Orgone Research

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stealing Golf Carts

I got my first lock pick set when I was about 14. I had been fascinated by Houdini ever since I first heard about him. I remember reading a Houdini biography as a child, possibly by Milbourne Christopher. Somewhere in the late 1970’s a hobby shop on Higgins Ave. in Missoula put in a small magic section in the back of the store. A young man worked there who had long dark hair. Dave Peterman and I used to hang around this shop and talk to the long haired magician. This man was also a Houdini fan, and in fact told Dave and me that he could sell us real lockpicks! This was a mind blowing thing, as it seemed both furtive and unbelievably esoteric! Just the kind of thing to turn on two teens growing up in Missoula Montana. Being the moral kind of kids we were, Dave and I both asked our parents if we could buy such things. They said yes, and off we went. We soon realized that the man who sold us the lockpicks was simply buying them by mail order at retail from an outfit in Great Falls called “Prince E. Wheeler”. Once I found this out I ordered their catalog, which smelled of cigar smoke.

Our lockpick sets came in little leather pouches, which closed with a snap. These were picks for pin tumbler locks, which require two tools, a tension wrench and a pick. The leather case held about 6 picks and two identical tension wrenches.

Dave and I now felt superior to the great unwashed, whose ideas of lock picking were derived from watching TV. You see, on TV, they NEVER SHOW THE TENSION WRENCH. Funny, you can show homicide and all kinds of degradation in great detail on TV and the movies, but showing a TENSION WRENCH in action is still a taboo!

How else can I describe this; picking a pin tumbler lock for the first time is kind of like getting high, or having sex. It’s like getting high in that once you pick the thing it seems unreal; your mental map of reality shifts a little bit, and the world as you know it is richer, more subtle and complex. A feeling of euphoric unreality washes over you.. It’s also like having sex, at least it seemed so at that age, as one “scores” by overcoming what seems like an insurmountable obstacle. These descriptions must seem outrageous and hyperbolic, but I stand by them.

As time went on, I could see that I was way more into the lock pick thing than Dave. I would buy padlocks just to practice on. Friends who lost bicycle lock keys would contact me to try to pick their locks. Dave and I never used these things for ill gotten gain; it was more or less a game, kind of like solving a Rubik’s cube.

By the time I got to college, I was involved with all sorts of other things, and I had more or less set my lock picks aside. I would rescue folks from time to time who got locked out of their apartments or what not. Most door locks are more difficult to pick than padlocks, and by no means did I pick every lock I attempted.

One of my great goals was to be able to make my own lock picks. The advantage of this is that you can tailor the pick to the specific lock. By the mid 1990’s I had obtained several Loompanics books by “Eddie the Wire” who detailed how to make lockpicks. As with apple pie, the home made product is often better than the commercial equivalent. Though I don’t have the passion for picking locks like I did in high school, I do engage in it from time to time. If I see an old padlock for sale at a flea market, I’ll often buy it just for the challenge. I make all my own lockpicks now, though I sometimes use commercial tension wrenches.

On Lollapalooza in 1992, a strange status pattern developed. On these huge outdoor festival grounds where we would perform maintenance workers would travel around the grounds on golf carts. Performers or Lollapalooza crew workers who could obtain a golf cart just to ride around in seemed to me to have “connections”. It was a subtle, but real, “status symbol”.

Late one afternoon in Wisconsin, I think, Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder spontaneously began performing Temple of the Dog songs on the second stage. A crowd quickly gathered. It was a great performance, and came at the very peak of the Pearl Jam and Soundgarden “buzz”. After the show, Vedder and Cornell had to get back to their tour buses. I saw my great opportunity. I saw an unmanned golf cart, and I wanted to jump in and join the “procession” as fans had by now lined the roadway between the stage and the tour buses. Thinking fast, I opened my Leatherman tool and extended a little curved scraping tool. I inserted it into the ignition lock of the golf cart. What I was trying to do was mimic a “jiggler pick” to turn the ignition lock. What a “jiggler pick” does is lift the wafers or pins while simultaneously applying tension. It almost only works on very cheap locks, like cheap file cabinet locks. This is one of the exceptions to the "two tools" rule.

Indeed, the lockpick deities shined favorably on me that day and I picked the lock! I now went to the head of the golf cart procession. It became obvious to me how reinforcing being a rock star could be; the look in the fan’s eyes, and the screams of “Eddie, Eddie” totally convinced me. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I too began screaming “Eddie, Eddie”, as I knew that put off the sensitive Mr. Vedder.

Of course I didn’t really “steal” the golf cart that day, that was just a catchy title to get you to read this blog. It was more or less “unauthorized use”, as the golf carts never left the stadium grounds.

So of all the locks I’ve picked, that one was perhaps the best; improvised tools, a time constraint, and a fun payoff in playing with what you picked. Yeah, that was a good one…


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