Old Neighbors

I grew up in a rural part of New York State.  At that time, there were some transplants from New York City (90 miles south) that had purchased houses and lived there on weekends and vacations, but certainly not the way that they have transformed the town in the intervening years since.  In my own neighborhood/cul-de-sac, there was at least one family that fit this description, as the house was not often occupied during the week, but came to life on the weekends and in the summer when school was out and the weather was much warmer.

The family had two children, but neither of them was educated locally.  Even so, the family was pretty subdued and didn’t make much of their present or past significance in show business.  There was a persistent rumor that the father did voiceover work in commercials (the one I remember vividly was that he was the voice of Starkist’s ‘Charlie the Tuna’ from television, [which I recently discovered turned out to be false]) and that he had acted in a soap opera or two in New York City.  As neighborhoods go, ours was pretty seemingly uninterested in things that were considered sensational so this information was left to rumor and innuendo and nothing much was ever made of it.

I have a small fixation with the neighborhood I grew up in, in that I keep tabs on the house and the surrounding area, even though we sold the property in 1992 and it’s gone through several owners since then.  I did visit the property two years ago with my birth mother, to show her where I grew up and for me it was a possibility of seeing the house where I spent 27 years living and supposedly maturing.  The current owners of the house weren’t amenable to us going through it, since the elderly father of the woman that owned it lived there with an aide, so we were relegated to walking the grounds outside. I was able to peek into the windows of a few of the rooms to see if much had changed, some things did, others haven’t.  But that isn’t the topic of this entry.

A couple of nights ago I was looking at Google Earth and thought to check out the street view of my neighborhood (if indeed it was available) and discovered a Google car had indeed made it to my cul-de-sac.  I just happened to be checking out some of the other properties and decided to look at the cluster of mailboxes near the intersection of two streets.  Lo and behold one of them looked strikingly familiar.  The family name of the ‘famous’ family was still on one of them!  It was the same size and shape that I remember, and the little brass and black stick on letters I’d remembered seeing there were still present, spelling out the last name.  So I was intrigued that perhaps they still owned the house and property.  Only a couple of the original residents of the area are still in their houses, all of the others have either died or moved elsewhere.

Doing a little Internet digging I discovered the tax records (they’re publicly available in case you were wondering) and sure enough the property is owned by their Limited Liability Corporation, but it has the family name attached to it all the same.  From that I discovered the father had died in 2015, but the mother still lived mainly in California, and apparently the son now lived in the house as he was apparently retired from his former work at CBS Sports (he was a producer).  There was a police blotter report from a couple years ago where the son was ticketed for DWI by the local yokels, and it listed his age.  From there I came upon the obituary of the father, and it listed his accomplishments and among them were his voiceover work, as well as acting in a soap opera from the 1950s.  A serial called Young Dr. Malone that apparently had started as a radio program but morphed into a television one when tv became the norm and housewives needed distraction during that era.

As it turned out, the rumors were partially true.  We had a somewhat celebrity living in our midst.  They were very nice people as I remember and didn’t make much of their celebrity.  Of course, we also had a millionaire living in our neighborhood, but that’s another story for another day.

 

Wrestling Rut

Monday evenings television watching has been in a rut for the last several years.  Tuesdays too, if the truth be known.  Generally we eat dinner at 8 pm, which for many is considered ‘late’, but we don’t have children (not the human kind) and I’ve been lax for many years and that’s when we eat.  When we eat, we watch television, like many families do.  I remember growing up we didn’t watch when we ate, we ate as a family, in the kitchen, and the television was in the family room, although in my parents’ house, the family room and the kitchen were adjoining.  Basically one large room from one side of the house to the other.  I visited the property in 2017 and was able to peek into the bay window that exposed to the backyard and that’s still the case.  Sure there’s a skylight that wasn’t present when I was living there, but the new owners have effected several changes in the time that it’s been owned by others.  For better or worse.

Presently, for the past say ten years, we watch pro wrestling on Monday nights.  Granted it’s my preference, not my wife’s but we compromise.  She likes to watch reality competitions like Survivor, TopChef, Hell’s Kitchen, Project Runway (et al) and I suffer through them just like she suffers through the wrestling shows.  Too,  I like to watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and she can’t stand ‘Lard Weasel’, but again she suffers for my sake, just like I do for her and her shows (I particularly detest RuPaul’s Drag Race and Below Deck, but again, it’s for a good cause)

The last several weeks however, I’ve been getting a little tired of the pro wrestling and have been seeking out other things to watch that aren’t the ‘same ol, same ol’ plotlines and conjured violence and drama that has been the WWE lately.  Matter of fact this past Monday I switched to the National Geographic channel and their relatively new series ‘Drain the Ocean’.  It’s where they do a detailed workup of a certain section of water (ocean, river, or some body) and investigate what might have become of whatever they’re looking at.  The 8 pm episode detailed certain areas of New York’s harbor, from a time during the American Revolution, to the 19th century in the midst of the Industrial Revolution.  They even took a crack at the wreck of a steamer called SS Oregon, that was supposedly sunk by a German sea mine in 1918.  Very heady stuff and very interesting for someone who is a historical buff like myself.

There have been other episodes, dealing with infamous ships like Titanic and Bismarck, as well as lesser known ships like the one that was discovered near the original footprints of the Twin Towers post 9/11.  That particular ship was theorized to be a river barge owned (or merely used) by the Royal Navy around the time of the American Revolution, as the timbers were dated to the tree having been felled about 1773.

Honestly, I haven’ t been missing watching the mindless pap of pro wrestling.  Too, there’s been a brouhaha about a new wrestling outfit called AEW that will (this coming fall) be directly challenging WWE for supremacy in the business.  Not a bad thing, since McMahon and company could do with a bit of competition.  They’ve been the ‘big dog’ out there with their monopoly for too long, and I think their product has become very stale.  There was a time about ten years ago when I stepped away from watching them religiously every week, and I think I’ve come to that tipping point again.  Certainly there are ways to keep up with what’s going on with it, via online and on YouTube, and if I’m overly interested, I can read about the various storylines if I wish to.  But on Monday and Tuesday nights, I think I’m going to be watching other things.  More interesting ones.

 

Intentional, acceptable, sabotage

It’s now 50 years past 1969, the year man first walked on the moon.  I was just reading an article in the New York Times about the instance when Apollo 10 was poised to be the ‘scouts’ for their successors, Apollo 11.

There they are, circling the moon in the tandem of space vehicles dubbed ‘Charlie Brown’ and ‘Snoopy’ after the Peanuts comic strip characters.  The lunar module (Snoopy) has detached from the command module (Charlie Brown) and is descending towards the lunar surface.  They’re checking out all the things Armstrong and Aldrin will be experiencing after them, making sure the machine works as designed, considering that it was designed in a gravity atmosphere to work in an atmosphere that was completely opposite!  Descending slowly, hovering, taking notes, taking pictures out the small windows, discussing details to one another, relaying information to the pilot of the command module, and listening to his observations as well.  They’re 47,000 feet above the lunar surface and they stop short.  And then return to the command module.

Why?  Because they have to.  History is not going to be kind to them.  The honor of being the first men to leave the Earth and land on the Moon is to be for their friends.  Not for them.  Years in the future, people will speak in quiet reverence the names Neil Armstrong, and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.  The first men on the moon. (many will say the first Americans on the moon, but that’s another argument for another day)  The names of the ones that came before, the trailblazers if you will, will be forever forgotten to history.  Do you remember the names of the men who flew Apollo 10?  The names of the three men that died in Apollo 1?  Most don’t.  Most don’t even remember how many Apollo missions there were, how many people walked on the moon.  Just the names of the first two.  Like Lewis and Clark, the rest are relegated to obscurity.

But let’s get back to our intrepid explorers that are hovering so tantalizing close to the surface of the moon.  Poised to land, so very close, but they have to go back.  Because they’re in full knowledge if they land, they wouldn’t be able to return.  They’ve been purposefully sabotaged, and they know it.  NASA knew what sort of men they were sending into space.  Most of them were active or ex-military, were test pilots or persons of great ‘moral fiber’ and for the most part were pretty fearless.  The sort of guys that would, when the disaster of Apollo 13 happened a year later, didn’t lose their heads.  They ‘worked the problem’ and with the assistance of more such people back in Houston, managed to figure it out and make it back home.  They didn’t get ‘written off’, they were valuable commodities and the investment in their abilities paid off.

Getting back to the intentional sabotage though.  The lunar module was short-fueled on purpose (granted, there’s debate on this.  Cernan believed it was, and others have disputed it, saying NASA wouldn’t be that deliberate in case there was some sort of emergency), to keep the men from making a snap-decision on their own and ‘going for it’, landing on the moon in defiance of orders.  NASA knew if they had the chance they’d probably take it, I mean wouldn’t you?  You’re in a craft that was designed to land on the moon, you’re already there wouldn’t it be great to just do it?  What were they going to do to you when you got back home?  Jail you?  No, they’d more than likely just shrug their shoulders and congratulate you, and in private make some noise about you being gung-ho and so on.  You had to be prevented from doing this to yourself.  Follow the chain of command, and at least in this instance, be selfless.

So they did the dress rehearsal, flawlessly.  Made all the notes that needed to be taken, got the experience of a lifetime, except they weren’t permitted to make history, at least not then.  John Young, the pilot of the command module, was destined for greatness of his own later on.  He was the commander of Apollo 16 and thereafter was the first to fly the Space Shuttle.  So he made out pretty well.  Eugene Cernan flew on Apollo 17 and was the last man on the moon to this date.  The other man, Tom Stafford, never got the chance to walk on the moon.  He participated in the Apollo-Soyuz project, and is the last surviving member of the mission.

While I am a student of history, I’m not a rabid space buff.  I can’t name all the members of the early space missions, if quizzed I couldn’t name 10 astronauts that flew on the Space Shuttle.  I don’t know all the names of the Mercury 7.  Yes, I’ve seen The Right Stuff many times.  I know a lot of things about the space program.  But being able to recite all these things isn’t what makes it interesting.  It’s the odd items.  The quirky information.

Just thought I’d put this to digital paper.  Thanks for reading along.