Space Travel Will Save Us

Hello Everybody,

Just insert your own caption.

Just insert your own caption.

Last Monday, I was walking through Wino’s Alley on Serrano Street toward Sunset Boulevard. A couple of winos were laying on the the sidewalk ahead of me, their bodies curved to fit in whatever shade was available, on the sidewalk outside the Food 4 Less. Across the street, against the wall of Bill’s Liquor, three other winos – babbling, drinking, seeing things I couldn’t see – kept counsel on the other side.

“BLAH!” Exclaimed one.

“Blah, blah…blah,” Said the other consolingly.

“Bl…bl…bah, blah. Blah. Blah,” Conceded the first.

“Blah, blah,” said the second, shaking his head in affirmation.

“Blah?” asked the third, who’d been destracted by a sunray.

It was an unusually clear day. To the north, the beautiful Hollywood Hills could be seen in sharp detail. Mini-palaces with big shiny windows and large balconies teetered over the sharp drop-offs of the bushy green Hills. Palm trees popped up in clusters here and there. The Hills looked so close in the smogless sky – floating in the heat waves of the hot day. It was as if the visage was projected out of the brain of the sleeping wino just ahead of me – a good dream about The High Life in 3D. The wino lay there – a crumpled up pizza box for a pillow – covered in grime from his gray hair to his one dingy sock next to a spattering of unidentifyable, dry organic matter. At first, I thought he was dead. But just after I leaned in for a closer look, he twitched slightly, as if an angel nudged him, or a gnat flew in his nose.

...perchance to dream...

…perchance to dream…

Across the street, one of the babbling winos crushed his empty 24oz. beer can and threw it in the gutter. His gin-blossomed face went blank as his fine day suddenly got hotter and longer. He sat in absolute disgust, listening to a slow clock ticking somewhere, pretending not to hear the howls of the dogs of despair that would be on him by evening. His two compadres babbled on. They still had some booze left. Their day was still Just Fine.

I found myself anxious, later that afternoon. My job in Los Angeles – building the set for Independent Shakespeare Company’s summer play festival in Griffith Park – all summer long folks, go to for the schedule! – had finished up, for the most part. I’d been spent the last few days writing and trolling the internet for writing jobs, adding up to a lot of computer time. By Monday, I felt as if I’d just crawled out of one of those cryo-jelly pods like Keanu Reeves in the The Matrix, just after he took the Red Pill. Now that I was back in the carnal world, my body needed to move, so I decided to hike up to the Griffith Park Observatory – up in those Hills of that wino’s dream.

Just beyond the entrance of the park, people of all kinds lounged in the thick dark-green cool shade the park offered. Frizbees, picnics, books. A group of Buddhists meditated. A group of Muslims prayed towards Mecca. A steady flow of couples, joggers and dogs and their owners moved up and down the trail leading to the observatory. I joined the assembly line and headed up the switchback trail.

The idle time had taken it’s toll. I was sucking in air as I neared the observatory, sweating profusely. The sweat had a consistency of thin oil, and burned my eyes as I humped it up the hill. Everybody else looked fine. There were too giggly girls just ahead of me, talking about there dudes and what they ate for lunch. Behind me was a young couple, both wearing capris, skipping along, talking to each other like lovers do.

Halfway there...

Halfway there…

“Well, that’s a bit of history that they don’t tell ya’ in school, isn’t it?” said the girl.

“I know, it’s crazy, right?” replied the dude.

“You’re so smart.”

“Ah, well, you know.”

About two-thirds of the way up, there was stony water run-off that served as a shortcut for the more adventruous pilgrims heading to the observatory. I ascended the steep incline – slipping now and then, catching myself on rocks to stay upright – and crawled up to the last stretch of the switchback. Sweat stuck to my hands like hamburger grease. My shirt and jeans were soaked and covered in dirt. There was a tree by the trail and I went under it – my wet clothes cooled me in the breezy shade. A few moments later, the young couple in capri’s walked by, nuzzling against each other. They looked un-alone, un-worried, as He directed She’s attention to various parts of the city.

“Oh, that’s it, way over there?”

“Yeah, way over there, isn’t that cool?”

“That is so cool!”

The bounced up the trail like Raggedy Ann and Andy. Renewed with vigor, I followed.

20130714_170202The observatory is closed on Mondays, but many people were there, laying about on the greens in front of the entrance, peering out from the observatory’s balcony. I shouldered my way into the crowd on the balcony and looked over the city. Los Angeles sprawles so far out it finally just disappears, like there’s only the city and there’s never been anything else. I could see East Hollywood from the balcony pretty clearly. I could even see the corner of Serrano and Sunset. I couldn’t see the wino’s. But they were there.

Next to me, a girl held her smartphone to her ear, smiling to herself over what she was hearing. On the other side of me, a woman subconsiously put her arm around her husband – or whoever he was – as they stared out to the west. Behind me, a happy man carried his happy little son on his shoulders. Behind him a guy was taking pictures of his reluctant girlfriend on the concrete walkway, where there is an ebedded, brass diagram of our solar system.

Its all just stuff, spinning around.

Its all just stuff, spinning around.

In the center of the diagram, is a little brass dot, representing the sun. Then you have a brass circle representing the orbit of Mercury around the Sun. Then you have one respresenting Venus’ orbit, Earth’s, Mars’. There’s nothing after Mars for a while – you have to walk several pace before you come to Jupitor’s orbit. Then there’s Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and then there’s poor, demoted Pluto. When I was little, Pluto was a planet, I thought. Suddenly, I was rocketted back to the first grade, learning the planets in a little small town classroom with my childhood friends. But I was back in LA almost instantly, sweaty, older, and a long way from that little classroom.  When I was little, Pluto was a planet…a planet…

I walked back to Earth’s orbit, stared at it. Looking down on it, it was an incredibibly simple place, planet Earth. Spins around while circling the sun, that’s all. I thought about what that astronaut said…

If somebody’d said before the flight, “Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?” I would have say, “No, no way.” But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.  Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 astronaut, second human in space.

Well, that’s nice, but that’s not what I was thinking about…

Oddly enough the overriding sensation I got looking at the earth was, my god that little thing is so fragile out there. Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut; interview for the 2007 movie In the Shadow of the Moon.

Close, but nope, wasn’t him, either…

This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no resupply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion or our hometown or even to ourselves. It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got. Scott Carpenter, Mecury 7 astronaut; speech at Millersville University, Pennslyvania. 15 October 1992.

Not quite, but we’re getting closer…

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small. Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut, first man on the moon.

THUMB!!!! THUMB!!!! Thanks for the hint, Neil Armstrong! Now, this is what I thought about…

We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned was about the Earth. The fact that just from the distance of the Moon you can put your thumb up and you can hide the Earth behind your thumb. Everything that you’ve ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself—all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself. Jim Lovell, Apollo 8 & 13 astronaut;   In the Shadow of the Moon.

So simple.


By the time I descended the hill and got back to Hollywood, it was dark. I walked along from one dark pocket of shadow to the next along Hollywood Boulevard. The sidewalk was sprinkled with panhandlers, charged from the energy of the night into a near euphoric state. They almost looked happy they rattled about, their thin frames swinging inside their baggy clothes…say man, you got a dollar…bus fare…listen, I’m outta gas…I just need a fu#$ing quarter, man…ok, how about 20 cents? Man, what’s 20 cents?!

Sorry, buddy…sorry, buddy…sorry, buddy…

“Hey what’s up, man?” asked a different kind of voice coming out of a shadow.

I looked to my left and saw an old, black ashen hand sticking out of a shadow, holding a nearly full pint of gin. The bottle glowed in the streetlight, the shiny liquid sloshed around. I peered into the shadwow. The old man sat in a wheelchair, rubbing his abdomen as if to soothe the open wound caused by the jagged, sharp scales of the craving that crawled in and out him. But the craving seemed to be pacified for the time being, for he sported a large, gaping smile under his blooshot eyes. He held the pint higher, to me. He looked so happy.

“Say, wan’chu have a drink wimme?”

His smile was infectious, so I smiled back. But I didn’t answer. He leaned closer.

“Come on, man…drink wimme.”

The gin was strong. I lingered in its bouquet long enough for it to start smelling real good and perfect and absolute and the only thing I’ve ever wanted.

“No, thanks, buddy.”

As I left him, he reached out to grab me, just missing my arm.

“Hey, come on, man! HEY! HEY!”

“I’m sorry, buddy…”

Then his smile broke and on rushed the despair.


See me?

They’re still there…

There was a wounded brutality to his voice. But after he shouted, he looked down at the ground. Tick, tock, and the howls growing nearer. But he was laughing when I made it to the corner. I turned around. He laughed, took a long drink, then laughed some more. The dogs of despair had passed him by, and his night was back to being Just Fine.

Be well…

The Dance of Death and the Naked Eye

Hello Everyone,

The Highline

Last Tuesday, a friend took me to the Highline – the pleasant park up on the old elevated train track on Manhattan’s West Side – far above all the other humans, rats and taxis.  On Tuesdays, a group of astronomers set up a few telescopes and train them on whatever they can find, through the fog of light which encapsules Metropolis.  It was also a cloudy night, Tuesday, so the stargazers had there work cut out for them.

“It’s the Blah, Blah, Blah (numbers I couldn’t remember) Aquarii,” said one of the astronomers, a very science-y, gapped toothed, thickly bespectacled chap.  “Ya gonna see a blue stah revolvin’ around a red stah.  Of course, they don’t look like they’re movin’.  It’s called a binary stah system.  See…”  The chap looks into the microscope.  “Hey, Joe!”

“Whaddya’ want!”  said Joe, equally science-y and bespectacled, but displaying tightly snug chompers.  He was standing next to another telescope, chatting up with two very pretty young ladies.

“You need to fix this, Joe, it’s blurry.”

“Twist the knob and focus it.”

“It’s not that Joe, it’s somethin’ else.”

Joe reluctantly left the two ladies, did the “somethin’ else” and re-trained the telescope on the binary star system.  My friend looked first, and after she “oh wowed” for a moment, I peeked into the telescope.  I could barely see a blue dot and a red dot, close together.  They looked so isolated and far away, surrounded by nothing.

Blah, Blah, Blah Aquarii

“It can’t be seen by the naked eye,” said the gap-toothed fellow.  “But we can see pretty good with these from up here.  The two stars are cought in each uthuh’s gravity, just spinnin’ around each other, up there.”

My friend and I left the astronomers to continue their efforts to observe the heavens and woo the ladies.  We walked from the Highline, through the chilly evening, to a diner.  As we ate, the second presidential debate was airing.  Two stars of a different kind, Blue Obama and Red Romney were to duking it out again.  President Obama lost to Mitt Romney in the previous debate, badly so, said the well groomed, male news anchors and the just sexy enough female anchors, plus the curious groups of votors selected to decide who beat who.  Obama looked contrary to his intelligent, articulate self, and let Mitt Romney walk over him, so the anchors and citizen judges decreed.  Therefore, on this second go round, Obama had to win, to save his chance at a second term.  Oh, the pressure was in the air, all the way to the golden brown hue of New York’s light-blanket above us.  Apparently, Obama schooled Romney in the second debate.  Romney also didn’t help himself by the “whole binders full of women” thing, and proved that brain activity levels cannot be totally shielded with money.  News outlets reported the amazing turn around for Obama, but said it was still a tight race, OMG, sure to get the blood up in all us voters, get us all nervous and distracted for a while.  And, OMG, the anchors and judges say the Stars are neck and neck, caught in each others gravity and shuffling across Universe America in a violent embrace.   They will be baby kissing, union stroking, homeless shelter dish washing, memorizing long indecipherable non-answers to prepared questions right up to the third, and final, Presidential debate-to-the-death.  Is your blood up, yet?  My god, the pulses will only rise higher, right until late in the night of Super Tuesday, when the Blue and Red stars will finish the dance of death, and America will be watching, watching, closer, watching, wait, closer, we’re watching, oh, we’re watching…then BAM!  The ruler of the free world will bow, and clean himself as the confetti falls.  But WHO will it be, folks at home???  It’s such an exciting, dangerous and totally unpredictable run for the presidency, isn’t it?  OMG, you can’t script this!!!!  Well, actually, you can.  It’s television.

I have to be truthful and state that I did not watch the debate, nor did I the last, or have I really ever watched one.  Quite frankly, my naked eye has no trouble seeing throught he fog of light and night of such spectacle.  And, come on, neither does anybody’s.

On a New York City street at night, it’s sometimes hard to imagine there’s another 99.999999999999999999999999…% of a universe out there.  But that’s somewhat understandable, looking up isn’t it wise here, just come visit, stop and look up at 35th street and 7th avenue at 5:30pm and listen to the curses put upon you, and your children and your children’s children.  While walking to the train, Tuesday night, my friend and I kept our naked eyes focused at ground level, to negotiate a path around taxis that screech to a halt in the walk lane, or angry bicyclists, and of course, the already large and growing swarm of smart phone zombies, and a million other things.  But above beyond that muddy electric glow over the city, the universe goes on expanding, and a red and blue star, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, dance violently, on a scale of force incomprehensible to Earthling’s brain.

Uh Oh…

There will be no happy ending for Blah, Blah, Blah, Aquarii.  One star could shake away, and loft out into loneliness, but more than likely one star will die, which is still no consolation for the other star.  When a star dies, it’s mass grows so heavy it creates a black hole, and the other star will be the first to get sucked in and obliterated.  The black hole will creep through space like a phantom devouring anything in its path.  Something the size of Earth wouldn’t have a chance.  In an immeasurable moment, Earth and Eathlings, even Americans, with our strong backbones and frontier spirit and apple pies and captialism and baseballs and smart phones and ideas of gods and ipads and referee strikes and abortions and and yellow ribbons for our troops will be sucked into nothing, pulled apart to nothing, completely and forever removed from Spacetime.   And to think it all began with an innocent dance between a Red star and a Blue star.

Le Danse Macabre

But those Red and Blue stars seem so harmless through a lens.

Be well…