25. “Protect Your Magic”

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Greetings everyone!  It’s been FAR too long since my last post.  I’ve been testing out different ways of “protecting my magic” with differing results.

The saying comes from this stencil sprayed around our neighborhood in Harlem. volpe_protect


I’ve seen it a few other places in New York as well.  The first place I saw it was as a sort of post script to this beautiful mural put up just a couple blocks from us around a restaurant under construction.

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“Protect your magic,” sprayed at the end of this beautiful piece of graffiti, especially in the context of our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood (of which we three white dudes are unwitting members), seemed to mean, “Hey Harlemites! You’ve been living here for decades. Not always thriving, but living.  Making your families, your stories, your histories–protect that magic.  Protect your heritage.  Protect your neighborhood.  Protect that which makes Harlem, Harlem.”

I felt guilty! Like I said, I am an unwitting accomplice in the migration from Manhattan of the people who’ve been living here decades longer then me.  There used to be a lot of affordable (e.g. scary) neighborhoods in Manhattan.  Now Harlem is one of the few remaining.  But artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs still come to New York every year to seek their dreams, many of them with at least middle class means, and they need somewhere to live.  So, landlords are in an arms race with the people of the neighborhood and the city housing authority, trying to outwit the laws that protect the current inhabitants, kicking out the people that have lived here for generations so that their apartments may be remodeled and rented at a higher rate.  Of course not all landlords are bad people.  And maybe each landlord only does this to a fraction of their apartments.  But markets create demand, and right now that demand is calling yuppies (Or Yuccies, Young Urban Creatives) near and far to Harlem, pushing up the real estate price, and crowding out the people that can barely afford to live here as it is.

So.  Protect your magic, Harlem.  Against we, the invading gentrifiers.


“Gentrification: A process by which middle class people take up residence in a traditionally working class area of a city, changing the character of an area.”

Then I began to think, what about me?  What about my magic? I’ve been wracked with anxiety and fear about finally being in this city–being here as an artist, a writer, a musician, an actor.  The city, every day, seems to insist, “What are you living here for? It’s too expensive to just live, to just enjoy your life.  What are you living here for?  You must create, and promote, and push, or move back home.”

Of course, the city isn’t actually saying anything.  I’m projecting my own fears onto the city.  But the city-sized Me has a point!  It’s way too expensive here to just go to yoga, work 20 hours a week, enjoy the parks the shows and the people watching.  You can do most of that in a lot of other less expensive cities.  The best of the best live here, work here, and die here.  And that’s why I came here too. Again.


I took this yesterday as a giant rainstorm rushed up the Hudson river towards Sebastian (our dog) and I. Torrential downpour for 10 minutes, then sunshine again. Beautiful.

So, protect my magic?  Does that mean continue to hold on to every thing I write?  Write alone and never share anything because it may be criticized?  On some level I’ve been living that way as an artist and it needs to stop.  I mean, of course, I share my music and my thoughts with you on here, but I have a very hard time with professional promotion.  I realized that “protecting my magic” ALSO means letting it be seen.  You don’t protect your child by keeping them locked in a room.  That’s just as bad as a stranger kidnapping them and locking them in some other room.  Your magic is protected by letting it go.  Don’t be attached to what people think, don’t go crazy from the rejection and the criticism, but let it go.

And then the next week I found this quote in a book store:


So, I’m on here again.  Writing again.  Trying to let my magic out a little, and not attach too much to whether anyone else approves.  I need to do it.

For my magic.



Sam Wessels

I am a writer, composer, actor, and gamer, with six musicals written, one piano album published, and one boyfriend to come home to. Come back each tuesday for a new and original piano performance.


  1. Very thoughtful and enjoyable piano piece. You are a brave guy.

  2. Great article! My daughter asked me this morning what does “Protect Your Magic” seen on St Nicholas near W 152nd. Love your quote!

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