The Launch of Apollo 11 (from The Dream of spaceflight)

Poised on the launch pad and towering thirty-six stories against the stars, the Apollo-Saturn rocket seemed unearthly in the wash of floodlight, glowing icy silver-white, like the moon above it.  A half-million pilgrims had made their way to the mosquitoed marshlands of Florida's Merritt Island, … [Read more...]

Come Back, Shane! The National Nostalgia

[This appeared in the Southwest Review 98 (No. 1) 2013]   “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind.  It’s whatever you want it to be.”                                                                           … [Read more...]

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

It had been a dark and bitter year.  The war languished in Vietnam, students rioted around the globe, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, North Korea seized the USS Pueblo, a B-52 crashed carrying four hydrogen bombs, Chicago police battered demonstrators at the Democratic convention, Robert Kennedy … [Read more...]

The Nature of Nostalgia

  “The Atlantic Ocean was really somethin’ in those days.  Yes, you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”            ―Burt Lancaster as Lou, an aging ex-underworld figure sitting at a beachfront bar in Atlantic City.          After forty years, I rendezvous in a restaurant with a … [Read more...]

The Bomb

Leo Szilard had a dream.  As a boy in Budapest, reading H.G. Wells’ novel about a nuclear war that destroys most of Europe’s cities, he concluded that the world should be governed by a group of gifted scientists.  He envisioned the development of atomic energy as both a limitless power source and a … [Read more...]

The Best Year

Until the age of eight, I had always lived in the city, in old hotels and second-floor flats.  During the war we had moved around with my father until he was shipped overseas for the invasion of France.  When my mother died in the summer of ’44, my father was allowed to return, just missing the … [Read more...]

An American Epic: Gordon Moore and the Legacy of Fairchild

In 1939, Sheriff Walter Moore was the only law enforcement west of the mountains on the coast of San Mateo County.  Promoted that year, he moved with his wife, Mira, and three young sons from the small village of Pescadero to the county seat in Redwood City.  “The area was a bunch of small rural … [Read more...]

RoyRogers

He was born Leonard Franklin Slye in a Cincinnati tenement to a part Choctaw-Indian shoe-factory worker and his wife.  He grew up on a houseboat in Portsmouth, Ohio, and on a farm in rural Duck Run.  In 1930, the Slyes migrated to California in a ’23 Dodge, Grapes of Wrath style.  He drove a truck, … [Read more...]

Our Game

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.  America has rolled by like an army of steam rollers.  It has been erased like a blackboard and rebuilt, and erased again.  But baseball has marked the time.  This field, this game; it’s a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all … [Read more...]

The Romance of Extinction: Nuclear War Films

  Of all the contrived analyses that cling to science fiction films of the fifties—McCarthyist body snatchers, Russians from Mars, the Bomb in the guise of Godzilla—the most pervasive has been the anemic notion that viewers sublimated the Bomb as the stereotypical Victorians did sex.  The … [Read more...]