Posted by: David | November 13, 2010

Get The Lead Out

Previously, on Thoughts-0-Dave, there was a wordy post about a period in my [distant] past when I lived in a house that was the scene of an horrific crime some 16 years prior to my rental. It took about 3,000 words to describe this exciting phase of my youth, wherein I left the east coast, tried and failed at college on the west coast, then commenced a period of aimless wandering which never really ended. I guess that’s kind of redundant huh? Aimless wandering. As opposed to the kind of wandering where you’re headed someplace special. Whatever.

So you may be wondering about the title. Get The Lead Out. It’s a disused saying that refers to the inertia of that heavy element known by the symbol Pb. When someone told you to “get the lead out” they meant “hurry it up dammit”. Take that heavy metal out of your shoes or your pants or your pockets or whatever and get a move on. Well it’s the lead that’s got my attention here. Mainly because they’ve finally started smashing lead ions together in that supercollider over in Geneva. It’s called the Large Hadron Collider because lead nuclei are large hadrons. Or are built from large hadrons. I think. I’m no physicist.

This is what lead nuclei look like when smashed together at 2.76 TeV.

This is impressive for some reason. The little graphic in the lower left corner is so cute too, playing on the name of the experiment ALICE (acronym = A Large Ion Collider Experiment). There’s a little Alice in Wonderland figure posed atop the E and looking back, presumably in wonder, at the icon representing the enormous detector assembly. Waiting for the secrets of the universe to present themselves. What do you want to bet that when that first secret of the universe comes out of the LHC, it stares Alice in the face and says “EAT ME”? A dollar? Five? Place your bets.

The folks over at the CMS experiment got the lead out too.

The graphical images of these collisions are very compelling and pretty. Like fireworks. The scientists will be taking years, we’re told, to untangle all these strands of smashed up hadrons and apply their formulaic analyses. We await their discoveries with bated breath. I do anyway. The symmetrical symbolism of using the world’s largest machine to do detective work on the universe’s smallest particles makes me foam at the mouth. Well not really. The people over at the CMS experiment haven’t got the same whimsical design sense in the graphics they’re posting to the web, but that’s OK. Compact Muon Solenoid doesn’t have ALICE’s cuteness.

Caution: Extremely Awkward Segue Ahead. Mind The Gap y’all.

So anyway, I sorta got the lead out when I left Portland Oregon on a jam-packed Boeing 747 with my new, decade-older-than-me, gay, wanna-be artist friend. Every seat on the plane was taken. I swore that when I looked out at the wings I could see them sort of flexing and flapping in response to the weight of the hundreds of hefty people filling the plane. The weather was horrid as we approached Kahului airport. It was a white knuckle flight. My friend and I shared more than a few glances of horror as the plane bobbed and weaved through the turbulence. It was silent until we finally landed. Then applause. If I hadn’t purchased a round trip ticket, and hadn’t planned to spend the rest of my life on Maui, that flight was one that made me really think about whether I would ever want to get on a plane again. But I would have to. In only a month or two as it happened.

We collected our luggage (backpacks) and our bicycles, and hit the road down the center of the island of Maui, which is shaped sort of like the infinity symbol. I had no camera then. All I owned fit into my small orange and tan backpack. It must have been mostly clothes. I really don’t remember. The few months prior to our departure were also foggy. I was hanging with these artsy folk who all were at least 10 years older than me. I was little more than an observer. A stoned, immaculate, drunken observer. And now I was without a camera. Where did we head that first day? South. On a highway cutting through sugar cane and pineapple fields. At one point we saw some terrifyingly huge clouds of smoke billowing into the sky. We were moving toward the conflagration, which looked apocalyptic to us. We didn’t know that it was just sugar cane being burnt. First step in the harvest process. We were haolies.  We didn’t even know that we were haolies. Well I didn’t. I think my friend had been to the island before. I hoped so, because obviously I’d placed a lot of trust in him.

Highway 380 south. We headed to Lahaina first. I think.

He was an artist. Inspired but not very talented. Had the tools and temperament, but was not too keen on the laborious aspects, which cut into the partying schedule. His canvases and concepts back in Portland entertained me, but were beyond any possible comprehension on my part. I had been a photographer. I’d sold him my camera. He unloaded it shortly thereafter in order to finance this Hawaiian sojourn. We had some money, I guess, because we were able to buy food, booze, and even stay at some hotels in the early days of the trip. By the latter days, we’d met some locals who were squatting in tents on a beach in Maalaea. They were a sort of extended family of locals. They shared their space and their Maui Waui with us. A month or two is condensed into a single paragraph here because I don’t remember much of it, and what I do remember is too disjointed and kaleidoscopic to piece together after all these years and lacking any photographic. Maui Waui is a particularly potent varietal of marijuana. Its effect on us beach squatters was mostly to make us lay back on the sand and stare into the sky. At night the stars were amazing.

I also did a tiny bit of snorkeling. And fishing with a cast-net. The fish we caught often made up our dinners, supplemented by white rice and hot sauce. I remember our local hosts telling me that one should never turn one’s ass toward the ocean. When you walk into the sea, you must face forward. The sea didn’t like you if you stuck your ass in its face. From our encampment in Maalaea, we could occasionally see US Navy planes doing practice bombing runs on the wasted island of Kahoolawe. It was eerie.

My friend lost interest. He missed his man back in Portland, and I wasn’t “putting out” for him.  Borrrring. So he went back to the mainland. Never saw him again. I stayed on with the locals. I even worked a bit with one of them, helping him complete a roofing job on a house on the slopes of Haleakala for a well-to-do Japanese guy. It was a roof of cedar shingles. He taught me how to fit, split, and apply the shingles with two galvanized nails. I made a big mistake at the little party the owner threw for us when the job was done. I mentioned that there were a couple of little leaks. What was I thinking? That I was some kind of super honest dude? The guy was furious with me. It was the beginning of the end of my squatting with the locals. This was just as well, because one night, as the Maui Wowee trance was wearing off, one of the other guys lit into his wife over some stupid issue and got very ugly with her. Something about the bitch smoking too much of his dope with the haolies or some shit like that.  The roofer guy was the wife’s brother I think, so he managed to get this fire put out before anyone was seriously hurt. It was scary and must have helped me to realize that it was time to move on.  So I left my bicycle with them as a sort of payment for their hospitality and used the return ticket to fly back to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles? Yeah, El Ay! A friend from high school was wrapping up his freshman year at USC and was kind enough to let me crash at his apartment. Or was it a dorm room? He was a year or so younger than I and was planning not to return to USC. He needed some time to figure out what he wanted to do. It could not have been that long that I tarried with him in LA, a couple weeks at most perhaps, but one event stands out. We attended the world premiere of Star Wars at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on May 25, 1977. I pulled that date from Wikipedia. Of course I could not possibly remember a date that far back. But it was the world premiere. I’m pretty sure. There were long lines, big crowds, black limos and all that sort of stuff. I was not too impressed with Star Wars, having been a devoted fan of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I though Star Wars was way too loud.

Stole this photo from the Internet.

So my friend and I flew back to Connecticut together and his family was kind enough to put me up for much of that summer. They were probably wishing that I would just wake up and disappear and stop being a bad influence on their second son, but they were way too nice a kind of people to display such feelings. More to the point, I was way too stupid to ever notice if they were thinking or feeling such things. Their son was trying to decide what to do with his life, and this loser pothead dropout freeloader (me) apparently had some sort of sway. Toward the end of that summer we’d somehow come up with the idea to hitchhike to New Hampshire. Did we really do that? His family must have been horrified. Remember that all I owned still fit in a backpack. Except for the record collection that my dad had moved to the new place he’d moved into with his second wife. I gave over that record collection to my friend’s family as some sort of payment for their summer of hospitality. Sincerely lame of me that was.

Stole this photo from the Internet too.

Our first stop was Manchester. We rented a seedy room by the week on Chestnut Street, I think. I know it was street named for a tree of some kind. We only stayed there a week. It was awful. There were hookers in the building. We continued north to Concord. We found another weekly rental on Rumford Street. He got a job working for this place that employed handicapped people (as they were called back then) to sort small electronic parts. I got a job delivering pizzas for Domino’s. This idyllic existence seemed to go on forever, but really was over in a matter of months. It seemed longer to me because of all the weed I was smoking.

He was a smart and serious guy with a bad stomach and quickly saw the dead end of my lifestyle way before I ever did. He applied and was accepted to Cornell School of Architecture. And I continued to deliver pizzas. The pizza eating citizens of Concord, NH were lousy tippers back in 1977. But I did get to know all the streets of that charming little city. And I picked up a cute redheaded hitchhiker a few times in my pizza wagon. There was not a lot of room for passengers in that AMC Gremlin, but she was game. She was headed farther west than my pizza delivery territory, but I took her as far as I could. We eventually moved in together, had children, and got married. In that order. We are expecting our first grandchild next spring.

Not sure I ever really got the lead out. Or the gold and mercury for that matter. Damn those heavy metals. When I think of the way I played around with mercury as a kid it makes me shudder. Once I boiled some mercury. What a hoot, huh? I should be mad as a hatter by now. I have 3 gold teeth and a wedding band. And I am as sane as any other middle aged North American male. Believe me! Please!


  1. I like the collider comparison and I deal with the people at our Department of Energy collider here…those are some interesting people, but they have got their hands on A LOT of money and are building.

    The thought of you being a bad influence on someone seems odd with how we “know” you now.

    The collider “comparison”, unless I constructed it subconsciously, was purely accidental, hinging on the word “lead”.

    Failing to achieve proper altitude and seriousness in my life, I have been a bad influence on many. Mostly myself, who I’ve completely ruined. But I’m giving myself another chance. Thanks for your vote of confidence!

  2. Where does this “segue” come from? I have seen it twice recently. In Spanish “seguir” means to go on.

    Do your readers know where Maui is?

    I have a new frying pan. The inside is made of some sort of ceramic. I checked on the net and saw only very expensive versions. Mine was a normal price, but I cannot remember, maybe 12 dollars. It is a strange thing. I found out it is basically made for fat free frying, and I don’t want that at all and would not even try. However, if you pour in oil, it acts the same as water: it does not spread out, but gathers in a few places, as water does on an oily surface. Even a sunny-side-up (what a nice name: in German it is Spiegelei = mirror egg) slides around as if it sat on ice. Have you ever seen that kind of frying pan?

    Yes, segue means just that. To go on, to continue, but as a noun it refers to the transition from one topic to another.

    I imagine that most of my readers have heard of Maui, that Hawaiian island that thinks it’s the best.

    Yes, we have one of those frying pans too. I use it on the weekends to make our eggs for breakfast. We like Spiegelei too. As the pan has aged it seems more willing to accept fat or oil. I cook the eggs in a little butter, which spreads nicely around the pan. These non-stick surfaces are usually some variant of Teflon, a compound invented by accident in 1938. My wife always yells at me when I heat the empty pan. It’s not recommended to do that. But I use a very low setting.

  3. “Caution: Extremely Awkward Segue Ahead. Mind The Gap y’all”

    This is the line one of my boyfriends used right before he broke up with me. Hmmm.

    “And I picked up a cute redheaded hitchhiker a few times in my pizza wagon. There was not a lot of room for passengers in that AMC Gremlin, but she was game. She was headed farther west than my pizza delivery territory, but I took her as far as I could. We eventually moved in together, had children, and got married. In that order. We are expecting our first grandchild next spring.”

    I love this!! This is how you guys met?! So cool.

    Well at least the ex boyfriend was kind enough to warn you. Hope you’ve done better since. 🙂

    Thanks, and yes, it pretty much is how we met. She liked anchovy and onion and so did I. But that was after she’d moved into my apartment … 1977 was a pretty good year.

  4. awesome awesome awesome!

    Thank you thank you thank you maleesha.

  5. Maui Waui I got goosebumps at the end where you picked up that “cute lil redhead” and began the rest of your respectable life. And so the story continues….your first grandchild is on the way! Something tells me he/she is going to love hearing Grandpa’s stories!

    Thanks for your sweet comment Twoleftshoes! And for your theory that my life is now “respectable”. I’m looking forward to being a grandpa, and hope that the in-person stories don’t bore my grandchildren to tears. 🙂

  6. Awwwww! Best happinessess for everyone involved with that g-kid. Very exciting. Loved these stories.

    Thanks for that kind comment. We’re all psyched about the baby on the way. It’s flattering to hear such a compliment from someone who reads as much as you do.

  7. Oooo, so it was the mercury I played with, eh? I’ve always wondered how I got this way…

    Yes, either that or the mercury-silver fillings in our teeth, or the DDT they sprayed from big trucks passing down our neighborhood streets, or the Red Dye #6, or the second hand smoke, or the nucular radiation from bomb testing …

  8. Oh my gosh, you sure do know how to spin a good yarn. What a fascinating life you’ve led. And how much fun that you’re going to have a new little addition to your family. Lucky child.

    Thank you Allison. You also do a nice job spinning good yarns. Congrats on being “Freshly Pressed”. That’s awesome! That was a cool post.

    But I also liked your post about the camping trip with the annoying cat, just could not think of any good comments. Is that OK, to like a post but not leave a comment?

    In conclusion, that makes 2 people who’ve found my life “fascinating”. We’re all pretty psyched about the baby. Looks like she’s a girl.

  9. Perfectly OK. That happens to me quite often!

    Good to know. 🙂

  10. Happy thanksgiving Dave.

    Thanks vermonter. You too!

  11. I told you I was going to come back and read this post 🙂 Yours is the first blog I’ve read in my return to blog “reading” 😉 , and SO worth it! You didn’t disappoint me a bit, I felt like I had lead in my shoes right along with you as I read it, but in the best way possible because I meandered through the paragraphs in no rush at all, just taking it all in 🙂

    PS: I love that you gave the family your record collection, HAHA!

    PPS: I can’t believe that’s how you met your wife…AMAZING 😀

    Thank you Romi. That means a lot coming from a dedicated writer like you. This type of narrative doesn’t come to me very often.

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