Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Obsessive. Compusive. Dismissive.

   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.
   So now you know.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Through Dark Trees

   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.
   The painting's 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 carry on.
   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 to bear.
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!