not quite the superhero
Friday, May 27 2005
In the course of continued work on my mirror ball rotator, I soon discovered that the newly-installed (and somewhat overpowered) Rotron motor was unsuited to the task of mirror ball rotation. It tended to run so hot that I couldn't even place my hand on its chassis, and this heat caused it to release various gasses that probably weren't especially healthful to inhale. In addition to this problem, the motor tended to make a loud roaring noise as it turned, not something I'd want to have going for hours on end (the way I like to have my mirror ball spinning). So ended up using another weak record player motor like the one I'd been using in the first incarnation of the rotation system. Hopefully with better pulley engineering it will prove to be reasonably reliable.
I also figured out a solution to the problem of attaching a smaller pulley to the inside of the small wheel I'd removed from the front of a wheelchair. By extracting half of the wheel's hub bearings (no longer necessary in its light-duty retirement), I managed to create a hollow in the hub that just happened to be slightly smaller than the diameter of a piece of three quarter inch copper pipe. By filing the pipe all around its circumference, I was able to reduce its diameter enough to make it fit snugly in the hollow. Fashioning the copper pipe into a very nice multi-diameter pulley was then just a simple matter of soldering on a washer and, through the washer's hole, a piece of brass brazing wire (the latter serving as a very low-diameter pulley directly in the center of the wheelchair wheel).
Figuring out how various random materials can be coerced into cooperation is a more generalized version of the activity of tiling a pathway with random pieces of bluestone. My mind is the sort that is always looking to see if two random objects (or ideas) can be made to cooperate. For example, often when I'm sitting at a dining table in a restaurant one of the first things I'll do is perform an experiment to see if the glass candle holder makes for a perfect fit inside the wine glass. Sometimes it's just a tiny bit too big. Often it's way too small. But I just need to know.
It occurred to me today, for the first time really, that I've been an adult for a long time now. By this I mean that at a cheesy hotel somewhere my former classmates will soon be having my high school's 20th year reunion. 20 years is a very long time to have been out of high school. Anything can happen in 20 years. What's become of me? Am I doing what I want to be doing? Does the world really make any more sense than it ever did? Is it possible that I'm not quite the superhero I once imagined myself to be?
I'm in a weird position in life, where I still look sort of young but I've more or less lost my youth. I don't have the invisibility of old (or even middle) age, but I also lack the poverty, complete freedom, and flawless mental sharpness of youth. I'm in a tunnel between youth and old age, and now the years seem to zip by. Normally someone of my age would have a kid of his own who would just now be reaching puberty, and the sudden appearance of a freshly-minted adult in my household would be causing me to confront the reality of how I've managed my own adulthood. But I don't have a kid to rub my nose in my own mortality. It's only when I'm feeling introspective that I can hear the taunts of the years. It's what I get in place of a true midlife crisis.
This evening Gretchen and I went with our friends D and J from Willow to see three divas who call themselves the Chanteuse Club. The most well-known member of this club is Kate Pierson, formerly of the B-52s, although at times it has also included Debbie Harry of Blondie. The venue was the Rosendale Café, the low-key and decidedly ungourmet hippie vegetarian restaurant where I only eat the tempeh reuben.
Neither D nor J had ever been to Rosendale, and as we car pooled together down Hurley Mountain Road with its beautiful views of the wide empty agricultural Esopus Valley they kept remarking on how different it was from the landscape with which they were familiar - the tight forested Catskill Valleys near Woodstock and the impulsively ugly faded glory of most of Ulster Township.
It turns out that Kate Pierson lives in the area, actually in the Township of Hurley. Her real estate agent was the same one who sold us our house.
As for the Chanteuse Club, it's hard to call it a group, since it is nothing more than the sum of its parts. Those parts are famous or semi-famous divas who perform their own songs separately (usually with the same pianist accompanying them). Then at the end they wrap it up by doing a few well-known covers in a style we all remember from our experience with campfires. Tonight's show started on a somewhat inappropriate note when Maggie Moore, the first of the divas, sang a non-ironic song about how diamonds are forever. Perhaps she figured she was Upstate and people here are hillfolk with conventional aspirations nurtured by the DeBeers' multigenerational advertising campaign. But Rosendale, particularly the segment frequenting its eponymous café, prides itself on being a "people's republic," and it's unlikely those people think much about diamonds at all, even in the context of divas.
The highlight of the show was the segment performed by Gail Dorsey, one of David Bowie's former bassists. Being a bassist, I didn't expect much from Dorsey's voice. But it sailed perfectly (and with just dash of fine grit) above the sound of her bass. It was an unusual combination but a pleasant surprise. As for Gretchen, she didn't just think Gail's music was great; she wouldn't shut up about how pretty she was.
There were those in our group who were mostly there to hit Kate Pierson up afterwards to maybe perform at a benefit for an animal sanctuary operation. I found it all terribly cheap and embarrassing; it must be awful to be a celebrity and have people constantly trying to tap into just a trace of your fame for their own purposes.
Back at the house we hung out awhile in the laboratory, which is still a disaster but is nevertheless cleaner than it's been in months. My mirror ball was spinning and I was playing The Great Destroyer at a low volume. I broke out some marijuana, after a polite request was made for it. Sadly, what little I have is over a year old. I don't know if pot gets stale, but I do know eventually it goes obsolete. Marijuana technology and bioengineering advances even more rapidly than microprocessor technology, and yesteryear's dank nugs are like Pentium IIs, an embarrassment.
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