Build it and they will come…
As I had mentioned in my last post, we had agreed to assemble the first sphere in New Jersey as a preview for the folks at Acuity. The question we had was “where?”. Now at the time I had 11 acres in Montgomery Township. About half of it was wooded, about half of that with second growth fields that were loaded with cedars that would never support the 5,000 lbs of the sphere. Luckily, right behind my house there were two 60 foot ash trees about 40 feet apart. After consulting with Olaf, the engineer it was decided that as long as we kept the angles on the cables right and didn’t create too much tension horizontally the trees would be alright.
We began to move the triangular panel sections from the shop to my house and bolting them together we assembled the sphere. Once the sphere was assembled we hoisted it up into the tree and attached it to a 3/8″ cable. The cable had to stay at an angle of at least 45 degrees (picture the way a necklace or a medallion will hang) if the cable were too taught it would pull the trees together instead of pulling down on them. And then, we would have a pile of glass and steel and two ash trees. To lift the sphere we used an old backhoe that I’ve long since gotten rid of. I called it “the rolling biohazard” because no matter how many lines and hoses we replaced it wouldn’t stop leaking its hydraulic fluid everywhere.
So with the sphere suspended, we began bringing over the glass from the studio. in a 5 X 10 Home Depot type trailer. all two thousand pieces. Armed with a lot of enthusiasm and will will power we plodded along. Remember we were making all this up as we went along and it was very stressful. Ben and his executive team as well as the architect were going to visit us in two and a half weeks. They after all were on a schedule. And I had to keep up or all would be lost.
The night Giovanni almost died…
I was so tightly wound the night before Ben and his team was due to arrive at Trenton airport that I couldn’t imagine sleeping at all. Inside I was a wreck because although we seemed to have Ben’s confidence I thought it might not be shared by all of his team. And someone somewhere had let it slip the the architect wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of having his beautifully designed building cluttered up with these massive spheres. But, I tried to get some sleep; each minute laying there seemed like an hour. Eventually I began to doze, listening to the trees complain to each other in the wind. Abruptly I awoke to a loud elongated crash! My biggest fear had come true and the trees had finally had enough. “Bob we’re mad and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
After a few moments my heart stopped pounding and I threw on some warm clothes to take a look. If after two months of this exhausting work this would be the way my glass career ended then I must surely have done something very bad in a former life. Standing at the back door, I breathed deep and turned on the light. As I slowly opened the door I looked and saw that the sphere and its two trees were all intact! I stood in silence for a second and then began to simultaneously laugh and cry. Recently my hammock rope broke while I was napping in it. There was that initial startled feeling as you try to process what has just happened, then the inventory of body parts and then that slightly unhinged laughter as you realize nothing is broken… This moment was like that. It just seemed to be so funny and I had all this pent up nervous energy. Wandering around the house I began to look for the source of the noise. I thought it must be a shelf from the kitchen full of pots and pans, but no. Finally I found the source. In our living room were two very old walk in fireplaces. Our cat Giovanni had somehow managed to knock over the great andirons in one of them and sent the whole thing in a great slow motion crash to the floor. Although in that moment, I was tempted to find out if Giovanni could fly I let it go and free from all that pent up energy, I went back to bed for a little bit of sleep. The next morning would be ShowTime!
There are two stories we tell about this time that make this part of the story complete and set the stage for that visit from the Acuity team. The first is that I had gone to the dentist two days earlier. I had gone to a new guy recommended by a friend. I was told he was the best so I made an appointment and it was decided that I would need some work done. As I sat in the chair and he took measurements I noticed that this dentist had not just one but FOUR hole-in-one trophies. I had to ask; “are they all yours?” “Yes” he replied. At the time I had been playing golf for about fifteen years with a handicap of 7 on any given week; I was proud of my game but sadly, a hole-in-one was not one of my achievements. “Wow” I said, “you must play a lot of golf”. He said “yup” and “sure do” and all of this while he worked away on me. I thought to myself how glad I was to get this work done before my big meeting and after about an hour I was set with a temporary. But, something didn’t feel right. I told him and said I felt like I was speaking with a lisp, maybe drooling. He replied that this was par for the course and told me I would be fine by tomorrow; I would get used to it and just needed a little time. So, I said ok and let it go. The next morning I awoke and I was definitely drooling and had a pronounced lisp. I called that dentists office to complain and to try to get help before my meeting; but, he was out playing golf! Moral: If your doctor or dentist has enough time to accumulate four hole-in-ones they are probably not very focused on being a doctor or a dentist!
Why is it so cold it’s the middle of April?
The second story is just an amazing two inches of snow. April is very, very late for snow here and an accumulation of two inches was quite a shock. The added weight on the sphere was a huge concern for me. Gingerly, I tried to brush the snow off the sphere. My biggest concern with the snow was that it would melt during the day and then refreeze inside of the glass pieces causing them to shatter during our suddenly freezing again nights. But, in the end, that didn’t come to pass and finally, after the long, stressful effort and so many heart-stopping surprises both large and small – the team arrived and the visit began….