Aiming For the Stars

It's my father's DNA that gave me my wanderlust, music, absolute pitch, humor, love of solitude, interest in space, curiosity about the paranormal, and my capacity and need for gemülichkeit.

He taught me so much when I was a kid. He was an inventor and he had me building my first crystal radio when I was 9 years old for a science project at school. Always patient, slow, and easy-going, he was fun to learn from, and I swear he knew absolutely everything...

One of the things Dad built after we moved to Solvang was a telescope that looked nearly identical to the one in this picture, except that his was spray painted a matte black. He made it from a cardboard tube and I remember that its seams were secured with black electrical tape. Everything broken was mended with electrical tape in our house in the years before duct tape was introduced.

One night, he took me outside to the corner our house sat on, and set up his telescope. I think I was eight, so being outside on a full moon night was exciting enough, but Dad started showing me things through it, things I'd never seen before: the craters on the moon, Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter. He pointed out the constellations and the Pleiades (which he called The Seven Sisters). He patiently explained what I was looking at, and from that night on my eyes have been turned to the stars. My bedroom was on the front of the house, and I remember looking out my window as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep at night. Sure, he'd whetted my interest and curiosity, but more, he got me looking up and wondering where the hell I was. This ignited other inner questions: "Who am I, where am I, and where, exactly, is 'here'?" Dad was, in a word, my Merlin, my Gandalf. He initiated me into the quest for life's deeper meanings.

My father's love of science spilled over into a love for Sci-Fi, and the Saturday nights when he didn't have a gig to play, I was allowed to stay up with him to watch Chiller (a program on an L.A. station that played Sci-Fi and monster movies), eating licorice and drinking root beer, a tradition we continued until I grew up and moved into my own place. We loved Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and One Step Beyond, and we often sat up talking late into the night about the so-called supernatural. But it all began on that corner of Alisal Road and Laurel Avenue. Here's a picture of that corner. When we lived there so many years ago, there was a picket fence and no shrubberies, and the telescope was set up about where the corner of the fence is.

When I was a kid, I thought the Pleiades looked like a champagne glass, and to this day I call it, "Marilyn Monroe's Champagne Glass".