Up he went today.
Many of us who were around for John Glenn's first ride have been remembering what we were doing back then and how different everything was. Vietnam hadn't yet become a big deal, Kennedy was in office, and Pete Best was a Beatle. At least we didn't have Nixon to kick around anymore. If, by the magic of some crystal ball, we'd known that within the next seven years we'd come to the brink of nuclear annihilation, experience several major assassinations, see rioting in our cities, and wage a war that would divide the country and ultimately leave over 50,000 of our own young men dead, we may have opted to go down into our backyard bomb shelters right then and there, vowing not to come out until the Mets win the World Series.
I remember sitting at home watching the first moonwalk and seeing coverage of people all over the world watching television, crowds in Times Square, London, Paris, Tokyo. Wherever there was a TV, there was that flickering black and white image of a man taking a step. It was a grand and unifying punctuation to the end of a decade that tested our mettle as a society, and as a species.
What started with a rifle shot in Texas ended with a moonshot, and there was Cronkite each time, bookending the decade with his tears, first with that awful flash from Dallas, and then with the irrepressible joy of a man seeing a dream in metal and flesh at long last flying to the moon.
So much of that thundering spirit that vibrated inside us is gone now. The newness of rockets, the shock of rock and roll, the flag, the race, the racial tension, all seem to have moved from conscience to commodity. What are we waiting for now? It's t-minus how long until our next resurgence of the collective human spirit? Is the Millennium going to bring us all together somehow? Nah, we'll all just be happy if our banks don't lose our money in one blip of the computer. Is Mars in our stars? Why does it seem that it's not up to us anymore, but up to Them, Inc.? Is it true that our Next Great Endeavor is to find another Seinfeld? O.J.? Titanic?
Right now I'm wondering what it must be like to see the planet again from so high up after being so long on the ground. "Hello, Old View", Glenn must be thinking. How he must have longed for that perspective.
Throughout today's coverage of the launch there have been sales campaigns touting the wonderfulness of high-definition television. Broadcasting has made the leap into the next technology, the future is here and it's on sale now. At stores throughout the country, HDTV was being demonstrated, and today's event was the prime launch vehicle. The picture is so clear it's almost like being there.
Since John Glenn's last trip we've all orbited the sun thirty-six times. How was the trip for you? Was it almost like being there?
"Fly Me To The Moon" -- Frank Sinatra -- SINATRA AT THE SANDS W/COUNT BASIE
Wisdom of the Day:
"These changes are due not to any change of air flow or engine speed, but to the changing pressure in your own ear. When the sounds of the airplane become muffled and soft, you are going down. When the sounds of the airplane become loud and clear, you are going up... And may the sounds in your ear, brave reader, be loud and clear."
- Wolfgang Langewiesche, STICK AND RUDDER