In line with my belief that NOBODY will ever read this, I hereby store a list of unfinished projects. Some were really good ideas that time has enervated, some would have long been thrown away even if I had finished them. But I think a leitmotif in my life is the Unfinished Project. I may not finish this list!
- The Cutty Sark—This was a model boat which my Uncle Bob bought me at the South Street Seaport, ca 1970, when it was a seaport and fish market, not just another mall with Yankee Candles and Gaps. This was not a plastic model – it was wooden, with a roughly finished hull which I was supposed to sand. It was hellishly complicated, and I remember being utterly stumped by the rigging. The unfinished model sat on my dresser looking more and more like the Flying Dutchman. I suspect that it even had its little ghosts of disappointment whiffling in and out of its portholes.
- Raytheon VoltOhmMeter Kit—One day my father took me to visit some guy at RCA. I don’t remember his name, or what he did there, but he had an office and a desk, so that counts for something. Since everyone my father knew was “the top man” at wherever, or “the most important” whatever, it was always hard to tell truth from puffery. All I remember, aside from being vaguely miserable the whole time, as I tended to be with my father, since he was an indefatigable source of criticism and low-level anger, is that this guy gave me a kit. This was along the lines of the old Heathkits, but was Raytheon. Very exciting! I loved to solder things, just as I had loved to do copper enameling. Just being around a white hot coil thrilled me. I started putting it together, carefully following the instructions, but was missing a couple of parts, including a “selenium rectifier”. I wrote to Raytheon, and it took the two months that things took in those days. I got the parts, but when I put it together, it just did… nothing. It didn’t work at all! I even took it to school to show the guy who ran our science lab, and he had no idea. Looking back, I expect that my solder joints were lousy, but I’ll never know.
- Prof. Rainwater’s Experimental Physics Class—I actually did finish this, one day before I graduated. A good example of the energizing power of deadlines.
- Graduate School—I look back on this as a particularly tragic one. I should have stayed at Columbia (I was invited back with a full fellowship) but wanted to get away from my parents (like you can do that; THEY’RE IN YOUR HEAD, YOU IDIOT!). I should have stayed at Berkeley, but was in a state of near-constant misery/panic the whole time. Also, my legs were covered with hives; I put on calamine lotion and wore shorts – I can only imagine… They didn’t give out SSRIs then, and I wasn’t good at looking for therapists. Also, I wanted attention/love, and grad school didn’t seem like the place for that. So I stayed for nine months, and came back to NY. Right back to the parents which whom I wanted nothing to do the Spring before.
- Acting Career—Hard to say about this one. I think I just didn’t give it the kind of push that’s needed, but I also think I wasn’t all that great. Oh, I was OK, even sometimes quite funny or moving. But, generally speaking, meh. On the other hand, it’s not like all aspiring actors are Oliviers, right? Even mediocre actors make money if they push. I just didn’t have it in me to push. So I’m calling my acting career unfinished.
- Sci-Fi Novel—Never had a title for it, but it was/is interesting. I totally foresaw tablets (though not apps). Here’s the idea. We’re in a future where the US is mostly desert, with a few arable areas, with widely-separated villages. There are a few rough, unpaved roads. There are also rails, but no way to travel on them. Some smart person built a sail driven, wind-powered wooden train. Our ensemble is a traveling theater company, doing Toby shows (American comedia), with iconic American characters – Tricky Dicky is the clever, tricky servant, Marylin is lovely ingenue, Elvis is the romantic lead, etc. The actors and their audience have no memory of where these characters come from, but they love it when the show comes to town. Our heroes have a manager who also directs, and they all write the shows together. Mostly, they’re traditional. Our crew is on its way to a tiny village, when the young comedian, sneaking up on the marylin, accidentally breaks her most prized possession, a mirror. He’s in deep trouble! Also, he was sweet on her, and now she hates him. Anyway, they get to a town, find a rival manager who has lost his Show, due to bandits. He scorns their plays as rustic foolishness, and says that if they went to legendary New York, they’d be able to find real Plays, old Plays. Literature. Our hero, ends up going to NY with a sidekick, but just as the rest of the country is mostly desert, New York is mostly water, just rotted husks of buildings, full of wildlife. They are chased by a representative of one of the few prosperous, successful populations of the continent, the First Americans, or Inuit. They have technology, and an Inuit aristocrat is on a hunting expedition in the hollow abandoned towers of NY. She sees our two heroes, and chases them into a building, where he finds stacks and stacks of rectangular mirrors, made of a kind of unbreakable, bendable material! He not only can replace Marylin’s, but he can sell whatever he can carry. He’ll be rich! They take whatever they can carry out of the building, but when the mirrors are exposed to sunlight, they turn matte black. Useless! what he doesn’t know yet, is that they are absorbing sunlight and charging up. The next day he picks one up, and it talks to him. It learns his language, and teaches him how to use it to access the entire corpus of world knowledge, which is still housed in satellites. He goes back to his Show, and they start to do Plays. Oh yeah, and civilization starts to reboot.
Well, that’s it for now.