Saturday, February 25, 2012

Guest Blogger: James Adams, cabinetmaker

Moon Rocks
The town of La Honda is populated by a remarkable collection of erudite cranks, of whom James Adams is a prime example.  James is a cabinetmaker by trade.   I've worked several jobs with him.  James can tell you tales about riding a Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle, about psychedelic research, about 30 years of coaching soccer (he was the model for the character of the Harley-riding pistol-packing soccer coach in Boone Barnaby).  He's also an astronomy freak with what is probably the biggest home-made telescope in La Honda.  Recently he wrote about a job which didn't involve me but that fits well with the themes of this blog: pride of craft, fatherhood, the random humor of life.  And moon rocks.  Here's how James tells it:

Some completely unremarkable junk, except that it came from the moon, has gone missing. Well, a very small weight of the stuff was presented by the U.S. Government to various screwball heads of state, Fascists and/or totalitarian and/or democratic leaders who were at the time considered "our friends."

Appropriately to how these deserving elder stewards of democracy valued these unique and timeless gifts from the most advanced and powerful society the world has ever seen, the rocks became paperweights, doorstops, and, frequently, trash.

One such treasure was rescued from a burning foreign government building, moments before being bulldozed. Had it wound up in the landfill, it would have disappeared like snow on the water. Unfortunately, it was rescued by someone who realized its intrinsic worth.

Better for him that it had sunk without a ripple. A U.S. Government Agency was on the case. End of story, there.

My connection: in 1970 I was working in Mountain View for a cabinetmaker, an older guy who had been a woodworker all his life, and who belonged to the WIC, the Woodworking Institute of California. This allowed him to do work for the U.S. Government and NASA Ames and such. 

We did jobs for the Atomic Energy Commission, non-magnetic fasteners throughout, mostly vertical-grain fir, classical joinery, like that. Don Sigman, the owner, assigned me to build a shallow box, covered inside and out with plastic laminate [think, Formica]. Maybe 42" wide, 24" front-to-back inside, and maybe 12" deep. With black wrought iron legs.

I was to deliver it to NASA Ames Research at Moffett Field, which was located about two miles from our shop.

The Marine guard wouldn't let me in because I had long hair. I asked him to give me a note to give my boss saying that he wouldn't let me in.

When he asked his superiors, of course, he had to pass me. Looks to kill.

Cut to 1974, taking my stepsons to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. There's the display case, with a plastic lid, with the moon rocks on display!

Oh, la.

J. Adams

Note from Joe C:  Has anybody been to the San Francisco Exploratorium lately?  Are the moon rocks (and the display cabinet) still there?  I wish I had a photo.

Edit: March 25 2012  If you want more, I've added a profile of James Adams.  Here's the link.

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