I like what Claire Evans said about Neil Armstrong’s passing.
In the Roman Triumph it was customary for the general, man of the hour, to have in his chariot a slave bearing a large gold wreath, whose job it was to whisper in the general’s ear that he would some day not be alive, like a buzzing mosquito, a little memo, so that his ego would not lift the chariot to the moon. Wikipedia says that popular belief says this is where we get our memento mori, which literally means “remember (that you have) to die.” Seems a lot like our comedy roasts, a quintessentially American tradition begun at the New York Friars’ club, informed by the attitudes of Jewish comedy, which is obviously where American comedy gets its attitude. Eight of the first ten roasted were Jewish, beginning in 1950, just a few years after the second World War wrapped the human condition in a cloud of dust.
For a little while last night and today I was remembering when Neil Armstrong punched some guy for claiming that he did not actually land on the moon. I was remembering wrong. That was Buzz Aldrin. This version of the video was uploaded by someone who thinks the video is a hoax in and of itself. Postmodernism is not dead. We float around in it.
Like a lot of kids, I wanted to be an astronaut. My sister and I had blue and orange NASA jumpsuits. We used to arrange the furniture so as to form a cockpit for our missions, performing banal tasks on lifeless rocks. We lived in the middle of nowhere — southeast of San Antonio, Texas — and we did not have friends down the street because there was no street, just a farm to market road with a steady flow of tractor traffic. We did not really know there were places where you could not see the stars. The stars were almost always out and beautiful. I used to gaze up at them, trying to beam messages out to space with just my mind. Edgar Mitchell tried to communicate telepathically with his friends back on earth. He flew Apollo 14, walked the lunar surface for nine hours, and claims that aliens are very real. Sometimes he talks about it.
Mitchell grew up near Roswell, New Mexico. He claims to have spoken with a great many people in that area who confide in him their accounts of the incident. I went there once, on a family vacation. A vacation to nowhere. I suppose we went to the Four Corners, an invisible cross created by legal agreements with no consideration for the people who lived there before the word “cross” ever even swung thru the air of that place, and other places. It was, in essence, an existential road trip that I do not remember. Though I do have a memory of the gift shop full of Area 51 crap, mostly plastic moulds shaped in the popular mode, inspired by the gas masks worn by stormtroopers, it might be a false construct because my mom took a picture that I have not seen in a long ass time but which I feel sure exists somewhere in their house out in the middle of nowhere, like stars in the sky when the clouds are out.
For many years I have thought it possible that there was a connection between the first atomic bomb test — Trinity, which took place at Alamogordo Bombing Range, between Las Cruces and Alamogordo — and the Roswell report. I believe this because Roswell is not that far from Las Cruces. It only takes about three hours to drive it, if you speed. Distance is different when you live in a whole lot of nothing. I feel sure that if you flew to Earth very fast to check out this major blast that was really quite out of place in the general goings-on of the solar system or the galaxy maybe and probably something you would be looking for if you wanted to impose a moral/ethical code of conduct on the intelligent inhabitants of a piece of space that includes an unincorporated planet called Earth by some of its inhabitants, you could easily miss the bombing range, land in Roswell, and end up on the front page of the newspaper. Roswell happened almost exactly two years after the test at Alamogordo, a word that means something like “fatty Alamo,” which is now known as the White Sands Missile Range — southeast of an unincorporated town called San Antonio, New Mexico.
As the story goes, thirty years after the purported death of Christ, this guy Saul, apparently both Roman and Jew, is doing his best to torture, maim, and kill the people of these Christian cults doing all sorts of weird stuff out in the desert. One day he’s on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus and he has this weird vision. He meets Jesus. This seems to happen in space. He converts, changing his name to Paul. He travels around talking up Jesus and gets up and arrested by some Asian Jews, who ship him to trial in Rome where he continues spreading his story of Christ under house arrest and especially to collect money for the poor of Jerusalem, these illiterate desert people. When he brings money to Jerusalem, the Romans arrest him and claim he and this other guy Peter founded the Church of Rome, which is not cool with them, and may or may not be true. Eventually he loses his head to the Romans and Peter is crucified upside-down, which is where we get the inverted cross. Three hundred years later, Constantine reunites the Roman Empire. He reads some of this stuff Paul has written, and even though he himself does not convert, he establishes Christianity as the empirical religion in order to unify the people, who practiced culturally distinct forms of Paganism. He has more of these books written by occultists translated into Latin, changing things here and there, adjusting the holidays to correspond with Pagan custom — Christmas to the winter solstice, Easter to the vernal equinox. This of course establishes the Catholic Church.
One of the cults that the church is not so into is the gnostics. The gnostics claim Jesus whispered something in their ear, something not known to others. They say he told them a different creation story, not your typical God-created-the-earth gag. In this story there is a god and a goddess (ones of many splendored things) who live as apparitions in space. They are not allowed to excise such foul and filthy as fucking. But because they’re in love, they do. And so they have this little bastard child whose whole existence is frowned upon exactly the way it is with the half-white, half-black baby in God Down, Moses. He is a deviant — impure, demented and gnarled in the head: a demiurge, a freak of nature, what we call “reality.” So the gnostics thought this meant that humanity was not meant to procreate but to die unheroically, not to strive for greatness or conquest but to leave well enough alone. The church frowns on this.
There are more than ten million gigs in a gram of human shit.