Archive for June 2014

The Eye of the Beholder   2 comments

Pig Girl

Don’t tell me you have seen every single episode of The Twilight Zone at least a million times.  The show’s like crack; after a few seconds upon landing on whatever channel the show happens to be airing, it becomes impossible to turn off.  There must be scientific studies lurking about that analyze the particular section of the brain that demands one watch TZ without interruption.  Or, diabolically, Rod Serling placed subliminal messages within the episodes.  Viewers trance out, drool a bit, say to themselves, “So that’s where William Shatner got his start!” (Hint:  John Lithgow reprised one of the roles, but WS actually starred in two episodes)

I attribute my own particular attraction to this show when my age came in single digits.  At that point, most shows were in color but still watching the black and white ones wasn’t unusual or weird.  TZ didn’t make sense and that was fine by me.  Later, in college, my friends and I stayed up well past midnight to catch episodes and quasi-pretend to be surprised (impossible, since the show was fodder for our misspent youths) or comment on the double meaning of the episode (“To Serve Man”).  Even now, during marathon showings, I manage to sneak in a little quality TZ time and hope to catch one of my favorite episodes.

After my Mom passed, inevitably we had to sort through her drawers.  That’s never easy.  Personal belongings are an assessment of one’s life; items chosen by Mom had purpose and meaning.  A favorite scarf, her mother’s wedding ring, photos of people I’ll never meet whose names are lost to time – all jammed without mercy in her vanity top drawer.   Major natural disasters wouldn’t have budged the contents.  Mom kept all her accumulated possessions bound together like old friends who see no reason to part company.

One afternoon, I chose the unwieldy task of sifting through her clown car dresser.  I say this because I marveled at the amount of stuff she shoved into it.  The more I grabbed at old clothes, hats, papers, candles, etc., the more intrigued I became.  So tightly packed had everything become, items towards the back refused to relinquish the turf they so jealously guarded over time.

Nearly emptying the bottom shelf, I came across a cardboard box, slightly smashed and held together with an ancient rubber band.  Since I had no clue what was inside, I opened it. Within the box rested a collection of miniature masterpieces, lithos of relatively unknown artists combined with a few superstars.  I shuffled through them, saw the obligatory Van Gogh “Sunflowers” plus a few other Greatest Hits.

And there it was:  Pig Girl.

Glancing at me, her brown eyes hinted at nonchalance.  Pig Girl appeared as a young woman, possibly a teenager, with a round face and pug nose, sassy upturned brown hair, charming white hat, her collar tied with a bow tie that seemed to float in a sea of crisp whiteness.  She wore a brown outfit suggesting a school uniform.

It hit me then:  this one’s from that Twilight Zone episode, “The Eye of the Beholder.”  In it, pig people valiantly try to plastic surgery-ize a gorgeous woman, regarded by the Piggians as hideously ugly.  Perhaps the young, confident Pig Girl lifted herself straight from that episode.  Charmed her way into the studio of the artist (Frango? Franga? Franca?) and insinuated herself into the Masterpiece collection.  She had a partner, too, a clown boy.  No siree, Pigitty wasn’t going through life on this planet alone.  She had this fella for fun times:

Clown Boy

Hobo-clown, sporting a look of resignation on his face, seems determined to find a purpose despite his genetic mutation.  Both he and Piggity survived the DNA splicing of human and pig, they planned to make the best of it and damned be the world.

Can you imagine what might come next if these two produce an offspring?  What horrors might come of that?

I closed the box and its unsettling contents rested once more in their dark shelter.  I must admit, their presence haunts me still.  Strangely, I can’t find Piggity.  She seems to have vanished.  Kind of scary, don’t you think?

So here’s a word of warning: when a parent dies, use extreme caution going through their former possessions.  It can be a real trip through…The Twilight Zone.



The Unexplainable Universe   Leave a comment


The universe, as credited to Wikipedia

Ever lay on your back on a summer night, looking up at the sky and think to yourself, “Where does it all end?”

Or begin.

Or go.


Ask a person to explain the universe is and guaranteed you’ll receive an answer just as expansive.  Frustrating to conceive of an area that defies convention.  For that’s what it is: an enigma.

Sure, scientists the world over have struggled to define just exactly what it is that the Earth inhabits and how it came about to be.  Mathematical calculations summarize what is perceived to be forces governing its structure, but as soon as one explanation arises, another takes its place.

Take, for instance, the recent talk  about finding traces of waves of the original big bang isn’t all it seemed to be.  Could be interstellar dust, although optimism remains that perhaps evidence of the Big Bang is still present in the astronomer’s findings.  And not to discount their discovery, because if they truly do find remnants of all that is, ever was and will be, my God, that’s like touching the face of eternity.

Though I’m not a scientist, I do wonder how an event so enormous, so unfathomable to most mortals, could have left a trail of crumbs in its wake.  It has been determined that the universe began 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago, more or less.  That’s all calculation, the only tool available to determine its age.  It’s also calculated that the observable universe is 48 billion light years in size.  Nothing to sneeze at, of course.  These numbers are only the result of of the logic of numbers and not the result of a person who stood at the rim and said, “Well, then, here we are…at the end.”  Unless, of course, you’re a person named Doug who’s actually hitchhiked your way from one end to the other.  In my opinion, he’s in a place to know at present, but he’s not giving up his secrets anytime soon.

My mind shuts down when I contemplate the enormity of all there is.  It gets worse when I attempt to ponder what caused its creation.  That Big Bang came out of…what?  What was before it?  Could it be that there was a universe that lived, breathed and died before it?  Or perhaps time bent backwards and regenerated its youth to live in another incarnation?

Will we ever know the answer?

Only the eternal reaches of the universe and time can tell.

Comet Con   Leave a comment

Who doesn’t have a fascination with comets?

Mercurial, fickle, entirely dramatic in all ways, these nomads of the heavenly sky form bonds with our souls.  From expectation to delivery, these babies take years to put in appearances in our nighttime skies, and, like any baby, one never quite knows what to expect until its head pops out.


Sure, who doesn’t remember Hale-Bopp?  Back in my Manhattanite days, I lived a stone’s throw from the Empire State Building.  Out my bedroom window, there was the perfect view of H-B in the fading daylight, competing with the city’s electric glow, pulsing with energy and brilliance.  I knew just where to look, and trained my eye in that sweet spot until its head poked from behind the dark curtains and the hazy feathers of its tail teased its way into the night.  From its heavenly stage, it delivered a show guaranteed to enthrall the most jaded of Broadway critics.  And when it departed after its celebrated run, Hale-Bopp imparted the warmest of memories, leaving an unforgettable performance in its wake.


Queen of the Night: Hale-Bopp in 1997

But as fans of ISON know, it ain’t all grand, despite the promises of glory.

My first experience with disappointment, comet-wise, occurred during the sixth grade.  For months I climbed up my brother’s ham radio tower to access the relatively lower dining room roof and perched up there, looking for something, anything, in the dusk along the horizon.  Nothing.  Then bit by bit, tiny wisps of something resembling a pinhead with a tiny thread appeared.  Is…that…IT? I remembered thinking, even dragging my mother up there (well, she peeked out of an upper floor window) hoping it grow larger and start wiggling that ginormous tail.  But it never did, and eventually it faded, returning to the cosmos from whence it came.


 Comet Kohoutek, as promised but not delivered 

Let’s jump to 1986.  My grandfather, then well into his 80s, used to tell us when he, as a kid, remembered beautiful Halley’s Comet dominating the evening skies, literally stopping people in their tracks to observe its majestic tail.  “Oh, it shimmered like you can’t imagine,” he’d say, and in the relative darkness of the area of Pennsylvania mining country where he lived, there were few people who didn’t take in a lengthy stare in wonderment of nature.

So when he read in the paper that he’d still be present for its return, he lit up like the comet he remembered.  “You’ll see nothing like Halley!” he promised.  “Never thought I’d be around long enough to see it again, but I am, and I can’t wait!”

He shuffled out in the backyard of our New Jersey home, looking up towards the heavens only to see this tiny smudge, barely visible to the naked eye.  “Really?” he said, as I pointed it out to him.  “C’mon.  That’s not it; that’s a plane.”  As I assured him that blurry patch was not a plane but indeed the major disappointment of the decade, he sighed and said, “Well, at least I saw the real thing.  Shame you won’t,” and went back inside.  He’s right, you know, because as much as I’d like to hope I’d be around in 2061, the get-real part of me says I won’t.


What Grandpa saw and I didn’t: 1910 Halley’s Comet

So what other comets lie in wait for us out there?  Well, literally dozens of comets are discovered every heart.  Most one can’t see without a telescope or a good set of binoculars, but there’s generally a decent selection from which to choose.  On October 19, 2014, Mars has a good chance of being brushed by the tail of Comet A1 Siding Spring’s tail – a great event and excuse to beg, borrow or steal a telescope.

And who knows?  You might be in for a memorable treat!  Cross your fingers and wish upon a star…

Mom, Up With The Stars   7 comments

Glamor Mom

So there I was, a little kid, really, laying on my stomach on the living room floor.   That’s how the small set viewed television, at least back then, when TV sets weren’t flat screens but part of the furniture.  This show, Star Trek, was on and Mom was glued to it.  Only a few years later, she’d do the same with Tom Baker’s version of Dr. Who.

Every Saturday afternoon, she’d turn on Channel 17 in the kitchen and watch whatever horror movies they happened to play.  I’d turn on the set in the living room and watch from the couch.  Mom peeked up from the ironing board, giant pot of dinner or pile of something she happened to be tending to at the time, and me, well, I’d be there, glued in stupefied fascination over the ridiculous plots.  I mean, come on.  A giant moth taking over a city?  I never could get used to lips not moving in sync to the voices that never quite seemed to match up to the person speaking them.

Still, countless Saturday afternoons with Mom went by, watching an enormous man tangle with electric wires as his former girlfriend implored him to stop, or yet another man shrunk down shorter than the grass he hid in contemplating the stars.  Why were the victims generally men?  Sure, occasionally you had the disfigured, angry woman out to kill whomever did this to her, but on the whole, it was some luckless fellow falling down a hole, getting sprayed with a mysterious liquid, blasted by X/gamma/nuclear/unknown rays and having his soul wrenched from him as his body contorted/transformed/vaporized into an unrecognizable mass that wreaked havoc in the nearest city…and always a city.

Mom’s fascination with this stuff naturally influenced mine, except I developed a liking to those story lines that involved spaceships, aliens, misguided off-world adventures, and the like.  I still think one of the best vintage sci-fi films is The Day The Earth Stood Still (the one that stars Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie), and so did Mom.  Klaatu had it going on, and I thought he should have taken Patricia Neal with him, maybe the kid, too.  That would have been a good story.  Neither Mom nor I didn’t think much of the remake with Neo, but it did have its merits.

What Mom didn’t find to satisfy her thirst for science fiction adventure, she found up in the evening skies, when she was so inclined to peek at them.  By the time I was in the sixth grade, I spent many an hour glancing up at them and I always told her what I saw, even showing Comet Kohoutek to her (a MAJOR disappointment).  Occasionally a planet might wander by or an eclipse might occur.  Come to think of it, my first total eclipse of the sun was shared with Mom, back in the 1970s.  How amazing that in the afternoon all the lights went on in the street, the birds stopped singing and a few bright stars appeared as the sun played coy with the moon.  We stood outside, afraid to look at it but in the end taking a quick peek during totality, gasping at that miracle of nature.

As years went by, my mother never lost her love for stuff not readily explainable, either via television or the movies.  Once, she and my father even saw what they believed to be several UFOs flying over the coast, where they lived.  That confirmed their belief by hundreds of reports the next day, covered both in the paper and on the morning news.  We watched as the real Enterprise went piggyback on a plane, then as all the space shuttles, SkyLabs, ISS and anything else that left this planet went up and aided the Earth’s population, scientific and otherwise, to explore whatever lie out there and beyond.

On May 24, 2014, my mother went up there in the heavens to become one with the stars.  I’d like to think she currently resides there, since she took so much interest in them.  She had a very peaceful journey, laying down to take a nap from which she never awoke.  There was nothing truly wrong with her, said the doctor, apart from it was her time.  Mom had 85 action-packed years and I’d like to think they were all incredibly interesting ones.  She leaves behind her family, terribly sorry to see her go and missing her every day.

I couldn’t write a single word of this blog until now.  Nothing came to mind.  Then, just like magic, the memories of how I’d laugh and joke with Mom over those vintage Saturday afternoon sci-fi groaners we used to watch together popped into my mind.

I’d like to think Mom put that there.

Bye, Mom!  I’ll see you in the stars…

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