"TELL ME AGAIN--what possible reason could we have to go to Issaquah?" Bootsy asked as we sped down the highway. "It's a magical vacation in a foreign land," I responded. "My editor loves to give me the weird assignments." She read aloud from the press kit. "'Illusionz... Magical Entertainment Center... blah, blah, blah, brings state-of-the-art magic to the stage in Mysterian.' This guy, Steffan Soule, is a dead ringer for David Hasselhoff. 'Other attractions include Fish in a Bird Cage, Girl in Aquarium, Wacky Golf, and the Magicafe.'" I snorted, "Maybe we can get some Phantastic Phrench Phries."

We pulled into one of the fancy strip malls that comprise the bulk of Issaquah's architecture. "I guess Soule has been doing corporate magic for years, and then he hooked up with a couple of Microsoft millionaires and built this place in an old Ernst hardware store. You know, I'm getting strangely excited about this," I sheepishly admitted as we stepped inside.

We were introduced to Seth Sherman, a handsome lad with exactly the sort of complicated facial hair you want an illusionist to sport. "I got into magic when my sister got a magic kit for her birthday. She didn't like it, but within weeks, I was giving shows to the whole neighborhood. I went ahead and got a degree in physics, but I always knew I was going to do magic. So, you guys want to check out the roller coaster simulator?"

After a hilarious, whiplash-inducing ride in which Bootsy deafened me by shrieking, "Faster! Faster!" Seth continued our tour through the stunning arcade space. No expense was spared in design or construction. A framed collection of vintage magic posters purchased from the estate of the perfectly named Mickey Hades, gorgeous fabrics, fantastic lighting, riotous colors of red and chartreuse--this joint makes GameWorks look like the burned-out shell of a tacky old Pinto. Bootsy and I lingered in the ladies room. "Damn, look at these tiles. We've gotta come back here with a video camera and make a movie in this bathroom." Had not Seth's commanding voice on the sound system ushered us into the 150-seat theater for Mysterian, we might be there still, running our hands appreciatively over the sinks.

An indifferent adolescent girl in a peacock mask ushered us to our seats, tripping over her green harem pants. As the lush curtains parted, Soule--the magical mastermind behind Illusionz--took the stage wearing what looked like a Members Only jacket from the pre- Industrial age. More gentle than charismatic, he introduced the mostly incomprehensible plot premise (about a wise sage from the future named Tovari) with some vaguely New Age aphorisms like, "With the present, prepare the past. With the past, prepare the future." But this was magic! Dramatic cohesion be damned!

A delightful series of spectacular and perfectly executed illusions followed. "How did he do that?" Bootsy and I whispered to each other as he crammed his assistant into a tiny box and made her disappear, or took a dollar bill marked by an audience member and transported it into the middle of a lemon. Sure, the Moorish set for his fountain levitation seems borrowed from the Stonehenge sequence in Spinal Tap, but when was the last time you saw a toga-clad woman float around in the air, hmmm?

After the enormously enjoyable show, we wolfed down gigantically proportioned Caesar salads in the Magicafe and then scooted into the close-up magic theater, where Soule's art continued to confound us. Gluttons for amusement, we could not rest until we tried the wicked air-hockey and laser tag, where our guide somehow decided it was his destiny to annihilate Bootsy. Panting, she crouched behind a plywood wall. "I can't stay here. He'll find me," she blurted before dashing off into the dark.

"This looks like Alice through the cyber-glass," I said caressing the faux-topiary at the interactive golf course, "but I'm bushed." We finally dragged ourselves out to the car, still chortling from the evening's many spectacles. "Who knew I still had the capacity for wonder?" I asked Bootsy as she looked out over the lake shimmering with city lights. "Yeah," she murmured thoughtfully, "it even made a trip to Issaquah worthwhile." And that, my friends, is truly magic.