The Snoozeletter @

Perseids In Joshua Tree. 

It was one of the early years of this millennium, and my Hungarian wife's adult kids flew over from Budapest to visit us in Los Angeles. We took them up to the California high desert near Twentynine Palms in mid-August, and showed them some Joshua trees. They loved 'em. Then we checked into a local motel, and I told everybody to get to sleep early, and be ready for a knock on the door at 1am. I'm sure they suspected it was just the ravings of a crazy American. Anikó even dismissed it as the babbling of her nutso foreign hoozhband.

So we all went to sleep, and when my alarm went off at 1am, Anikó sat up, bleary-eyed, and looked at me in disbelief. I hustled her out of bed, and we knocked on the kids' door, telling them: "Get dressed, and grab the comforters off your beds!" They probably thought it was some sort of emergency drill.

We drove ten miles, up into Joshua Tree National Park, and parked beside the road. There was no traffic at that time of night, and I told everybody to spread out their comforters in the sand, near each other. They looked at me like I was certifiably insane. I have to admit that I was a little uncertain about this whole plan, because I had never tried anything like it before. But I knew theoretically that if everything worked out well, it could be a memorable night.

The light pollution in that part of the world was almost non-existent, and after a few minutes, when their eyes adjusted, I pointed out the ribbon of stars stretching across the sky - our galaxy, the Milky Way. They all liked that. It's not something you can see from Budapest, or even Los Angeles. Then the real fun began.

As the first Perseid meteor flashed across the sky, there were three amazed gasps. The second shooting star followed soon after, and they all wanted to know what was happening. "It's the best meteor shower of the year," I said. They asked for more details, so I lectured a bit, telling them what little I knew of the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the space rubble it leaves in its wake. The informal lesson was punctuated by whispered cries of "Look!" and "Over there!" and "That was a loooooong one!"

We watched for at least a couple of hours, because every time I suggested going back to the motel, they wanted to stay "just a little longer." How could I say no to that?!

Even now, a dozen years later, the subject inevitably comes up when we all get together. That's when everybody discusses, with hushed reverence, The Night Of The Shooting Stars.


Perseid Meteor Shower Peak Thrills Skywatchers: How You Can Still Watch
Auroral Oval. 

In the summer of 1971, I was driving home along the eastern coast of Lake Michigan with a bunch of my college buddies late one night, when I looked up and saw a throbbing green light. It scared the sh*t outta me, so I pulled over to see if aliens were launching an attack.

The auroral oval had unexpectedly moved very far south that night, and those shimmering curtains of light covered the sky. It was even more amazing because this freak occurrence of the Aurora Borealis was a total surprise.

I had never seen the Northern Lights before that night, and I haven't seen them since... but I hope I'll get the chance to witness them once more before I die. I will never forget that feeling, a mixture of awe and reverence.
Total Eclipse. 

The Atlantic, 8/8/2017: «Ever since it was first published in 1982, readers—including this one—have thrilled to "Total Eclipse," Annie Dillard's masterpiece of literary nonfiction, which describes her personal experience of a solar eclipse in Washington State. It first appeared in Dillard's landmark collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and was recently republished in The Abundance, a new anthology of her work.»

NB: We are lucky to be alive in this era of total eclipses. Every year, the Moon gets 3.8 centimeters further away from Earth. So that means there will come a time when the Moon will never completely eclipse the Sun. It will simply appear too small in the sky. And that will happen in about 650 million years...
Choke Joke. 

Two hillbillies walk into a restaurant and have a bite to eat. Suddenly, a woman eating a sandwich at a nearby table begins to cough. After a minute or so, one of the hillbillies looks at her and says, "Kin ya swallar?" The woman shakes her head no. Then he asks, "Kin ya breathe?" The woman shakes her head no, and begins to turn blue.

The hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up her dress, yanks down her panties, and quickly gives her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue. The woman is so shocked that she has a violent spasm, and the obstruction flies out of her mouth. As she begins to breathe again, the hillbilly walks back to his table.

His partner says, "Ya know, I've heerd of that there 'Hind Lick Maneuver' but I ain't never seed nobody do it!"