The crowd at Chamberlain High School’s 2000 talent show was no different than anyone would expect: loud, rambunctious and just an all-around “rough crowd.” That’s how Nick Parlin, now 22, remembers it.
Parlin, a magician, was there to vie for a prize that he would eventually win, but he had to get the crowd’s attention first. When his six minutes onstage began, he found a way.
“Ladies and gentleman, before I do this magic act, I want you to know that my grandfather is very, very sick and he’s dying of cancer in a hospital right now,” Parlin said that night. “I would really like to do this for him.”
Suddenly, the loud buzzing that was an overlapping blend of exaggerated teenage voices stopped.
“I’ve never seen like a thousand people go from laughing and throwing stuff to complete silence,” Parlin remembers.
“Without a doubt, this one’s for him,” Parlin said before starting his act.
Parlin proceeded to perform his act, which was to free himself from a straitjacket. After the final elements of the illusion came together, Parlin threw the jacket down to the floor with a dramatic sense of accomplishment. The once uninterested audience responded to his finale with an instant standing ovation.
“That was probably the biggest moment for me in which I really knew what I wanted to do,” Parlin said.
The moment intensified later that night when Parlin’s grandfather, who had introduced him to the art of magic and to whom Parlin had dedicated that night’s performance, passed away.
“He was the one who always took me to the magic shows,” Parlin remembers of his grandfather. “He was the one who’d drop me off at the shop and say, ‘I’m not going to come back and pick you up in 10 minutes, just call me when you are done and I’ll pick you up,’ because if I told him I’d be back in 10 minutes it wouldn’t happen, and he knew that.”
Although that was the moment that Parlin decided he would devote his life to magic, there was also a moment when he discovered one way in which he would do that.
One night, Parlin was showing a group of girls his magic show, as he often does with people he meets. He had one of the girls pick a card and show it to her friends as he was turned around and then shuffle it back into the deck.
“I put my hand out and said, ‘Can I see the cards?'” Parlin recalls. “She jerked and gave me the cards and it hit my pinky, I guess, or one of my fingers and all the cards dropped to the floor and one card flipped up and it was her card.”
“She freaked, and she flipped, and the other girls flipped and they just ran out and they said, ‘Get away from me, get away from me,'” Parlin said.
But it was not supposed to be like that. Parlin said he even fooled himself with that trick, although he kept his cool. But what was really cool was the idea he got next.
“It was so cool because she actually picked the joker,” Parlin said. “If you’ve ever seen the joker on a bicycle playing card, he’s sitting on a bicycle and he’s got a hat on and he’s smiling, and I thought, ‘Wow, why don’t I get on a bicycle and do something with a bicycle?'”
At first, Parlin thought he may make a bicycle disappear and reappear but he ultimately decided he wanted something representative of the 52 cards falling to the ground.
His light-bulb moment evolved into a quest to make it from Tampa to San Diego in 52 days. He will do magic tricks for tips and attempt to make it cross-country by bicycle by Halloween, the night Harry Houdini died at the age of 52.
“Out of all the ideas I’ve ever had, people are most overwhelmed by this one,” Parlin said. “So far everybody is acting very, very positive about this.”
Parlin’s adventure may even turn into a reality series at some point, with talks with CBS in the works. The possible backing comes after getting the attention of Jack White, a retired senior editor of CNN News, who contacted Parlin offering praise and support, including trying to get Parlin sponsored.
For now, Parlin has the support of his family and friends. His adventure, titled “In the Nick of Time,” will begin his tour at USF on Sept. 9.