the amber diamond of Mars
Monday, August 25 2003
Scrunch forward to the edge of your seat: for Gretchen and me it was a day of errand-running. We had checks to deposit into our joint bank account, letters to drop off at the Hurley Post Office, parcels to be dropped off at UPS - wherever UPS was, and expensive cake supplies to be obtained "for a steal" from Adam's Fairacre Farms on 9W. Throw into this a lunch of tempeh reubens (the best reubens in the area) at the health food store in the 1970s-style shopping plaza across from the old Montgomery Ward, and you have a full day of dog-free excitement.
We found a UPS pickup and deliver place in that same dreary, sprawling, plaza. In contrast to its cracked and fading environs, the UPS store was a dazzle of contemporary color schemes and plasticky new-building fragrances. Gretchen, a former labor organizer, asked one of the employees if he was a member of a union and he said no, that this UPS parcel place was a franchise lacking a labor relationship with the Teamster-organized UPS.
For most people, the American dream is an individual fantasy of getting rich and buying fancy stuff. But for George W. Bush and the corporations that donate money to his re-election, the American dream is for there to be neither labor unions nor a minimum wage and for everyone to be happy working for $4.50/day. This is why these same dreamers are so bullish on Jesus. They're reviving the medieval populace-control swindle of promising glories in heaven that they do not have to deliver here on earth.
The parcels were a couple of computer components I wanted to ship to my old housemate John's sister Maria. But according to the UPS computer, the number I had been given lay outside the range of addresses present on the street I'd been given. Even in this age of instant information, I was impressed by the fact that the UPS people could error check the shipping address in such detail. (Later I found out that the street I'd been given was wrong, an error I could correct at UPS with a phone call.)
Tonight at around midnight, Gretchen reminded me about our planet's rare proximity to Mars, so we went out on the deck to look up at it. It was even brighter than the hype had prepared me to expect. I'm not used to seeing anything at night so high and bright except the moon. Mars was a fat amber diamond. Its north-south spikes were shorter than those of the east-west axis. But by turning my head I came to realize this was simply an artifact introduced by my own eyes.
I tried looking at Mars with a crappy toy telescope my brother once bought (and which I found abandoned in my parents' so-called "Honey House"), but the thing had less light gathering power than my own eyes and I could see nothing through it at all. We really should have gotten a telescope from Sears "for a steal" back when we had the chance. Nobody was talking about Mars back then, and it was only a couple months ago.
Considering that this is an age of multiple browser windows and 500 satellite teevee channels, the fact that a bright amber diamond in the night sky commanded our attention for about a half hour is impressive. Still, in describing the close proximity of Mars, there's not much to say. Most of the experience had to be brought to it. For example, the spectacle was significantly dramatized by mentally drawing imagined orbit lines across the sky and picturing little Martians out there on that diamond looking back at us - a bluish-white a diamond in their sky. In terms of entertainment value, it had a certain elemental something, but it wasn't anywhere near as spectacular as the Aurora Borealis of September 2002 or even the comets of 1996 and 1997.
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