Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Recently some of my childhood heroes got together to send a letter of protest about the administration’s proposal to completely cancel our nations plans to return to the moon. These men now in old age appear as messengers from a nobler era. Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Eugene Cernan were among the signatories in this rebuke of national policy that claims we are conceding our rightful place on the cutting edge of space technology to those less deserving. I remember that night of the first moon landing in July 1969, how very exciting it all was to be alive in such amazing times.
I remember how, as a youngster I felt betrayed when our national goal disappeared as our nation grew bored with it. I have secretly held resentment all these years as if a future that could have been, filled with technology’s promise, was taken away and replaced by Disco music and mood rings.
I wrote this little following snippet as an aborted blog entry last year in a failed attempt at dry humor. At the time I thought it was terrible and it’s still terrible but its kind of timely now in a way that will soon seem evident.
“In honor of the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing I would like to pay homage to that other testament to the human spirit, my summer Vacation. I can still hear the words of my wife reverberating in my ears on that chilled February morning, “We as a family should commit ourselves to achieving the goal before the end of this summer go to the Eastern shore of Maryland before and return safely to Philadelphia” I, being the family’s Werner Von Braun, was charged with implementation of these lofty goals. Immediately I began making plans for my long anticipated summer vacation. Despite having all these months to prepare the inevitable crunch time has arrived.
This coming Thursday we will pull our fully laden trailer loaded with a thousand essential things the two hundred or so miles to Maryland’s Eastern shore. Once there if all goes to plan, we will begin to reap the fruits of my labors. The fact is however that things often don’t go as planned, just as our intrepid astronauts discovered when their computer told them to land in a boulder field. Having the sense and the training they were able to adjust their landing site with just seventeen seconds of fuel remaining. To avoid such calamities, I always plan things in advance so I might have the time to bring my plans into action and run any simulations as required.
In preparations for all manner of endeavors I often will first create lists within lists. This past weekend as a hundred things filled my head I entered pre flight mode in which I began the process of fleshing out the details on the final checklists. Some of the first items on my lists were obvious needs like food, sporks and space blankets. Others like my mp3 collection and a dozen different baseball caps, although not technically necessary they are not any less essential.
The logistics involved with planning such a trip were staggering, and not unlike those labored upon by the Apollo program in their race to the moon, I attempt to anticipate every eventuality. I began this practice years ago in an effort to fight off the chaos brought on by a flurry of my own thoughts. Of late I feel however I may just be feeding the fire. If something were to go wrong out there and I were to become lost in a lifeless, chaotic wilderness I might soon crimp my air hose and be left to die in an alien landscape. Or worse, I could forget the dogs shot records. However if all goes well I may yet catch that spotted flounder on my surf rod or kayak the length of the sound without dropping my sunglasses in the drink.
And when the trip is over and we’ve returned to our cubicles we will remember those golden days of glory and how we did these things not because they were easy but because they were hard.”
I wrote this originally as a play on how our adventurous natures were somehow usurped while we slept by a culture of safety. One year out this entry now seems funny to me because in this era of cost cutting, not only is the future of space exploration in doubt so also are the tried and true rituals of summer vacation. It seems this too has become victim to budgetary short falls. There will be no planning and packing, no daylong voyage. There will no thunderstorms at sea, no watching in awe the lightning arc across the charcoal sky. The lists and tools, for at least a season, will now sit idle. Hard cuts had to be made but I wonder if the spirit can long endure the rigors of austerity.