Monday, October 21, 2013

bitter remorse

Stopped by my local Whole Foods to pick up a few supper items; mushrooms, whole wheat pasta, red quinoa. Stuff that supposedly makes you healthier and superior to the folks who shop just down the road at the super Walmart.

On the way out I spotted this odd combination of space kitsch and grocery cart with a red faux space shuttle that's big enough to keep a pair of small children, twins perhaps, imagining they're flying a real space shuttle around the isles while their parents try to fill the cart.

And I flash back in time to when I sat on the upper bunk bed, with my younger brother in the lower bunk of the room we shared, watching on our black and white TV as Neil Armstrong slowly crawled down the ladder of the Eagle to the surface of the moon. And all the books Time published about space, and the beautiful illustrations of all those rockets we'd be building and flying in the very near future. And the first season of Star Trek, when William Shatner was reasonably restrained in his acting. All the memories of growing up through Mercury, then Gemini, then the Apollo series, only to see everything come to an end in 1972, the year I graduated from high school.

And now I read and watch as we put all our remaining shuttles in museums and charge rather hefty prices to see hardware we already paid dearly for with our tax dollars. Just so we could go up and orbit the earth. Or drive out to Huntsville and see a poorly maintained Saturn 5 as it slowly rusts away.

Perhaps there is some hope for us. The movie "Gravity" has spent the last three weeks at number one. Studio bigshots say it's because it's playing on 3D and IMAX screens. But maybe, just maybe, we remember what we had, and deep down inside we're hungry for space. Maybe we don't know all the reasons, but we do know this; we can't spend our lives living in Facebook and Twitter, being "social", and having our freedoms slowly eroded all in the name of security. At least that's the way I feel. Maybe that'll inspire someone new to keep going into space, and not stop like my generation did.

And I feel something else: shame. I grew up during one of the greatest periods this country has ever known, the space race against the old Soviet Union. Once upon a time my imagination was fired with dreams of living and working in space. And then it all ended when I graduated from high school and I let it all carelessly slip past, leaving nothing but imperfect memories.

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