Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Now I am not a movie guy. I'm really not a movie guy. But here we are with the credits rolling, sobbing with tears running down our cheeks. And we're not alone. The guy next to me is sobbing. You can't miss it, although I can't bring myself to look over. I'm sure his friend is crying, too.

As tugboats pulled ocean liners, as tracers flew in the dark in World War II, as an Atlas rocket launched from the beaches of Cape Canaveral, as the Beatles sang on Ed Sullivan, as Benjamin grew younger and watched Daisy grow old, and as his infant eyes looked into hers, scene after scene pulled at our hearts, leaving us weak at the end.

This is a movie like few I've ever seen before, besides the one we saw a couple weeks ago.

I swear I'm not a movie guy, but what an end to the year we've had.

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 Monday, January 26, 2009

If You Turned Your Back on the Ocean

And if you turned your back on the ocean, here is what you saw.

On the other side of the dunes was the beach house, painted yellow with a deck wrapping around from east to north.

To the southwest, in the distance, was Complex 40, where they used to launch Titans but which now hosts a Falcon 9 standing beside a skinny gantry flanked by four tall lightning suppressors.

Further beyond that, far in the distance on the far side of the Banana River, was the Vehicle Assembly Building, where they stack the rockets, standing so tall above the marshes that it's hard to imagine that the stars on the flag painted on its side are six feet across.

To the northwest, was Complex 41, where they still launch Atlases, although the pad was empty, the four lightning suppressors pointing skyward without any rocket to protect.

Further north, was Complex 39B, with a Shuttle standing next to the gray gantry, the orange tip of an External Tank just poking up over the steel superstructure and one white Solid Rocket Booster standing at its side, if you took the time to concentrate.

And beyond that, yet further to the north, was Complex 39A, where they will eventually be disassembling the second Shuttle gantry and preparing the place for Constellation with brand new lightning suppressors so tall that they seem to stand next to the pad 39B water tower from that angle, even though it is well to the north.

Spread out among the vast plain of stunted trees and sandy growing undergrowth oblivious to everything but the sun and the wind and the sky, that is what you saw if you turned your back on the ocean.

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 Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Beach House

What a conference room that was. A beach house on the cape with a view of the ocean. Waves standing up and pounding the sand, white foam riding atop green water lit by the sun climbing into a clear, blue sky.

We staked out our seats before the others arrived. On the far side of the room. With a view of surf and the sand and the sun and the sky. Two and a half days in a conference room like that, with breaks periodically to walk outside and listen to the pounding waves, and follow the narrow path down to the beach, where neither a soul nor a building was visible as far as you could see to the north or the south.

An armadillo rummaged around in the underbrush as I stood out there. A dolphin surfaced just beyond the waves. Our break was over. It was time to get back to work. I snapped a picture of the armadillo and two of the beach and made my way back into the beach house and sat back down in my seat.

beach photo beach photo

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 Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Morning Of

Before dawn they began to stream into the capital on the metro, aboard shuttle buses, on foot crossing the bridges. To find a spot on the mall under the jumbotrons within sight perhaps of the bunting-draped capital. Waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting for this new day finally to begin.

Oh for heaven's sake, you might say. Sappy it might sound to you -- hoping for a new beginning. But all those smiling, streaming people are evidence of something else. And I get tears in my eyes listening to it on the radio.

Now that's sappy.

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 Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomorrow's Land

Tomorrow is January 20 ... finally tomorrow.

The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me.

This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie

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Baby Steps

I fell on my face in 2003 in the dark on the trail after tripping on a bit of limestone poking up thru the gravel. I had trained all summer harder than I had ever trained before. The race was my second slowest ever. The spell was broken, and it's been mostly downhill since.

Surgery in 2004. And a long recovery. And my hormones were messed up. And I started gaining weight. And my running legs are gone. And when I did try to run, it hurt, each time someplace else.

Then more surgery in 2007, for something else. And a long recovery. And my hormones were messed up worse. And the trend line for my weight kept climbing. And I forgot what running legs felt like. And I turned away when I looked at myself in the mirror.

And then the radiation therapy.

March 29th will be my fiftieth birthday, and there's a race that day, a race I first ran when I first came to Austin many years ago. We are going to run it, Trudy and I. We have started training -- sometimes running, sometimes doing something else, often times sitting in a bubbling hot tub hoping it won't hurt too much tomorrow.

I close my mind to the running legs I used to have and the routes I used to run. And I waddle along the trail. And what do you know, each time it's just a little easier than the last: a little less waddle and a little more jog, each baby step a little stronger than the last.

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 Sunday, January 18, 2009

Slumdog Hope

We don't have a television here. We feel the loss periodically on nights when we're tired and it's cold outside and we want to do nothing. But on the whole, our lives are better for it.

And I confess that I am generally hostile to movies, too. I feel about them roughly as I feel about casinos or bars -- what a way to waste your life. Although I know I am a bit odd for this, on the whole my life is no worse for it.

But tonite, we went to see a movie. A real theater with a big screen and a line at the doors. We went early, because we didn't want to sit in the front. And we stayed late to watch the credits. Everyone stayed late. Not a soul left until the credits and the dancing and the celebrating were done.

I mostly managed to control myself during the film, finding it difficult only at times, for example when the 10 year old brothers walked down the gardens of the Taj Mahal, and when Latika let go of Jamal's hand and got left behind. But at the end, with the yellow scarves streaming and the music pulsating and the crowd dancing on the train station platform, I had tears running down my cheeks.

It's a metaphor for this new century. Wretched poverty. The poor clambering over garbage heaps. Torture justified. Brutality. Murder. Crime thriving behind the veneer of fabulous wealth. And yet hope — the idea that in spite of this all, there is reason to hope.

You need to see Slumdog Millionaire.

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 Saturday, January 17, 2009

Who You Talkin' To?

Ben came down the hall wringing the sleep out of his eyes. I was standing alone in the living room beside the couch adjusting a blanket over the dog. Ben had heard me talking.

"Who you talkin' to?"

I stood up and looked at him and then looked down at the dog who stared back up at me from beneath the dark blue fleece.

"The dog," I said.

There's not problem with that. Of course not. We talk. All the time. All day long. Ever since we became office mates.

But, um, I do go to lunch by myself.

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