Henrietta, Texas, 1951. My mother played her nice radio in the evenings, and we listened to Green Lantern, the Phantom, the Great Gildersleeve, the Lone Ranger, and the Inner Sanctum. Not long after, television would arrive, stealing drama from the radio, but in those days radio was one story after another.Hobby time went well with radio. For example, my mother was a great and wonderful crafts person, and made marvelous things.
As we sat in the evening with one lamp turned on, she was making colored flower stencils on pillow cases.I had a project too. She’d bought me a drawing toy called a Magic Slate. This cardboard rectangle has a gray plastic sheet attached, and a pencil-shaped wooden stylus. With this stylus, you write or draw upon the gray sheet. Whenever it’s filled up, or you get tired of it, just lift the sheet and all the writing vanishes, and you can start over. Oh, the sheer magic of it!
That night we were listening to Inner Sanctum, which was a scary show about some sort of bird or a bat. But I wasn’t scared. My mom was making stencils and I was a Wizard in a Cave.
I saw an image clearly — to be a Wizard in a Cave — staying up late, by candle-light, and writing mystical things upon the Magic Slate.
The only problem was, I didn’t know any mystical things to write.
I was staying up late. I had the Magic Slate. I was all set. I scribbled some words and alphabet things. … But they were only the things I knew. It wasn’t really magical. It made me kind of sad, having no mystical things to write.
This isn’t much of a story. I don’t even remember what happened to the bird or bat thing.
But there is this: I think that the Wizard in a Cave has been the guiding image of my life.
I was no good in sports, so I learned to be a wizard. I was fearful of girls, way too shy, so I tried to appear wizardly, intellectual, knowing magical things, wise. Haw! Seems silly, now. Seemed to make sense, then.
I’m writing this now, late at night. One lamp is on. I’m in my workshop, surrounded by magical contrivances. The musical instruments I design and build, and on which I can compose, play, and improvise. A library of books, on arcane subjects such as mysql and investment charting. Computers are here. On them I have written books, made pictures, calculated mystical things such as additive sine wave patterns.
It’s late, I am no longer young, there’s one lamp, and it’s cave-like. Welcome, Arthur. You are now a Wizard in a Cave, writing mystical things.
It’s been a long road, but to arrive at being a Wizard in a Cave is just the way I thought it would be. I know mystical things, and I can write them down here, on this erasable page. Now they are both hidden, and visible to wizards all over the Universe.
The funny thing is, the most mystical of these magical things are the plain truths of human experience, the stories we all share, the open secrets of mankind, the pain and joy of living, the gaining and the terrible, terrible losses. This is the truest magic.
Even a child knows some of this. I knew magic on that night, not recognizing it there before me. The magic was that night, the color of the light, the human dreams, and my mother making stencils of colorful paint, on pillow cases, making some beauty, for her home.