Monday, July 20, 2009

In Which I Make the Historic Moon Landing All About Me

There's nothing I enjoy more than moon landing anniversaries and nostalgia. Not because the moon landing itself was such a great achievement (the Apollo program having netted us about 800 pounds of rocks and some really cool photographs), or because I can imagine myself riding up there in their place (seriously, I couldn't even begin to list all the overlapping phobias that a flight to the moon would trigger in me). No, I love it because the moon landing is the very earliest thing I can remember and so, to the extent that memory and consciousness and simply being aware of your own existence are all linked, July 20, 1969 is sort of like my mind's birthday. And now, sadly, even that part of me is middle-aged.

Of course, I don't remember anything about the moon landing itself. That part's been filled in by repeated viewings over the years (especially on...anniversaries!) But what I do remember is being woken up by my mother and being brought downstairs to watch tv - an enormous wood-paneled piece of furniture that was always referred to as "the console" rather than the tv - and admonished to pay attention, because this was important. I also vaguely recall being irritated by the whole thing, since it was after 10PM and I was barely two years old. The irony of my earliest memory being a slightly unpleasant one involving television news (specifically CBS) has never been lost on me.

I've always been slightly bemused at my parents' instinct to wake me up that night - did they think this wouldn't be repeated at a more respectable a hour? But I guess, unlike, say, Robert Kennedy's funeral, which you could have gone to in person, the moon landing could only be experienced on tv (unless you were Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, of course), and live was better than re-run, so thanks to some quick thinking and selflessness on their part (for which I'm sure they were rewarded with a dirty diaper and a crying baby), I can say, "oh, yeah, the moon landing...I was there."

Anyway, in the expert opinion of Someone Who Was There, I think the great neglected story of the day was Michael Collins, the one who stayed up aboard the Columbia. While his two pals were showboating around on the lunar surface, Collins was in orbit, at times as much as 3,000 miles away and out of radio contact, making him by far the loneliest, most physically isolated person in human history up to that point. I've always thought that was a much more interesting achievement.

(Though hardly a 'holy...living...fuck' kind of moment...)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry it was so rough on you. Think how rough it was on your friend Debbie, who was only 1 year old. She was at our house, with Larry and Sissy (because they wanted to experience it with us). She was woken up and didn't have a clue as to what was going on!
You didn't mention that the T.V. was in "BLACK AND WHITE"!

M

Anonymous said...

I like how your mom says T.V. with the periods, that's how it used to be abbreviated!
My brother in law worked on the space capsule (or whatever it's called) that landed on the moon that day and I always teased and said it was filmed on a movie set & nobody really landed on the moon, it made him furious. Years later we went to Cape Canaveral with him and saw a diorama of the moon landing with the same capsule -- see I told you it was all faked!
ha ha ha! Pre-photoshop, pre-fake-Bin Ladin news clips -- they used a diorama to make us think we landed on the moon!

Burro Hall said...

Mom's kind of the definition of "old school." She probably won't take that as the complient it's meant as.

I recently worked with an ex-NASA guy on a tv show. I asked him what made him leave the world of science for the world of tv, and his response was, "Oh, I was kind of partially responsible for the space shuttle Challenger blowing up," which, as reasons for getting into another line of work go, is pretty fucking good.

Mom - I should know better, but will argue the point...are you sure the tv was black and white? Wasn't this the tv we had until I was about 12 years old? Which was definitely color.

Anonymous said...

We got our first color "T.V" when we were in Swampscott. It was a gift from Nana so we could watch "Battlestar Galatica" in color.
Trust me on this. How could I ever get that fact wrong - for many reasons!

M

PS - I'm struggling with the "old school" remark as a compliment.