How Scientists Party

What happens at a physics and astronomy party? Pickles glow. Carrots explode. Nitrous burns.

Besides, Taylor says, "There's big mojo in a name."

I know exactly what she means.

The first person who came to mind for a story on the oddly named kids from the left coast was Sugar Magnolia Caballero, sister of Heavenly Spice Edwards. Do the math: These are two sisters named Sugar and Spice. Even among my people, this is extreme.

The equation.
The equation.
Gargling liquid nitrogen at the Physics and Astronomy 
Party.
James Sanders
Gargling liquid nitrogen at the Physics and Astronomy Party.

Sitting down with Caballero, I am immediately struck by the power in her tiny person. Did it come from enduring lecherous types asking if they could "get a lick of that" ever since she was a preteen? "I hate it. It's really irritating," she sighs, but her stories have me howling with laughter inside of a minute.

"The fact that all the hicks hated it made me like it," she says of her high school years in forward-thinking Healdsburg. But the name has had serious ramifications, too; among other things, she theorizes, it's affected her ideas about femininity, using Marilyn Monroe's Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot as an analogue. It's heavy stuff, and she says her father acknowledges he may not have thought matters entirely through when he named her: "I asked my dad, and he said, 'You were just so little and innocent.'"

Why, then, I ask, didn't she change it? She articulates something I had been trying to say, but couldn't, with remarkable concision: "I guess I felt like my name being different was symbolic of my life being different." That may not sound deep to you, Jeff, but I'm pretty sure everyone from Uma and Keanu to all the people I couldn't get ahold of for this story -- Zip, Five, Trane, Joyful, Silver, and Che -- can relate. Our strange names may have subjected us to years of offhand abuse, but they've also made us tough, resilient. Somehow, it seems, they gave us universe energy. (Hiya Swanhuyser)

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