If I ever imagined I could be a foreign correspondent, which I didn't, now I know for sure that I couldn't. I am wiped out, after four little days.
Maybe not so little.
I've been photographing and more or less interviewing people every day, and that really is a lot of work. The incoming information is exhausting, even though it's all been marvellous.
Yesterday afternoon, for instance, I shared a table with a woman, Barbara, who is the head of a forty-person software department for the Hubble Space Telescope.
She told me about the upcoming service mission to the Hubble, and how much the software is going to improve the images, etc. etc.
She also explained why the mirror had been one-millionth of an inch off--remember that?--in the 1990s. Not that I could really follow all she was saying, but it was a thrill to talk to someone who could say it.
[This is the "sombrero galaxy," a spiral galaxy in Virgo: Messier object 104.]
I told her how much I love those photos from space, and I thanked her for her work, for helping make that possible.
She replied, "I've been hearing that from a few people here."
There's an attitude of gratitude here that's lovely and amazing. "Thank you for sharing our dreams and giving us new dreams. Thank you for helping us, sometimes, make them real."
As I said, there's your usual 1% hopelessly damaged people (god bless them), but a lot of the people I'm talking to are very sharp. And all of them have been kind.
It's a lot to process. Last night, I couldn't even haul myself to the costume contest at 8:45 p.m.
I stayed in the hotel room, looked out the window, and listened to Michael Buble, which is like giving my brain a long, hot bubble bath.
Eventually I got up and wrote the previous posts, then went to bed about 1:30 A.M., telling myelf to sleep late, but I woke up this morning at 7:30, all excited for the last day.
I am like Woody Allen's character who prefers fourteen hours of sleep. Joke. But my energy really is flagging, though I'm still too excited to sleep. I imagine that'll give out entirely while I'm sitting at the airport (shudder--that's a hellish feeling).
Gorillas, Saint James, and Mr. Spock
In about four hours is the Nimoy photo op. I wonder if the bags under my eyes will show in the photo. So what if they do? I thought about what I want and I just want to stand next to him.
I'm like a 70-year-old pal of Bink's who went to Tanzania to see the mountain gorillas. Psychologically she prepared, as for a pilgrimage. Knowing she might not be able to make the hike, she asked herself what she wanted. She decided it would be enough if she could just sit on the same mountain with them, knowing they were there.
(As it happened, she did make it to see the gorillas.)
This final countdown also reminds me of the end of the pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain, which I walked with Bink seven summers ago.
When they reach Sanitago, pilgrims kiss the statue of Saint James in the cathedral there.
When we got to town the first day, after five weeks of walking, a huge line of people were waiting to kiss him, and I was put off.
The next moring, Bink went to the cathedral, came back and told me I had to go--there was no line, and it was important. I thought it was unnecessary, but I went. She was right (she always is): it sealed the pilgrimage.
Of course Nimoy is a real person, but that's not the role he appears in here, for us. His work as Spock is the symbol of something good and true, like a mountain gorilla or a saint. What these really are is a mirror projection of something in us; something outside of ourselves we can look at and touch and say, this goodness is possible.
For me, the resonance is deep, like a bass, because that's something I desperately hoped was true so many years ago. I've said before and today I know it's really true:
I'm doing it for her, that younger me who so loved Mr. Spock.
Days Like These
A couple months ago I posted a link to this music video: "Days Like These" by the Australian band, The Cat Empire. I said I wanted a summer like they're singing about. This week, astonishingly, I have soaked in that feeling. I seem to recall it's happiness.
Oh, and I want to say thank you to everyone who wrote and e-mailed me here in Las Vegas. I really felt loved and not lonely at all, as a stranger in this strange land.
And I will leave you with that.