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The Party of the Wooden Gear
A True Story
By Dan Pride
The day started on a lazy Saturday in 1992 about noon with the late morning sun streaming through the 12 foot high windows of the kitchen, a view of San Francisco bay and all of silicon valley stretched out below. Mike Hren came down to make breakfast, shooting pictures of the Mansion's rooms and the panoramic view of Silicon valley stretched out before him. As breakfast cooked, he went out to test the barrel of wine we were brewing to see if it was ready. It was a daily ritual. We all knew bottling time was getting close, but it was Michaels call. He came back from the garage with a glass full of red wine and handed it to me and said "its ready, we bottle today"! Yahoo...party time on the mountaintop. Calls went out. Marcus Bryant was out but a message was left on his machine. Various others of the Bank Bar regular crowd and miscellaneous girlfriends of Rays got the word.
A realtor came by to ask about the house. He was offered a glass of our wine but declined. He talked to Ray briefly and left. Things were heating up, and he probably decided that this was not a good day to show the house.
After business, Ray and his date, a flaming red head, came down from the master suit and made their entrance into the kitchen. Shawn and Reann came down from the back of the complex and joined the party. People were starting to come and go from the kitchen to the attached garage with increasing regularity.
The wine barrel was on the far side of the two-car garage. To get to it guests climbed past the metal working area of the garage (nearest the kitchen), then climbed over various flotsam and jetsam of household goods and tools and a 5 foot mound of really odd wooden objects covered by a large blue tarp. The wine barrel and the test batch bottle resided against the far wall from the kitchen.
Coming from the kitchen, [Garage Diagram] quests walked right past the road hazard bomb sitting on the edge of the blue tarp covered mound. The thing looked really ugly. Large 8"" spikes came from the center of the board in a crown of bristling nails. A second 2x4 with a rectangular hole bored through it was nailed to the bottom of the top board. Even in the weird stuff world of Rays garage it stood out. As I got drunker, I remember trying to turn it over so no one would impale themselves in their drunken stupor. Ray was quick to help turn it over, hiding the nails but exposing the chiseled rectangular hole in the bottom to my view.
The party moved to the master suite. Michelle, Tony, and I were discussing sexual escapades in the office section of the suite. Ray showed up. Seeming bored with the conversation he suddenly stated he was going to smash an etched glass storm lamp on the bookcase which I was admiring. It was exquisite crystal and finely etched. We all reacted with disbelief and he relented admitting he was "just kidding". After a few more sentences of conversation he suddenly pulled a wastebasket over to his feet and smashed the lamp to smithereens, glass particles flying back out of the basket. Our jaws dropped in startled amazement and as we stared in disbelief he shrugged like he had done some many other times, lifted his palms up and said "So I lied".
Just then Mike Hren showed up with his camera and started shooting pictures. Ray objected at the first photo and then jumped at the camera nearly knocking it out of his hand as he shot the second. I laughed as I envisioned what that last shot must have looked like with Ray lunging at the camera just as the flash went off. At the time I didn't even suspect that the VanPac like box on the desk might be the reason.
Hren protested the action and started to ask questions, it was an expensive camera. (Photos of the office are missing according to Hren). Ray backed off. The party got more electric. He went to the bedroom, drawing everyone inside. He put on one of the dozen fir coats in the closet, a twenty thousand dollar full length mink, and started mugging for the camera, an extravagant dance with Michelle helped to draw attention away from the office.
By three oclock things were really rocking in the garage. Marcus arrived with a roar in his bright shiny new red Corvette. He walked into the garage surveying the spectacle of drunks partying in the workshop and Hren with his ever present camera clicking away. He took Hren's camera and started shooting pictures himself. Ray threw his head back with embarrassment... and looking at the ceiling with an incredulous laugh he cried "Oh my fucking god I don't believe this"... Marcus clicks the shot as Michelle cuddles on his neck and Hren fills me another glass.
Michael and I give up on getting the barrel of wine bottled. J-Ray in his usual rare form was keeping the party rolling, keeping everyone in stitches. He starts dipping his fingers in wine, and coloring our noses with the wine. He laughs, saying how ridiculous we will all look in the photos. Super-drunks. His fingers pass my nose twice ...painting my nose with wine twice, ...before I react to the third pass. He insists I hold still, and I strangely comply. Hren and Shawn are posed by J-Ray for a picture sitting on the wine barrel. Then, Marcus wants a picture of J-Ray and I. Ray looks around for a prop, then with a laugh , throwing his head back, he changes his mind and picks up a bat instead of the clipboard. With glee he says "Oh yea lets use this". He pokes me with the bat as he walks over to me and laughs saying "burn baby burn". Startled, I ask him "what the...", he mutters something about spitting burning metal, I say "Oh Nice" as Marcus clicks the picture. Ray got it just right as usual, he looked like the yellow pages guy running down the street with a giant match Years later I would see more in the Picture than I wanted to. The camera flashes on the metal working side of the garage as Hren regains control of his camera.. Hren nearly breaks his toe going toward the kitchen on the oxyacetylene tank, we all laugh at the mess of crazy stuff that's Rays workshop and garage. (Pictures Missing). Hren steps out into the driveway to snap a photo of the mess, berating Ray for the messy garage. "Jesus, Ray...When you gonna clean it up" Hren says, pointing out that the house is for Sale and Realtors are coming by. We had offered to organize it to help him out, but he had strenuously objected and warned us off. Hren snaps a couple of photos of the mess. (photos missing, only photos of the far wall survived [Garage Diagram]). Hren said later that he felt his room had been rifled several times, photos were missing ...he bought another lock...life in the party villa went on...
The wine was a little rough, things started to getting blurry. Michael was walking around like a mannequin, with an odd unchanging smile and look. Ray posed him against the wall almost like he really was a mannequin. Ray dips his fingers into Michaels glass and paints his own lips red laughing about how red they will look in the photo "OK take the photo now" he says, holding his own bottle out of view. Later, the next day, we revived an old household joke that the stuff really was "shit on speed". Ray moves Michael over to a sitting position, one hand on each elbow as he maneuvers him. He kicks Michelle out of the picture. then swaps the expensive vintage that he had been arrogantly drinking, with Hren's glass, telling Michael to hold up the bottle for the photo. He complies. Ray holds his thumb like like an ad as the flash goes off. I do think it's the last time I will drink too much green wine again. Perhaps its better to wait. But even so, the evening had a weird quality to it. Almost like we were dancing to the tune. Dettling was saying one outrageous thing after another. Oh, a photo ? He grabs a washboard like a clipboard and a stick for a baton to emphasis he is the conductor of this orchestra.
Just after the "picture of the giant match", he mumbles to me about plane parts and if it's off by theeeeeese much he says as he squeezes his thumb and forefinger together with delight. We all laugh again at a gruesome joke. He says a pin would survive the crash and when they dug up the engine they would find it, and wonder for all eternity how it was done. He says it fast, then shrugs with an animated smile and says "sa la vie" I respond saying ..."you mean like the pin in your desk drawer"...his face contorts with surprised expression....ohhhhh verrrrry gooood he says melodically......Like I said, it was a strange evening, some of it emerges from the mist of memory of that night as I write this (Jan 2001).
Later as Ray is leaning on the oxyacetylene tank, and I am standing near the blue tarp, I look down and see something strange and interesting. A large wooden gear 18 inches in diameter made out of a block of wood 5 inches thick. "weird... cool"I pick it up, look at Ray and say "what's this". He does not answer, so I ask again, still no answer. He takes the gear from me, I stagger. "well what's it do".. Ray smiles, reaches down, and picks up a serrated piece of wood about two feet long. He places the serrate against the wooden gear and says "it turns". I shrug, as usual Rays being cryptic, but I was too drunk to challenge him again. I turned to talk to Hren and Tony. Ray reaches down and tries to pull a wire off the gear. The wire is stiff, like a TV cable made of many twisted wires, and it won't give. Apparently he thought it too obvious. It is attached to an oval bronze metal plate on one of the gear teeth. It won't budge and he really starts to struggle. We all stop talking and look at him. He looks up at us. He starts to laugh wildly... crazily from a bent over position, and starts to pull on the wire with great gusto and exaggerations. We are all in stitches again. Ray starts going really ballistic with the wheel and the wire. He tosses the 30-pound gear into the air and pulls on the wire several times. The 30 pound wooden gear slams into his shoulder, then again into his head. Finally he looses his grip and the gear land on top of the blue tarp. Ray shrieks hysterically and leaves the room with a statement throwing up his right hand into the air as he walks towards the kitchen. Someone asks what he said and he answers but I don't hear.
"Wow, what a show that was"... I think as Dettling exits the garage...awesome. His energy throwing the gear into the air and jacking it back again with the wire approached a frenzy. The laughter dies down and the room goes silent in his absence. I take a slurp of wine and stagger a little. I look down with a "wow I wonder what else is down there" attitude...must be something else I can "get into". I see a wooden dowel and wires arrangement, two wires running each side in grooves in the dowel down to a T. I push it over. There is a box with a back painted interior next to it. Sitting in the box is a square piece of wood with a leaver. (See: About the switch) I pick up the wood...interesting...sort of....I play with the long black leaver...Holding the wood square in both hands with the lever pointed away from me I push the lever back and forth between the 3 positions....as I push it toward the center, it goes boinggggg like the end of a swimming pool diving board ...way cool...I boing the lever several times before loosing interest... "Kinda like floor wood" ...I toss it back into the cardboard box and wonder...why would you paint a cardboard box ? I step back bumping into the oxyacetylene torch and stagger a little...as I look up Ray renters the room...again with great energy.
More mugging for the camera. Ray continues to act like he has the big secret that's so awesome that none of us could ever guess. So far few have..so far. And on this Halloween at the end of the century, somewhere right now, he is probably out there somewhere mugging for the camera again?
Note: The Unabomber wooden gear was part of a pickup bomb. The bomb had a false bottom with two struts, which supported the gear. The serrated wooden piece anchored on a false top, which had a handle. When someone picks up on the false handle, the serrated piece turns the gear as the false cover comes off, moving the metal plate to make a connection. The gear was featured in a PBS special on the Unabomber case that aired on the Missoula Montana station shortly after Kaczynski's arrest. I have not seen the gear featured or mentioned in connection with the case since. The road hazard bomb, also in the garage was similar to the Gary Wright bomb. 14 of 17 bombs showed oxyacetylene welds and Kaczynski had no torch. The wooden switch pictured above was photographed among the remains of the Gelernter bomb in 1993 and is identical in appearance to the switch which I handled. A black painted cardboard box was used in the VanPac bombing of judge Robert Vance, a case prosecuted by a then unknown New York Prosecutor named Louie Freeh.
*From the cupboard under the stairs :)
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