It's been a tough and busy week in the blogosphere, what with the inauguration, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade's landmark case, and Mark Driscoll being his douchey self...again. But, the piece that most caught my eye this week was about none of that. This piece is a fascinating (if long) profile in The New Yorker about Apollo Robbins, a man generally considered the world's best pickpocket.
A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.
“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.
Sometimes, it's good to just read something that's not about the big controversial discussions of the day. For those mental health care days, these are the types of pieces I pull out - the stories about extraordinary people with skills outside the norm, and discussions of what they have to say about us as people. So, take some time this weekend, plop down with your computer/iPad/Phone/actual physical copy of The New Yorker and read through the story of Robbins' life. It'll be worth it.