The Eclipse: A Starred Review

Before the eclipse, the group I was going to see it with and I were debating the weather–and alternate plans–and exactly how far into the line of totality places were. The weather was… not bad, for a random Monday, but pretty sketchy for watching an eclipse. So, staying was a gamble, and so was going. I looked at the radar, and wound up staying. I was the only one who did, but the radar, combined with the fact that the alternate location wasn’t as close to the center line made me wary of leaving. It seems that if you have an eclipse under patchy clouds, the longest duration is probably your best chance of seeing at least some of it.

And I wasn’t sure. There was a part of me that was heartbroken watching them pull away without me… certain that they were right and I was wrong, and it was too late to fix the mistake.

So, an hour before the eclipse, I looked up at a cloudy sky and set alarms for the beginning of transit, and also for the beginning of totality.

I was pretty sure it was going to be raining, but I figured I could still go out in the rain and enjoy the darkness.

It didn’t rain where I was, and while the clouds never cleared up completely, they were whispy enough not to be a problem in viewing the eclipse. I spent a couple of hours lying on the grass in my yard with binoculars (actually, special Sunoculars, with a sun-filter built in) watching the eclipse.

Sunoculars are another world, entirely. I got them–at a cost of mumble, mumble–because I’m pretty near-sighted and cardboard things do not always work well with my prescription. If you point them at a lamp in the house, you will not be able to tell if the lens caps are on or off by looking. They turned out to be a really nice, really clear view, and you could also see the sun-lit clouds, and the shadows of some of the leaves above me, but I was skeptical until I actually saw it. I do recommend them. The magnification was good, too.

From where I was, you could hear the loud speakers on the high-school football field, but not the crowd, itself. I think they drug in the usual sports-oriented announcer, and that he was frustrated with the lack of screaming fans. His timing was also dangerously off, as he’s telling people when to put their eclipse glasses back on. (That might be something you have to know in advance.)

I got a couple of pictures, and the best of them is the featured image for this post. I’ll either take a better camera next time, or pass on the photos, entirely. They don’t do it justice.

I didn’t see any stars, probably due to clouds, but I did feel the temperature drop.

And then, totality passed, and I watched until the clouds gathered, and blotted out the sun, right around 70 or 80%.

As for the rest of my group? Well, it was raining in alternate location, and they had to settle for an indoor picnic and a few hours of togetherness.

Take that, extroverts.

That Horse Trailer Full of T-Shirts

On my way home from work, yesterday, I passed a man selling eclipse T-shirts. He must have had a lot of them, judging from the horse trailer he’d dragged them in in, and I’ve seen him around town before. I stopped to talk, mostly because I was passing within ten feet of him anyway,  and he was looking straight at me. He pointed to the other guy, and said that he had designed the t-shirts and had a bunch made up.

So, yes, that’s more or less how it goes. They made eclipse T-shirts, and then plonked themselves down on the corner of Livestock Equipment and Big Box Store (Also Selling T-shirts) and hoped for the best.

Now, I’m really not sure where you’d go to sell t-shirts in my town, and maybe business will pick up, once the eclipse crowd gets here… any minute now…. any… minute…

But I do think you should have a pretty good idea before you buy a horse trailer full of shirts.

These are… well, they’re shirts. They’re blue, and say “Eclipse 2017” or some such, and have the Homestead National Monument printed on the back. (It’s a hideous picture of a hideous building.)

picture of homestead monument

Told You So. (Courtesy of the Parks Service.)

But there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the Eclipse, and that ranges from people letting out rooms in their house, to people trying to sell eclipse glasses on Amazon (From Utah!)… to people buying a horse trailer full of T-shirts.

And I don’t know how you sell a horse trailer full of T-shirts.

I don’t know how you sell eclipse glasses long-distance, after Amazon bans you for not having enough customer feedback for the number of sales on your new account. I don’t even know how you sell them, when it turns out that the local fast food places are giving them away with meals.

And the bed & breakfast thing? Well, I might just wait til closer, to see if you can get a look at the people in real life. It’s damn hard to get a drunken astronomer out of your waterbed. Especially after he gets out the snorkel.

There has to be more of a plan than just “I’m going over there and I’m going to sell (product).”

As of right now, I have seen more vendors than tourists.

Eclipses, Bowel Resections, and Priorities

I am not going in to work on the day of the eclipse.

I really can’t see giving up a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a job I think about quitting on a daily basis. It’s not a great job, and it’s not an important job. I’m not walking out of an emergency room mid-bowel resection, or anything. Not parachuting out of a fighter jet, or taking my finger out of the dyke. My being there or not… well, it just doesn’t matter.

And let’s be honest, I have enough time accrued.

We can just call that a “mental health day.” It would be incredibly bad for my mental health to work through an eclipse. Almost a concession that I don’t matter as a person.

I’m still keeping my mouth shut about this, because not everyone feels that way. Maybe it’s financial, and maybe it’s a matter of priorities, or maybe some people are teetering on the brink of being fired, anyway, but there are plenty of people who–apparently–fully intend to miss out. It’s big enough to complain over, but not big enough to do anything about. (I was just told by one of these that anyone who calls in should get suspended. For a week. DONE! )

Yes, I’m at a point where suspension sounds like free time with my manuscript. Okay. I might be the only one there.

In all honesty, it reminds me of a movie I watched a million years ago–I’ve forgotten the name–where the main character misses the only day of sunlight her planet is expecting for her lifetime.

I think she died.

The idea of missing something that big–of anyone missing it–makes me sick.

The idea of missing it for nothing… well, that’s worse. Because it is nothing. There is nothing I do that you can’t plan ahead for, and let me and my co-workers go out to see the eclipse.

So, right this second? What I want to say is plan ahead. Boycott anything that’s unnecessarily open, because those are human beings being asked to give up their chance of seeing the same thing thing you‘ve traveled around the world to see.

If you value science and education…. If it’s open, and you’re not bleeding or in labor, don’t spend money there.

In the Dark of the Eclipse

In a couple of weeks, we are having an eclipse. A full, stars come out in the daytime, drama queen of an eclipse, and we’ve been advised to prepare for it the way we’d prepare for a blizzard. Well, in a stock-up on groceries and other necessaries kind of way, not necessarily a haul out the galoshes and space heaters kind of a way.

You see, we’re expecting company.

To the tune of 90,000 outsiders.

Yup. In my little town.

And no, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we do not have 90,000 hotel rooms. I’m not even sure we have 1,000 hotel rooms. It sounds like Woodstock, except nobody’s getting paid for the crops they trample, or the litter they drop. And by the way, shop now, so that when “they” invade, you’ll still be able to eat.

And get your prescriptions.

And by the way… uhm… toilets… toilets… there was discussion of water pressure, and toilets, and traffic.

90,000 people.

I’m envisioning the streets lined with porta-potties, gawking tourists, and tonnes and tonnes of loose garbage. And most of all, I’m envisioning crowds.

Let’s be honest. If I liked crowds, I’d probably live someplace urban. Like, ya know… Times Square on New Years’ or the Tokyo subway. So, I’ll probably have to hole up in my doomsday shelter, and watch the eclipse from my back yard. You know… behind the no-trespassing signs and the electrified fence? And maybe dodging whatever science-world geek celebrities the eclipse drags in. (Rumors vary, of course.)

I’d better wind up with a funnel cake.

The Answer is Tourism. Always Tourism.

I live in a historic town.

You can tell by the road signs and billboards, and by the fact that here and there, you have a building that is more than a hundred fifty years old.

It’s not a particularly exciting history.

And honestly, it’s not that much different than the history that the other 4,683 historical small towns in my state have on display. By the luck of the draw, we were first at something, once. There’s a plaque.

And if you go on a tour of downtown, you’ll find a lot of plaques. The downtown committee put them up a few years back, so that you can read all about what the empty buildings and tumble-down ruins used to be.

There’s not a whole lot left to bring outsiders here. A few old papers in the archive, and an eclipse that will come and go this August. We got eclipse glasses printed up with our name on them.

So did the towns next door.

And down the street.

The “historic” market share is minuscule.

Sure, it worked for Williamsburg, and that picturesque little town on the river–the one with all the B&Bs and the arts festivals, every summer. The one that grows to five times its size, every year. But they got their start decades ago. Before the market was divvyed up.

Before any of the bigger towns even realized they would need to be historic.

Back when we still had businesses in those empty buildings.

Back when we were modern, and proud of it.