Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ad Astra

Taking a telescope and looking back 50 years!
Starry-eyed Neil McMickle and other great grads of ’58!

by Charlie Leck

Looking back! Someone said not to do it. You know, “you can’t go home again.” Well, let me tell you, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing for the last couple of months – looking back to 1958!

It was 50 years ago that I graduated from high school and some of my more energetic and eager classmates were determined to track down every single member of our graduating class for the reunion party, if it was at all possible. They didn’t find them all, but they did a perfectly magnificent job of finding most of them.

I promised these eager beavers that I would put together a little memory booklet to be given to each student they could locate. My first thought was that it would be a little 10 page production, copied by the HP copier in my wife’s office and stapled together. The concept grew much larger – into something more than 100 pages and bound and printed as carefully as possible (thank goodness for Adobe’s wonderful InDesign CS3 software).

We published little biographies of each mate’s last 50 years and messages of greetings from them. We included both contemporary and 50 year old photos of each student whenever we could. I worked intensely at this project and long hours seemed but like seconds as I involved myself more and more deeply into the lives of each of these great ‘kids’ with whom I graduated.

These are the ordinary people who make up America, who turn out, in fact, when examined, to be quite extraordinary. We had an entire class of beautiful, achieving, successful and innovative people. Who would have thought it? The day I walked away it was to pursue the future and a whole new life full of adventure and discovery. Goodbye! Kiss-off! It was so good to know you!

Now I realize that I cut ties too easily, cleanly and nonchalantly. What the hell was I thinking of? Right there, around me, fifty years ago, were some of the most beautiful and exciting people in the world. Now, I’ve traveled around the globe and met some of ‘the famous and beautiful’ people, but my thoughts drift back to the faded friendships of the class of 1958.

I’m going to occasionally write about some of these classmates in this and future blogs because there are some striking stories to tell – stories about college professors and fire chiefs, about school cafeteria managers and statisticians, about mountain hunting guides and world travelers, and about musicians and engineers. Some of them were friends back in those school days and some I barely knew.

Now, looking back at all of this through this telescope into the past, I see how beautiful and special they were. Damn! Why do we get so smart so late?

Neil McMickle
Neil comes to mind first, because he is a star gazer! I’m not kidding, he is. He’s in retirement now, after a 4 year stint in the Navy and a career as a police officer. As a hobby he’s taken to Astronomical Imaging. Ey, what? Gazing at the stars and taking photographs of them – and beautiful, remarkable photos at that!

So Neil had to be the first classmate I’d write about, because, here I am, on my journey to the stars, my place of forevermore, and Neil is giving me pictures to delight in of that massive place that never, ever ends. It’s like this glorious travel magazine, letting me know what I’ll see along the way.

In his message to fellow classmates, Neil invited us to request some images from him if we were curious. I was. He did.

With the photos come his little descriptions of the massive part of the universe he has digitally captured. I can read his excitement and enthusiasm in those messages.

“…here's another one for you, NGC6888 or the Crescent Nebula, it's a Super Nova remnant in the Constellation Cygnus, I took this one through Hydrogen a Line, sulfur and Oxygen filters, those are narrow band filters and only let light in those narrow spectrum through, isolating the hydrogen gas this star was made of. Second and third generation stars will form from the wreckage and elements fused by this giant star. Our sun is a third generation Star, that's why our Sun and planets consist of heavy elements. The early population of Stars in the universe were pure hydrogen and very massive 20m to 40 solar masses or even more.

“When these stars used up all the hydrogen at their cores, they went Super Nova and in that very instant fused even more and progressively heavier elements, so on and so on.”
He then apologized if he was boring me. Neil, my old mate, I am never bored by enthusiasm.

The whole business got Neil and I communicating. Sure we weren’t buddies, but we sensed each other moving about and maturing into adults back there in our high school. He was one of the very beautiful guys – “whistle bait” another of my classmates recently called him. To illustrate the difference, he ended up marrying a doll I was nuts about and unsuccessfully asked out a number of times. Oh, hum. I always tried to date the most beautiful girls in the class, but never did. Neil had them falling all over him. Oh, hum!

Now, please, I understand! So, don’t lecture me! There is really no turning back. It was the way it was and will be that way forever; but, I wish it hadn’t been. He would have made an interesting friend!

Keep gazing, Neil, and keep sending those incredible Astronomical Images. They’re helping me plan my journey. Maybe, someday, like in fifty years, up there in the stars, we’ll meet again at another reunion. Somewhere in the Constellation Cygnus perhaps!

Writing about my classmates...
In the past, I've written (sometimes facetiously and sometimes not) about some of my other classmates:
Janet Philhower (Goodnight, Janet Philhower)

Joyce (Pike) Roesing (Joyce, the 8th Grade Beauty)

Marion (Drake) Smith (First Love)

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