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To the Moon, Alice!

July 20, 2012

Today is the anniversary of Neil Armstrong taking one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind with the world’s first moon walk. How cool is that?

(No, I’m not going to get into the conspiracy that it never happened, those folks are nuts.)

I’ve always loved the moon. I like to see it rise, to stare at it in the sky, to imagine being there. The best scene of any movie ever is Tom Hanks thanking God for his existence while he looks at the giant moon over the watery horizon in Joe vs. The Volcano.

Before the stars, it was the moon that made mankind want to visit other worlds. I was born just after Kennedy committed us to a moon shot, but I was always aware of the progress. My dad was into it and we followed it in science magazines.

July in Seattle is amazing. The weather is normally in the upper 70’s and the sun doesn’t set until 9 o’clock so we lived outside. The pain in my legs was just getting bad and unknown to me I had another year before it would cripple me, so on that fateful day I was out riding my bike, dragging a thunder boat behind me (we fashioned a boat shape on a 1×6 with a point on one end and nails driven through the back end so as we dragged it on 10 feet of twine, sparks would rooster tail out like water behind a thunder boat. The faster we went, the higher the sparks – it’s a Seattle thing).

We were having a blast. Then Dad came out and rang the bell furiously (big neighborhood so instead of yelling, my folks rang a bell for us to come home). Well I didn’t want to come in, so I ignored it. Then he did yell, and Dad didn’t do that, so I scooted home under protest.

The outdoors was still calling me and my time to run and play was slipping away, even if I didn’t know it then, but Dad said they were about to land on the moon. We’d made a big deal of the blast-off some time before, but Dad was having a hard time getting us to attend the landing.

Finally, after first cajoling and then demanding, he made me sit down and watch. It was in black and white! Color had been with us now for years, what was the deal? Mom suggested that maybe there was no color on the moon. That shut me up as she knew it would.

There were some technical difficulties and clearly Walter Cronkite was enjoying himself as he narrated the landing. Neil made his famous pronouncement which I couldn’t understand through the static. We watched them play for awhile and then the broadcast was over. Dad was blown away. I thought it was cool.

Then Pop dragged me outside. It was still bright out but he pointed up and there, in the blue ocean of the sky, was the white crescent of the moon. “That’s where they are.”

I knew that, of course, but somehow I hadn’t really equated that vast landscape on the TV with the tiny moon up there. After a bunch of questions about why they couldn’t take a plane there or where did they go when the moon went down, evening fell around us and the white moon turned yellow and bright.

A day or two later, Dad brought home a NASA Astronaut suit. It had a plastic-domed retractable helmet, puffy plastic lunar boots and a utility belt with rock manipulating tools. No greater toy had been invented. Mom promised to sew me a white moon suit but never did.

Somewhere I have a picture of myself wearing the helmet and shorts while reading on a chase lounge. Me all over.

Since then I’ve written a screenplay about the 1835 moon hoax and I’m mid-way into a juvenile novel about kids who find a Personal Transport Pad that first flies them to the moon.

Is any image more evocative than the moon? I don’t think so.

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