Craigslist.

I've been there eight times. Not to brag, but I'm on Craigslist. A lot. During my many castle jaunts, I've never once seen a female magician. I've seen woman-like magicians with ponytails, delicate features and bad pantsuits, but never a real female. And that's because most of these guys started learning magic in their basements during high school. They were nerds. Big ones. These mouth-breathing kids started hiding scarves in their fists in lieu of their regularly scheduled games of Risk. It's impossible for any girl to stoop to such level of nerddom (Although, if your dad gets you a He-Man slimer set and that's all you want to play with, you can get pretty low. At least that's what I heard.). Fortunately for these former basement dwellers, the tables have turned. Now these magicians gather in a castle, delight celebrities and groupies with their scarves and coins, and have insane mind-reading capabilities. It looks like the nerds have won, my friends.

During my last visit, a well-coiffed magician read my mind in the Parlor of Prestidigitation. Prestidigitation means 'sleight of hand,' but it's used instead to help audience members practice for any upcoming spelling bees. There are two other theaters, the Close-up Gallery and the Palace of Mystery. I usually catch at least one show in each per visit. This time I saw a famous magician (famous in the magician world... I forgot his name) pull about ten large birds from his body in the Palace of Mystery. Definite mystery. I'm hoping they came from the lower pant leg region. They were very large birds.

Then came the Parlor. The magician said he needed people familiar with cards to volunteer. Although the last game I played was Go Fish with my grandma in 1994, he must have thought I looked like a gambler, as he picked me. He showed me the full deck and asked me to choose one card. I was allowed only to think about it while he repeated 'red' and 'black.' He explained that he'd studied 'tells,' which are subtle changes in behavior that give clues as to what a person is thinking. Just by watching my face, he determined I'd picked a black card. Then he repeated a few numbers while maintaining eye contact, and presto! He guessed my card. Just by reading my face! 

Either the dude had a magical deck of cards that were all black spades (which is totally possible), or we can tell what people are thinking based on studying their faces! If the latter is true, why aren't we all learning to read tells? Poker players study tells and look where it gets them-- in a pair of shiny sunglasses at a table full of men. Sweet. If we all spent some time studying faces, we'd kill at Twenty Questions. We'd catch cheaters. Sex would be better. We could talk to babies and animals. Politicians would be forced into truth. We'd understand the patterns of adult acne. Conversations would be strange as we'd sometimes have to repeat 'Do I look fat in this?' several times. But think of the possibilities!

Magicians are onto something. They can peer into our minds. They have an exclusive mansion. They can store very large birds in their pants. If only they could make a sandwich.

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