Thursday, June 14, 2007



So I was delirious when I woke up this morning when it was time for Catherine to drive us 45 minutes to the Kennedy Space Center. Which is pretty much why we have Florida, to me, that and the oranges. I resumed my navigational duties in the shotgun seat of the PT Cruiser but was rocking a blindfold-type mask and giving her directions not unlike Matt Murdock or a Jedi, I couldn’t decide. But I was always right. Then I passed out. Woke up in the parking lot of K-damn-SC, the place where most of the Apollo missions were launched, and Shepherd and Glenn, I think. I could feel the residual ignitions accumulated and resonant in the place, didn’t even think about being tired until hours and hundreds of facts later.

We paid for the most serious tour, the one that gets you closest to the launch pad. It didn’t leave until 12:50 and an IMAX flick started at 11, solid entertainment, narrated by Tom Hanks, 40 minutes of 3D images of moonwalking. Actual moonwalking, I wish it could go without saying. I kept wanting it to turn into fiction, though, a great tentacled thing of a color we’d never seen before to leap out from behind a dune and come for one of the astronauts who’d ventured too far from the LZ. Bill Paxton and Morgan Freeman and a bunch of Apollo astronauts pitched in on narration. Then we went and did a ride based on the sim the astronauts use to test. It was all right. We were definitely pushing more G’s during liftoff but it was surprisingly not as much fun as the one at Epcot. Caught a quick bite at the Orbit Food Court and it was time for our bus tour, which was an hour and a half and took us as close as it was possible to get without security clearance to Launch Pad A, which had the orbiter Atlantis sitting on it already connected to the booster rockets and external fuel tank. They keep the liquid nitrogen in that tank at 498 degrees below and the liquid hydrogen at 234 below. It’s launching Friday, shame to be here so close and miss it. The tour dropped us off at the Apollo/Saturn V center where they had an actual Saturn V rocket, the length of two Statues of Liberty, suspended from the ceiling. It was incredible, just the size of the engines. Then we got to see actual modules of the International Space Station (ISS) that were being inspected before going up, which was quite cool. By now, we were pretty much past fried but had only a little bit more to go. We watched the other IMAX movie, a 45 min piece all about the ISS which might have been the most fascinating thing of the day, just a documentary on how all the nations, particularly us and the Russians, were coming together to, over the course of thirty-odd missions, assemble this modular permanent orbiting facility for research that will accomplish things in zero gravity that can’t be done here; what they’ve already learned from crystal structure growth has implications for cancer research, apparently. Wild stuff. During this one shot of the station orbiting, this almost fully formed idea for a book roared up out of the blue and smacked my mind.

The place closed at six and we still had ten minutes left for the Rocket Garden, one of the coolest phrases I’ve ever encountered (granted I’d pretty much say the same thing about any “rocket _________”). Six classic models pointed straight up and one on its side. It was amazing to walk between them, reading about what they’d done.

Cocoa Beach was twenty minutes away. We changed into swimsuits and played in the warm tide of the Atlantic as it came in and washed back out. I bobbed there in it for a few minutes and decided I should write a book about surfing, mix the traditional Zen up with fractals maybe, then remembered that new David Milch series is starting next Sunday and got excited all over again.

On the way back to the car, I saw the phrase MR DUMPSTER WANTS YOUR TRASH stenciled on a wall next to no sort of trash receptacle at all. It seemed ominous, like the germ of a children’s story.

We drove back into Orlando and didn’t eat until 10:30, but it was a hell of a meal when we did. Then I stayed up until 3, writing all of this.

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