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By Ron Scopelliti
So I spent the last few days of June, for no apparent reason, having Eric Cartman’s rendition of “In the Ghetto” stuck in my head. I blame it on Apollo.
Like many people of my generation I spent much of June watching shows about the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11, and reminiscing about watching the first lunar landing when I was a kid. It was only later on that I learned Elvis Presley’s recording of “In the Ghetto” also turned 50 this year. I’m figuring my subconscious already knew that when it started playing the song in my head. Why it chose to play the version from South Park’s “Chickenpox” episode is a matter best decided by whoever dissects my brain after I leave my body to science.
There are some events from long ago that you look back on and think, “Wow it feels like it was just yesterday!” For me, the lunar landing isn’t one of those. It really does seem like a different era. I remember adjusting the rabbit ears to watch Walter Cronkite’s coverage, while holding a cardboard lunar lander that was held together with already yellowing Scotch tape.
But what makes it seem so long ago to me isn’t my memory of the antiquated TV and the now-dead face on the screen. What makes it seem distant is my attitude. Back then, having already seen the preliminary missions of Apollo 9 and Apollo 10, the Apollo 11 mission seemed almost routine to me. While more mature minds saw Apollo 11 as a marvel of the age, my six-year-old mind saw it as something that was a natural progression – a logical step toward a real USS Enterprise. Of course we’re sending people to the Moon – why would we not? Now, as an adult, hearing people talk about going to the Moon with our current technology makes me appreciate more than ever that accomplishments that NASA made with 1960’s technology.
I never had a great desire to go to the Moon myself, but all this talk about new lunar expeditions has me rethinking it. I wouldn’t mind visiting the Moon, if we could come up with a better way to get there. As great an achievement as Apollo was, the spacecraft used in the program must have made for a tremendously awkward and uncomfortable trip. Think of taking an eight day road trip sitting three across in a pickup truck with the windows up, not even being able to get out to stretch your legs at a rest stop, or stop at a Denny’s for lunch. And the whole bathroom situation isn’t even worth discussing.
I like the current idea about having a space station orbiting the Moon so people could fly there, hang out for a bit, and then take a shuttle down to the surface. In fact, I think that some enterprising hospitality firm should build a facility midway between the Earth and the Moon. They could even make it a sort of throwback to 1969. How cool would it be to stop at a Howard Johnson’s in space and get a clam roll on a hotdog bun served in one of those little cardboard bun holders?
And there’d have to be a hotel, complete with an Alice Kramden Memorial Honeymoon Suite. I’m not sure what they’d do for Wi-Fi and cable, and I’m also unsure how well those Magic Fingers beds would work in space. But I’m sure there’s someone who couldn’t quite make the cut as a rocket scientist, but was more than capable of becoming a vibrating space-bed scientist, who will step up to solve the problem.
I should probably avoid thinking like this, because even though I’m excited about plans to go back, I think it’s good that only 12 people have walked around on the Moon, and that they’ve been there to do very specific things; I’d hate to see it reach a point where it’s like Mt. Everest, with over-privileged adventurers standing in line to get to the summit.
If my space-based Howard Johnson’s goes through, how long would it be until we got a lunar Day’s Inn? Then again, since a lunar day is about 29 Earth days, maybe they’d call it a Month’s Inn. And how long would it be before Disney set up a resort, with little automatons from all nations of the earth singing “It’s a Smaller World After All.”
The only consolation would be if Matt Groening could beat Disney to the punch and build a Futurama World, complete with animatronic seafarers singing “Whalers on the Moon.” If nothing else, the mere thought of the song has driven “In the Ghetto” straight out of my head.