Yet Another Journal

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» Monday, July 20, 2009
Where Were You? June 20, 1969
In front of the television, of course, with millions of others. I was thirteen that summer, consumed with Moon Madness, abetted by my parents. My dad particularly, was considered a bit odd by his compatriots at work, stolid working-class guys, because he believed there was life "out there." We watched all the space missions together.

It was a hot Sunday in July, particularly notable for us because it was the weekend of the church feast. Summertime was one church feast after the other, St. Mary's, St. Barts, St. Rocco's, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and more. One Sunday on the way home from the beach we even stopped at a feast held in Narragansett. Our own feast was something we looked forward to each year, especially going out on a silky Saturday night when the air was warm and cottony, parking the car as close as possible, and walking to the area where Park Avenue met Cranston Street and canvas-covered booths crowded the side of the road with carnival games and cotton candy and roasting Italian sausages and above it all, the sweet, sweet scent of doughboys emerging from oil and being sprinkled with sugar. Across the street the band concert continued and people rubbed shoulders as they greeted friends and neighbors.

Sunday morning would be the Procession, with the statue of the Virgin Mary carried down Cranston Street from the church, followed by Scouts, Catechism classes, and other members of the community. At the end of Sunday night, as the dark closed around, the crowd made its way leisurely down Cranston Street toward Atwood Avenue. No one hurried. Kids clutching balloons or pinwheels dashed in and out of adults. In yards along the route people were holding parties, backyards lined with Japanese lanterns or Christmas lights, and even though personal fireworks were illegal, Roman candles and rockets popped everywhere. Almost at the corner of Atwood Avenue was Tommy's house; he owned the grocery store where we shopped and he always had a huge cookout Sunday evening, the final night of the feast. We would stop there, say hello, have a bite of watermelon or burger, then follow the crowd to the baseball field near the new Cranston Police Station, where they would shoot off the fireworks.

This Sunday was different, though. We spent it inside, windows and doors flung open to catch the breeze, watching with delight as "Eagle" descended to the moon's surface that afternoon, and hearing the words "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." (And our favorite line from Capcom, about "a bunch of guys about to turn blue; we're breathing again.")

It would be awhile till the moonwalk, however, so we went for a little while to the feast, but I don't remember much about it, as I had my transistor radio glued to my ear to listen to the media coverage rather than enjoy the evening.

We skipped the fireworks; there were much better ones coming from the moon! We had only a 19" Magnavox television back then, but it was as good as HD to us back then as we watched Neil Armstrong's shadow emerge from the Lunar Module and descend the ladder on its leg, of his light movements until he stepped off the footpad and uttered his now-famous line.

The other clear memory of that mission is a funny one: for days after the moon mission it rained. I mean a gullywasher of poured and poured. And when you went to the store or the mall there would be some older person commenting darkly that "it was all the fault of those guys landing on the moon."

What a time. Glad I was there. Miss the dreams.

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