Thursday, August 24, 2006
True One-Minute Stories for the End of August (1)
Once I came home from Junior High to find a group of people - including a local medium who also wrote a gossip column for the weekly paper, an retired Highway Patrolman, and a large and extravagant guy with a ragged plaid coat, wild hair, and the air of a committed career drinker - trying to get my father to invest in a machine invented by the big man, who was referred to as a "genus" and "the professor". The effectiveness of the as-yet-unfinished machine, secreted away in a garage that the cop had someplace in Pomona, was supposed to generate more energy than it output, and its use in separating salt from water and extracting gold from "other elements", was attested to by the medium who had touched the closed door of the garage, as she, not-yet-a-paid-investor, had not been allowed to see the prototype. The working principle, the inventor staged-whispered to us, was air pressure. After my father showed the unsuccessful sales team to the door, he sent me straight to the Britannica to read up on the laws of thermodynamics. The inventor and the retired cop were later jailed for the scheme, the medium continues to give readings from her living room in Montclair.