She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
—Elton John / Rocket Man
One of my friends, a big shot at Colonial, called me up and told me to get a move-on with my first review of the season. After hanging up, I turned over and went back to sleep. But as I was drifting off, Rocket Man went through my dulled senses and synapses, along with David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Back in ’69, they used Bowie’s song during their moon landing coverage—but only in Britain. He wasn’t a big star in America at that point; I mean he hadn’t even put on a dress yet for the cover of The Man Who Sold The World album. That would come two years later. (When questioned about the dress, Bowie replied: “Its a man’s dress. It doesn’t have big boobs or anything like that.”).
But I digress. I digress about the dress… Back in the summer of 1969, I was thirteen and we were playing softball in the schoolyard. Kids brought their transistor radios, and we’d either have them tuned to WRKO or WMEX Top 40 AM. (We would graduate to FM and WBCN in a couple of years when we discovered sex—at least sex with other people—smoking weed, growing our hair and listening to brain-dead bands like Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly. In fact, we might’ve even dropped some Blue Cheer; but at this point, I honestly can’t remember!)
So, I was playing centerfield that day and pretending to be Roberto Clemente. I wanted to try a basket-catch like he did but I was too nervous to attempt it. What if I dropped a simple pop-fly because I was fooling around and showing off! I was also listening for my fave song of the moment, the new Tommy James and The Shondells single. Suddenly, the news broke in: MOON LANDING. AMERICA HAS LANDED ON THE MOON. THE U.S. FLAG HAS BEEN PLACED ON THE MOON’S SURFACE ALONG WITH THE NAME OF PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON! And on and on. We listened, shrugged, and then went back to our game. Later, I heard Nixon placing a collect call to the Sea of Tranquility: “Hello, Neil and Buzz. I’m talking to you by telephone from the Oval Office at the White House… for every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives.”
Later I thought its too bad Bobby Kennedy’s name isn’t up there. After all, his brother started this whole Moon Business. It didn’t matter that blacks were protesting for their rights down South and getting knocked off their feet by fire hoses and German Shepards; it didn’t matter that kids were living in filth in Appalachia or that more G.I.s were being sent to the mud fields of Vietnam… Our tanned, Palm Beach Playboy President just had to play Captain Kirk and beat the Russkies up there. (“Risk is our business, Mr. Spock.”) As JFK explained his ludicrous idea: “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon…” How many people could have had healthcare for what it cost to put Apollo 11 up there?
Anyways, I felt RFK had been robbed (in more ways than one). I mean, let’s face it, Nixon barely beat Humphrey in the general election, and Bobby was some kind of political superstar at that point, while Humphrey—who was a great liberal—was as bland and boring as a family reunion in a dry town in Oklahoma! Bobby was constantly pushing his hair off of his forehead like he was fluffing out his Beatle-bangs, but it always fell back again. That meant he was one of the kids, or something. (“Now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there.” Push the hair back; grin boyishly; give the peace sign.) But maybe he wouldn’t have made a great President, though. His voice was so reedy and nerdish. And how much fear and trembling can you inspire in the Russians and Chinese when your President is named Bobby? This is why I think Jimmy Carter was so ineffective as a Prez. He should’ve gone with James Carter. Or maybe J.E.C. (Get Well, Jimmy!)
But I digress again… My friend told me that the APOLLO 11 film was ‘riveting’ in the extreme, and that it had no narrator, just archival footage interwoven spectacularly. Sounds great. I’ll see it soon. (Actually, she should be writing these reviews. At our Xmas party last year she said if she ever wrote one it would go like this “See this movie, idiot! If you don’t, you’ll be known as Shithead Charlie forever!”)
I’ll end with one to two more thoughts… a couple weeks ago, ABC did their own moon-landing special. Very fascinating and well done. I learned that women were involved behind the scenes in important jobs like physics and software—much more than we knew. Three names lost to history were revived for the broadcast: Judith Love Cohen, Ann Dixon and Margaret Hamilton (not the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ, apparently). And the great Ralph Abernathy staged a protest. His whole idea in a nutshell was simple and workable: let’s feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, give medicine to the sick before we reach for the stars. Makes sense to me. In fact, God didn’t like us reaching for the stars. Remember the Tower of Babel?
The idea of space started off as a rich man’s plaything; let it remain that. Both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have their own rocket companies (Blue Origin and SpaceX, respectively). Let them focus on it. America needs to feed the hungry, etc., just like Ralph said. Dismantle NASA! I read recently that a dozen government agencies are involved with the Climate Change Crisis. Why not put it all under one roof? Turn NASA into CCC—Climate Change Central. Let the billionaires deal with the Final Frontier. They made all their money on the backs of exploited workers; let them really give back to America. And if you’re interested, you can do some research on how Bezos and Musk treat their employees at Amazon and Tesla.
Yes, I have an idea. Why not put all the billionaires on the Moon? It can be their own personal playground. Their Xanadu and Valhalla and El Dorado and Shangri-La rolled into one. Face it, they don’t like us anyways. They’re just interested in working us to death!
I’m waiting for our first contact with alien life forms. I want them to do a press conference at the White House. “We’ve been observing your planet for some time. One thing we don’t understand is why you let small pockets of people control all the money and gold and have all the fun and power while everybody else eats spam for supper? Why don’t all the citizens, all over the world, rise up and take it all back?”
Good question, Little Green Men. Come and talk to us soon. I’m waiting patiently.