Last summer, when
the family went on our vacation "down south", we stopped by the small
town of Wapakoneta, OH to visit the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum.
Naturally, as the family's resident obsessive space geek, I loved it. I saw the
Gemini 8 capsule which was on display, as well as numerous items related to
Neil Armstrong's life as well as mementos
from the flight of Apollo 11.
I did, however,
notice a mistake in one of the displays. They showed replicas of the two Westinghouse
television cameras carried on Apollo 11. One was a color camera carried in the
Command Module and the other was the smaller black and white camera that sent
pictures from the lunar surface. The signs indicating which was which were
reversed. I was going to mention this to someone at the museum, but when I
noticed the only ones there were an elderly couple who looked happy to be
serving their community by volunteering at the museum, I decided against it. I
had the impression they were there for something to do rather than because of
abiding love of spaceflight history. I'd have felt like I was harassing
someone's great-grandmother for having an incorrect setting on their computer.
Yes, I'm persnickety about my space facts, but why be a buzzkill? And so the
Apollo 11 camera gaffe went uncorrected - at least on that day. Hell, it may
STILL be wrong. In case it is, and for the sake of those few who A.) plan to
visit the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in the near future and B.)
actually give a damn about this sort of thing, the camera on the left side of
the display depicts the color camera and the camera on the right is a replica of
the Lunar Module camera that landed on the moon.
There's a painting
I love. It hangs on the wall of the University of Michigan Medical Center's
Frankel Cardiovascular Center. Specifically, it's on floor 2A in the hallway across
from the consultation rooms. Unless you happen to work at the hospital or are
having heart problems serious enough to require a discussion with a
cardiologist, you're not likely ever to see this painting. The name of the work
is "Through Dark Trees". The artist's name is Richard Kooyman. Aside
from the fact he painted this work, I knew absolutely nothing about this artist.
theme is simplicity itself. Most of the canvas depicts a gloomy dark - mostly
black, in fact - forest. But through a gap in the darkness shines a vibrant, sunlit
beach and an azure lake extending to the horizon. Upon viewing the painting,
one gets the impression this glimpse of the grand vista was a hard-earned
reward for a long slog through the forest. And one can almost feel the warmth to
be experienced by stepping from the chill woods onto the serene shore. This
resonated with me since I was having to drive over 60 miles to work every day,
dealing with Ann Arbor's notorious parking, sardine-dense shuttle buses and the
high cost of having to fill my gas tank twice weekly. I was away from home so
much due to traffic and the length of the commute that it seemed I was either
working, getting ready for work or driving to and from work. I was physically
and mentally exhausted but, having to support my family, I had no choice but to
I kept hoping I
could find a position on the University of Michigan's Flint campus. It would be
much closer to home. I remember during each Christmas season hoping would it be
my last one at the hospital. But I found myself still there the next Christmas.
And the next. I was in those seemingly endless dark woods. But I kept hoping
one day I would finally gaze upon that sunny lake out in the distance. And that
painting kept the hope alive. Each day I walked by it, my gloom was made easier
Then, after a seeming eternity, it happened. I was
interviewed for a custodial position in Flint and I was offered the position.
Soon, the long drives and short stays at home would be a thing of the past. In
a very real sense, I felt as though I could finally see the beach through all
those dark trees.
Despite the hassles I experienced during my time commuting
to Ann Arbor, there are some things I will miss. The nurses on the CPU floor,
for one. They showed me the greatest love and support during my time there and
I couldn't ask for better people to work with. And, of course, I will miss that
painting. I may not understand art in an advanced way, but I know that painting
communicated to me and gave me hope in a way mere words could never do.
And now, new adventures await. I hope the beach is as nice
as it looked all these years!