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Original Issue


Phil Singerman's debut in SI was an article in the Nov. 18, 1974 issue about horse-pulling contests in New England. This week he is with us again, on page 26, and the subject this time is model gliders in California. If there is one thing that characterizes Singerman, a 32-year-old Vermonter who teaches English on Long Island, it is his boundless curiosity. "I'm always looking for things to write about," he says. "If it sounds interesting I'm glad to do it."

Lately, what interests him most is wintertime camping. A couple of weeks ago, with his wife Marcia, whom he describes as "really a hell of a person—adventurous, willing to try stuff," he backpacked on snowshoes in the Adirondacks for three days, often in 20-below-zero cold. Not only that, he liked it and is going to do it again. The interest dates, he says, to his high school days in Burlington, when he and pals hiked Vermont's Long Trail in the fall. "Our idea of backpacking was to take along one change of socks and maybe an extra shirt in case we got wet and then stop at a store and buy lots of steaks and potatoes and a couple of six-packs. We'd just pile on the food until we couldn't lift the pack anymore."

At the same period of his life Singerman was racing stock cars in New England under an assumed name because he was 16 and not legally eligible. He chose Brandeis in Waltham, Mass. for college "because I read it was a good place that let people go their own way."

After graduating in 1965, Singerman went his own way with a vengeance. He has since been a laborer, a housebuilder, a boat hauler and a digger of holes on an Alaskan glacier for a team of glaciologists. He has earned an M.A. in English and a black belt in karate. He now runs two or three miles a day, rides 50 miles a weekend on his 10-speed bike, skis cross-country when snow is available and reads everything he can get his hands on. He has a novel in progress on which he works every day and a beloved dog, who once chased a squirrel so exuberantly that she ran into a tree and knocked herself and one of her teeth out.

Exuberance counts for a lot with Singerman; and Hobie Alter, the Californian who designed the radio-controlled model gliders that Singerman writes about in this issue, is a convincing testimonial to the exuberant life. "He is total energy," says Singerman. "I'm interested in people who really devote themselves to something."

Singerman's only previous experience with gliders was building the old stick-and-tissue-paper models "and having them demolished the first time out." But while riding his bike on Long Island one weekend last fall he ran into a group of model fanciers who transmitted their enthusiasm to him, along with the information that "the big-time stuff is in California." By Thanksgiving Day, Singerman was on a mountain road in Southern California watching Hobie Alter demonstrate his design. "Thinking back," he says, "what impressed me most was that it was silent, absolutely silent. It was beautiful and sinister at the same time."

Thinking back, no telling what Singerman may come up with next.