When I was young, I didn’t care for the west. Actually, I hated it. It seemed to me the land of the dead. The desert was dry, dirty, devoid of anything other than the most prickly of life. And it was hot. Unbelievably hot. I was nine when I stepped off a plane in Phoenix for the first time. There was a jetway, but there was a small gap between the jetway and the aircraft door. As I moved from plane to jetway, my eyes opened wide and my mouth gaped. I uttered a childish ‘whoop!’ as I was blasted by a stream of superheated air. I had never felt something so hot before in my life. It was akin to a supercharged hair dryer. I couldn’t understand why the Phoenix airport felt it necessary to blow hot air on passengers as they left the plane. What devilish art was this? Why was it done? Were they trying to blow dust off the plane, or something else? I had no idea. Until I was led out of the concourse and into the parking lot towards my uncle’s car. Of course the hot air wasn’t the machinations of man, it was merely Arizona in August. Continue reading “Nothing in the West”
The sun blazes down white hot on this place even in April. The salt flats are baked, the Russian thistle thrives, the rattlesnakes lie in wait. The pipes, cables, and squat buildings all add to the layer of rust bringing on their inevitable demise. But this is the desert, so decay is slow. These remains, these corpses of the greatest power mankind has ever wielded, could last long enough to be witnessed by our grandchildren’s grandchildren, as they should. As they must. It’s the craters, however, that are the great testament to what went on here. Continue reading “Junkyard of Power”
The sky was bright on September 29th, 2004. Azure. Crystalline. Through the lenses of the television cameras down on the ground, it had a flavor of indigo. High up in the air, Mike Melvill was ready to do it again. The countdown had begun. Here he was, strapped into the tiniest, oddest-looking hunk of hardware to ever boom its way to a hundred kilometers straight up. SpaceShipOne. A polished white football with a couple of thick wings slapped on, designed by the legendary Burt Rutan. He was strapped in like all the crazy test pilots back at Edwards, back when some tub would haul you and your badass rocket up to 20,000 or 30,000, cut you loose, and then you would hit the switch. Continue reading “Flameout”
“How can they let us look at this stuff? This has got to be illegal.”
A constant refrain. Everyone I know has the same reaction at first. From hundreds of miles up, traveling our native land with the aspect view of the astronaut has entered the cultural mainstream. This isn’t Mapquest. They had satellite photos, too, but they didn’t work as well, and they mysteriously disappeared in 2003. What happened? Only they know, and possibly the NSA. Or so you would think from a person’s reaction when they get a glimpse of the Pentagon or Edwards Air Force Base from on high. Continue reading “Google Our Secrets”
The method never worked for me. The last I remembered was arising in the late afternoon with one of those vicious, evil hangovers. You know, the type that moves its way down the back of your neck and makes the walls painful to look at. Every part of my body felt bathed in poison. It had been one of those nights. How long had I been asleep? Were the stars still out when I finally crawled into bed, or had I decided to push the envelope until morning, bringing on this frightful bout of forgetfulness, remorse, and crapulence? Continue reading “Selah”
Every now and again the feeling will rise up, a little prick at the back of my mind to remind me of the times we live in. I find myself taking a morbid outlook at my surroundings when the feeling arises. I think of tactical vulnerabilities. I look around the train, or the station, or I gaze at the skyline and picture the scene becoming mangled and grotesque in an instant. But just as quickly as the feeling comes on, away it goes. It would be impossible to live in this city from day to day if I were to think about the inevitable. After all, the odds are with me. There are eight million people living in this city, with millions more visiting it every day for work or play. An explosion tearing its way through a bus, a subway train, or a crowded movie theater represents a grim lottery that only a few will lose. It’s the knowledge, that “it’s only a matter of time” mentality which becomes a strain. So the inevitable explosion, the inevitable carnage, the fact that this grim lottery is being played out despite the participant’s unwillingness to play, is ignored, otherwise I would think myself a fool every time I walked down the steps to the subway platform.