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Seeing stars

November 19, 2001

 

I seem to have made some kind of pledge-y thing (see how she demeans it already, in case it doesn't work out) to write an entry every week. Okay then.

 

Honestly, I haven't tapered off out of laziness or any sorry excuse for my own behavior. I honestly have been waiting to get back to a time where I feel comfortable with the relatively superficial verbal diarrhea I tend to produce; lately that sort of content has seemed inappropriate. 

 

Last night around this time I was lying on the rooftop of Gina's Nob Hill apartment watching the meteor shower with Shelly and Patrick. These weren't just everyday shooting stars; each one had a long, long tail of sparkling effervescence trailing behind like Tinkerbell's magic wand in the Disney cartoon intros. Gina was out of town and I had the responsibility of feeding and entertaining her kitty Kisa, so I brought Shelly and Patrick, who were visiting me from Portland, over to her house with me.

 

After scavenging whatever of Gina's clothes we could out of her bedroom for extra warmth, we three lay stretched out but huddled together on the pebbled tar roof in the cold, watching the sky. Shelly was shivering in between Patrick and me, but I lay warm and snuggly with a full-length leather coat a la The Matrix, and a soft scarf around my face and neck. Each meteor streak would evoke not only an "Oooh!" in unison from the three of us, but we could also hear a group of folks (similarly prone in leather?) on another rooftop nearby, whooping joyously (and loudly) with each one. They must have also had whiskey or something. How nice and warm an addition that would have been to our little setup; I must remember to keep some on hand in the future. For, you know, whatever may come.

 

Ashley always tells this quote from, um, somebody (I've heard the quip countless times, you'd think I'd remember the source)... something like, "I always keep whiskey on hand in case of a snake, which I also keep on hand." Haw!

 

So I'm obliged to think back to other memorable stargazing instances. The last was also with Shelly. Around 1992 we drove together from Ventura (CA) to Phoenix (AZ) to visit a friend of hers. We took turns driving through the night, six hours through the desert. While I was a passenger I found myself completely amazed by the brightness of the stars, and I had my forehead against the windshield, head turned at a crazy angle trying to see above the car.

 

Shelly stopped the car on the side of the highway so we could look at the sly more easily. We were both a little scared, standing out there on the side of the empty highway alone in the dark. As we left her parents' house in Ventura, Shelly's dad had given us a knife and a hammer to keep in the car for self-defense; or as he put it, "In case you need to do any brain surgery".

 

So we stood there, probably gripping our tools, staring up at the incredibly black sky totally shattered with bright white and gold and pinkish dots and lights, stars and planets. It was absolutely gorgeous. We stood there a bit longer, then drove on down the highway, passing a huge sign further down the road reading, "State Prison WARNING Do Not Pick Up Hitch Hikers Next 10 Miles".

 

I've always loved space, the cosmos, the planets! When I was at Long Beach State University I felt so alienated and out of place that I made up my own college: UCS (University of the Cosmos, Saturn) and I painted up my leather motorcycle jacket into a proper letterman's jacket for the University. It said UCS in large collegiate lettering across the back and had a large colorful acrylic painting of Saturn in the center; below, it said "University of the Cosmos, Saturn". When asked I'd say I was the founder, dean, and only student. Very snobbish and a bit exclusive, I must say in retrospect. I did a smaller two- or three-inch painting of Saturn on the front door of my Long Beach apartment around the same time, which I'm sure has been painted over since.

 

I also went through kind of a phase (tee hee!) with the moon around the same time. I remember walking on the beach at night with a guy I was dating, and catching a glimpse of the moon in a puddle of oceanwater on the wet part of the sand. I stopped over the puddle to look into the moon's reflection, and all of a sudden was struck by the realization that I was focusing on an object hundreds of thousands of miles away, but I was focusing that distance not out into space but down into the earth. For some reason that tripped me out.

 

I also used to dance naked under the moonbeams that flooded into my little apartment in Long Beach, revelling in the cold sweetness that the moon's surface filtered into the sun's normally harsh yellow light. The moon, I thought, did a fine job in sending a kinder version of sunlight and washing me in it instead of burning me with it.

 

The oldest memory I can conjure of night-sky related material is of being about four, and being bundled up in my jammies with my brother (each in our own jammies, please forgive my ambiguity in phrasing that) and tossed into the back of our big sky-blue station wagon at night to go to the drive-in theater. When I was little, a sure sign of a special event was to be taken outside of the house in our pajamas; it was as sure a sign as that fancy spinny "Special Presentation" graphic they'd play on tv whenever there was a Peanuts cartoon on.

 

Going to the drive-in with Mom and Dad and brother was the highlight, probably, of the part of my life where I had a complete and perfect family unit. Well, that and Christmas tree shopping.

 

Our station wagon ("estate car" for you English, isn't that thoughtful of me?) had a large moonroof over the back section, and Dad would lay the back seat down to create space for David and me to stretch out. We'd look up at the stars through the moonroof as Dad drove to the drive-in, but when we got there we'd roll over and lay on our stomachs, watching the movie propped up on our elbows.

 

I distinctly remember watching Dumbo in this fashion, and crying my eyes out as quietly as I could during the scene where Dumbo's mother is in the cage, cradling him with her trunk through the bars. David and I would usually fall asleep before the end, and we'd be driven home safely on our flannel sleeping bags in the back of the station wagon, under the moon roof and the stars above... the same stars as last night, which persist unchanged even when nothing else does.

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