Bright Spark Grounds Out: Conrad is No More
I just got word this morning that Rad-Sri-Baba-Mechanical-Pir-O-Mahatma- I-LooZy-ISECKE-I-Findee-Hari-Krishna-Rizbumpomoloid–Vitamin-C-Ascorbate-Kickstand-Dass died alone in his garret. He was found two days after falling off his chair. Gravity, time and Mother Earth herself finally won the lifelong debate Conrad conducted about how to be Eternal.
As it happens, he was in the middle of re-packaging another year’s worth of Life Extension Mix.
With Conrad, you didn’t really win an argument, you just hoped he’d get tired of ‘debating’. But that never happened.
We met in 1983. He came to my very first bicycle parts swap up in S.F. Ever since then he’s been member of Wacky Jacquie’s Elective Phamily.
Eccentric, Aspie-brilliant and impossibly slow-talking, Conrad challenged me. I needed a half hour to slow my tommy-gun speech style in order to accommodate his slow-mo conversation. He chose his words carefully. Nevertheless, I ‘d find myself carrying him up the hill of communication because then I’d get there faster.
It wasn’t long before Conrad helped in Charlie’s shop (there are about a dozen guys who claimed they apprenticed with CC but only two actually did: Scot Nicol and Conrad). Conrad was the only person Charlie trusted for servicing his bikes. He got it fastidiously right–who cares if it took forever? Conrad’s clients were people that didn’t mind paying an hourly wage to a fellow like this, and got good value for their $500 tune-ups.
What’s with the long name? you may ask.
It was a constantly evolving verbal co-creation of Charlie and Conrad during the time Conrad worked here. Probably seeded by Charlie ‘s obsessive habit of fiddling with words and names.
Isecke is his family name.
“Ice-ekky” didn’t suit him…so it became OHO: “Optimal Health Optimists”. A club of one whose central belief was that if you did everything right, you could extend life. He hoovered up Life Extension Mix by the ton. We called it ‘Life Extinction Mix”.
Without a doubt, the symmetry of the name OHO pleased him enormously. Not just forward backward, but up, down, and inside out. OHO is orthogonally perfect.
Rigorously pursuing one panacea after another, he mainlined (joke alert) vitamin C by the gram, the last couple years it was vitamin D. He expected to live a hundred and sixty years. It was just a matter of cracking the dietary code….He even found an M.D. that would let him operate (without anaesthetic of course) the hernia that had bothered him for months. He didn’t believe in hospitals or western medicine. Or eastern. His was the Conradical Code. But the doctor proved to be useful as a back-up. Within two minutes Conrad handed the scalpel over before passing out.
The “Rad-Shri”Baba Mechanical business:
Rad=hey, the dude’s radical, to the bone. Sri= the a guru of Mechanical Things. (And the low-rent lifestyle. I doubt he ever paid more than two hundred dollars per month in rent in the last twenty five years. He never had heat or a bathroom. He was as happy as a clam just crouching over a hole for a year or two, then covering that one up, then “fertilizing” a new spot. Need I tell you the vegetables from his garden were pretty impressive? Hello County of Marin? You’ll never find those deposits, heh heh.)
Then the “I Loozy-Isecke-I Findee” abbreviates one of the worst days in his life. He was at Aquatic Park on Earth Day around 1986 and the usual environmental mob was there. Standing over his highly customized Cunningham lying in the grass at his feet he became engrossed in conversation–and (two hours later, probably) when he looked down, the bike wasn’t there.
We were astonished when, through incredible diligence, he managed to recover it. A detailed drawing of his bike listing all the distinguishing features was plastered all over the Bay Area and put it in every bike shop. He might have even offered a reward. Miraculously, the bike came back.
We tried similar tactics when Charlie’s personal bike was stolen from that ‘museum’ exhibit at United Airlines terminal, but I digress and no luck).
Wanna know what those features were?
a)an insanely wide gear ratio that actually worked with index shifting
c) kickstand, lights, and an Amish triangular reflector
Then, risbumpomiloid came from R.S.B.M.P.O.M.I. get it? (See long name above). Here at Taj Mahovel we sing that name out loud, in unison. In later years Conrad prefered either O Wise One, Conradical or Colonel Radish.
He was a staunch advocate of the recumbent cycler’s order. A consummate mechanic, but so obsessive that a client might end up with a four hundred dollar bicycle overhaul. Wealthier folk unblinkingly retained him as their personal mechanic; there is no one who can match his combination of expertise and deftness of (grimy) hand.
He told stories that enthralled me during a (suddenly very short) 9- hour trip (in his ToyOHOta CorOHOlla) to the Las Vegas Bike Dealer’s Show. All I had to do was ask, and I got: disquisitions about the IRS, past jobs, nutrition, and cannibal philosophy. Conrad was a card-carrying member of an anthrophagous cult. “If someone died, we’d distract the authorities long enough to saw a limb off, to carry back to the Cannibal Clubhouse, so everyone could return him or her to life’s big recycling bin”. Adding a new level of meaning to the word “membership”.
In the mid-60′s he had got in on the porn craze. First as an actor, then–since the productions were so crappy– as a director! Let your mind boggle.
Impecunious but brazen, he once stowed away on a cruise ship and sailed halfway around the world for free. He moved up and down the different decks all day, then burrow under a pile of poolside deck pads to sleep. Lived on candy from the gift shop since he knew he couldn’t pass the strict sartorial rules for dinner. As he put it: “It was a British company…and their manners were so impeccable that, rather than outright accusing me of not being on the passenger list, the steward invited me to the weekly swim match…adding ” by the way , which room are you staying in, so we can mark you down? “.
The jig was up.
Belowdecks, he was allowed his freedom among the sweaty guys with the long oars or whoever hangs in the engine room. But when they transferred him to an American boat he was locked in the brig, then dumped in a Hawaiian jail. I believe he had to come up with a little dough to get out, not sure, though.
His excessive (to me desirably excessive) tidyness was the result of having grown up on a very cramped little boat on the Hudson. Four kids, two adults.
I wish I had a good modern picture of him, but all mine feature him with a toothbrush in his mouth, savagely attacking dental caries (about three decades too late, alas, just like Charlie). He was a fixture at CC & my 8-8-88 wedding…
Conrad came from an amazing family of leftist peaceniks, the third of four–read this story.
My last visits were weekly grocery drop-offs (which he dismissed, but I left the bags there for him to eat in secret, cuz he really was starving). His standards were very high; stuff had to be organic. And yet: he had about two year’s worth of canned whole chickens (I never heard of such a thing before I met him), which were of course not organic, they were purchased in the 1950′s. Mackerel by the case lined up on the shelves.
Stickers pasted (neatly) on every vertical surface. I shall make a flicker catalogue some day..
Sayonara, old friend. No more fretting about that ruined hip of yours, or World War III. I’m pretty sure you’ll be bumping into my hero Carla Zilbersmith on your way to eternity.
~ by jacquiephelan on May 7, 2010.
Posted in hoarding
Tags: Aspie people I have known, bicycle mechanic par excellence, Cannibal Club, Conrad Isecke, Conrad OHO, distaste for convention, Life Extension Mix, operating on the self, What's in a name?