To the Moon and Back: A Personal Retrospective

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To boldly go…
The Quest…
Man’s calling…
To boldly go…

As simple as opening the door to a strange room.

As complicated as unlocking the key to a new science.

The urge impels us all to take that first step into unchartered terrain.

Some would rather give others the initial chance.

But there comes a point when human nature drives us to follow those pioneers into a new land of innovation and invention.

That’s when we undertake The Quest.

The Quest.
To discover the undiscovered.
To explore the unexplored.
To know the unknown.

*          *          *          *          *

I wanted to write something special, something personal, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of mankind’s greatest voyage of exploration since Columbus… so far. It didn’t take me long to realize I had already written it and it had already appeared in The Sentinel. This Commentary originally appeared as “The Thrill of Beyond” in the July 20, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel to mark the 20th anniversary of America’s lunar landing. Here it is in its entirety. (Click the link in the title to see the original in text form.)
Continue Reading “To the Moon and Back: A Personal Retrospective”

Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics

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The gray mid-day sky lit up with a brilliant blinding flash. Moments later came a sharp crackle. Its echo reverberated as if it came from inside a deep canyon.

Thus, were the thunderstorms of my youth. Short. Spectacular. And always worth pulling up a lawn chair and watching through the open garage door. It was only a one-car garage, but the space proved wide enough to fit me, my brother, and my father.

You know the kind of lawn chairs I’m talking about. They’re classic. The thin aluminum piping folded for easy and convenient storage. When unfolded you’d sit on its plastic webbing that cushioned your bottom for comfort. Kenny and I would often struggle to avoid being left with the one with the loosest webbing.

Best of all, these classic lawn chairs could get wet. This was often a risk while watching those wandering summer storms. Sometimes a gust of wind would blow the pouring rain beneath the slight eave of roof covering the garage. When that happened with sudden Continue Reading “Party Like It’s 1959 – The Beautiful Dance of Strategy and Tactics”

I’d Rather Have A Bottle (of Diet Pepsi) In Front of Me…

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Those of a certain age remember Dr. Demento. Those who aren’t of a certain age should discover Dr. Demento.

Dr. Demento was what might be called a “free range” DJ in the waning days of AM music. He didn’t fit in any acceptable genre. He played novelty songs no one else would play. In doing so, he popularized Elmo and Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and would help launch the career of Weird Al Yankovic.

It wasn’t all about the music. Dr. Demento’s shows featured oddball skits and comedy routines. In the late 1970s and early 1980s it was likened to an audio version of Saturday Night Live. (Those of a certain age know that was Saturday Night Live when it used to be Continue Reading “I’d Rather Have A Bottle (of Diet Pepsi) In Front of Me…”

What’s in a (Middle) Name?

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Bart Starr passed away a few weeks ago. If you don’t know him, he was the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers during their glorious Vince Lombardi years when the Packers won the championship five out of seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. He was old time football. Perhaps not brilliant like Johnny Unitas, or as glamorous as Y.A. Tittle, or as athletic as Otto Graham, Bart Starr was workmanlike and effective. He was like the IBM of quarterbacks when IBM was the kind of company “no one would ever get fired for choosing.”

What you might not know about him is Bart Starr is the reason why I have the middle name I have.

Truth be told, Starr’s era had peaked by the time I Continue Reading “What’s in a (Middle) Name?”

The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine

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I had the pleasure of being invited to perform for Living History Day at SUNY Fredonia a couple of weeks ago. The all-day event features dozens of “acts.” It’s offered to hundreds of 7th graders from throughout the Greater Western New York region. They’re bussed in early in the morning and attend live demonstrations of everything from Seneca Indian dances to artillery cannon fire.

These 12-year-olds watch as regiments from the Revolutionary War (both sides), the War of 1812 and the Civil War (both sides) conduct their drills. They see real-life colonial cooking, frontier gaming, and homespun crafts. The learn from medicine women, Suffragettes, and military historians. They discover 18th century artifacts, 19th century women’s fashions, and 20th century genealogical grave hunting.

All this is done in period dress. Not just generic period dress, but actors dress as actual historical characters. I walked in with Harriet Tubman. Later I saw her talking to Abraham Lincoln. I could have sworn I saw a British general drinking coffee with Susan B. Anthony.

And they were all in costume. Even the civilians wore clothing of the era they represented. You can see from the pictures from the event. Everyone donned the fashion of the time from which they spoke and lived.

All except me.Continue Reading “The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine”

Dad and the Art of Lawnscape Maintenance

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In the art of landscape maintenance, my son and I have what you might call “creative differences.”

You see, I love mowing the lawn. It’s relaxing. It’s simple. It allows me a couple hours of free uninterrupted thought to think about whatever happens to flow through this brain of mine. In fact, this Commentary evolved from just one of those self-contained inventive sessions.

For me, cutting the grass represents a calming interlude in the maelstrom of a busy life. Sure, I want the yard to look good, but I don’t want it too fancy. Fancy implies labor-intensive. It’s not worth it. I’m a trained scientist. In my eyes, the world is not a show Continue Reading “Dad and the Art of Lawnscape Maintenance”

Heah Come Da (Hamburger) Judge!

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Sentinel Publisher Chris Carosa presents a signed copy of his book Hamburger Dreams to Best NY Burger winners, son Matt Beach and father Randy Beach, of the Ale ’n Angus Pub in Syracuse. To the left is Jean O’Toole, Executive Director of the New York Beef Industry Council, sponsor of the event.

It was a driving rain, which is actually OK if you’re driving in it. Which I was. But soon wouldn’t be.

I snaked through the meandering roads of the expansive Onondaga Community College campus, peering through the rain-fogged windows desperately searching for “Visitors Parking” between Lot 6 and Lot 7. The place was packed with cars.

Suddenly, the brake lights of a small foreign car parked ahead blinked on. I had my chance. The vehicle backed out and sailed away. I quickly maneuvered to seize the empty space. But, before I could pull in I slammed on my own brakes.

At the end of the spot stood an ominous sign. It warned “30 minute parking only.”

I was already late. It was 2:45pm and I was told the event wouldn’t end until 7:00pm at the earliest. Should I risk getting a ticket or find another space somewhere in the Continue Reading “Heah Come Da (Hamburger) Judge!”

“Can I Do This?”

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Just under two minutes away from the fields, the car’s audio system thundered that ever-familiar “Thud– Thud–CLAP!” bass beat. I knew what it was. The kids didn’t. I could use this. They needed it.

All I said to them was, “Boys, listen to this. It’s an omen.” It’s good to have been an AM disc jockey (back in the days when they used to play music).

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

It captivated the boys. They couldn’t turn away from its allure. The a cappella voices meant Continue Reading ““Can I Do This?””

Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)

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The Conclusion of: “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson – A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

“Yes, you may hit the right notes more often than Chris,” she began, “but your intuitive desire to physically search for the perfect note interferes with the broader tempo of the entire piece. Chris is mechanical. To him, keeping that tempo is more important than finding the perfect pitch. The concertmaster’s job is to lead the entire orchestra in maintaining this tempo.”

The answer shocked me. I never thought of myself as a mere machine. But there it was. The teacher had just said so. I was mechanical, not intuitive.

This didn’t sound right. How could a machine find the joy in playing the way I did? Wasn’t a machine dispassionate? Doesn’t a machine work precisely because it has Continue Reading “Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)”

Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

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I never had someone so mad at me. And for no reason. We were both in tenth grade. Except for orchestra, we shared no other classes. We did share an Italian-American heritage. And she was mad in a way only an Italian-American can get mad. I’d seen it all before. In my extended family. In my neighborhood. In the dark alleys of the most obscure hallways within the school.

I just didn’t get it. I didn’t even know what a concertmaster was. Yet, there I was. Her, me, and the violin teacher.

But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning of the story…Continue Reading “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)”