Sunday, September 23, 2012

Endeavor Waves Good-Bye

     Riding my bike up a street that I always take, a gaggle of people ran out of the door of their office building and all looked at me, waving and cheering and giving the thumbs up sign.  Odd, I usually don't get accolades for biking up this street.  A man bounced out of his front door beside me and then the coin dropped-- they're applauding Endeavor.

     I looked over my right shoulder and there she was, that Boeing 747 with the baby strapped to her back. They were escorted by two fighter jets that looked like tiny toys, flying silver minnows in the noontime sun.  Mother and child floated through the air-- huge, simple, white, and regal.
     My chest gave an unexpected spasm, my throat squinched shut and tears flowed from my eyes.  It was not only seeing Endeavor clinging to that huge jet on her last piggy back ride.  It was knowing they represented the America in which I grew.  The America with a space program and noble ideas about exploring the universe.  Was it political even then?  Sure.  We wanted to beat our old foes, the Russians, to the moon and beyond.  We wanted to dominate, we wanted and needed to win the space race, in order to preserve truth, dignity and the American way.  I'm glad that today multinational astronauts work together as they explore space.  I like a sense of earth space community.
     Still, the space shuttle program represents a time of enthusiasm and discovery which parallels a time like that in my little life.  I was in Orlando, Florida, standing with scores of people in the porte cochère of our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, on January 28, 1986, as Challenger left the earth.  My cousin from Germany, our respective toddlers, the dog and I delayed our embarkation on a cross-country journey to California in a Ford Aerostar van to watch the launch in awe, as Challenger rose, magnificent and powerful, into the sky.  But something went terribly wrong.  The sound and sight of people shocked into screaming and running back and forth from the hotel to the landscaped berms beyond the valet parking area in psychic pain, is etched in my memory.  My mind did not want to accept the truth.  I had a moment of denial.  

     I turned to my husband and asked, "Maybe they did something special, a surprise?"  He shook his head and looked down.  "No," he said, "this is a tragedy."  A pall of heaviness settled on us.  It was a bad omen for starting a road trip of nearly 2500 miles.
     After our shock and long delayed departure, my cousin and I started across America.  We had adventures.  We had setbacks.  We forgot the dog at a rest stop in West Texas, realized it, turned back and found her snuffling around some cacti in the desert near the Highway #10 onramp. We scooped her up and stuffed her into the back of the van.  She, unaware that she had almost been a tasty coyote niblet, abandoned like a child in a forest in a Grimm's nightmare fairy tale, wagged her body in joy and licked the faces of our giggling children.
     When I saw Endeavor yesterday, my tears flowed, not just for America, but also for my life, bracketed between 1986 and now-- difficult, great, up, down.  Had I known in 1986 what would face not only America and the space program but also me, I would have probably retired to a bed in a sanitarium, staying inside the lines of an Archie and Jughead coloring book.
     But that's not how it works.  We take life on life's terms and do the best we can.  We take America and do with her the best we can.  We love her, that's the bottom line.  If there is doubt, see something like Endeavor passing overhead. She should float by more often.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Of Wedding, Funerals and Old Time Ice Cream Parlors

     I've broken a cardinal rule of blogging by not posting in the last three weeks.  There is a rhythm and a balance to blogging, just like dancing or riding a bike.  You know how good I am at riding a bike.

L'Hirondelle on the Royal Road in San Juan Capo
     So I was at home threatening the dog, when I were called away to a garden wedding in San Juan Capistrano.  I booked a room at the closest, most economical motel, so that I might enjoy a mini-vacation.  Only after I made the rez did I read the Yelp reviews [note to self: mistake], wherein each reviewer posted a variation of, "This is the worst sh__hole I've ever stayed in.  The only good thing is that it's next door to In 'n' Out."
     It wasn't that bad.  I slept through the freeway sounds, drab decor and the train whistle 5x in the night.  From my window, I watched the patrons of said In 'n' Out enjoy their burgers and fries with the zeal and reverence many people reserve for religious parades and self-flagellation.  I enjoyed L'Hirondelle, the Mozart Café, the Los Rios historic district and the wedding, spiced with paella, dancing and karaoke.
     I came home, I packed and left the next day for an unexpected funeral up north.  Expected or no, funerals are downers.  This was no exception.  My cousin, Chuck, was a fine man, a loving husband, a caring father, and cut down in the prime of his life.  We were and are all very blue at his passing.
     I looked at my cousins, our first time together in several decades, and realized this is how it's going to be-- we'll see each other on the funeral circuit.  The new generation may offer some weddings we can attend in the future, but, so far, nothing.
     On my way home, I stopped in Hanford to meet with Sunny Frazier, my acquisitions editor at Oak Tree Press.  As we had done once before this past spring, we met for a quick bite at Superior Dairy.  When I first saw it in March, I knew it had to be a Huell Howser haunt.
     "Oh yes," said Sunny, "he's filmed every square inch of this place several times."

Home of  giant portions of frozen confections
     How's this for kismet?  While skimming dozens of posts about Superior Dairy in an attempt to juice up this blog, I found a Huffpost article about National Ice Cream Cone Day, and guess what day that is?

Amanda Dollman servin' up a sundae

     That's right.  It's TODAY.  Go out and do your patriotic duty.  Go get yourself a brain freeze with sprinkles on top.