"Inspired by the phenomenon that is John Parr"
When Thomas Edison brightened the world with the invention of the light bulb in 1879, it marked a turning point. No longer was he merely a well-known scientist. He had transformed, seemingly overnight, into a genius. The light bulb had put him over the top. It was his "Thriller".
Ironically, however, the light bulb sparked a very dark era for Thomas Edison. He was receiving almost unanimous praise from all angles, and believing it all. He quickly became a bulb snob. And as a result, his friends were staying away in droves. “He thought his filament didn’t stink,” said one Edison associate.
Edison dismissed his friend’s abandonment as jealousy and pressed on. After a five month publicity stint (the “Let There Be Light” tour ’79) he returned to his work with unbridled enthusiasm. That’s when the bottom fell out.
The world was eager for a follow-up and Edison, enjoying his newfound celebrity, was not about to jeopardize it.
He could not at this delicate juncture, present something as potentially boring as a hot water tank. Oh no, much care and calculation would go into his next “release.” To insure his continued popularity, he decided it would not be particularly original, as the public is slow to warm to new ideas. Instead it would be an improvement on a current “hot” item. One of which happened to be rubber-soled shoes favored by the children of the time and which were called “sneakers.”
On April 1, 1880, after much speculation, Edison called for a press conference. At last! This year’s model. Would the rumors prove to be true? Was it the time machine? Or would it be the mind reading device? No matter what it was, the world was sure it would be even more amazing than “The Bulb.”
“Attention-Getters” were what he called them. They were an “improvement” on sneakers. And to say the least, the public was caught off-guard by the unveiling.
The left foot was a jumble of glass tubing, cable, pulleys, and carpeting. It had an incense burner with much ductwork to insure proper ventilation, and a buzzer activated by a tap of the toe. Inside the glass tubing was chrome balls that rolled when you walked. It had nine inch curb finders and a sewing machine bobbin on top. Encased in the heel was a large clock which, instead of ticking, sizzled. The right foot was a nightstand with a deer hoof on it.
“Goat feces!” screamed the New York Times. “Bologna rind,” proclaimed the Chicago Sun. “A flamboyant attempt at crass commercialism,” said Earwax. Thomas Edison went into a tailspin.
Although he remained fiercely popular, Edison no longer appeared infallible. He was human again, and he didn’t like it one bit. His friends returned to him at this point, just in time to witness his mental collapse.
“Tom went off,” said Clyde Samples, a longtime Edison employee. “He started hanging out with the wrong crowd, reading that heavy metal, you know Ronnie James Poe or whatever. And I don’t want to insinuate anything but on more than one occasion I thought is smelled burning rope in his room.
“His experiments lost that old ‘desperate needs of the world’ direction and took a turn for the bizarre. He spent three months on a ‘sleep gin’ which artificially reproduces the stuff in the corner of your eye.”
Sylvis Wilcox, Edison’s drummer, recalled, “All I can remember about Tom during that period was how much he sweat. Ninety-nine percent of the time his armpits seemed to almost pulsate. But that’s because he was a genius, you know…oh yeah, and all those stories.”
“Those stories” were probably born of Edison’s frustration to reproduce his light bulb success. Because of his popularity he was apparently able to “invent” large clumps of history.
"Because the public was still very fond of Tom and trusted him like a grandfather he was able to convince them that things happened that really didn't," said Samples. "You don't really believe there was a war between the states do you? Tom was proud of that one."
Tom finally "snapped out of it" in early 1881. He was at the local barber shop taking credit for inventions he had nothing to do with. His barber disputed his claim to being the inventor of "better hair" and Tom began laughing hysterically. He was the old Thomas Edison after that, but he was the only one laughing.
Where's Sinda Higgins?
I was fearlessly aiming my K-car at a small, ever-decreasing hole in left lane traffic when it hit me. Where's Sinda Higgins? I think it hit me once before, in high school, but I apparently didn't give it much thought then. Whatever happened to good ol' Sinda Higgins? Sinda "Block" Higgins.
She was one of those kids in grade school that suddenly disappeared without my noticing it. I remember her being in sixth grade, but from there on out my memory is completely sans Sinda. And she's not the only one. Where's Curtis Sydenstricker? Fred Wodarski? Jeff Wicks? Karen McClure? and Joey Kelly? It's as if some greater being took a plug sample of my grade school.
As my K-car slammed into the bean aisle of a Safeway, I made up my mind. I was going to find Sinda Higgins. Considering the circumstances, I cannot help but suspect that I was predestined to further explore it. It would have been much too easy to let this question slip away unanswered.
The remainder of my afternoon was spent faking concern as the rescue squad used the Jaws of Life to pry an elderly woman out from under a ham rack. But, at evening's end, while my K-car was being towed with bits of shawl still jammed in the grill work, my mind was still tuned to Sinda. I was oblivious to distraction.
I could feel something strange happening. I had become obsessed with a person that was only a slight memory. She had not made any great impact, in fact none at all. She was merely one of the girls in my grade school.
I began the search by questioning some of my other grade school classmates. Most could only barely remember her and none could understand why I wanted to find her so badly. I couldn't either. No help.
Her parents could not be found either. Ed Edson, manager of the Sears store where Sinda's father was employed, said the Higgins' moved around a lot. "He punched out one day for lunch and punched back in at our Louisville store."
The last record at the school was her sixth grade report card, containing the seven C's. No help.
I went to her old house. "Sinda who? What?! Nah man, ain't no Sinda here. I heard a Lew Al-Sinda." Not even close.
The search continued similarly for almost six months. I lost my job at Honeywell, my wife ran off with a Scrambler mechanic, and my goldfish ate his own dorsal fin. I didn't care. I was obsessed on one level for reasons unknown. And intrigued on another by an obvious cover up. The lack of knowledge was much too consistent.
The big break in "the case" came when I went to Miami on a follow up. While driving through an unusually seedy part of town, I noticed "Sinda Reigns" painted on a wall. Then another, then another. I got out to ask a few questions. Again it was, "Sinda? Never heard of her." I was furious. I was tired of the secrecy. I demanded answers. I buy a lot of gauze now.
Sinda turned out to be Sinda Poz, kingpin of the massive Miami bootleg slaw industry. (Miami does not lie in a moist county.) But in researching the lead I met up with Cookie Rojas, ex-Major League baseball player turned independent researcher.
I told Cookie my story. He knew Sinda and took me to her. She was working in a revolving laundromat at the top of a large office building. She didn't recognize me.
Cookie and I went to a donut shop and drank coffee. He told me about his brother's adventures in Vietnam and I told him old Fas-Chek stories. I wonder where the carnival's at.
A Brief Note
With this issue The Surf Report is beginning its move into more traditional fanzine territory. Although humor pieces will continue to appear from time to time, the emphasis will now be on the local music scene. We believe the change will make for a more purposeful and useful publication. To begin the transition, we are including our interview with Charleston thrash band LIQUID SLIT. Representing the band is Tim (vocals) and Scott (bass).
WVSR: Why don't you start by describing your sound.
Scott: Well, we do covers of Death Trip and Energy Crisis '74, does that help?
WVSR: How'd the tour go?
Scott: Great! We played this old movie theater in Kentucky and we found this old trunk in the basement and you could never guess in a million years what was in it!!
WVSR: Tim, what's your favorite Beatrice product?
CONTINUED ON PAGE FOUR...
The View From Down Here
Howdy! I want to begin by thanking my staff for the wonderful job they did in our "Wipe Out A Flock of Seagulls" campaign, which we secretly began way back in '83. Nice work people! Now to the regular stuff. First in the TECHNICAL NOOZ: it's being called The Falcon and the Surf Report, but please let me explain. It is true that I sold Process G to the Russians, but for good reason. They let me in on a little secret of their own. Don't tell anyone but, they don't really have nuclear weapons. I guess it was just clever PR. Anyway, I felt kind of sorry for them, you know. Now on to the QUIZ FOR PAGE THREE. Scab skimming is synonymous with what Minnesota lake? The answer is on Page Four, please no cheating! Now it's time to check in and see WHAT'S HAPPENIN' WITH OTTO. During an alcohol induced moment of sentimentality, Otto actually called up and ordered that "Teddie" deal off TV. His program is scheduled to end in 2037 with the Phone Solicitor Roland Teddie. There is nothing he can do. THE GUIDED TOUR will now continue. "To your left is the fried egg formation. If you look closely you can even see bits of shell in there. But don't touch it it's hot, ha ha!" Now for the BIZNESS NOOZ. The Surf Report is now accepting full page advertisements. Rates are $100 per. Front and back cover ads are slightly higher, write for prices.
See ya at the beach, Jeff