Silicon Implants of the Mind

by Calendar Hacksaw

This month's column is going to require quite a bit of set-up, and I hope you'll bear with me. It's 3:00 a.m. on a Monday morning as I write this, so I think we all know where I'm coming from.

By way of introduction and explanation, Betty and I recently had some minor remodeling done in our bathroom; replacing the tub enclosure, shower doors, etc. To keep things orderly, I told the demolition crew to throw the old stuff out on the front lawn so I could pick through it at my leisure and discard anything that couldn't be put to a new use.

After the workers finished, I sorted out the junk and came up with two clear plastic rods, each about 7" long and 5/8" in diameter, heavily encrusted in soap scum from years of neglect and abuse, which had previously served as washcloth hangers.

Thinking I might be able to find some use for them, I sprayed one with Windex and wiped it off with a paper towel. To my utter amazement, it came out good as new; crystal clear from one end to the next.

My mind began to spin, and I hatched a plot.

The following weekend, ol' Calendar and four buddies were scheduled to take a long-awaited two-night roadtrip to Pioneertown, just north of Yucca Valley. We had reserved the most expensive cabin at the Rimrock Ranch, and looked forward to a few days of exploration and camaraderie, free of outside influences or diversions, yet ripe with temptation. Okay, we went there to drink.

Now it must be understood that at least two members of this motley crew rate pretty high on the computer geek scale, and often laugh at my inability to grasp such rudimentary concepts as "disk drive" or "Luddite." But, I'm willing to bet that for all those nerds who freely toss around such words as "silicon," most would be at a total loss if ordered to build a computer chip from scratch. Hell, they don't even know what silicon looks like.

Well, we all pulled into Pioneertown Friday morning from three different directions, wound our way up the hill to Rimrock, commenced to shaking hands, lifting toasts and laying out the weekend plan. We would BBQ that night, enjoy breakfast at the Route 62 Diner in the morning, catch Patty Booker, Rick Shea and the Hired Hands' first set at Pappy & Harriet's Palace, then deuce our way back to the cabin Saturday night for campfire and singing. And the campfire would be integral to my little practical joke.

Now, four in our group have been friends for 40 years or more, while the fifth—Don—was a relative newcomer, making his behavior relatively hard to predict compared to the others, and that would be an important element in what I hoped to pull off. So I took Don aside at the first opportunity, explained to him in great detail what I had planned, and begged for his assistance. He was more than happy to lend a hand, if he could stay reasonably sober long enough to remember his single spoken line and role.

Saturday went 100% according to plan, so after dinner and some two-stepping, we returned to the ranch and built a large, inviting fire. The strumming of guitars and spirited singing commenced, and that attracted our new cabin-neighbors, Lance and Noel, who rode up on a Harley for the weekend not knowing what to expect. Lance and Noel had never seen five old men having such fun, so they studied us closely, looking for clues to our happiness and just generally enjoying our company way too much for anyone with a lick of sense.

We were seated in a circle around the fire when I suddenly stood up and removed the plastic rods from the inside pocket of my jacket, boldly announcing that a friend in the computer industry had loaned me something most people have never seen. I handed the two rods to Lance and asked that they be passed around.

I baited the hook by asking, "Does anyone know what these are?"

Lance muttered something like, "Plexiglas," as the exhibits began making the rounds.

"No," I proclaimed, "These are rods of pure silicon, measuring exactly 2 cm. in diameter and 19 cm. in length. Each one is worth about $3,000 in this form, and contains enough silicon to build 500,000 Intel processor chips. You'll note that one rod is perfectly clear and the other seems foggy and dirty. In order to "clarify" a rod of silicon, it must be hit with a 1.5 second burst of microwave at a frequency of exactly 4.9 GHz. Silicon is very temperature sensitive, and if exposed to anything above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it melts in less than one second, making it totally worthless."

By this time, the rods had made their way to Don, who was examining them with one of the other guys.

I finished my spiel, and Don stared at me long and hard before announcing, "Calendar, you're full of bullshit!" And with that, Don unceremoniously and without warning intentionally pitched both rods into the raging fire.

Don and I locked eyes hard, and I heard the unmistakable, universal collective gasp of a thousand cottontails dashing through the sagebrush, two covey of quail darting across a dirt road and a dozen geckos demonstrating push-ups on the fence tops as five people sat in frozen, deafening silence wondering what kind of pure hell was about to break loose now that $6,000 worth of supposedly borrowed silicon had been squandered by fire. A high-pitched laugh shattered the air, followed by one that sounded more like a growl as those in attendance sought to ease the tension, which hung over those assembled like the reading of the verdict at a Michael Jackson trial. Don and I managed to keep straight faces for about that long, and then we succumbed as well. The truth came out, the party resumed, we drank and sang a while longer before calling it a night.

I don't think Lance and Noel even bothered to say goodnight to the old men; in fact, we never saw them again. So much for making a good first impression, I guess. Not my fault, though; I did my best.

Calendar Hacksaw recycles puddles of melted silicon at, and he enjoyed Patty Booker much more than he let on in this column. Now if Calendar can just hook up with Lucinda Williams some time, his life will be complete.
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