MoonJune 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Posted in J. Frederick | Leave a comment
Frustrated by the appalling dearth of any kind of real, concrete, factual information about the moon – I checked at least four different Mexican restaurant menus, and a book of Heathcliff cartoons, and could find nothing useful on the topic at all – I decided it was time for some investigative reporting. I left my basement apartment, deftly avoided the landlord, and made what I felt was a perfectly reasonable query to the first person I saw on the street, who as it happened was one of the world’s foremost experts on the moon.
“Who are you? Leave me alone,” he told me, and it was then that I knew that I was in the presence of true greatness – one of the most brilliant astronomical thinkers of our age.
“Speaking as one of the world’s most respected and beloved moon scholars,” I asked, “can you give our readers an overview of the moon?”
“Let go of my shirt! I’ll call the cops!” he said, cryptically, which I took to mean that the moon is the Earth’s natural satellite, orbiting at an average distance of 384,403 kilometers.
He then proceeded, through the techniques of hitting and kicking, to explain that the moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth once every 27.3 days; he then unfortunately had to take his leave, no doubt to go off and share his knowledge at one of his famous twice-weekly Moon Seminars.
Back in my apartment, I discovered that although my electricity and gas had been shut off many days before, the phone was still working, so I called NASA’s 24-hour Moon Hotline.
“Birthday Magic Clown Rental, how may I direct your call?” the hotline’s operator said – a classic example of that dry astronomer wit.
“What can you tell me about lunar phases?” I inquired.
“I . . . I don’t understand, sir. Are you sure you have the right number?”
The astronomer made a good point: the distinct appearances of the moon are caused by the relative positions of the Moon, Earth, and Sun, and repeat every 29.5 days.
“And would you not agree,” I asked, “that the dark spots on the moon, once believed to be evidence of water, are in fact ancient pools of frozen lava?”
“Sir, we’re a company that provides clowns for children’s birthday parties,” the scientist told me, “and I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, that’s true,” I said, “Neil Armstrong was indeed the first person to set foot on the moon, in 1969.”
“Well, we . . . we also have bouncy castles for rent, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I could discuss the moon with you all day!” I exclaimed suddenly, and I meant it, so filled was I at that point for love of knowledge and the moon and helpful friendly astronomers everywhere. Even though my new friend did not respond, and indeed hung up at that point, I’d like to believe it was because they had to deal with some urgent moon-related emergency. Or maybe they didn’t hang up and the sudden silence was my phone being cut off. Either way, I replaced the receiver with a giant smile on my face, excited about the wondrous things I had learned, listening to the banging on my door and the shouts from my landlord and the police as I contemplated the exciting future of mankind, and the wonderful places that our knowledge will take us. – J. Frederick