So we went to the erstaz Tower Records downtown (arguably the first location) which is now called R5 (and was opened by the same guy who founded Tower Records). A few days ago, some dude was beginning a mural on the side which now looks like this:
You can see the tower of the Tower Theatre in the back on the right. Anyway, after corrupting our ears with many decibels of Death Metal at the listening stations and perusing potential Satanic tattoos, we walked outside where two guys were waving us over to them. “Hey, come look at the moon.”
It was now dark outside (I guess we were in the store for a while, judging by the pic above). There were two short and fat telescopes parked on the sidewalk, one was pointed at the moon and another was pointed at a couple of stars.
This is where adult jade sets in and instructs me to walk away from these carnival hawkers, because there is NO WAY two guys would set up telescopes for people to experience fun and not want something, right?
The MudPuppy walked over to one of the telescopes like a hypnotized child. I stood by while alarm bells rang in my head screaming things like: “NOOOO! Move away from those con-men. They are going to try to sell you something! Where’s the cash? Does he have cash in his wallet? Oh my God, he’s going to give them all of his cash for some scheme they’re running and I’ll end up on some Dateline NBC special: “Astronomers Gone Bad”, crying my eyes out looking just off camera at the invisible interviewer and whining between the tears, “I couldn’t stop him! I tried, oh how I tried.”
“Hey, Margaret, check this out!” he says, interrupting my 15 minutes of network fame.
I stiffly walk over like what I’m about to see is going to be a big scam and I’m not going to fall for whatever it is they’re hucking. I peek into the viewer.
“Oh my God!” I say. It’s the moon! And you can see everything. The craters, the shadows, the lines. Wow! The vortex sucks me over to the other telescope and I see Saturn! A little tiny white sideways Saturn. With the rings. You can actually see the rings. Oh sure, you’ve seen it on TV loads of times, but I was actually looking at the actual Saturn! Was that.. “joy” I felt? In any event, it blew my mind.
I gathered my wits and asked one of the guys, “So, what are you guys doing here?”, getting ready to hand over my purse and jewelry.
“Showing people the sky,” says the telescope guy.
But, But, But….that sounded….so…. benign. So philanthropic. So open source, if you will. I mean, providing something, and not bumper-sticker something, or key chain something, but something really cool, man something, on a public sidewalk for free? I couldn’t believe it. Where were the pamphlets? Where were the donation forms?
I said something again, but in retrospect, it was rather stupid and so, Dear Reader, I eagerly share it with you: “Why aren’t you up in the mountains or some place where it’s darker?”
“Because,” he said, “then the only people we could show this to is other astronomers.”
He gets points for even dignifying my idiotic question with an answer.
We walked away with our clothes and money intact. I was mystified because we didn’t get swindled or bait-and-switched or anything. I didn’t even think to take a picture of them or the telescopes, so you fellow skeptics would believe that such a thing occurred. I couldn’t shut up about it all the way back to the car.
It’s a shame that telemarketers and pan handlers and valet parking attendants (oh, don’t get me started about those lots that are free by day, but suddenly a $10.00 valet sign pops up out of nowhere at dusk so someone can park your car 10 feet away!)…it’s a shame they have influenced us such that we assume everybody is doing whatever they are doing for the money – specifically, YOUR money – and not for the simple act of sharing something other-worldly.