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The Village Idiot

Magic, music & books mix in Emmitsburg

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(1/2018) When I was in my mid teens a cousin and I occasionally walked into Doc Crater's drugstore on West Main Street to buy balsa wood gliders and cigars. The gliders were flown in Bollinger's field. I don't recall where we smoked the cigars, though it wasn't around adults. In my later teens and early twenties I'd go into Doc Carter's with a beer drinking buddy to buy all the latest comic books before hitting Crouse's shop on the Square for the comics Doc didn't carry.

By the time I got serious about not trying to preserve my brain in alcohol (for posterity, of course) I was vaguely aware that something had gone wrong in this burg. Those two shops had closed and new people were opening new businesses of no interest to me, or most other townsfolk. Around the time sobriety settled in nearly all the businesses that had made this place interesting during my childhood were gone.

As financial circumstances allowed, I took to the highways and found stores, eateries and amusements elsewhere. Gettysburg, Taneytown, Thurmont, Hanover and Frederick captured my attention and disposable income. Some towns held my attention longer than others as my interests changed mercurially, and the various shops I frequented changed over time as well. (For several years I pretty much boycotted Frederick County- hell, Maryland, whenever possible- and spent most of my money in Pennsylvania.) The Internet provided greater opportunities to explore the world outside of this burg and I took to that readily enough, especially after DW's family business began to shut down and our budget was pulled tight.

The arrival of the Emmitsburg Tattoo Company on the Square in Crouse's old shop got me to lift my head out of the wallow I was depressing in. There being no other place for me to hang out at the time, and the tatt shop being an easy walk from the house, I took to learning about tattooing, and life perspectives I'd never heard of, or had tried to ignore for 50 or so years.

After months of chatting with the shop owners my perspective of "dying Emmitsburg" was kicked to the curb and slowly replaced with some small understanding that the town had hit a bottom, bounced, and people were using that bounce to re-energize this place. (This is a concept I can understand. I've seen lots of drunks and pharmaceutical addicts do the same thing.) Cool, though I remained skeptical in the extreme.

Then Cantori opens a magic themed shop in Doc's old store and kicks my skepticism almost as hard as Tattoo Don, Pillar of the Community had kicked my negative perspective. (While my perspective whimpers by the curb, it in no way has failed to influence my daily thinking.)

Seriously? A magic theater and used book store in Emmitsburg? The books might be of interest to me, but magic shows? Meh. Television magicians were boring during my childhood. (Who cared if they could make an elephant disappear on TV. Anything could be done by editing and camera switching before computer generated imaging became all the rage.) I was prepared to be unimpressed by a stage magician. And then I wasn't.

Cantori's slight of hand frustrates me no end. One might think a simple, one-handed card trick could be figured out by a semi-functioning monkey-man, but nooo. After being shown how the trick is pulled off I'm left more frustrated than I was before! Now I'm contemplating the dexterity, the devotion to practice, the desire to master such a simple trick. I'm left mentally exhausted and fumble fingered grumpier than I was before meeting the illusionist! Fortunately, Cantori enjoys explaining the history of magic. He rattles off names of the great magicians throughout the ages. While I don't know the names, I occasionally recognize the tricks they created. Cantori crosses the room to the bookshelves, plucks a tome and quickly flips through it until he finds some master's picture and goes on with the history of a trick.

According to Maryland Magicians- "Michael Cantori is one of the region's premier illusionists, whose class-act entertainment brings both golden age wonder and contemporary themes to every show... He's entertained congressmen, senators, generals, rock stars and royalty, and has been featured in media such as The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Fox News, and The Washington Post."

Which begs a question- What the hell is he doing in Emmitsburg?

Of course Cantori sees with eyes I'll never have.

Emmitsburg is central to Baltimore, Washington D. of C., Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Hagerstown, Leesburg and dozens of growing urban/corporate areas a stage magician can work his or her trade in. While the local economy took a dump before the recession, and continued long after, Cantori sees the area as an obvious place for growth. Emmitsburg hit a bottom and the bounce is in progress.

Okay. Tattoo Don and Magician Cantori (a pair of new pillars for the community) can see that, so I'll bow to their view of this place and set my "negative ninny" thinking aside (as best I can) to get on board with their thinking.

Hanging around these guys and acting as their sound board (it isn't as if I half understand what they are talking about when they throw ideas at me) has been entertaining if not enlightening. Cantori quickly realized this isn't a book buying town. His occasional magic shows have drawn capacity audiences, but the limited shop space restricts the number of paying customers. So what's he do?

Well, he's a tinker who's settled in place. He acquires used musical instruments and reworks them if needs be so they can be passed along to new enthusiasts- for modest fees of course. Building his business sites online while at the shop, plotting out his stage banter or his lectures on music and magic, he still makes time for anyone that happens to wander through the shop door.

Though catching him in the shop has been hit or miss as he is a working magician and often is miles away when I toddle by the shop with a few dollars in my pocket and an itch to torture myself with some book by a dead philosopher. Until his evolving business model begins drawing foot traffic enough to employ a shop assistant it's best to call ahead: 301-447-3400, or contact him at: or chase him down on the Net using "Cantori's Bohemian Bazaar".

I briefly considered offering to sit in the shop while the Magus is off gathering "oo"s and "ahh"s as well as money, but having to deal with potential store customers isn't this curmudgeon's thang. Having to count change for a purchase, swipe a credit card or otherwise have to drag long unused societal skills from where ever I buried them gives me the shudders. However! Should the shop need a door stop I could probably handle that, when I'm not doing a similar job at the Emmitsburg Tattoo Company.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.