Today I want answers: Why is there a blimp circling The Empire State Building? Is Poison in concert at the Saratoga Arts Center an acceptable camp field trip for young girls? Where the hell am I going to live? Is Mr. Wizard’s death real or (hopefully) just another experiment?
I still don’t know the power of gasoline vapors or why ice is sticky. I should. I logged a lot of Mr. Wizard hours afterschool, stretched out on the carpet with Kool-Aid, mentally taking stock of my mother’s kitchen pantry and my father’s tool shed. Because Mr. Wizard made combustion and motion out of things. He was the opposite of Smokey Bear. He encouraged fire. I took the SuperMarket Sweep approach to Science: grab what you can in a few minutes, figure its worth later. What might vanilla extract and WD40 do? How about baking soda, shoe polish, and sea monkeys? To this day I am still surprised that rubbing alcohol and marshmellow fluff just sort of sit there.
I would be disingenuous if I claimed not to be writing a fantasy series about a princess from a fishing village and a talking raven during Mr. Joyner’s 7th grade Science class (later it morphed into a musical that featured such highblown lyrics as “When the sun will set in the gates to the west/when the raven flies by with the stone and the crest), but I would also be selling my Scully side short if I didn’t claim some semblance of interest in the periodic table. It was “periodic” for me, aptly enough, because my interest in it fluctuated. I liked looking at my cheek cells under a microscope, but soon found making a lemon battery out of a nail and some plastic coated wiring to be lame (I also left my lemon battery at school over Christmas Break and it rotted).
What kid doesn’t grow up to remember his/her Science and Art projects in crystalline detail? The smoking volcano, the paper mache Alaska? I dressed up as Eva Peron in 8th grade. My best friend Katie was Juan. Of course she was. She was always the more assertive in our relationship. Trust me, that presentation has to count as some sort of experiment. How did I presume to know an Argentine accent at 13?
Mr Wizard, I will miss you. Josh will, too. In the tradition of Gandalf and other skilled enchanters, your most lasting trick was patience and kindness. Your Science had a kind of moral imperative to it. Maybe that’s why I was so desperate to get my tin can telephone to work.
Oh Mr. Wizard, how will we ever suck eggs into bottles without you? And how will I exact revenge on my landlady using only borax, glue, and food coloring?