In 2010 I developed a condition called Myasthenia Gravis. It's something if you're keen on such topics you can read via the "Overcoming Adversity" section about. I have no desire to reprint such things here, other than to say that when it comes to diseases I hit the jackpot of "rare incurable crap that most people will never even hear of."
The disease is in remission now, and I'm glad for that, but one of the side effects has been a decrease in grip strength. You see, Myasthenia Gravis attacks the muscles, making them alien agents to your body. So instead of making them stronger through normal processes, your white blood cells view your musculature as enemies, making them a crime against your existence that must be wiped from the face of the earth. One aspect of my myasthenia gravis journey was a thing where my eye muscles droop constantly and make them look as though they are continually tired. Another aspect is me being able to grip anything with the strength I remotely used to.
Recently, that's all changed. I have picked up a deck of playing cards, and those have granted me the ability to grip something again in ways that I could not. A good portion of it I owe to Daniel Madison of Ellusionist and his book "How to Cheat At Cards" that I keep studying. Another aspect to it is the man known as "S.W. Erdnase" and his book "The Expert at the Card Table." Both have given me a look into the world of the card cheat and con artist that I cannot repay them enough (or ever in Erdnase's case). Daniel Madison I need to credit in particular for some of the things he's done (which have inspired me) in the terms of what I have wrought before me, specifically with the cardistry (flourishes and other signifiers you're a badass) that he's taught. (Spoiler Alert: I'm still learning how he catches cards on the back of his arm, throws them, and catches them with one remaining in his hand) and cheating at cards.
I have spoken with others on this, and they tell me you may be interested in the decks I use. Here's the thing--I have a few, and the ones that I use for "public" consumption are different from the ones I mess with in private. This is because oils and sweat in your hand will kill a deck after about a week if you handle one as much as I do. As a result, I have burned through many a Bicycle deck with an air-cushioned finish, and I don't want to sound like a snob, but the Ellusionist S.W.E. decks recently printed are my newest favorites. They feel in a new state like the best of the Daniel Madison series, and they have a design on the back that is very similar to Erdnase's original printing of "The Expert at the Card Table" on either side of the cards. Plus, I think Ellusionist makes better cards than Theory11 when it comes to durability, but that's just me being obtuse. Finally, the fact that when I am in public I have a deck that says "The Expert At The Card Table" on both sides is just so dang cool I can't help but mention it.
Those 52 little assistants have done so much for me in the past few months when it comes to rebuilding my body and brain. You see, card manipulation requires the constant working of muscles in the hands--more specifically muscles you may not know you had. As a result of the near-constant work when it comes to playing with cards, I am getting the grip strength I lost to that terrible disease back. It's been a slow and frustrating process at times, but I think from what I've seen I've got some manipulative ability in these hands I've never had now.
The name S.W.E. for the decks I use stems from a man named "S.W. Erdnase." In 1902 he published a book called "The Expert at the Card Table," which is considered by many who study it to be the definitive book on how a gambler cheats at cards. The Erdnase name though is a pen name, and no one can figure out who Erdnase was to this day. The name "E.S. Andrews" is "S.W. Erdnase" spelled backwards, so some people think that was his name. Others think it was a famous card cheat named Walter Irving Scott. It's a legend on par with Jack the Ripper, except no one died with Erdnase around.
Anyway, this post written at 4 AM on a Sunday is there to thank my 52 assistants, in whatever form they take. I love keeping you around because study and practice with you makes me a far more interesting person (and one I hope delights my kids) than I am before we have an interaction. I want to appreciate them for the things I've done in making sure I get a part of my life back, and I want to see them used or appreciated by my kids one day. You've certainly done more to keep the peace and quiet in my home than playing Harmonica ever did.
I hope others can benefit from my study of card manipulation and card magic. It's been a fun ride, and one that's given me quite a few benefits (the biggest being a renewed ability to speak in public without fear). The biggest key to doing so if you decide to go that route is to make sure you don't overtrain enough to where your muscles develop poor memory on how to do a given move. The study of card magic and cardistry is fun, but working on it to an obsessive degree will cause you to suffer setbacks.