by Jessica Terrell

William David Pearlman, an adventurer better known by his colorful stage name "Poppa Neutrino" ended his earthly voyage Sunday morning, January 23, 2011, in New Orleans. Obituaries will say he was 77 years-old; anyone who knew him would say he was 77 years-young.

Poppa was a raft-builder, a philosopher, a musician, and an artist whose most notable work was the creation of a chaotic, beautiful, and completely original expression of life. During his seven decade adventure he sailed a raft across the Atlantic Ocean, filmed documentaries, recorded an album, started a political party, and crisscrossed the country too many times to count.

He was best known for his transatlantic raft voyage aboard the scrap vessel Son of Town Hall, an adventure documented in the book "The Happiest Man in the World" and the documentary "Random Lunacy."

Much of his life has been well-recorded.

His journey started in 1933 in Fresno California. His mother, Vilma, was a gambler. His stepfather was a butcher. He grew up in the gambling halls and bars of San Francisco.

He was a self-educated man; his formal schooling ended in the eighth grade, but continued in the cafes of North Beach and through the books that he devoured throughout his life.

He became convinced at an early age that he could only be content with the life of a pauper or a king – nothing in the middle would do. He hoped for a princely life for his children, but taught them that sometimes nothing is everything you need.

He picked up countless castaways on his voyages, assembling an ever-changing crew of wanderers who became his modern-day American aboriginal tribe. Together, the group traversed the country for several decades.

He raised a wild brood of children on the road, painting signs, traveling with circuses, and performing New Orleans jazz on the streets of the world. His children grew up to be musicians, artists, writers and lovers of life.

His adventures were numerous, but his misadventures were too. He believed in attacking life head-on, and although his destroyed rafts, lost novels, and abandoned projects left him occasionally emotionally and physically battle-scarred, it was never more than a day or two before he was back on his feet planning the "next big thing."

One of his proudest legacies was that of triadic thinking, and he spent many years preaching his gospel: That the pursuit of a person's three deepest desires was a roadmap to help navigate through the traps and pitfalls of modern life on the road to individual fulfillment.

There was little middle ground in public opinion of him – he was adored by many, and reviled by others. But for a man who sought an all-or-nothing existence, who wanted nothing to do with mediocrity and comfort, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The man who spent much of his life battling the world had come to realize in his final years that the only war worth fighting was the internal struggle to forgive and love all. His family would like to think he was victorious.

He died like he lived: Plans in the works for a boat trip to Cuba the following week, a novel in progress, and $4.44 in his bank account.

His family asks that in lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor his life do so with an action. That mourners go and do something they were always afraid of, meditate on their dreams and pursue them with reckless abandon or perhaps hold a wild party and toast to Poppa, who has now embarked on what he would consider his ultimate adventure.