Archive for the ‘Wisconsin’ Category

Take Me Out to the Ball Park

Aug 31

As a fan of the Beautiful Game (that would be soccer), I am used to taking a lot of flack about how boring soccer really is.  My knee-jerk response is usually to insult baseball.  I’m still not convinced it should be called a sport, but I will readily admit to thoroughly enjoying it when watching it live, as I did at Miller Park, the home of Milwaukee Brewers.

It was the Dodgers in town that fine Wisconsin evening, and I was at full voice in support of the home side.  They may have been winning at one point, I’m not sure. I was distracted by the running of the sausages. A tradition since the early 1990s, 4 – presumably human beings – dressed as different types of sausage run around the outside of the field in a bid, much like all races, to see who wins. This event takes place at the bottom of the 6th inning at every home game. Predictably, I put my hypothetical money on the Italian. Predictably, the Italian did not win. However, each sausage imported him/her/itself with the dignity one would expect of such a delightfully entertaining tradition.

On this high, I felt much like Richie Cunningham must have when he left the beautiful city of Milwaukee to join the army: blessed to have been a part of it. They were indeed all Happy Days.

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Deke Slayton Memorial Bike & Space Museum

Aug 30

The only thing more exciting than learning more about one of the original astronauts, is stumbling upon a museum that is dedicated to one. In this case, it is of course, our good friend and previous post subject, Deke Slayton.  His hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin, hosts the museum that bears his name; and, for good measure, throws in the history of the bicycle, mankind’s other form of transportation that isn’t car or boat… or airplane.  Wisconsinites are not only good people, but efficient as well.

Though the museum was closed by the time we arrived, as luck would have it, one of the members of the Board of Directors – which had just concluded a meeting – noticed our out of country license plates.  He exuberantly made his way over to our car, directed us to park, and then insisted upon allowing us to tour the facilities.  As the rest of the Board was filtering out into the street, greeting us eagerly on their way, one woman agreed to stay behind and give us a personal tour.  Her first order of business: handing us a push-pin, and directing us to the map they had at the entrance, where all those who previously visited marked where they were from.  Approaching the map, we now fully understood their response to our arrival: we were the first Canadians to visit their museum.

The exhibits themselves were a treasure-trove of both the early history of Astronaut Slayton and NASA itself.  On display were photos of Slayton as a child, letters to him and from him,  and artwork made by and given to him by a Cosmonaut he had befriended on a joint space mission with the Soviet Union. Deke Slayton’s story did have a happy ending after all: He was finally given medical clearance and went aboard the Apollo Spacecraft in 1972.

Along our tour, we also learned our tour guide, a lovely woman named Joan, was a life-long Democrat who voted for McGovern, had a son attending school in the state capital Madison, knew Slayton’s sister-in-law (who was also a board member), and knew one other Canadian who was on her son’s baseball team (although he clearly was one of those lazy Canadians who never bothered to make it into the museum because we were there first!)

The original Mercury Seven space suit Deke Slayton wore was on display.  This was an impressive coup for the small-town museum, as it is only one of five original NASA suits remaining in the world. The Smithsonian has asked for it many times.  The answer is always no.

There was a moon rock, a scale which tells you what you weigh on the moon (I’m 20 pounds!* Sign me up for the next mission!), and Joan wanting to know if we had already made arrangement for accommodations because if not, she could help us. As the tour came to a close, we were handed postcards and other souvenirs of our visit. Our entrance fee was waived, but the experience would have been worth far more than the $3.00 usually required.  We made an appropriate donation instead.

This first encounter with the people of Wisconsin certainly left an indelible impression on us.  Not only would we enthusiastically recommend the museum to all who wished to broaden their knowledge of space (and bicycles), but Wisconsin is worth the trip just for the hospitality of the Wisconsinites themselves.

*Oh Mr. Obama. Why not continue exploration of the Moon?  Since matter weighs far less there, can’t we both satisfy our lust for discovery and exploration, while at the same time, eliminating our problem with obesity?  It’s this kind of connective thinking Obama’s administration needs.  I will be handing in my resume  – and strapping on my svelte space suit – post-haste.  Blasting off…

Deke Slayton

Aug 29

Deke Slayton was one of NASA’s original Mercury Seven Astronauts. The Mercury program(me) was designed to develop viable means for manned space travel. The ultimate goal? Landing on the Moon. We all know by now (or at least, we should know) that this goal* was achieved.  Yea!  Sadly for Deke Slayton, his goal was not realized.  The discovery of a heart murmur early on kept him grounded.

Not being one to feel sorry for himself for too long, Slayton went on to be an administrator at NASA, becoming Director of Flight Crew Operations.  He was the one responsible for choosing which astronauts were chosen for each of the proposed missions.  And, from reports, he was a hell of a nice guy.

Which leads me to my point: of course he was a nice guy!  He was from Wisconsin!

*The moon landing really happened.