Neil Armstrong died on Saturday.
When I was a tiny, I desperately wanted to be an astronaut. I was unhappy and I’d seen Star Wars when I was five: outer space adventures seemed to be a fine solution to my problems of introversion, isolation and nobody in my peer group seeming to like me.
Why not go to outer space and reinvent yourself?
I remember finding out that I would have to join the military to be an astronaut (or so some ‘grownup’ told me-likely correct at the time) and for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being my poor eyesight, that was not meant to be. A dream that died, because I didn’t know how to believe in that dream enough to hold fast.
Ah, the tragedies of childhood.
Still, the dream of being able to start over, be someone new: be someone I chose to be, instead of someone slotted into the social role I’d found myself in, this remained. The opportunity to just be awesome was out there, I hoped. A long time coming but I have found that yes, that chance has appeared in my life and I have tried to meet that challenge, whenever I could.
Nevertheless, I never stopped loving space, science, space exploration and the drive that brought us to those places. When Armstrong said “That’s one small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” I read in that a humble acknowledgement that his greatness–and let us never, ever forget that what was done is and should always be considered greatness–came standing on the shoulders of men and women who built up a culture and a technology and a species brilliant enough to allow someone to walk on the moon. It wasn’t just him. It was everyone who was amazing in that moment.
To give realization to a dream, vocalized by someone nearly a decade previously and one that recently was only barely kept alive by the Curiosity rover.
I am reminded of the Daily Show clip where John Oliver watches the final launch of the Space Shuttle. Just fast forward that clip to 3:45, and watch his reaction. It’s full of such pure joy–and yet he’s got it together enough to, with a comic’s rapier, stick it to us that we aren’t doing this again. We are choosing to not be amazing.
It is one of my lifetime regrets that I will probably not see a manned mission launch into space.
I miss dreaming and dreaming big. It is, I think, a keystone to America that only seems to survive on the smallest scale now as so many obsess about shit that does not matter. Angry over situations that appear to deprive us, instead of just fixing what’s broken, making things work and then taking the grandiose dreams of a person who sees a chance to make humanity something more, and getting it the fuck done.
I think that’s something we’re missing: when we dreamt big as a nation, we locked into something truly amazing. I’m not trying to say things have or were ever perfect. I’m saying that the strides and actualization of a truly great dream has been, over and over, the hallmark of a great nation and a benchmark for what human beings could achieve.
An achievement that we don’t seem quite as bent on surpassing. And that is what has me slumping my shoulders as I sit at Bailey’s sipping on my Moylan’s Dragoon’s Dry Irish Stout.
It is not space-black, this stout but it’s damn dark and very, very good. It is the kind of beer you raise in toast to a man who accomplished jaw-dropping things and shared the credit, not just with America but with the world. He (and all of those astronauts) showed the best is in us all by sharing it with us all.
Godspeed, astronauts, every one of us.
I’m done writing when Bill walks in to join me for a beer. He’s barely into his beer when a man named Kai sits down next to us. He’s visiting from St. Louis and has a little under 24 hours to tour Portland. Do we live here? What should he do?
We cheerfully give him as many options as we can think of, from Higgins to Roscoe’s, the Gasthaus to Deschutes’ brewpub; walk across bridges, go visit parks, anything that comes to mind and is cheap, we throw on the pile.
Kai works at a non-profit and has taken his trip in a spur of the moment way, first visiting Seattle, then arranging for some time in Portland before he heads home. Says this is one of the best trips he’s ever taken.
It’s funny how no plan can work out.
Kai heads out for dinner and Bill and I split a 10 Barrel ISA: all that advisin’ is thirsty work. We talk shop, making something out of the small dreams we’ve put into action in our lives. The beer is good: too hoppy for a pale, more robust than a lager, it’s made me realize I should have more 10 Barrel in my life.
It’s good to remember that the small dreams still matter. How else can you get to the big ones?