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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #270  (Vol. 6, No. 21)  This edition is for the week of May 23--29, 2005.

A Truly Magic Moment
 by William Moriaty
Summer's Here!
 by Mike Smith
Remakes and Sequels....There is Only One George A. Romero
 by Drew Reiber
Seijun Suzuki-A-Go-Go
 by Peter Card
The Force Wasn't With Them....JawsFest On The Horizon....Monster Bash Also Looming
 by Matt Drinnenberg
From Last Week....Bad Hair Day....Who Are You?....Passing On....Jaws: The Story, Part 20
 by Mike Smith
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A Truly Magic Moment

Thursday May 19, 2005 seemed liked any other day...

I was running two hours late to visit my Department's Pinellas Maintenance Yard to check out a tree complaint from a private citizen living along I-275 in St. Petersburg. My landscape designs for the use of native plants along the Sunshine Skyway would have to wait until a later date, and a looming deadline to complete the work by the contract's Notice To Proceed was beginning to hang over me like a dark Florida thundercloud.

Once again I left my office in Tampa feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at the workload demands that have exploded over the past decade during my tenure with the Department of Transportation. I would barely have time for lunch and still had to go by the Tampa Airport Post Office on my way over to Pinellas County in order to mail a letter to the Whitney Bank with a deposit for my tree planting organization's bank account in it.

Harry Wise in the '50s and '60s
Harry Wise as he appeared between 1960 and 1965 on Orlando, Florida television as "Mister Magic"
Harried and hurried, I almost forgot about the call that I had received from Florida Folk hero and magician Harry Wise the week before, stating that he was going to send a letter to my tree planting organization's post office box. Once the key opened the lock into the box, low and behold, amidst letters bearing government return addresses, there was a letter that appeared like no other I had seen in this box in over 15 years - - it had three stamps of my favorite U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, and bore the return address title of "WISE THE WIZARD MR. MAGIC SHOW"! To the right of the address is an illustration of a bunny emerging from a magician's top hat.

Suddenly my harried and hurried existence was turning into a moment of anticipation and optimism. On the back of the letter was a small illustration of a unicorn, a magical beast that is part and parcel of the many elements that made me fall in love with my wife Karen Cashon. She had unicorn license plates and notebook covers as well as unicorn wall posters back in our courting years. A slight tingle rose up my back, much like when I was a kid getting comics in the mail. Like those comics, I couldn't wait to open this letter, because I knew this was going to be something special!

I looked at my watch and calculated that even if I tried my level best to stay within the speed limit, my chances of being at my 1:00 appointment on time were looking dim, so I figured I had nothing to lose by opening the letter and taking a quick look at the contents.

I only had time to glance at the hand-written yellow 8.5" x 11" letter with by Mr. Wise dated May 15, 2005 that had a cartoon illustration of Mr. Wise riding a unicorn with "FLORIDA TELEVISION'S MR. MAGIC, WISE THE WIZARD" emblazoned at the top and "Enchantment – Imagination – Entertainment" on the bottom. Mr. Wise wrote the following:

"William Moriaty, thanks for the nice words about an ole worn out wizard!! (As written in my article about Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida Unleashed!" article in PCR #267 --Will) and what you said about your friend who passed away (Auggie Hiscano -- Will). He made life worth livin'!!! What a great tribute!! I feel I must apologize for not making better contact with you the night we met at the festival on Beltaine Eve - - - (Carlson's Book Unleashment) as you could tell I was spellbound and totally taken by the Enchantress in my presence - - - or was I in hers? (we both know the answer to that). Your newest fan sir, and hopefully a friend, Harry."

Harry Wise in the present day
One enchanted evening for Wise the Wizard and friend at the Blue Dahlia in Sanford, Florida during "Charlie Carlson's Weird Florida: Unleashed!" book signing party, April 30, 2005.
Little did Harry know that sight unseen, he was working his own special magic on me. Suddenly my hectic schedule was gaining the perspective that it deserved when compared with the things in life that really matter - - things such as meeting and then knowing people who illuminate our existence in the same manner as a brilliant sunrise. Nevertheless, ho-hum workday regimentation told me, "Get in your work vehicle, get your lunch and fulfill your mission, because others depend on you like you are now depending on Harry Wise!"

My next major frustration turned out to be as simple as finding a place to have lunch that didn't have a zillion people jamming the parking lots. I now had 15 minutes to eat and be at the Pinellas Maintenance Yard. But I was determined to take time for myself, have a meal and take a closer look into the world of Harry Wise.

Once I got to my table with my Wendy's chicken strips, the other magic was awaiting me. Inside this most special of letters was a photo of Mr. Wise from his heyday as television magician, "Mr. Magic" who appeared on Orlando's WDBO t.v. from 1960 to 1965, delighting millions of young children - - now, forty years later, a new fan in his fifth decade on the planet felt that same sense of delight and sense of awe that those wide-eyed innocent kids who still had limitless faith and suspension of belief did all those years back.

True magic is timeless…

On the back of the card Mr. Wise wrote: "For William Moriaty, the man in white. Harry Wise, Florida TV's Mr. Magic". Now my hackneyed heart was melting - - you know what? If I'm a few minutes late, so what? It's the acts of kindness like this that mean something and have significance.

But I was not prepared for the profound effect of his next photo that was taken the night of Charlie Carlson's party. Decked out like a million bucks in a tuxedo, this magical icon from Sanford is seen posed with a very pretty lady (presumably "The Enchantress" mentioned in his letter above). The look of peace and contentment on her face practically brought me to tears.

This is what truly matters.

This is the purest form of magic…

But like the kid finding their first toy gift in a box of Cracker Jacks, this wasn't all. I next grabbed a large Xeroxed copy with a photo of a very youthful Harry Wise featured in a December 4, 1959 article in the Orlando Sentinel proclaiming that "Frankenstein Magician Visits Home in Sanford". This was the white rabbit pulled out of the hat that finally put my mind at rest, slowed down the wheels of my discontent and made me love life again.

Almost six decades from his being a child receiving magic kits through the mail, Harry Wise is still weaving his own unique brand of magic. His eyes may have dimmed with the passing of time but his vision of bringing joy to others has never been clearer.

"La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.