I’ll bet YOUR pizza guy doesn’t deliver tokamak and bosons with the pizza, no extra charge.
Spent the morning testing client prototypes and cleaning house, then in the afternoon lugging booth displays with partner Terry (Terry Belunes, whose exquisite pate de verre sculptures are a 180 from mine, and who’s sharing a booth with me at OGG’s Spring Glass Gallery in Portland next week).
By the end of all that I was exhausted, so I treated myself to takeout. James beat his previous record getting it to my door, apparently–45 minutes from the moment I clicked ‘submit,’-so he smiled with pride and checked his iPhone for his next delivery.
“I always like getting here a bit early because you’ve got such cool glass, Cynthia,” he said as he unpacked the box, “I like talking glass and science with you.”
Now, this is only the second time he’s delivered here (the last time was maybe nine months ago), so “always” is a mite premature. He makes up for it by showing me his new iPhone and its very cool Otter case. He may be the only guy I know whose iPhone background is a pic of the “Gizmodo iPhone,” the prototype of what’s supposedly the next iPhone.
He talks about 900 miles a minute, and the less charitable would say he mumbles.
“See-let me blow this up, Cynthia, so you can see it–see the back? It’s gonna be ceramic, less breakable. And see here? Camera in the front. Better resolution, too. Ahh. I see you have the Nikon D300. I have one of those. Do you like antique cameras? I do. I also just got a Braysizopeaeipspaodiggg….”
James is medium height and dark-haired with a goatee, about 25, the kind of guy you call stocky when you mean “lots of muscles” instead of fat. His eyes are standoffish; his speech is anything but.
He says he’s qualified for some kind of special bone therapy “because I have so much bone and ligament damage. Some of it’s from rock climbing or rather rock falling, some of it’s from rugby, some of it’s from fighting. And I’ve got scars like this one, some stupid kid pulled a knife…”
I listen in bemusement, pizza forgotten. “But I like visiting your house because you’ve got all the glass. I’m a metal sculptor myself, I like copper the best but of course you can’t weld it, too toxic, so I rivet it. I like mostly abstractions but I’d like to work in glass. Do you blow glass?”
I tell him I’m a caster and his eyes light up. He comes into the gallery, looks around at the work, and says “This is the kind of stuff I need to learn. I mostly teach myself. Is it hard?”
I assure him it’s not hard but tedious, and a few books would help. And I recommend he join Pacific Northwest Sculptors Association, in particular recommending the work of sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae, who’s not only a talented metal sculptor but also a physicist…and James’ eyes blaze.
“Physics, that’s my thing, see. I’m working on a patent for a nuclear reactor right now. Well, me and two other guys. It’ll make the tokamak fusion reactor look like a circus ring. You want to find a boson? Well, it’ll be in the middle of the soup in my reactor. All I’ve got to do is figure out how to get superprocessors that can operate about about 300F; right now they’re only about -321F and that’s much too cold.”
“Wow, a nuclear reactor. As a powerplant?”
“Sure, it generates power from just about anything. It’ll burn radioactive waste if you want it to, and use it to generate energy. It’ll take any mass, like trash, and convert it to almost pure power. If you can figure out how, someday you could use it to turn lead into gold.”
“Yeah,” I said drily, “It’s that ‘figuring out how’ part that keeps giving everyone so much trouble.”
“But I think we’ve got it,” James said eagerly, “The math is difficult, but asdsopweruiadspfso…”
Now here’s the thing about keeping Portland weird: Sometimes it breeds weird geniuses who set the world on fire with unheard-of innovation…and sometimes it just breeds weird. It can be hard to tell the difference.
So I’m not sure if James is off his rocker, or if I’m listening to the power guru who will save the world. I ask him where he’s going to school and he says nowhere; he’s working three jobs to save money for grad school. And anyway, he’s mostly self-taught. “Yeah, it’s kinda crazy that a physicist just delivered your dinner, but that’s the economy,” he says.
We talk about the Vetruvian Man and its amazing involvement with the third DNA strand, we discuss James’ nuclear reactor and its potential to solve the world’s ills, and he tells me the best way to get a half-molten chunk of steel out of your wrist (needlenose pliers).
All the while my pizza is getting cold.
I walk James to the door. I’m still not sure if he’s wackier than a guava on iceskates or if I’ve just spent 20 minutes with the next Tesla. Possibly both. As he steps out onto my front porch, he turns and shakes my hand.
“Right now I’m rebuilding an old Porsche from spare parts, but I’m going to get back to solving that initial power problem with the reactor,” he promises, “and then you’ll be getting nearly free energy for the rest of your life. “
He picks up his pizza case and leaps off the stairs, heading for his car.