Thursday, June 20, 2002

My day started of with a boom. Two to be exact.

I was in the shower and around 10:30 AM, the house shook from two loud booms. I thought at first that Cathy and Reese had come home, then wondered if we'd had an earthquake. It frightened me and I turned off the water without conditioning my hair. Easy to manage locks would have to wait until next time. I wanted to make sure that someone wasn't trying to break into the house. I dried off, wrapped my towel around me and walked into my room. My radio was on, and the newscaster said excitedly, "Did you just hear two loud booms?"

I relaxed, as I knew what that meant, and the newscaster confirmed my thoughts. They were sonic booms from the Space Shuttle entering the atmosphere overhead. It's happened three or four times since I've been in Los Angeles, since the Space Shuttle lands at Edwards Air Force Base here in California a few miles to the North. The first time was six years ago and I was in this very room. The windows shook and the house rocked a little, and I clenched my covers close to my chin, ready to hold on for the earthquake. We'd been having several aftershocks since the Northridge quake that were pretty sizable, and I figured that I was in for some rocking from good old Mother Nature. However, the shaking was caused by a disturbance above our earth, not below it. It was the Space Shuttle causing all the ruckus.

Another time, about a year and a half ago, I was living in West Hollywood and thought someone was working on the rooftop. It sounded as if someone had dropped an anvil on the roof above me and was so loud that I flinched, expecting something to fall through. I went outside to see what was going on, and there was nothing. Once again, our Shuttle was landing.

One of the freakiest things to happen from the base, I witnessed in the parking lot of my grocery store in the Hollywood Hills. I'd just exited my car and happened to look north at the sky, just at the right time. The sight stopped me in my tracks as well as several other shoppers who were in the parking lot. We all stood there like the crew witnessing the mother ship land in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a large thick streak of light, almost as if a comet had launched from the earth, and it was speeding upward. Several expletives emitted from the people standing behind me, and unbeknownst to me I was blocking a man from parking in a space. Once he saw what we were all looking at, he put it in park and stepped out of his car.

"What is it?" I asked, wondering if Armageddon was in progress.
"Fuck if I know," the man who had just stepped out of a $70,000 BMW said back to me, his eyes not moving from the sky.

And then, a much smaller light made its way toward the comet, and a second later it exploded in an enormous, beautiful and perfectly round orb of light. All of us in the parking lot took a couple of steps backward and watched it expand. It's trajectory had stopped and since the sun was setting, the ball reflected blues, oranges and pinks. It was frighteningly breathtaking.

"Son of a bitch," BMW man said and looked at his car. I was thinking what he was, whether we were going to have to get the hell out of Dodge, fast.

Then I remembered.

"Aren't they doing an anti-missile test or something?" I asked.
Another man who had stepped out of a '69 VW Bug said, "Yeah, I think they are testing something. I heard it on the news."
"So we aren't being nuked?" BMW man said.
"No, but if we ever are it will be one hell of a sight," I said.
"You got that right," BMW man said.

We then proceeded into the grocery store, our minds back to picking up Feta cheese, lunch meats, and toilet paper.

I later learned that the test had been unsuccessful, that the speck of light I'd seen had missed the target and that they had to detonate the missile over the water. However, a second test a few weeks later went off without a hitch. It still remains one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

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