Friday, January 8, 2010

places I'll never go

One of my favorite types of book or movie or TV show is the type set in a locale where I am highly unlikely to ever set foot. I adore just about anything involving Mount Everest or the South Pole or space. I have a good amateur knowledge of the Mercury program. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts are like mythological figures to me, and I even share a birthday with one (Alan Shepard, first American in space). Just that visual of a rocket going up, seen on a small black-and-white set in my childhood, makes my heart ache.

But I'm actually watching a Mount Everest show of late, on Netflix (on my computer): the second season of Everest: Beyond the Limit. I'm starting to know my way around Everest a little, a bunch of the landmarks, where you have to start using bottled oxygen and the like. The big heroes here, although anyone who successfully summits Everest and comes back alive is a hero, but the big big heroes are the Sherpas. The Sherpas are just breathtaking in their abilities, spirituality, and extreme good humor. Because they have lived for generations at higher altitudes, their hearts and lungs are bigger and their frames are smaller, perfect for dealing with a low-oxygen altitude. These guys have strength and stamina that makes even a triathlete look like a wuss.

I guess I'm also pretty impressed by elite athletes...I always watch at least parts of both Olympics and used to have a pretty severe baseball habit (I mean reading box scores and stuff). I actually like seeing anyone who is the best or among the best at what they do. I made sure to see Pavarotti when he was still singing, maybe a little past his peak, from the nosebleed seats at the Met. I don't much like opera (though ironically, I ended up working at the Met for a short time some years later), but I knew I had to see the guy. If it had been 1905 or whenever, I would have had to see Caruso.

It's good to see greatness or to be in its presence. At my last job, I got to shake hands with Paul Rusesabagina (I hope I spelled that right or nearly right), the Hotel Rwanda guy. This man had goodness that just spilled off him. Sometimes I see an aura or get to a kind of trance-like place when I know I'm seeing greatness, generally at a live performance. (This is why I saw Bill Irwin three times in Fool Moon on Broadway). It happens a lot when I see Elvis Costello, though I can't afford to see him as often as I used to.

I really hope I can get out and hear some live music soon. It involves a lot of variables, like can I leave the house, how far away is it, can we afford it, is it something we both want to see?

I've been posting a lot with people from my old grade/high school on Facebook, and it's strange how much we're all bonding, especially with people we never knew before. And maybe we never knew them for the plain and simple reason that they were one grade below. Crazy.

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