Sunday, July 19, 2009



40 years ago tomorrow, I watched the moon landing while ripped out of my gourd on Peyote buttons. I could’ve sworn Neil Armstrong’s first words were “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

But I was also dealing with several R. Crumb style cartoon hot dogs and root beer bottles doing a kick line on the window sill to a selection of show tunes from “Oklahoma” and “Camelot”, so I can’t be considered a reliable source.

A few years ago, Armstrong acknowledged that what I heard was what he was supposed to say and thought he had said, but an audio dropout somewhere between here and the Sea of Tranquility left a different version of man’s first words from the Lunar surface for posterity.

Wrecked as I was, the first moon walk is still vivid in my memory. And in some ways, the combination of my state and Armstrong’s achievement defines what set the 60’s apart from other eras.

Back then, it seemed like everybody was looking for ways to get outside the box. We were exploring both inner and outer space as well as boldly going where no one had gone before in almost every conceivable direction.

The imagination, innovation and courage that defined NASA and the Apollo astronauts could be found in every aspect of human endeavor. Everybody seemed to be looking for a way to discover or simply experience something people hadn’t even attempted before.

It just seemed expected and completely logical to risk everything –- your body, your life or your sanity, in the hope of uncovering something new.

And so, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin strapped themselves into the Lunar lander fully accepting that they had a 50% chance of safely reaching the moon and even less of getting back.

And I, taking psychology classes from Dr. Duncan Blewett, acknowledged as the Canadian Timothy Leary, was “doing my homework” attempting to record my altered state after swallowing whatever was being handed out that day.

Armstrong and Aldrin made it to the moon, apparently with their onboard computer failing, four miles off course and 15 seconds from running out of fuel. And they made it home, both men profoundly changed by the experience, altered from disciplined Navy fighter pilots to humanitarians and philosophers.

Not long after, I gave up psychotropics. Whenever somebody offered me a joint or something stronger, I always passed, telling them I’d already seen God and didn’t need any more.

And in a way I had seen God – in the form of Neil Armstrong pointing out the distant pale blue marble of the Earth floating over the cratered horizon of the Moon.

Both Neil and I figured we’d be on Mars by now and maybe even further out there. Maybe we also thought that his shot of our planet floating in the vast blackness of space might make people look at a lot of things differently.

But instead, the human race decided to play it safe and stick close to home and keep doing what it already felt comfortable with. No more pushing the envelope, thinking outside the box, taking too many chances.

Maybe celebrating the 40th Anniversary of our going to the Moon will re-inspire some to grow back their courage and thirst for discovery.

NASA has done its best to help, taking the familiar video we’ve all seen (which was originally shot off the single television receiving it in Mission Control) and enhancing it to what we were supposed to have been watching.

Have a look. Think of what might still be. And enjoy your Sunday.

No comments: