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Sunday, March 11, 2012

I wanted to see it happen

We don't have to like it, we just have to do it.

They say that it is only kinky the first time, but then you get used to it and it doesn't hurt so much.

Daylight Savings Time of course... where did y'all's minds go?

Anna and I went to Reno yesterday afternoon for the March Monthly Mensa Meeting. (Whoa, my fingers got stuck in alliteration mode). It was at a member's house who has a well deserved reputation for serving a lot of good food when she hosts (it was potluck so we all brought food as well) The presentation was on Burning Man 2011 by our own master photographer Bkos (his playa name) and that combination never fails to please!

It does make for a late night for us when we do these things, but our friends and activities are in Reno, so we make the trip at least four times a month, three for Mensa and once for Reno Herp Society. It is a good thing that the Subaru gets 30 mpg, with the price of gasoline going upward, it is getting painful to travel.

Looking upward, the forecast for beautiful downtown Fallon is pleasant 59F under peek-a-boo sunny, then cloudy, then sunny skies, with no cents worth of rain, no matter how much you dance. SW winds gusting to I-hope-I-tied-up-the-trashcan-and-that's-not-ours-rolling-down-the-street 40 mph. Tomorrow is going to look like this, only more so. Plan accordingly.

Sgt Mikki and Hurricane Jessi are not liking the home improvement action going on next door and I am hoping that opening the back door will give them enough distraction to shut up for a while. At least I know what the young one is doing that way. Note: hooked rug and puppy = bad combination if you like the rug.

Last night among the non-stop flow of conversation on multiple topics, the subject of what has always been around in our lifetimes came up. Or what we have seen happen in our short time on this planet. Here is a marvelous site for getting your mind around this topic.

One event from my life which came up, was the moon landing in 1969. It was suggested that I write about it here, and I said that I would, so here we go.

I wanted to see it happen

We should all know the importance of the date, July 20, 1969. Sadly I have learned that there are a lot of kids that have no idea how world changing the events of that day were. I believe that it was the most emotionally charged day in world history since John F. Kennedy was shot. Let me explain.

When President Kennedy was shot in 1963 it not only shocked the entire world, but it dropped our country into a state of mass depression and lack of faith in the future. We kept going forward but it seemed that the heart of the American people was not in it, something was missing. The war in Viet Nam was dividing the country, civil rights issues were being fought, and riots and unrest were widespread.

President Johnson (LBJ does not stand for LeBron James) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the implementation would take generations to lift the veil of discrimination and we aren't there even yet.

Other leaders who were making a difference in a big way were taken from us. In April of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr, and in June of 1968, Bobby Kennedy, brother of slain President John and I believe on his way to being an even better leader than his brother. The heart of our country was being ripped out. Leaders who cared about people were dying. Hate was becoming the face of America.

All along during this time of strife and turmoil the dream of space travel and exploration was being kept alive by NASA. Since the first days of the real "Magnificent Seven", the Mercury astronauts, this agency had been working tirelessly to carry out the mission given to them.

On May 25, 1961 (I had to look up the date) just three weeks after Alan Shepherd had become the first American in Space (Yuri got there first for Russia), President Kennedy told the people that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. I watched him say it on the television news.

The concept of space travel was not new, but to actually do it, was. Every rocket launch was big news, kids in Florida either went outside in good visibility days, or (if you were lucky enough to have one in your classroom), you watched it on the black & white television. Kids even traveled to Cape Canaveral to see big launches.

In October of 1968 (after the deaths of King and Kennedy) the Apollo missions began flying and caused a resurgence of hope in something better and more powerful for the country. It didn't stop the strife, division and unrest of war and racial tensions, but like a flower poking through a snowbank, it gave pause to the eternal winter of troubled times.

In May of 1969 Apollo 10 did a full scale dry run on the moon, doing everything short of landing there. With the really ingenious and media grabbing names of "Charlie Brown" for the Command Module and "Snoopy" for the Lunar Module, Astronauts Stafford, Young and Cernan captured the hearts and minds of those willing to think and look up at the sky.

America was excited again! People were skeptical that it was really possible and the usual fussing and discussing about dollar costs went on, but the American people recalled what their beloved President John F. Kennedy said to them in 1961, and dared to believe that it was possible. The Russians had dealt us a very powerful psychological blow when they put Yuri Gagarin into space first.

Now we have the stage set for the most momentous event in recent history, the moon landing of Apollo 11.

I was a sixteen year old boy in July of 1969 and as such, active in every way possible and so, exposed to every contagious malady known to man and then some. Whether through swapping spit with some teenage lovely, or being sneezed upon by a vagrant hanging about the docks of Port Everglades, I have no idea how I got it.

As of the launch of Apollo 11 aboard a Saturn V rocket on July 16th I was quarantined in my room with the mumps. My head looked like a basketball had been jammed down my throat with the swelling of the glands below my ears and jaw. I was officially miserable, and the doctor said contagious, for three days.

Living alone in the dark of my room was nothing new to me, I had been sick much of my childhood. What was different was that the moon landing was imminent and no one else seemed to care if I missed it.

There was much talk (and continuous jokes made by my brother), about what could happen to a 16 year old boy should he walk "too much" while infected with the mumps. They would say that the "swelling would drop to there" and point at my crotch.

How long does one have to wait until parents and older siblings learn to say "testicles", I mean really? They would gesture with their hands about swelling growing to the size of beach balls, etc. The real main concern being possible infertility caused by the virus. I had read all of this already in the encyclopedia and the medical book that my mother had put away behind another book on a shelf. (They had "diagrams" of anatomy you know). I knew the risks and didn't care.

My contention and point of argument, which finally required a telephone call to the doctor, was that it had been three days since confined and the 20th made four. I literally had to beg the doctor to reason with my mother that it was safe for me to walk from one end of the house to the other to where the television was. Everyone else in the house had either had the mumps already, or were immunized against them. It was shear madness, but I prevailed eventually.

So it came to be that while Collins orbited the moon in "Columbia" I was there, lying propped up on a couch.

The first words of the moon landing were actually "Contact light" as the hovering lunar module first made contact with the lunar surface. The full statement of the landing crew to NASA was "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." I know this because we repeated them over and over for years afterward.

I watched as Armstrong and Aldrin exited the LEM and had to keep reminding myself to breathe because it was so incredibly exciting to watch. We were seeing the first man to touch another terrestrial body. Jules Verne was coming to life in front of my eyes! I wanted to be there, with them!

After that first foot touched the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong spoke the words that every child learns (at least I hope they do) in history class, "That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." Twenty long minutes later Buzz Aldrin became the second man to step on the moon. A total of twelve Apollo astronauts would eventually have this privilege between 1969 and 1972.

What this event did as 450 million people listened, was to re-energize the American people and give them back that face of hope, and pride in America as a pioneer and leader of the world, and beyond.

It gave us all, the whole world, a reason to look up and still dream about what could be, because what can happen had just been proven. President Kennedy's pledge to us had been honored. We could aspire to greatness and make it come true. There were no longer limits on "possible."

I had wanted to see it happen for myself and I did. I saw history being made!

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