|The flag of the Adventure Club. Seven stripes for seven members.|
They hiked all about town, down to the railroad yards on their bikes, and made maps of their travels and named their discoveries as explorers were wont to do. Woods 1. Woods 2. Woods 3. Hey, no claim was made to originality. The Sigafoos Jungle, perhaps because it was overgrown with sumac and therefore resembled what they imagined a jungle would look like. Run-off rivulets from the farms provided a plethora of jungle mud with which to cake the hiking boots and bore the proud name of "river" on their maps. Expeditions were mounted to discover the headwaters of these streams. As a bonus, anaerobic mud was found to be both stinky and to possess the power to suck the boots right off your feet. How cool is that? Sometimes all seven adventurers went out; sometimes only the local group of three that lived on the same block: Michael and Dennis and Danny.
|The view from Mammy Morgan. They hiked up here from|
the bustling metropolis below. In the distance is the Blue
Ridge, aka Kittatinny Mtn.. (Photo: Kevin Flynn)
|The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.|
No bustling metropolis on this side of Mammy Morgan.(photo: Kevin Flynn)
Well, okay. There were supposed to be dinosaurs still living atop the Hexenkopf, down in Bucks County, and off the edges of their personal map. Those are dragons, aren't they? (Later, they did hike down there and learned that in the interim this saurian remnant had died off without a trace.)
The Adventure Club engaged in other ventures. They had a couple of telescopes: a reflector and a refractor and discovered with them the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and even Uranus. And the neighbors. They designed a rocket, although that was never brought to fruition and they settled for vinegar and baking soda, and with a milk bottle, a balloon, and a straw they could forecast the rain. They also blew the fuses in Danny's house with an electrical circuit that did not quite circle. Chemical experiments were done. Open flames! Asbestos pads! Strangely-named chemicals to be played with! Hey, there weren't any seat belts in the cars, either, and they rode bikes without helmets and pads.
Basically, their whole life was illegal under present law. There were bodies everywhere.
So it seemed only right that they write. Four of them collaborated on Ad Astra, what is now called a "shared universe," writing epic stories of the solar system... and beyond! The reason why writers today are told to avoid using exclamation points is that those kids used them all up fifty years ago. What were they thinking?
They were thinking the future would be worth an exclamation or two. There would be satellites -- and shortly, there were! (There's one of those exclamation points now, left over from that time.) There would be a race to the moon -- and there was! There would be a moon base - Luna City! And a trip to Mars. And flying cars. And you can't win them all. But also computers and robots and all sorts of reminders that we are living in their future.
|Daniel W. Hommer (1948-2013)|
He did not have the beard as a kid.
Dennis died in high school, and never lived even to see the moon landings. He was buried in Franciscan robes, and there are entire days when his brother does not think of him, though not many. He and Danny were in the same grade, a year behind TOF and Red.
And now TOF has learned that Danny too has gone ad astra.
Danny Hommer's grandmother and TOF's grandmother were first cousins, and that, in the parlance of what was still then called German Hill, made them "cellar door cousins." That gave them walk-in-the-kitchen-door rights, easier to exercise in an age when doors were not often locked. The name is pronounced Hŭmmer and had almost certainly once been Hömmer back in the Germanies.
Of all the Adventure Club, perhaps Danny got closest to the scientific frontier -- not the spatial one, but the inner one. His c.v. at NIH tells us he received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. During his Psychiatry Residency at Yale University he used single unit recording techniques to examine the behavior of dopamine neurons. He continued this work, as well as clinical research in schizophrenia, during a fellowship at NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). In 1987, he left NIH to join the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1992, he returned to NIH to lead the Section of Brain Electrophysiology and Imaging within the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). His laboratory examined functional and structural brain imaging as they relate to alcoholism, with emphasis on brain systems involved in motivation and emotion. He was world-renowned for his discoveries on structural and functional differences in brains of alcoholic and non-alcoholic individuals.
The c.v. will not tell you of his star-gazing, his electrical experiments, his role in a 16mm B&W World War II film epic, or that he had once gone over a mountain to see what he could see. Now he has gone over another one. Ad astra, old friend.
Early in college, perhaps even that first summer before he entered Penn, Danny and TOF set off on what was the last adventure of the Adventure Club. Most of the members had already scattered and only those two were left in town. They packed their rucksacks and sleeping bags into Danny's VW Beetle and set off for the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia, where there wasn't much ground light to blot out the stars.