When I was growing up, the McPartlands were my second family. I spent a lot of time at their house for many years, from when I was about six or seven, I'd guess, until my teens.

There were five kids: Tam, Tip, Ladd, Jan (the only girl), and Tor. Their mother Eleanor, my mom's best friend, was my "Other Mother"... or my "Udder Mudder" as we liked to pronounce it. Their father was John McPartland, the author of No Down Payment, and many other detective stories that were made into movies.

During most of the time that I was a close part of the family, they lived in the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, in a big ranch-style house. Tip, Ladd, and Tor shared the largest bedroom. The Boys' room, as it was called, had four bunk beds, one of them being for guests, and that was usually me, so the bed was really sort of mine, or at least that's how I thought of it.

Tip was the second oldest of the children, a little older than I was. In younger years, I had been closer to Ladd, the next youngest, but then puberty hit me and Tip. We sprouted body hair (and erections) at about the same time and began a bond of friendship and discovery as adolescence launched us out of our childhood world. We spent just about all the time we could together, shared our most private thoughts, our fears and bravado, our love of guitars, even our clothes (neither of us had much, and this helped the wardrobe considerably.)

The stories that come to mind thinking of those times! I have many to tell for sure, but this one is about one particular night when Tip and I were about thirteen. We loved to talk and argue out every thought that came to mind, and many did, so we talked and argued all the time. These were not arguments of conflict, but a kind of logical disassembly of the topic at hand: which musical performer was better and why, techniques for picking up girls (some of which worked!), a new understanding of something scientific or political, and of course sex.

As a result we liked to go off together where no one would interrupt us. At night when the house was quiet and the others, who unlike us, were not engaged in earthshaking explorations of the mind, or were just trying to sleep, we would go for walks. The roads in the Country Club were beautiful at night, unspoiled by street lights, and lined with the tall Monterey pines. We would walk for hours and miles, discussing and laughing and generally blathering at each other. It was important stuff, though, really. I'm sure that we formulated much of our identities and future endeavors during those marathon exchanges of thought. In any case, I loved those long, walking conversations and look back on them with great affection. From recent conversations with Tip, I know that he does too.

We were irreverent, of course, for all the seriousness of our sessions. One of the things we liked to do, while standing at some intersection, was yell "motherfucker" loud and long into the dark silence, then run like hell. We knew it was rude, but delighted in its silly irreverence, and therefore thought it a good idea. Now, several decades of experience and sophistication later, I think it was quite rude... but I still delight in its silly irreverence, and don't doubt that for us then, it was a good idea.

On one such night, when we returned from our walk, all the house was dark and everyone asleep. We felt our way into the hall, and to the door of the boys' room. So as to not wake the sleepers, but to get our bearings, one of us just flashed the light switch on and then off again. I remember so clearly the amazing sensation I had as I realized that after the light had gone out I could still see the room clearly, as if moonlit. I stepped forward into the room, but the room moved with me! It was frightening, and I cried out (probably "holy shit") and dropped to the floor for safety. Tip also freaked out, since he, too, was looking at the room in a moonlight image, and seeing me beside him at the doorway, but at the same time hearing my voice and footsteps some feet forward of that spot.

It took us only a matter of moments to realize that what we had experienced was some sort of optical effect created by our eyes being used to the dark and then subjected to a blast of light, and contrived to repeat the phenomenon.

We went into the bathroom which was attached to the boys' room and began a series of experiments with the new discovery. We completely forgot our original purpose to not wake the others. Our excited talk and the flashing light had them crankily awake in minutes.

We went then, at their insistence, to the hall bathroom and continued, trying out all the variations of the effect we could come up with. We named the effect "After-Images," and began to catalog the tricks that could be done with them, and to train ourselves on how to make them the clearest, and last the longest. We tried forming blurred images by moving while the light was on (funny), and moving after the image had formed (eerie), and talking to or touching the other while the image of you in a different spot was still clear (very eerie).

We slept very little that night, staying up into the wee hours with our new toy. We very excitedly told everyone about it and demonstrated it the next night, but the others thought it was merely novel, and not a major scientific discovery as we could plainly see it was.

Alright, now I know you're dying to know how to do it. Find a room you can make absolutely pitch dark. Even a tiny amount of light coming from behind a curtain or under a door will seriously degrade the experience (best to do it at night). Remain in the dark with your eyes open for several minutes. With your eyes fully open, turn on a bright overhead light for about one second. Don't blink while the light is on, or after it's been turned off. Keep your eyes open and you'll see what you were looking at in a clear, softly lit image. Play with it. Have fun, and try not to wake up everyone in the house. They won't think it's cool just because you do.

I think of Tip often, and our years of friendship as we became young men. They were powerful and magical times for both of us, I'm certain. The discovery of After-Images is but one example of the many fine, funny, enlightening and treasured experiences we shared.