Friday, May 15, 2020

The Ferris Wheel

“Damn it.”

“Carl Abby, you shouldn’t swear.” Lucy removed her hat with the fabric flowers and lace and set it on the seat beside them. She hiked up her skirt so Carl could see her legs. Carl liked that.

“I’m sorry, love. I'm upset that we’re stuck. I should have waited for all the kinks to be worked out, instead of getting tickets for opening day.” Tears welled in Carl’s eyes. He took out a handkerchief and wiped them. “But we don’t have time to wait.” He shook his head and cried more. “We don’t have time. So here we are, stuck on top of George Ferris’ wheel for God knows how long.”

Lucy took Carl’s hand in hers and slid closer. The wooden car jostled. “It’s okay, love. I don’t mind being stuck here, as long as we’re together.”

Carl tried to force a smile. “I want every moment of every day you have left to be special. I don’t want it to be wasted on a broken machine.”

“It’s not wasted. I’m happy.” Lucy waved her arm in a semicircle. “Look at this magnificent view. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She pointed west. “Look over there, love. Do you see that steamboat on the lake?” She pointed to the other side. “And over there, streetcars! I’ve never seen a view as wondrous as this.”

Carl’s cheeks sagged. His eyes misted and his lips turned downward.

She squeezed Carl’s hand. “The doctors don’t know everything. I might live another whole month, maybe even a year or more. But we’ll make every moment special, regardless of whether we’re stuck on a big wheel or holding each other in bed. I promise you memories to last the rest of your life. My love and joy will be with you forever.”

Grand Seiko SBGR077
Their Ferris wheel car jerked forward a few inches and then stopped again. A blanket of dark covered them. Carl pulled out his Waltham pocket watch from his jacket and clicked open the cover: 2:05 p.m. Plenty of light left in the day. So why was it suddenly dark? A flash in front of them answered his question: Thunderstorm. Carl understood enough about electricity to know that being atop a steel structure during an electrical storm was exactly the worst thing. “Lucy, there’s—”

“I know. I see it.” She cupped her hands over her ears. “I hear it, too.”

“I think this is God’s doing,” blurted Carl “He wants us to perish together so we can be everlasting in his embrace. God knows I can’t live without you and he is answering my prayers. He’s always looking out for us, even if it appears otherwise.”

Their wooden car vibrated as the thundercloud grew closer. Lightning zigzagged across the sky, transforming the glowing clouds into demons. The approaching gusts swung their car back and forth, the joints that connected the car to the steel wheel squeaking so loudly they could be heard over the thunder. Moving inextricably toward Lucy and Carl, a vortex of leaves raced upward, carrying more lightning with it.

Lucy and Carl were gripping each other tightly when a bolt of lightning struck the metal directly above them. The Edison bulbs flashed on, then off, then shone as bright as suns before exploding. The wind carried the glass upward and away from Lucy and Carl, sparing them from the deadly shrapnel,  pushing their car to a nearly horizontal position and then back to the vertical faster than Lucy and Carl could tumble.

The lightning sought out every metallic object it could find. It energized the steel around their car, jumped the wood, and struck Carl’s pocket watch. Carl snatched his Waltham out of his pocket and watched it shimmer and spin like a top in his hand as if it were possessed.

The smell of smoldering wood filled their car.

Another, stronger gust hurled the car to the edge of its safety, this time knocking Lucy and Carl unconscious.

Their Ferris wheel car was circling down, following its normal path, when they opened their eyes. Carl put his hands on Lucy’s arms and examined her. “Are you okay, my love? Does anything hurt?”

Waves of relief cascaded through his body when he saw she wasn’t bleeding and appeared fine — except for the part of her that wasn’t. Carl held back the tears of a thousand emotions. She wouldn’t die today, but she would die soon, when the cancer finished consuming her. But they wouldn’t die together because that was God’s will. What plans were in store for them, Carl didn’t know.

“Look!” Lucy shouted. “What is that?” She pointed to something in the sky.

Carl couldn’t describe it, but it was unlike anything he’d seen before, or even imagined. An enormous silver bird with immobile wings. The bird raced across a crisp blue sky. The storm was gone.

“Look down!”

Carl did as Lucy said.

“Do you see those people? What are they wearing? Who are they?” Lucy’s eyes went wide as the Ferris wheel carried them closer to the people on the ground.

Carl felt a strange metallic band materialize on his wrist. He lifted his arm to his eyes. The band was silver with a watch dial on top. A pocket watch. But on his wrist? He touched his jacket pocket and quickly scanned the Ferris wheel car. His Waltham was missing. In its place was the most curious timepiece, imprinted with the words “Grand Seiko” on the dial. He’d sort this out later. The most important thing was that Lucy wasn’t injured.

The first words Lucy and Carl heard when their car’s door opened were spoken by a woman: “Harvey, you really screwed up this time.”

The man Carl took to be Harvey replied, “How could I have known?”

“I think you knew,” Sawako said. “I think you were hoping something like this would happen.” She waved her hand up and down in front of Lucy and Carl as if she were painting their portraits. “Do you think this is right? Do you think you’ve done a good deed? Because I don’t.”

Harvey harrumphed. “2026 is a better year for them than the late 1800s. It’s like bringing a stray cat indoors. At first the cat hates it, but it quickly discovers the benefits of a warm, soft bed, not having to chase mice for its meals—”

Carl stiffened his back. “Excuse me. What are you talking about? We have a warm, soft bed. We don’t eat mice.”

Sawako looked up as she did some quick math. “See, Harv. Your experiment snatched two decent people from 1893 where they were enjoying their lives and brought them into a world they’ll find difficult or impossible to adjust to. This is a nightmare and you are the maker of bad dreams.”

Harvey bent forward in an attempt to give Sawako a kiss, but she parried before his lips could land on hers. “Listen,” he said. “If Grand Seiko’s going to advertise that their anti-magnetic watch can resist 100,000 gauss, somebody’s got to test that claim. And that somebody’s me.” He tapped his chest with his forefinger. “And you know what? Like all things Grand Seiko, the anti-magnetism was understated. I noticed no effect until 186,000 gauss. That’s when the Grand Seiko started speeding up.”

“So why did you dial the machine up to 1 million?”

The world's first Ferris Wheel at the World's Columbian
 Exposition in Chicago in 1893
“Why not?”

“Excuse me,” Lucy interrupted. “Would somebody please explain what’s happening? Where are we? Everything looks wrong.”

Sawako approached her. She took a deep breath. “It’s no longer 1893. This is the year 2026.” Sawako jabbed a finger Harvey’s way. “My friend here, Harvey Mistake—”

Harvey glared. “Miscovich.”

“This so-called physicist was performing an experiment that he knew could affect space-time.” She stomped her foot. “He didn’t fill out the form noting the experiment’s risks completely and honestly.”

Harvey pursed his lips and frowned. “There was no question on the Experiment Documentation Request about possible effects on space-time—”

“The question was, ‘List all possible dangers this experiment might cause.”

“That refers to biological or explosive, not time travel.”

“Could you just tell us what happened,” Lucy said, her voice rattling with confusion. “Are you saying we have traveled forward in time 133 years?”

Harvey nodded. “That’s exactly right.”

“I still don’t understand. How did you know to meet us here?” Lucy pivoted all the way around and surveyed the amusement park. “This Ferris wheel, it’s not the same. The steel is shiny, not gray. Clothes, amusement booths, strollers, balloons, it’s all the more colorful. Lots of smells are missing. Where are the horses? This isn’t the World's Columbian Exposition, either.”

Carl wobbled. Havey grabbed him before he fell to the ground. “I feel dizzy,” said Carl.

“I’m sure. You just traveled over a century. Go slow with everything.” Havey retrieved a bottle of water from his shoulder bag and handed it to Carl. Carl puzzled over the bottle, tilting it through a range of angles, until Harvey took the bottle back and twisted the cap open for him.

Sawako turned to Lucy. “The Grand Seiko Harvey was experimenting with in the Cryogen Superconducting Magnet vanished. Carl’s watch materialized in its place. We examined the Waltham, discovered it was manufactured in the 1890s, and figured out who you were through the inscription, “Lucy and Carl Abby, forever together.” A little googling, a little genealogy research at City Hall, a little deduction—”

“Googling?”

“That's hard to explain. Let’s just say we were able to find you in history, that you were on the list of guests for the first Ferris wheel ride in Chicago. This new wheel was built on the site of the George Ferris’ original wheel. We did some calculations and came up with an educated guess you’d be arriving today.” Sawako shot Harvey an annoyed look. “That part worked right.” He stuck his tongue out at her.

“I have a question,” Carl said.

“What is it?” said Harvey.

Carl’s voice cracked, his words halting. “My Lucy has thyroid cancer and the doctors say —”

Harvey raised his hand, interrupting Carl. “I’ll answer your question before you even ask. Yes, we’ve cured thyroid cancer. Lucy will be fine.”

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Moon, Stars and Cat



From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: I am the keeper of the moon and the stars.

Bill: You're just a cat.

Kinmo: I am the maker of light and dark.

Bill: You can't even open a cat food can by yourself.

Kinmo: We'll see.



Sunday, May 3, 2020

Is That the Same Watch?

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.

Kinmo: This is the same watch you took a picture of last time.

Bill: There's a pandemic on.

Kinmo: What kind of excuse is that? If anything, you have more time than ever to swap watches. I'm bored with the same watch.

Bill: I may have time, but I all I'm able to do is lie around and stare straight ahead, letting my eyes wobble out of focus.

Kinmo: You're becoming a cat.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Time Fracking

a short story by Bill Adler

Brittany O’Donnell’s door was one of the last to close in Oklahoma City, but closing it didn’t save her. The Tyrannosaurus rex butted its head against the wooden door of her one-story rambler, crashed through, and snatched Brittany around the waist in its massive jaws, piercing her flesh in a hundred places. Brittany’s screams could be heard two houses over, even above the thunder of hundreds of prehistoric behemoths that swarmed Oklahoma City’s streets.

Herds of T. rex, velociraptors, and other carnivores fanned out across America. Pterodactyls blocked the sun. The creatures consumed human flesh whenever they encountered it, quickly acquiring a taste for meat that was two hundred million years new. The Army and National Guard attacked from the ground; the Air Force fired missiles and bullets from above. The president reassured the country that America’s military would defeat this onslaught, but privately the president and her advisors were unsure, because the source of the antediluvian invaders seemed unstoppable. 




Twelve hours earlier

Nick Lang was enjoying the crab gratin’s aroma when he tripped over a leg that blocked his path. His forward momentum abruptly stopped, propelling his tray's contents — the gratin, water bottle, rhubarb pie, and silverware — into the air. 

Laughter had already been building inside the bellies of Altso Miller, Abby Chernov, Bernie Zehfram, Luis Buhle, and Peter Whipple, the one who had stuck his leg in front of Nick. In the instant between when Nick connected with Peter’s leg and his food took flight, his five coworkers burst into laughter. 

“Hey, Seiko man,” Luis crowed. “Did your watch throw you off balance?” He slapped his knee while the others laughed even louder. 

Bernie dug a fork into his gratin, OK Oil & Gas’ lunch du jour, and chimed in, “It looks like a watch a penguin would wear.” About half his gratin spat out while he talked. 

“A real watch,” Abby added “Get one. Wear one. You don’t want to be a ginzel your whole life.” She held her wrist up, flaunting her black-dial, black-bezel Rolex Submariner. The rest of her lunch mates held their arms high, too. Nick counted one Omega Speedmaster, a Rolex Pepsi, a Rolex Deepsea, and a Sinn U1. 

Nick’s fingertips tingled as they glided over his Grand Seiko Snowflake’s crystal. How he wished it were, and how he wished he could be somewhere else. Working as an oilman was grueling, with long days under scorching skies, the only relief coming from fans blowing hot air around the tented commissary, which was no relief at all. No relief and no escape from coworkers who channeled the worst of his middle school years with taunts as inescapable as the fiery sun. Every hour of every day they tossed epithets his way: “Seiko man,” “Spring Drive fairy,” “snowflake,” “communist geologist,” (even though Nick had master’s degrees in geology and physics), and “watch wimp.” 

“Get a Swiss watch like a real man,” Peter shouted as he twisted his wrist and aimed his Sinn U1 at Nick. 

In a low voice Altso said, “Pete. Sinn’s a German watch, not Swiss.”

“Whatever. It’s close enough.” Peter turned back toward Nick. “You want to fit in, buddy? Wear what we wear. Just a friendly word of advice.”

Nick knew it was too late to fit in. As the site’s resident geologist, he’d always be the outsider, the dweeb in the proverbial sweater vest. Nick’s job was to think about where and how to inject water — actually, water combined with various chemicals and sand — to extract the maximum amount of natural gas. Never mind that by the end of the day, Nick was coated in oil and dirt like the rest of his team, as exhausted and stiff as his crew. He manned pipes, secured storage tanks, dug holes, and built rigs like everyone else. But his scientific role was a wall of enmity that would never be breached. 

After lunch, Nick surveyed the fracking site. He had just increased the water flow to maximum — 4,000 gallons per minute, well within safety limits but still important to monitor. Nick liked to stand close to the spot where the pipe entered the ground. He felt in tune with the strata below, sensing minute changes in vibration as the high-velocity water opened cracks in the earth. “This is a good dig,” he thought. 

The rancor of the machines prevented Nick from hearing the five pairs of feet approach him from behind. He should have been aware that something was amiss, because his team wasn’t visible, but his senses were more in tune with the Earth than they were with people. Nick flinched as Luis and Bernie each grabbed an arm and Abby held Nick in place with a bear hug from behind.

“Fuck, what are you doing?” Nick shouted. His words extended only a few feet before they were shattered by the equipment’s noise. “Let me go.” Nick tried to wriggle free but was held firmly by the three burly oil workers. “Let me go!” Nick raised a leg, but before he could stomp on Luis’ instep, Luis slipped his foot to the left.

Peter bopped Nick on the top of his head with his palm. “We’ll let you go in a minute, snowflake.” Peter circled around Nick and flashed a toothy grin. “But first, you’re going to give up your Seiko. Once it’s gone, you’ll be getting a real watch like the rest of us.”

“Grand Seiko.” As soon as Nick said the words, he regretted saying them. Altso slapped Nick on the back of the head. “Pay attention, Seiko man. We’re doing you a favor. Here’s how it’s going to go down.” Altso faced Nick. “First, off comes your watch. Two, into the hole it goes. Three, you find yourself a Swiss watch like ours. Four, we leave you alone. I dunno that we’ll ever be buddies, but I promise you’ll be better off with a Swiss.”

“No!” Nick’s brain was delivering rapid fire imagery, like a time-lapse movie. Numbers, symbols and formula lit his neurons. “No, this is a bad idea.”

“It’s the best idea,” Abby said, as she tightened her bear hug.

“No, no. You don’t understand —”

“We understand plenty. You’re the one who doesn’t get it. You’re the one who stands out with your Seiko.”

Nick spoke breathlessly. “It’s not that.” He shook his head. “Okay. I’ll get a Rolex or Omega or whatever. Just don’t put the watch into the fracking pipe.”

“Too late. We’ve decided,” Bernie said. 

Peter unfastened Nick’s watch and pivoted toward the fracking hole.

“No, no! This is a Spring Drive. It uses electromagnetic braking, tuned with a quartz oscillator. It’s not designed to be simultaneously subject to high pressure and high speed. If the Spring Drive movement survives the journey, accelerating and compressing, you’ll create a runaway gravity well, and something bad might happen. Something really bad…” Nick’s voice trailed off as he watched Peter drop his watch into the pipe. “Something awful.” Nick went limp. 

Abby, Luis and Bernie released him. Nick bent over, gasping, his heart beating as if it wanted to escape from his chest.

“Awful like your watch being trashed,” Peter said.

“No.” Nick stood up, stiffened his back, and pointed to the creature emerging from the fracking hole. “Awful like opening a fracture in time.”




Friday, April 10, 2020

When You're a Watch Nerd...

Dear English Language Study Group:

I want to apologize for my behavior as the guest speaker today at your English for Japanese conversation group.

I had intended to spend the hour reading my short story (which I did) and then answer your questions, so you’d have a delightful, informative, and educational time.

When somebody asked if I have any hobbies, and I said, “I collect watches,” I thought those three words would be the end of the matter, and that we’d scoot right back to talking about English.

How was I supposed to know that one of the group members was wearing a SBGA259, the Golden Snowflake? And when it turned out that this Grand Seiko wearer was the one person who was participating by Skype because he’s the captain of a Japan merchant vessel and currently at sea, can you blame me for wanting to spend a few minutes chatting about Grand Seiko and exchanging wristshots via Skype?

I apologize, too, for what happened after another group member asked, “What’s a Spring Drive?” I was duty bound to explain the Spring Drive movement, which, as you found out, also meant I had to explain the differences between mechanical and quartz watches. I’m sorry that I didn’t know the Japanese words for escapement, mainspring and crown. And I didn't mean to frighten anybody when the phrase “Quartz Crisis” slipped out.

I hope you enjoyed the close-ups of Captain Ito’s Golden Snowflake as much as I did. It’s hard to appreciate the Snowflake’s dial via Skype, which is why I suggested he hold his watch up to the camera for several minutes. Even with Skype, connected to a ship in the middle of the Pacific, the Spring Drive’s gold second hand flowed across the dial like a leaf in a gentle breeze. Wasn’t the live video of his watch’s open caseback stunning? I especially liked the part where he spun the rotor.

A Spring Drive is the perfect watch for a Merchant Marine Captain; it’s got accuracy, good looks, and no battery to run down. I was glad to learn that he also has a Grand Seiko quartz on board. That’s my kind of ship’s captain!

I’m sorry I was so easily distracted from talking about my story.

I am glad, though, that among the new words you learned today was “nerd.”

Friday, April 3, 2020

Buying Time

a short story by Bill Adler

“Wait, stop, please.” Perry bent over and pressed his palms against his thighs, breathing as if he’d just been submerged under water for a full minute. He thought he heard his beating heart echo off the alley walls.

“Okay.”

Perry tilted his head toward Olivia and gulped air. She wasn’t winded. She was hardly breathing and looked as if she'd just finished meditating. Perry felt his hair matting from sweat. His shirt, too, was rapidly sogging now that the breeze that had accompanied their five-block sprint had stopped. “Thank you. My body’s not capable of one more step.”

“We’re far enough away. We don’t have to run anymore.” Olivia removed her sunglasses and Yankee’s cap. She took off her t-shirt and reversed the blue and pink sides.

Perry looked up and down the alley. They were alone. He followed Olivia’s lead, took off his baseball cap, reversed his green and red shirt, and tucked his sunglasses into his pocket.

“I liked it better last time,” Perry said, “because we didn’t have to run so far so fast.”

“But you remember what I taught you?”

“Every robbery must be different. We can’t duplicate the same MO ever.”

“And…”

“And it’s not a robbery. It’s a mitzvah.” Perry examined the watch they had just appropriated. A Richard Mille chronograph, worth about a quarter-million dollars. The watch, rectangular-shaped but with a curved case displayed bold white hands on top of a skeletonized case and had four dials for the stopwatch function and date. The chronograph’s pushers jutted out boldly from the case. Perry rested the watch in his palm and raised his hand, noting the watch’s feathery weight. Titanium.

He handed the watch to Olivia, who didn’t even bother to admire its craftsmanship before dropping it onto the rough pavement and stomping on it. She lifted her foot and said,“You outweigh me. Your turn.”

Perry jumped and landed on the watch. Olivia kneeled on the pavement. She picked up the mostly intact watch. “Titanium.”

Perry nodded. “Yup.”

“It happens sometimes. Titanium’s a hard one to destroy.” Olivia pulled out a small torch from her back pocket. She opened the black plastic case and inserted a butane lighter. With a flick of her thumb she ignited the torch, letting the flame lick the Richard Mille watch. In less than a minute the movement, visible through the case, began to melt. When the crystal distorted and popped off the case, Olivia extinguished the flame. “The torch produces a 2,300-degree flame. I’ve yet to meet a watch it can’t annihilate.” She kicked what was left of the Richard Mille, which spun across the alley to its resting place, under a dumpster.


Friday, March 27, 2020

The Meaning of Cat

From time to time, A Better Wrist features conversations about watches with my cat, Kinmo. The conversations don't always go as hoped.


Kinmo: Am I allowed to eat the Reese's?

Bill: No.

Kinmo: Am I allowed to use the Grand Seiko as a scratch pad?

Bill: No.

Kinmo: What's the purpose of my existence?

Bill: How about some tuna sashimi?

Kinmo: Now you're talking.


Friday, March 20, 2020

The Making of a Zombie Movie

a short story by Bill Adler

“Rats?” Anne raised her black baseball cap so she could look Sebastian in the eye. She leaned forward in the canvas chair, resting her palms on her legs. “There’s nothing in the screenplay about rats.” She surveyed the set. While scouting for locations, she had found the perfect spot for a zombie movie — the concrete yard of a seventy-year-old school in Albany that was as filled with rot and decay as the theme of their movie.

“I say we need rats,” Sebastian said. “I know it’s not in the script, but the schoolyard looks sparse. It’s bigger than I thought. We need to fill out the space, and rats are just what the doctor ordered.”

“Or what the director ordered.”

Photo by Dale Cruse. Licensed under Creative Commons
“Yeah, that’s me.” He savored a long look at his Rolex Pepsi, his pupils widening as he let his eyes drift out of focus, the bezel’s colors melting into each other in a way that reminded him of marshmallows melting onto graham crackers at summer camp. It was a comforting sensation. The Rolex was an extravagance that had cost him $20,000 he didn’t have. He was paying it off in installments, just as he was paying off his ex-wife in monthly alimony. Sebastian’s Rolex was an artistic masterpiece of red and blue on black, an engineering marvel, too. It was his gift to himself for enduring nearly ten years of marriage to Mrs. Director, bought the day his divorce was final.

His director’s salary wasn’t going to cut it, but the bonus for completing the movie on time and the potential of a percentage of the profits might pay off his watch and then some. He hoped. You never knew with zombie films. Some days he thought Zombie Revenge would become the next World War Z. Other days he thought that there was as much chance of this movie becoming a moneymaker as there was of a Hyundai spontaneously transforming itself into a BMW. God doesn't play dice with zombie films. He had no idea what that meant, but in some way it made sense.

Completing Zombie Revenge as quickly as possible was of paramount importance, but filming it with a paltry $400,000 budget was as difficult as rowing across the Atlantic.

“You want to shoot the scene—” Anne paused, thought, and continued “— in a few hours, right? So there’s no time to order plastic rats from Amazon.”

Sebastian shook his head. “No, no, no, no, no, my fair lady.” He slipped off his Yankees baseball cap and ran his fingers through his thick, red hair. “No plastic rats. Audiences can spot a plastic rat in a horror movie a mile away.”

“So what are you saying, like CG”

“No. Real rats.”

Anne grimaced. “Yeah, I don’t think so,” she said.

Sebastian clasped his hands together. “Look, Anne, we need all the help we can get with Zombie Revenge. Every dollop of realism we add sharpens our chances of making a splash. We’re all in this for the percentage, so let’s do this, okay?” He ran his finger over his Rolex’s bezel.

Realism is why he’d hired two amputees as extras. Realism is why he’d hired actors with limps — pre-injured. Realism is why he had hired actors with few, if no, previous movie roles — they’d be fresh and react naturally to the terrifying scenes. Plus, these types of extras and actors were also less expensive than regular ones.

“How am I going to get real rats by this afternoon?” Anne hoped there was no answer to that question.

“Give me a moment.” Sebastian rubbed his hands together and tilted his head up. He leaned back perilously in his chair, balancing on two legs. “Okay. You’re going to make a mash and attract them.”

“A mash?”

“Yes. Isn’t there a butcher shop a block away? I remember seeing it. And a pet shop around the corner? I recall that, too.”

Anne shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. I guess.”

“Pork bellies, sheep intestine, mice — yes, you’re going to have to slaughter the mice — some lizards, maybe a big spider or two, a Snickers if you want. Get it all. Lots of protein. Put it in a pail, mash it, mix it, stir it, and then spill it over there.” Sebastian pointed to the far corner of the yard, where the next scene was to be filmed. “If there’s enough protein, sugar, and especially stink, the rats will come out of hiding promptly.”

Anne shook her head even more vigorously than before. “This is not in my job description. This is not what an assistant director does.”

“An assistant director does whatever the director tells her and she does it fast, without complaint, and with a smile on her face.” Sebastian offered Anne his smile as an example. “Or an assistant director finds herself teaching acting to spoiled high school students at summer school instead of working on a movie.”

“Yeah, okay. Got it.”

“Well?” Sebastian cocked his head forward. “Get going.” He shooed Anne. “Git!”

Friday, March 13, 2020

Wake Up, Your Watch Is Here

I'm not fully responsible for my mistake.

We had an apartment building meeting today — Sunday morning at the crack of 10 a.m. — which meant rise and shine hours before noon, the time at which rationality and wakefulness coincide.

After wearing out the snooze button, I kicked the blanket aside, showered, picked up the t-shirt closest to the shower door, put it on, gathered the rest of my wardrobe from the hamper's top layer, and ran for the door to get to the meeting before somebody nicknamed me “the late guy.”

Maybe it was because I was exhausted from hitting the snooze button so many times or because the sorcerer’s muck called sleep still crusted my eyes, but it wasn't until I had one untied shoe out the door that I realized I had forgotten coffee and my watch.

I didn't have time to brew coffee and set a watch, so I chose the watch. And then it hit me: A hi-beat. That's what I need. A Grand Seiko hi-beat promises to send your body and mind into accelerated motion, the way a tuning fork vibrates guitar strings, transferring its magical energy into every cell in your body. Pleased with my genius revelation, I dashed into the hallway, nearly tripping over my other untied shoe, and sent a secret message to the elevator, "hurry!," by Morse coding the elevator button.

But you know what? I looked like one of those bobbing head dolls for the next hour and a half. Apparently, I was wrong. Hi-beat doesn't affect the body of the person wearing the watch.

So here I am now, having my morning coffee at 3 o'clock on a November afternoon, my inner mainspring slowly, but finally, winding, the world coming into focus. Maybe next time I should wear a Spring Drive because that will make me spring?

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Seiko Moonphase

Leaves of poplars pick Japanese prints against the west.
Moon sand on the canal doubles the changing pictures.
The moon’s good-by ends pictures.
The west is empty. All else is empty. No moon-talk at all now.
Only dark listening to dark.

"Moonset" by Carl Sandburg


I've only had my Seiko Spring Drive moonphase for a little over 24 hours, but I'll tell you this. If I wasn't wearing the SNR017 tonight, I might not be writing this article.

You need a moonphase. And while you could buy another watch company's moonphase, would you really want to rely on something other than a Spring Drive?

Earlier this evening I was abducted by aliens (again). It was only for an hour, and I can't say for sure what experiments they conducted on me during that time though I have my suspicions, but thanks to my Spring Drive moonphase watch I was able to tell that I was returned to the real Earth and not some trickery planet. After the lights of their transporter stopped twinkling, I found myself in a park, on soft, green grass that smelled like it had been recently mowed. But was it home? I compared the moon on my Seiko SNR 017 to the phase of the moon in the sky. They agreed and I knew I was back on our planet Earth. Phew! While the aliens are far more advanced than us, they can't outwit a Spring Drive.

Most readers of this website will be familiar with how a Spring Drive works, but in short a Spring Drive is a watch movement that’s powered by a mainspring like an ordinary mechanical watch. Instead of the familiar escapement, Seiko uses fancy wizardry in its place: A tiny thinking machine, an integrated circuit, compares the movement of the glide wheel to a highly accurate quartz crystal eight times a second. If the second hand is moving too fast, the watch deploys electro-mechanical braking to slow it down. Spring Drives are accurate to a second a day. A Spring Drive is not a quartz watch; there is no battery or capacitor. You have to wind it (or let the rotor power the mainspring), just as with any other mechanical watch. Seiko calls its magic a “tri-synchro regulator.” Think of the quartz crystal oscillator in a Spring Drive as a reference you’d set an ordinary watch to, such as your phone, an atomic clock on the internet, a GPS watch, or some other precise time device. If it sounds like Spring Drive is a technology that was invented in the future, it probably was.

I searched for a Seiko moonphase for a long time and when this one arrived yesterday from a seller in Greece I did a combination of somersaults and handsprings. (From Japan to Greece and back to Japan this watch traveled.) Manufactured in 2008, the SNR017 deploys a 5R67A movement, and as with all Spring Drives, the second hand’s fluid journey across the dial is a delight for the eyes.

The SNR017 is a gorgeous watch. Like the moon, this watch's beauty is immortal.