There had been inexplicable magic between my co-worker's brother and me since the night we met at Respectables last March. So when Antti returned to Florida from Finland this September, I suggested we make a trip to Dada for the Wednesday-night magic show.
"I want to get a close seat so I can expose his fraud," laughed Antti's sister Satu, whose huge, round eyes make her look deceptively innocent.
A dude in a black suit with a blue bowler hat and matching shirt was setting up for his show. Five slate-topped tables waited for an audience to convene in front of the fireplace of the converted historic house.
"Careful. It's hot," the entertainer said with a chuckle as he handed me a business card from his flaming wallet.
Karl Koppertop: The name suits the lanky redhead whose swagger is more the result of his physique than cockiness. Because his manner was endearing, I gave a little laugh. Then I inquired about his qualifications.
"You learn from others, and then you come up with your own stuff," he said. "And then you practice a lot."
And his practice was paying off. In addition to private parties and corporate events, he'd even recorded a DVD of magical how-tos.
"I thought there was some sort of magical code not to reveal how the tricks are done," I objected.
"The first rule is not to reveal how the trick works unless you pay," he explained. "Then secrets are for sale."
Talk about disillusionment.
It was time to start the show, but six Lynn University undergrads had claimed the front seats at our table. So much for fraud detection.
The show began with coins coins defying gravity, coins materializing where there were none, small coins becoming larger ones, domestic coins becoming foreign ones. Then the illusions ventured into the realm of cards including ones that vanished and rematerialized in odd locations.
Meanwhile, Satu and her boyfriend, Sami, were making a pot of cheese fondue disappear. And in the spirit of things, our drinks also kept vanishing one after the other.
When Karl sliced open a lime to reveal the Jack of Hearts that we'd selected from the deck earlier and one of the Lynn students dug the rolled-up card from the center of the fruit, Satu couldn't stifle her outcry.
"That's the devil's work!" she exclaimed.
"OK, I'm gonna do a trick called mentalism," Karl continued, selecting one of the college boys as an assistant. "OK, Max, pick a number between one and 100. Got it?"
The college boy nodded his head.
"You heard of a poker face? Well, your face is gonna tell me something," he explained. "OK, just answer 'yes' or 'no.' OK, is it more than 25?"
"Thirty-five," Max blurted.
So much for the poker face.
After a half hour of sleight of hand, the first show ended, providing us some time to get to know one another.
Turns out that one of the Lynn students, Jory, is paying his way through college with his magical talents and met Karl at a Miami magic convention. To demonstrate his own skill, the 19-year-old English major performed a pretty decent coin trick with just slightly less finesse than Koppertop.
"You wanna find a decent job with a degree in English, you're gonna need some magic," I snarked.
Meanwhile, when Satu learned that Karl had graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian institution, she couldn't help herself.
"So how does magic fit in with your Christian values?" my friend asked, her green eyes gleaming with mischief.
"I do have to be careful because some people actually believe that cards are the devil's work," he said, deftly diffusing the subject as he put a deck of cards into his front jacket pocket.
"Can you explain how Jesus walked on water?" I asked, tossing in the heretic suggestion that the Son of God was mere illusionist.
Karl fielded that question diplomatically too: "You can't explain what happened thousands of years ago; you can only guess."
At the witching hour, I moved to the other side of the table for the second show. More card tricks ensued, including one in which I was asked to select a card and write my name on its face. I used a Sharpie to inscribe it and returned the two of clubs to Karl.
Then Antti was instructed to choose another (he selected the ten of diamonds) and write his name on his card's back.
After some shuffling and jibber-jabbering, Karl tossed my card face-up in front of me.
"Turn it over," he instructed.
There was Antti's name written on the back of the card I'd signed. I was speechless.
"Omigod!" Satu exclaimed.
"Just call me 'Karl' all that God stuff goes to my head," the entertainer joked while I continued to stare in disbelief.
I nearly levitated when I looked up at my sweetheart, who was similarly stunned by the symbolism. Thanks to Karl, we'd been united... magically. And I say, what Karl has united, let no one put asunder.
There was definitely something in the air. All of us became increasingly intoxicated and only partially on account of the wine which I think was ultimately responsible for my willingness to wear a Sylvester and Tweetie hat that Karl had ingeniously crafted out of balloons.
"He's testing out the new magnum condoms," Joe, one of the Lynn students, said as Karl inflated the long balloons this time to make a "love monkey" for Satu (her words not mine).
Soon, my friend had the made-to-order dirigible atop her blond head.
"You wanna touch my monkey? Touch it! Touch it!"
Outside, the orange twinkle lights dangling from the awning on the porch lent their ambience through the old, wood windows. Inside, the music began to play. We finished our drinks and said our goodbyes. Even with the balloons now off my head and in my hand, I was still buoyant.
On our way home, I leaned over and gave Antti a kiss, hopeful that the night hadn't all been an illusion.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.