I don’t think I ever actually had Mr. Minnell as a teacher, but I used to find any excuse to drop by his office. Between his role as a student chapel advisor, our shared interest in guitar, and how his classroom was conveniently just a few feet from my locker, there were plenty of excuses to drop by.
Mr. Minnell was energetic and hopeful. He had a great sense of humor, and he was always willing to lend a listening ear. Even to this day he’s one of the first people that come to mind when I think of the word sincerity.
I interviewed Mr. Minnell for our school paper. I don’t have a date to go along with this, but it was probably in the winter of 2007.
Known to many as the kind, soft-spoken philosophy teacher down the hall, Mr. Minnell has led a fascinating life - marked with the intervention of God in his pursuit to teach the Truth to students every day through his words and actions. Though this is only his first year as a teacher at CLA, he has already established himself as a strong force in the modern day war of philosophy.
He was born and raised in Minneapolis as the youngest of three children. Judging by his account, danger seemed to be the predominate theme of his childhood. “To make a long story short,” laughs Minnell, “I was nearly trampled by an angry herd of buffalo and sent over a cliff during a camping trip to the Badlands.” Along with the memories of, perhaps, traumatizing events, Mr. Minnell warmly remembers sleeping at the local firehouse with his father, who served honorably as a firefighter.
While attending Winnetka Elementary in New Hope, Minnesota, Mr. Minnell even found himself a grade school nemesis. His claims to be the fastest sprinter in the grade were challenge by a fellow student, Tait. The bitter rivalry continued all through grade school until Taint’s false bravado was finally squelched by Mr. Minnell’s impressive fifth grade mile time. “He was a good sport about it, though,” remarks Mr. Minnell in reminiscence of the feud.
While attending Maple Grove High School, Mr. Minnell set his sights on aviation and participated in a series of piloting courses. In fact, Mr. Minnell was the first to confirm a popular school myth that concerned the new building’s design. “The building was designed to resemble a maple leaf, and I was the first to see that while flying a Sesna over the school,” recounts Mr. Minnell.
It was in his transition into college that he found the Lord. Though he had grown up in a Christian home and had frequently inquired his parents about what it meant to be saved, it was not until a mission’s trip to New York that Mr. Minnell took the critical step of faith. “It was then that I realized the necessity for a relationship with Christ and understood the Christian life. Though I already knew much about a relationship with Christ, it was then that I actually internalized it,” says Mr. Minnell.
While attending Trinity International University, he uncovered a deep desire to study God’s Word. Under the inspiration of a beloved Bible professor, Mr. Minnell attended seminary and earned his Masters degree in Bible. “The more I learned about the Bible, the more I wanted to know,” states Mr. Minnell.
Near the conclusion of his college education, Mr. Minnell’s life was altered yet again when he first met Miss Rintimaki, a fellow classmate. “We dated while I was in seminary, then I proposed to her on a beach in Evanston. It was really cool.” The two recently married this past year, and now both work as teachers.
Mr. Minnell to this day still lives out his passion in appreciation to those who impacted his life and first lit the fire of his ambition. Mr. Minnell intently lives out the words of his life verse, Galatians 2:20. It is his goal to truly live for Christ in everything, especially the realm of philosophy. According to him, we must fervently study God’s word, applying it to every aspect of life. Said best by Mr. Minnell himself, “We all need a working understanding of how God interacts with the world. That is what is important.”
Not only was David Calzada a beloved friend and small group leader, but he was a real professional magician. For a high schooler, to say it was cool having a professional magician in your immediate social circle was an understatement.
David lent me a book on coin magic. In hopes of learning at least a small subset of his skills, I practiced my own sleight of hand obsessively. To build up dexterity, I sat in class with a sweaty silver dollar palmed in my hand. On several occasions, it fell out of my grip, making a loud and embarrassing clang on the floor.
David let me come along to a local magic meeting. On that night, the group was proud to host the famous coin magician David Ross, the author of the book that I was studying. Mr. Ross explained that while he made his notoriety in magic, he made most of his money doing commercials for Burger King.
“Did you ever see that commercial of the hand assembling a whopper in front of a white background? That was me,” he explained. “Burger King liked me not only because I was very precise, but my hands are also very tiny and I comparatively made the Whopper look much bigger.”
I chose the topic of magic for my senior year multi-genre report, which gave me an excellent excuse to leverage my personal friend David Calzada for a little extra pizazz in the classroom presentation. My English teacher was so spell bound by his antics that by the time the presentation was over, he forgot to take notes and was forced to give me a perfect score.
I interviewed David as well. Here’s the transcription of our phone call which took place somewhere in the spring of 2009.
Alex: Hello David. How are you?
David: I’m doing great Alex.
Alex: I have some questions for you. Would you be OK with that?
Alex: Fantastic. Let’s get started, David. About how long have you been practicing magic, both casually and professionally?
David: I was about ten or eleven when I started. I’m twenty-three, so that’s like twelve years already.
Alex: What initially sparked your interest in magic?
David: Ah. That would be when I was a kid. My grandparents gave me a magic set for Christmas, and I was pretty fascinated by it. Things really got going, like I said, when I was eleven. My parents bought me a magic book and even took me to the local magic shop a few times. Actually, my story is pretty typical.
Alex: What do you mean?
David: Like in my case, it usually starts with a Christmas gift or something. Magicians refer to it as getting “bit by the magic bug.”
Alex: And for that, you blame your grandparents?
David: Absolutely. My family helped too, though.
Alex: So this hobby, getting “bit by the magic bug,” when did people start to take it seriously?
David: I started making money when I was about fifteen. My first actual show was at my cousin’s birthday. The family noticed. Up until then, they kind of made fun of me. I wasn’t just a dork doing some tricks. My parents finally saw my act and said, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
Alex: Would you say that was about the time when the hobby turned into a profession?
David: Well, like all kids in Highschool, I was looking for a job. At sixteen, I had this friend in the magic shop I always visited. My big break came when he invited me to perform parlor magic at restaurants for tips.
Alex: Was it good money?
David: Ridiculous, for my age. The only money I made was in tips, but I was typically making anywhere from forty to fifty bucks for just three hours of working. One night, I raked in $167 dollars. That was the most I ever made. It was crazy.
Alex: So with that kind of money, you started taking things seriously.
Alex: So, is there a stage name you go by, or something?
David: (Laughs) No. I thought about it. The name thing is kind of hokey, though. I thought about people like Copperfield, who just use their real name. I decided that was a lot classier.
Alex: Your name sounds pretty magical in itself, anyway.
David: That’s a funny story, actually. A lot of people ask me if “David Calzada” is my real name. Once that happened, that sealed the deal. I decided I was just going to use my own “magical” name.
Alex: So do you have a signature trick, then? Maybe a personal favorite?
David: I feel pretty comfortable with cards. I have one that’s a personal favorite. I get a group of people, anywhere from five to twenty people, and guess which card they picked in order. A lot of other stuff with cards, too. I don’t really do single tricks though. I do routines - basically, a bunch of tricks strung together. I definitely have my favorite routines.
Alex: I’m curious. What would you say is the most difficult part of performing?
David: It depends. Sometimes it’s just the physical tricks - the actual sleights. For some reason, I tend to choose tricks with a high degree of difficulty. I use regular playing cards, and that can be hard sometimes (when it’s not a rigged deck). The thing is, a trick becomes second nature when you do it so many times. It’s almost like just brushing your teeth or something. I don’t even think about it anymore.
Alex: Do you ever have trouble with the audience?
David: That’s definitely another challenge. Sometimes it’s hard to engage them. That was probably the one thing that took me the longest to learn. I had to learn how to feel a crowd. You always have to be ready to adapt and joke around. You can’t forget that you’re performing.
Alex: Speaking of tough crowds, do you have any embarrassing stories to share?
David: I admit it. I occasionally mess up. The scariest thing is when I make a coin or card disappear, then find out that I have legitimately lost it. That’s a little awkward.
Alex: Yes, but have you ever completely crashed and burned?
David: (Laughs) No, not really. That’s part of being a performer. I make mistakes, but part of my job is being able to smooth them over. It all goes back to adapting to an audience. You have to be very dynamic.
Alex: Overall, what do you enjoy most about magic?
David: Oh boy, that’s a big question. I guess a lot of it is meeting so many people. It’s a rewarding job, too. I have a lot of fun going into a ballroom with nothing but a quarter, rope, and a deck of cards, and leaving later that night with a standing ovation. That’s a cool feeling.
Alex: That sounds awesome.
David: Yeah. Sometimes I have so much fun, I feel like a shouldn’t be getting paid to do this. Honestly, I think I enjoy it too much sometimes. I’m in love with it.
Alex: So, do you have any advice for all the aspiring magicians out there?
David: I would be honored. Most importantly, you have to just stick with it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started, but you have to practice a lot. A lot. Don’t just practice individual tricks, either. Glean from other magicians and develop your own style. Don’t be a cookie cutter. Be yourself.
Alex: Well, I don’t think I could thank you enough for sharing. This was very insightful.
David: It was a pleasure. Stay classy.