Musings on writing
A friend said that I was reckless. I said I was lucky, luckier than one friend.
In the 10th grade at Poly high school, in the early '60s, I met this guy at the chemistry club who gave a talk about how he'd isolated the white phosphorus sample he showed us. Afterwards, I discovered Eric also was into building rockets.
Eric invited me over to his house to see his latest effort. I normally delivered papers right after I got off the bus, but I figured my customers could wait a little every now and then. I went to his house. He lived in Mount Washington, a leafy suburb. Nicest house I'd ever been in. An all-white living room! How could anyone live here? Ah, a uniformed maid.
He took me up to his bedroom, a huge room all to himself. Out his bedroom window, I could see single family houses on other hills. He clicked on a telegraph for his cousin on the next hill to come over. His cousin was some relation to the Hoffbergers, as in the Orioles' owners.
Eric and his cousin were making galcit--that's a rocket fuel that requires being melted--over a flame. Right in his bedroom! They had a fifteen gallon pot over several bunsen burners. That made me nervous. I'd already had a few close calls with exploding rockets.
Instead of a launch guidewire, Eric's cousin arrived with a metal tube. The rocket would shot out, like a mortar, guiding it in a general direction.
Eric handed me his hobby notebook while they mixed and melted the galcit. Great stuff in the notebook. I had to fight down my envy. He was much better organized and further along than me in chemistry. I turned the page into rocketry notes. I'd been studying the mathematics of specific impulse, nozzle shape, and exhaust velocity in Goldstine's book. He had some of the same formulas then I noticed he'd hadn't accounted for the increase in exhaust velocity due to combustion temperature. I mentioned this, but he pshawed me and raised his eyebrows in disdain towards his cousin.
When I got home later that afternoon, I was restrained in answering my mother when she asked of my afternoon. I didn't want to tell her I was envious of all the advantages Eric had and how well-organized he was, making the most of them.
Summer came. I got busy doing this and that. Every once in a while, I thought of Eric, but mostly I was in my own little world ... until I opened up the Sunpaper one day.
... 16 year old junior killed when struck in the head by a rocket he was loading into a metal guide pipe. A spark ignited the rocket ...
Nearly sixty years later and the memory still rebounds.