Moon globe

moon globe

Sometime around 1969 or 1970, after the first couple of moon landings, I bought myself a moon globe at the Fred Meyer on Fourth Plain in Vancouver, Washington.

It was nicely detailed, like a world globe, with all the lunar seas and oceans and craters labeled. It stood on a simple acrylic frame.

I loved it, and I can’t even tell you why. It was so simple: gray and stark and beautiful. It stood next to the world globe I’d received for my seventh birthday; it was the same size, but seemed somehow more modern, with its jazzy clear-plastic stand.

I think it sang to me, a little bit, about the future, and outer space, and the universe, and how all the science-fiction books I’d ever read were going to come true, and how we were going to be living in outer space any time now.

I left my moon-globe in my mother’s house when I left home in 1978. After her death, I didn’t collect it; I put it aside, and I left it in a big box in my brother’s garage back in Washington state.

Maybe it’s still there, and maybe not. Maybe it’s covered with mold. Maybe it’s been thrown away.

Oh, I think about it sometimes. I miss that stupid globe. It was so lovely.

Recently I went on line and bought a little Replogle “Wonder Globe” of the moon. It’s small – only six inches across – but it’s lovely too. It serves as a reminder of my original moon globe, and it sings to me (very softly) of the same dreams I had when I was a kid.

Softly it sings: someday we’ll live among the stars.

Well, maybe not me.

But, kids, maybe you will. If you want to.

And now, the great Benny Goodman:

Neil Armstrong


Neil Armstrong, the quietest celebrity in modern memory, died last weekend at 82. He was a household name, but a very private man, I knew him through books about the space program, especially “Carrying the Fire,” the wonderful autobiographical / historical book written by Apollo 13 crew member Michael Collins.



You can tell in photos how guarded Armstrong was; even when smiling, there’s a sort of veil over his eyes.  In my favorite photo (at the head of this article), taken by one of his Apollo 11 crewmates, Armstrong actually looks exhilarated, and open, and exhausted, and happy.



I’d ask if you remember that evening in July 1969 when Armstrong first stepped onto the moon’s surface, but I remind myself that many of you are too young for that; it would be like you asking me if I remembered when the Confederates started firing on Fort Sumter.



But I remember it. We’d just come home from a day trip to my Grandma Boitano’s house. I was twelve years old. I remember sitting in our living room in the twilight, watching the spectacle on television – a man on the moon! – and then getting up to look out the picture window at the moon (which I remember as being maybe six days old, a little less than first quarter). I remember thinking: There are human beings up there right now.



And I got a little shiver.



Memory is tricky. I go online now, and check myself. What was the phase of the moon on July 20, 1969?


Six days after new.



I actually remembered my childhood accurately.






Armstrong’s family has asked that, “next time you see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”



I think that’s lovely.



And we have to keep the moon in its place, after all, as the following clip (featuring Tina Fey and Buzz Aldrin) demonstrates:





Rest in peace, Neil.


The stars last weekend


I don’t know if you were out after dark last weekend, or looked out a west-facing window.  If not, you missed quite a show.  The very young crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter were all together in the western sky shortly after sunset.  On Friday it was (top to bottom) Jupiter-Venus-moon, in a long curving line; then, on Saturday night, the moon and Venus were making out, right next to each other, with Jupiter looking on from above; Sunday evening, it was moon and Jupiter, with Venus glaring down below; on Monday, another long curve, top to bottom Moon-Jupiter-Venus.  (Mercury was supposedly down there somewhere, but, as I’ve noted before, I am evidently destined never to see Mercury.)



It was beautiful, and scary, and brilliant.  I actually took pictures of it, and if you’ve ever tried to take pictures of the moon or stars, you’ll know that the photos usually don’t turn out.  You can see in the photo above how bright the conjunction was, and how remarkably beautiful.



It’s a cosmic optical illusion.  The moon is only a quarter of a million miles away. Venus is – what? – maybe thirty million miles away.  Jupiter is hundreds of millions of miles away.  But they all happened to be in the same line of sight at the same time .



We were watching a game of cosmic Skee-Ball.  All these planets and moons whizzing around in our line of sight!  Beautiful, eerie, mysterious.



From Diane Ackerman’s book “The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral,” the last few lines of “Asteroids”:



But now

                        They lumber

So wide apart

From each

To its neighbor’s


                                                                        Slant millions

                        And millions

                        Of watertight miles.

                                                            Only in the longest view

Do they graze

            Like one herd

                                                On a breathless tundra.


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