Clarke-mas is my oldest friend. He is intense, brilliant, and invariably sarcastic. He speaks his mind and eschews political correctness. We have been buddies since before the ordeal that was high school. A major component of all my adolescent fun, ee graduated from afternoons on bicycles, to rock concerts, to sipping bourbon and philosophizing way past midnight. Clarke-mas has long since moved away to Washington state with his beloved wife K. We keep in touch via email, where he fills my inboxes with his various meditations on religion, politics, movies, and U-boats. Since the enormity of describing all our shenanigans is overwhelming, I’ll list a few highlights:
Using authentic techniques, he crafted an elegant sword. I recall he had to send it away to be properly tempered. He also painstakingly crafted a chain mail vest out of lock washers and even hacked throwing stars out of scrap metal.
The technique I used is termed “stock removal” since I took a piece of 440C stainless steel, a file, and removed everything that wasn’t a sword. It was more sculpture than metalworking. And yes, I had to have a guy in, hmm, wanna say, South Carolina, do the heat treatment. When I got it back I put it through a rigorous testing process, involving a wooden chair, a metal chair, and a concrete wall. They lost, the sword won–it was deemed “acceptable”. Since that time, due mainly to my rather prodigious beer consumption, the sword’s been tested even further, with the loss of several doors, one tree and, as of last week, a bit of my garage’s concrete floor, suffering significant damage. I have it on excellent authority that 440C stainless steel is entirely too “fragile” for a sword. Not shock-resistant due to the high chromium content. If I were to make another, I’d probably use a different steel. But to paraphrase the great Bruce Campbell, “Right, wrong, I’m the guy with the sword”. The sword survives, unscathed. It is named “Arunar” in case you’re curious. “Air-you-nahr”.
He bought a 1963 hearse and installed a life-size silver skull as a hood ornament. He spiffed up the interior by adding a small chandelier.
Being a literalist, the skull was not silver, but it was a life-sized human replica plastic model in “natural” colors. While I have my doubts, I’d like to say the skull on the bookshelf in my garage is that very one. It spent quite a bit of time in fish tanks over the years because I thought it looked great in fish tanks, the fish loved it, and the algae growth has given it a fantastic realism. I also wanted to put a fake buzzard on the roof, over the windshield, which would have flashing red eyes and animatronic wings that would flap on the appropriate side when I used my turn signal. You can never have too many animatronic buzzards around for my tastes.
During his biker days, he grew an intimidating beard and purchased a Hog. He drove cross-country once to visit with an Army buddy. It rained the whole time. The hog is long gone, but the beard remains.
Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle for lawyers, stockbrokers, and other scum. And yes, it rained like a sum-bitch.
In his younger years, he was a ninja fanatic. He had an authentic costume and would carouse his neighborhood in full regalia with his buddy Paul at night. Once he took me with him, but I sadly lacked ninja skills, as evidenced by my pathetic attempts to hide behind too-narrow trees and well-lit lawn décor.
Hee hee, I’d forgotten all about that. “You must *become* the light post”. Geez, why we never got arrested over all that, I, erh, sorry, actually Paul and I did. Never mind. The thing I remember best was that research paper I gave in Sue Groth’s high school English class. I gave her no warning and never even considered the potential repercussions… obviously, to give a report on Ninjas, you should be a Ninja, right? So I got all suited up in the school bathroom and went back into the classroom armed for bear–black suit, mask, sword, nunchaku, throwing stars, sais, tonfas, knives, kusari-gama, manriki-gusari, hell the list just goes on and on…I thought it was a damned good, extremely informative report and there are probably folks out there who remember it to this day. Nowadays I would have been gunned down by snipers from the Department of Homeland Security. At the time all I got was a rather…agitated call to my father. They’re damned lucky I never figured out a way to tie off to a support beam, because I wanted to start my speech by dropping down through the false ceiling. That would have made me a legend.
Enchanted by the movie The Road Warrior, he replaced the passenger seats in his Chevy Nova with plywood. I remember anxiously scooting across the wooden back seat when he took sharp turns.
That would have been the 1970 Pontiac Catalina. I removed all the seats and replaced them with a single bucket seat I got at Black’s Auto salvage out of some Japanese import. I then built a plywood “bed” that was going to be the foundation for turning it into the “ultimate” survivalist car. I’d imagine we were violating all sorts of seat-belt laws at that point…I gave up on it after a rather dramatic 4-wheel lock-up and skid event, the cause of which has been lost to memory, during which the entire wooden structure broke loose and slid forward, causing me some minor discomfort and not helping my reflexes at all. By the way, I now have the entire “Mad Max” action figure collection. I’m quite proud of them.