Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Long Trip Down Memory Lane

Bye bye Voyager, bye bye youth...

Back in the 70s, those distant days of middle class prosperity and 'fros for white folks, NASA launched Voyager 1 to check out the universe. I was 11-years-old back then and fascinated by the idea that we might find aliens. Maybe Star Trek would come true... "It's life Jim, but not as we know it."

But being an over-thinky kinda kid with a fondness for existential metaphors, I was also struck by how Voyager's long mission would parallel my own life in the coming years: Both journeys into the unknown with neither of us knowing what will happen.

Fast forward...

I hit 13, the Carter administration winds down. There was the Iranian hostage crisis on TV (wood veneer job, no remote), lots of adults bitching about gas prices... And Voyager got to Jupiter. We found out that Jupiter had rings like Saturn and active volcanoes. No aliens, but volcanoes were cool.

Fast forward...

Next stop: Ronald "Fonz" Reagan, high school, awkward dates, fist fights, beer... Voyager arrives at Saturn whose rings made Jupiter's look totally ghetto. No aliens, but some cool visuals on TV (wood veneer job, remote attached by a wire).

Then all went quiet for a while. Voyager never did run into anyone with a record player to play that golden record they'd stowed on board. But then I was older and my belief in aliens had gone the way of Santa and representative democracy... Life went on. I raced toward adulthood. I worried about college, worried about what to do for a living, worried about AIDs, worried about disco and how much longer grown men could do the Hustle... all that stuff that drains childhood joy like used sump oil and tops you full of worry instead. Welcome to adulthood!

Fast forward...

On February 14, 1990, I was probably at work somewhere, probably wondering how cheap I could do Valentine's day without jeopardizing my chances of poontang... and Voyager, now far, far away, reminded me it still existed by snapping the first ever "family portrait" of our solar system as seen from the outside. Wow. The ultimate postcard home... trippy stuff.

Then in 1998, Voyager finally overtook Pioneer 10 as the most distant man-made object from Earth. Bill Clinton got busted for splooge on a fat chick's dress... Crazy times. But America and me were still both young-ish and strong. There was still optimism in the air, despite Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich's best efforts to trample it. "I never had sex with that woman" said Bubba unconvincingly. The world tutted...

And now? Voyager is more than 10 billion miles away and about to officially leave the solar system. I feel sad. I feel nostalgic. I imagine it's 11-year-old me riding away on some goofball 70s bike with a banana-shaped seat... Like the faded dreams of my younger years, like the hedonistic prosperity that once defined America, that lonely space thingy is now a distant memory as it slowly waves bye bye.

So you go, plucky adventurer, seek out less depressing new worlds where America still rocks and I don't need f*cking glasses to read the microwave instructions on a can of SpaghettiOs. Sigh...

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks...being a similar age, this hit home. Well said.

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