Friday, January 06, 2006

And the Rain Came

We asked for it, we needed, but we weren't prepared for it like this! Starting last Thursday afternoon, it began to rain like it's never rained before! It rained non-stop until well after New Year's Day. The streets were flooded and the drainage systems were backed up from all the water. In fact, a couple of people couldn't even get here on Monday. My sister, Jan, mailed me pictures of her house, and it looked like it was sitting on top of a river. In fact, the water was so high, her neighbor's car was floating on the water! Tony lost his power over the weekend for an entire day, and the rest of us seemed to escape any peril. Now we're gearing up because it's supposed to rain again in a few days. I advised my sister to buy a boat!

Although we had a soggy New Year's here, I hope you all were able to enjoy last weekend with your family and friends. It was pretty low key at our house, as we rang in the New Year by watching the Twilight Zone Marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel (my favorite thing to do every New Years). Oh, and after all the holiday shows, Mike decided to celebrate the New Year by doing the following:

Carl Ballantine

We all had a slight scare Wednesday as we found out that our good friend, Carl Ballantine, was rushed to the hospital and was believed to be suffering either a heart attack or a stroke! Happy ending though, as it turned out that one of the medications that Carl takes was causing his potassium levels to increase, which caused his heart rate to increase as well. The doctors have decided to keep him a couple of days for observation, but he's doing very well. When I spoke to Robert Baxt last night, he was happy to report that Carl was complaining about the lousy room service at the hospital and cracking jokes with the nurses. I'm very happy that things worked out so well. If you'd like to email Carl a get well note, email them to me at, and I'll make sure he receives them.

Here at the shop, we're running faster than before; you'd think Christmas is still around the corner. The New Year promises a ton of new merchandise, and we've already felt the impact the first week of January as evidenced by the new items on the web site. The biggest problem we're having is room; we're running out of it. I remember when we first moved into this building about ten years ago, I thought it would be more than enough. Now, we can barely move from one department to another! We keep putting off the prospect of moving to a larger location, however, we've torn down walls, built racks, and even a second story loft. Who knows; we might just have to start looking at the realities of moving to a mega-space. Oh, the thought of moving all this again just doesn't appeal to me.

Marvin Burger, AKA, the Buma.

As a kid, there was absolutely no place to buy magic in Fresno. When I was about 12 years-old, my parents found a place in San Francisco called House of Magic. That's where my real magic education began. The owner of the shop, Marvin Burger, affectionately known as Buma, took me under his wing, and I learned about all aspects of magic, current and antique. There was nothing like a visit to Buma's shop. It's there where I met guys like Pete Biro, Emil Clifton, Martin Lewis, Woody Woodward, Tommy Cooper, Vic Kirk, and of course, the incomparable Paul Chosse! You never knew who would walk in the door! There was no greater influence on my life as a child, and the House of Magic was beyond compare. It had a vibe about it that was unequalled! After Buma passed away, his son, Mark, took over and ran the business until just a few weeks ago. I was very sad to hear that, after almost 40 years, the House of Magic closed its doors forever. It may be the end of an era, but what great memories I'll always have.

Until next time,


1 comment:

Paul Chosse said...

Hi Paul!

What nice things you say! You're right, of course, BUMA was "The Man", and I learned more about magic in the years with him than most people get in a lifetime.

Plus, he was like a father to me - my parents met him several times, and he came back to Boston and stayed with them, and to this day my mother occasionally says to me, "That Marvin, what a wonderful friend he was!" They so appreciated how good he was to thier son, 3,000 miles from home in San Francisco.

I remember your trips to the City well. All day events, really. Sometimes a weekend! And when you first opened your store, my God! we heard from you at LEAST once a day! I know Buma sometimes gave you a hard time, but you have no idea how much he cared for you. He'd get off the phone with you laughing, his day brighterned up a bit by whatever nonsense the two of you were cooking up that day...

Remember his famous, "If I tell you that, you'll know as much as I do..." refrain? That was his way of getting out of giving up a source, or making you do a little work for your information... Or how about, "There's a lid for every pot!" - his way of telling me to wait a while before I started discounting the stuff I thought would never sell...

"What's New?" - He hated that question! "If you haven't seen it, it's new!"

Were you a member of that internationally infamous magic fraternity, the "S.F.I.M.'ers"? Another club Buma was proud to have fathered. (And no, it DOESN'T stand for "San Francisco International Magicians", or anything remotely CLOSE to that! Think "St*p*d F***ing Id**t Magicians" and you've got it...)

I have recounted many of my memories on Genii and The Magic Cafe, so if people are wondering what the big deal was at "The House of Magic", they can read a little bit on those threads. Thank you Paul, for remembering Marvin "Buma" Burger, because in fact, HE was the big deal at "The House of Magic"...

Best, PSC