On a Field Under the Stars

February 28, 2009

Travel to Anchorage

Neither the drinks nor the food is very easy to get, the place is so crowded. The stage show is rather funny, though some of the jokes are too explicit for the genteel half of our company. Fortunately, they are in the minority. The rest of us get rather raucous and rather drunk during the course of the evening. About half way through, the lights go out ( we are told that this is a frequent occurrence in Anchorage). Also, desperate waiters and waitresses fan out during the performance and get us to pull our chairs out of the aisles. The city inspector has decided to pull a fire and occupancy inspection, having noticed eight large busses outside one small building. Some of us crowd into the restroom so the numbers in the main room will pass inspection. One lady has chosen the wrong door, but stoically looks towards the ceiling while an elderly gentleman uses the urinal.

I bump into Chris in the buffet line. We talk about the high price of breakfast (she paid twenty dollars apiece, but Lydia and I ordered a la carte and paid less than half that much). I guess that’d be because we haven’t often traveled on someone’s expense account, so we’ve gotten more used to adding up the different combinations before we order. She thinks next time she and Chick will bring Granola bars.

I turn over the page in my notes and find two pages that are titled “Strangers in the Night” and are printed carefully, not written in my crabbed long hand. I wonder if there is a connection to being in the nightclub, in the dark, with so many strangers (many of whom have since become our friends) and what I have written on these two pages about a star party in September. I will simply quote what I’ve written, in the hope that the relevance will become clearer to me.

“The green grass of the football field stretches away from where I am standing next to the white telescope to a full moon just clearing the horizon. In the other direction, the lush field ends in a short brown horizon. September is a dry month in California and only constant work with sprinklers has preserved this bit of vegetative animation among hills of gray and brown.”

“Deep twilight has fallen, and men, women, and children of the community all wind their way up the hillside from the parking lot below me and cross faded chalklines in the endzone. They drift across the field to our small cluster of telescopes set up on the fifty yard line. The cheerful murmur of neighbor to neighbor, the squeak of some excited child fills the still, cooling air with great promise.”

Some amateur astronomers bring their telescope out on these occasions as a kind of brag. Others bring their telescopes out to share experiences with people. When the young mother, probably a single parent, comes at the end of the evening with her two children, a boy about ten and a girl of five years, and says “Thank you, we didn’t think anyone cared enough to talk with us”, then I know that our world is not nearly caring enough.”

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

View all posts by charles frenzel


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