DSC01950          Adam is a genius.  You don’t meet many true geniuses in an average life span, and only one like Adam.  He was brought up in the harsh climes of North Dakota of which he once said that children either learned how to find their way to school in the snow covered landscape or they died.  Tardies were common but absences were almost always permanent. He spoke of fishing with a length of wire laid across a stream and a hand-turned electric generator. A few cranks of the generator and the fish in the immediate area of the wire would be electrocuted and float to the surface.  Long dark Dakotan nights alone he taught himself to be remarkably deft with a deck of cards. He learned to fly small planes and did some crop dusting down in Mississippi. There he found himself dealing poker hands Saturday nights for a local legend college football coach  and friends.  Adam never played; he just dealt and that was fine with Coach.  Coach had seen Adam’s sleight of hand and declared that no one would go up against Adam for money. One of the most affable creatures God ever planted on this earth, it was Adam’s gregarious nature which made him one of the highest volume used car salesmen in the South. One weekend, landing an old crop duster on a dirt strip, the seat fell out of the plane, Adam still strapped in, and the plane kept on going into a haystack.  Adam unbuckled his seat belt, shook himself off, and quit the South for life as a US Army Ranger. There he became an expert parachutist, pilot and scuba diver. He was already Dakota tough.  Now he was Army tough, and Ranger proficient. But his mind, always hungering for knowledge, led him out of the military and down to Mexico where he took a medical degree and piloted innumerable babies through birth canals and into the light of this world. He spoke of working the drunk tank in a hospital where hard scrabble peones  would be carried in by their only slightly more sober compadres  and laid in a ward ankle deep in vomit and stomach blood where the alcohol toxicity levels of the men were so high they would go into death-like comas, pulse-less and with no ocular sensitivity to light; literally dead to the world.  But the doctors would not dare declare time of death because so many of the men would suddenly sit bolt upright toward the early morning, shake their disheveled manes and stand, as if reborn, then stagger out the doors of the hospital and into the harsh Mexican sunlight to begin a new day of hard labor and low pay in the fields. Adam preferred the birthing in the mountains to the drunks in the towns. A few years of this and Dr. Adam Mann found himself yearning for something new, migrating north to the rarefied air of the Chicago stock market and commodities exchange.  There he practically reinvented trading using any and all of the emerging electronic technologies of the late 1970’s.  He became a millionaire and an adviser to the Fortune 50.  He has said that his office was often empty as he did most of his business in his golf cart on the links.  An excellent golfer, probably nearly as good as his card playing, he rarely allowed himself to win a round.  His goal was to keep his wealthy clients happy and wealthy.  That made him the nest egg he used to begin production in the movie business. A gifted writer, he produced, directed and wrote his own movie, and pretty much spent himself into poverty in the doing. That’s one of the things so charming about the man.  He takes enormous chances, wins often, and loses with a laugh and a story to tell. He treats men as equals, has a keen respect for what he calls “good people”, and addresses women as “dahrlin’” in a way that never sounds demeaning. So, finally, and I say finally with the caveat that the above tells not anywhere near the whole history of Adam, but finally he decided to return to one of his great loves, the ocean, and pursue perhaps one of the most difficult of PhD’s, Oceanography.  If you think for a moment the difference in scale between, say, the human body and what a medical doctor (like Adam) needs to know, and the oceans of the world including the water, the land which embraces it, and the atmosphere which affects and is affected by it, then throw in the complexity of ocean currents and the biomass of plants and animals within the water, and just because it is a big part of things, the study of the sun’s influence on all life on earth, you get a little sense of the difference in complexity between an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Oceanography.  We humans, of course, put much greater store in the medical profession because it treats our ailments, but the Oceanographer, now that is also someone who has learned and understands a great deal. This degree is so complicated and specialized that Adam was the only student pursuing it in his university and was the only one who graduated with it over a twenty year span.

So it was this card-sharking, used car huckster, Wall Street honcho, doctor/scientist, willing to take on any project and work it to completion, who was holding forth in a small coffee shop in a non-descript strip mall in South Florida one evening when Carmen, Adolfo and I stepped in and sat among a group of about a dozen initiates into Adam’s vision of backyard fish farming and vegetable aquaculture. All of these people had already gone beyond the back yard concept and had been building farms of some size throughout Florida for the past three years.  Each farmer believed Adam’s simple explanation for making a million dollars in fish farming…

Adam is a genius, one of a kind scientist and entrepreneur who could sell grass to a prairie.  Adam is a mystical force, something like what Jack Kerouac in On the Road described for his character, Dean Moriarity, that hero of the American West who has “got the secret we’re all burning to find”. The rest of us at that co-op meeting were not Adam. Adam accomplished what he envisioned, failed, rose to accomplish even greater tasks, and he did it with confidence, grace and panache. The rest of us failed greatly and often and for a variety of reasons. But each one lived, for that bright and brief time of our lives, the essence of the American dream: think big and work until your heart bursts. In this, Adolfo lived an American dream to his awakening in “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns”.

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