Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Moon Memory

Originally posted on 7/20/2009

Siam Intercontinental 1970.  Now demolished.
I always remembered the moon walk occurring during the daytime, and it wasn't until recently that Mrs. PND happened to recall 'staying up' to watch a couple of guys walk on the moon. My memory was captured in brilliant white sunshine and air conditioning because in their early twenties in mid 1968, my parents had packed up the family and moved to Thailand where my father took his first management role at Intercontinental. Out of England, Thailand was a magical place but also often fetid, smelly and unbearably hot; however, living at one of Bangkok's few luxury hotels - one also that had created a sort of garden oasis out of the surrounding slums - eased the transition considerably. I had the run of the place since both my brothers were much too young to get out by themselves and while I didn't get up to too much mischief I did have my moments.

My mode of transportation was my peddle car US Army issue Jimmy's Jeep (all green) in which I tooled around the open air corridors of the hotel. This was especially fun during the rainy season when the corridors became particularly conducive to skidding. As three blond haired kids, we were a somewhat unusual commodity to the Thai especially the women and whenever my youngest brother went out they always wanted to touch his blond hair. From my perspective this attention was often unwanted and one particular room service waiter teased me mercilessly, and I had just had enough when on one occasion he snuck up behind me and took my hat. When he refused in the face of my demand to give it back, I took a run at him in my Jeep and rammed him. Catastrophically, he was also carrying a lunch tray which went flying in a cascade of crockery, food and glass. I remember him looking at me half laughing while I was immediately mortified that my father would find out. Needless to say he never bothered me again and I got my hat back. No one ever mentioned it. I always wonder what he told HQ when he had to return with a tray full of debris to replace the order.

There were no televisions in the hotel rooms at that time mainly because there was only one state television station in Thailand which broadcast in Thai. On the morning of July 21st, 1969 (evening of July 20th on the east coast), my mother took me to the hotel lobby vowing to me this is something you will always remember. I suspect if we were still living in England that I would not have seen the moon walk live because of the time difference. As I recall, there were only a few people gathered around the TV which was sitting unceremoniously low to the floor on a chair. In contrast to the crowds gathered in public places in the US, I was left to recognize the importance of what I was witnessing without the collective endorsement of the crowd, but I am sure our little group clapped and sighed with relief just like everyone else. We also didn't have the benefit of Walter Cronkite's commentary and in the last several days having watched some of the CBS broadcast, he did indeed sum up the penultimate moment brilliantly when he takes off his glasses and just says 'Wow'.

In the forty years since the landing, I am indifferent to the manned space program and I don't see the value of spending billions just to prove we can do something that has no recurring benefit. The Apollo program was important but everything we do in space can be replicated down here and down here we have more than enough problems to contend with.  Nevertheless, walking on the moon was a miraculous achievement.

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