“Asian magicians love to work the cards. They love flourish,” Armstrong says as we make our way though the crowd. Flourish is the technical term for special shuffling and card contortion, with a vast subgenre of moves with names like the Charlier Cut, the Biddle Grip and the Anaconda. The room is thick with Vietnamese kids manipulating decks into elaborate shapes like a crew of street kids throwing up gang signs. We walk up to a young man with long hair pulled back into a ponytail and Armstrong asks him to show us his best stuff.
The boy pushes up his sleeves and goes to work, fanning the cards into impossible shapes, raining them down in elaborate waterfalls of laminated cardboard. “Very nice,” says Armstrong.
“I did magic for five years, then I became frustrated because magic requires an audience,” the flourisher tells me. “Art doesn’t. That’s why I switched to fire.”