50 Years Ago: My Memories of The Moon Landing

I remember it was a warm night on July 20, 1969. Our family was invited to watch the moon landing at the Hackson’s house. They were our good friends down the street. It was a fairly regular occurrence to visit each other’s house on a nearly weekly basis. I guess it was their turn to be hosts. (And if my parents drank too much, it was a short stumble home. I digress.) I was 13 at the time and was really caught up in the drama of watching a man take his first steps on the lunar surface. Even before that historic day, I was an avid NASA follower. I made sure my dad would wake me up to watch all of the Cape Canaveral launches which was usually around 5am. From the early John Glenn Mercury mission to the Gemini program right through to the Apollo missions I would be glued to the TV set. (Black & White.) I’d also have to watch every splash down when the men returned to earth. We had a subscription to Life Magazine which had phenomenal pictures of each momentous occasion. I wasn’t caught up in the political side of what was the space race against the Russians and the Kennedy challenge of getting a man to the moon and back before the end of the decade. I just loved the idea of astronauts going into space, doing their space walks and actually walking on the moon. (Maybe it was my Fireball XL5 influence. Google that.) I loved each triumph along the way and felt incredible anguish when things went horribly wrong like when 3 men lost their lives in a pre-launch test in 1967. The command module caught fire and they had no way to escape. I still remember the Life magazine photo not only for the grim reminder that there are risks in achieving a difficult feat but for how eerie it was to see the charred interior yet there was a paper notepad that did not burn.

1920px-Apollo_1_fire

Back to the moon landing. I read as much as I could about the entire mission and absorbed as much information as Walter Cronkite could provide. I knew the Lunar Module was called The Eagle, the Command Module was the Columbia. I knew what maneuvers were going to take place and I knew each astronauts name and I knew they were going to land on the Sea of Tranquility. What I didn’t know for sure was if they were going to be able to safely complete the mission. So I was pretty anxious. Of course during the course of the descent to the surface there were the obligatory cheese jokes, questions of whether or not there was an actual man in the moon along with wondering if Neil Armstrong’s first words were going to be, “Hey Buzz, I can see your house from here.”

While it was an amazing moment when we heard that “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” statement, I remember thinking that I wish the quality of the picture was better. (Maybe it was just the TV we were watching.) Although what was I expecting? They were millions of miles away and we were actually getting images you could recognize. It was a pretty remarkable night. As it turned out there was no cheese in the moon, no aliens showed up and of course, the mission was a huge success.

I often wonder about the other astronauts who made it to the moon and received very little acclaim compared to Armstrong. Without googling, how many of the other 10 who walked on the moon can you name? Can you name the last guy on the moon and did he turn the stove off before he left? (It was Eugene Cernan and they didn’t have a stove.) Human nature is funny. The world watched the first mission intently but by the time Apollo 17 was wrapping up NASA’s final mission, sadly it wasn’t that big of a deal. There was that Apollo 13 thing in there when we paid attention but for the most part, interest had waned.

Still, the moon landing is one of those “where were you when” moments and I can still vividly recall where I was and how exciting it turned out to be.

I never thought for a moment that I would have the opportunity to meet any NASA astronauts let alone the second guy to ever to walk on the moon. But when Buzz Aldrin came to town a few years ago as part of the Greatness In Leadership event, I was in on the media scrum that talked to him. Here’s that interview:

https://youtu.be/aMGngGnJz3Q

After that interview I had the amazing opportunity to have a quiet one on one with Buzz that wasn’t recorded. I really enjoyed that because he wasn’t getting bombarded with questions and he was more at ease. I will always remember that.

And now…on to Mars.

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A Look At The Wide Skies Festival

The 3rd Annual Wide Skies Festival is coming up at the end of the month. Here’s a little taste of what you can expect and a few other thoughts from organizer Mike Spencer of the renowned Geomatic Attic.

What first inspired you to have a Wide Skies Festival?

To bring top quality touring musicians to Downtown Lethbridge.

For a high impact/ small footprint musical and arts event

When did you discover that you have such a love of music?

From buying my first Elton John record in about 1972

What’s new for 2019?

On night one A Songwriters Circle in Southminster Church is a collaborative evening showcasing the talents all of the main stage performers from the outdoor street concert. New also is the second night of outdoor music, July 31 at our Casa Stage at Rotary Square plus 2 new art initiatives (Urban Projection by Eric Dyck and Duelling Doors, curated by Jane Edmundson and Tyler Stewart)

Name each artist and give one sentence that best describes what they bring to the festival.

-Harry Manx……….Mystical blues music with distinct flavor of India

-Cousin Harley……High energy, Rockabilly featured one of North America’s great guitarists, Paul Pigat

-Danny Michel……solo performer who plays like a whole band and features a wide variety of musical styles

-Carmanah………..atmospheric folk rock band with environmental sensibilities

-Sofia Viola………..energetic Argentinian folk singer and multi- instrumentalist

-Steve Marriner………frontman for Juno Award winning blues band MonkeyJunk. One of Canada’s very best harp players.

For anyone who has never been to the festival, give us a sense of the vibe it creates.

The first night features a free street festival and the energy created by the music and 1500 engaged audience members is very special

Talk about the teamwork it takes to create a festival like this.

Our volunteer team is 30 strong on the festival nights and a core leadership group of about 8.

Is there anything this year that you are personally really looking forward to?

-I have seen all of the performers live except Sofia Viola and the band Carmanah. Both are young and up and coming talents              –

Do you see this festival getting bigger or do you like the size it’s at right now?

We have had interest from potential promoters who would like to help make this a bigger event that might have a large fundraising component. That is a very exciting opportunity but I do like the way the festival has its own unique identity.

What’s the best way to get tickets?

At http://www.geomaticattic.ca or http://www.wideskiesmusicfest.org or at The Yellow Door, #1117 – 3rd Avenue South or here at The Geomatic Attic, #70 -491 W. T. Hill Blvd. South

Final thoughts?

Two Things:

– I encourage all attendees to consider getting to the festival evenings on foot, by bike or public transit

-I ask everyone to embrace the free street festival (5pm to 10pm Tuesday, July 30) but also consider buying a festival passes or individual tickets for the 2 paid shows, The Songwriters Circle (10:30pm to midnight, July 30) and the Casa Stage at Rotary Square (7pm to 10pm, July 31)

Japanese Gardens 52nd Anniversary

This July marks the 52nd anniversary of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens here in Lethbridge. I was doing some reflecting and I vividly recall Prince & Princess Takamatsu of Japan visiting our city for the grand opening in 1967. I would have been 11 at the time and their presence made an impact on me. Maybe it was because they actually drove past my house on 5th Avenue South. I think they were going to an event at the Civic Centre which was a couple of blocks away. For me the excitement I felt was like seeing the Queen of England. I’m pretty sure she waved especially for me.

I remember visiting the Gardens as a kid and thinking it was a pretty cool place to have in our city with the Pagoda, the ponds and of course the Friendship Bell.

Like many Lethbridge residents, it took a long time for me to visit the Gardens again. I was fortunate enough to start doing Scene & Heard on Global and we would to a segment there at least once or twice a year for a good 15 years. I never got tired of going there during that time and thought, “Why didn’t I come here more often?”

Every time we would do a story and just hang around for a bit I could feel whatever tension I had go away. And there were a couple of years we saw some turtles in the pond which I understand is good luck.

It truly is a world class place to visit and while I don’t necessarily recommend it’s a place to take your toddlers, anyone who needs a little serenity in this hectic world we live in will appreciate the time they spend there.

I really enjoyed the small ceremony last week featuring a beautiful Japanese dancer and it was nice to have the Associate Consul General of Japan remark how remarkable the Gardens are. It reminded me that I’ve got to make a few more visits before the fall comes.

Japanesedancer

Maybe there’ll be another turtle.

Cool Cars, Interesting People With Dan Niehaus

It’s been almost 20 years since Dan Niehaus took a dream job working as a coach for the Cirque Du Soleil show Mystere in Las Vegas. Dan worked for many years at West Wind Gymnastics here in Lethbridge and was thrilled to get the call. I was working at Global TV at the time when we started our Scene & Heard show. I thought it would be a good idea to take the show on the road to do a feature on Dan. And while we were there we should also do a feature on Wayne Newton since his best friend is Gary Kirk also of Lethbridge. I thought it would never happen. But after about a year of making phone calls and figuring out people’s schedules and getting some deals on flights and accommodations it actually happened. We got wonderful cooperation from Wayne’s management team and the staff at the Stardust Hotel where Wayne was performing really helped us out as well.

Down the road at Treasure Island the Cirque People were incredibly kind to us as well. We were given tickets to the performance of Mystere just to get a sense of what they do (I had never seen a Cirque show before) and then we were given permission to film the entire show the next night. In between we did a feature with Dan following him around backstage along with the remarkable athletes who make up the show. It was a great experience.

Flash forward to 2019 and Dan continues to work with Cirque. Dan still comes back to Lethbridge to visit family and so I asked if he’d be up for doing a Cool Cars, Interesting People show with us for a 20-year update. To my delight, he said yes. That happened just after Canada Day. Dan is a great interview and shared what his life is like living in Sin City, the new show he’s working on, how exciting it was to have the Las Vegas Knights in his back yard and he reflected back on the tragic shooting that took place across from Mandalay Bay.

We got a great truck from a great supporter of the show, Neil G. It’s beautiful honking big Longhorn truck from Northside Lethbridge Dodge. I’m not a big truck guy but I have to say this one was the nicest pick-up I’ve ever been in.

Trivia: Dan was part of a trio who actually greetergrammered me on my birthday at what was then the Beefeater. No one else has ever done that.

So grab a Williwa and have a listen to this Cool Cars, Interesting People episode

http://www.coolcarsinterestingpeople.com

Being A Senior, Good Friends, Some Vegas Talk

I was reading about a senior being assaulted on Dieppe Blvd. last week. When I think senior, I assume it’s someone in their 80s or 90s. This person (who thankfully was not injured severely) was apparently 64. That threw me off because I will be 64 this December and I still can’t wrap my head around the idea that I’m actually a senior and I can take advantage of 55 plus offers on a Denny Menu. Other than the arthritis in my knees I still think I’m 35 could outrun anyone if I had to.

Most of my adult life I have weighed in around 170-180 pounds. Whenever I felt that I was gaining a few pounds I would just add in another 3-mile jog to my schedule and the extra pounds would be gone. In my 50s I had two hip replacements and I was told I’d have to “change my lifestyle.” No more jogging and no more playing squash or hockey. Last week I stepped onto the scale and to my shock I’m at 220 pounds. I’m only 5’7” and shrinking so to be carrying around an extra 40 pounds or so is disturbing. It explains why I’ve been avoiding putting on shoes that need to be tied so I don’t have to bend over my fat mid-section. So the challenge is on. Less food portions, less carbs, a little more walking and more weight training at the gym. My first goal is to get below 200 pounds. It’s just wrong to weigh that much.

Speaking of the gym, I was at the Lethbridge College last week when I saw a guy dressed in full fireman gear step onto a treadmill. I’ve been going to the gym for over 40 years and have never seen anyone do that before. I felt like I was in a weird David Lynch movie. I had to take a picture and document it for eternity.

fireman

You know you have true friends when you don’t see them for a long time and when you do meet up with them, you don’t miss a beat. My dad’s best man in 1950 was Norm Cullen. They met in Lethbridge and became great friends. Norm eventually moved out to Cranbrook where he had 7 kids. It was our family tradition to visit the Cullens every Thanksgiving. Two of the boys, Burke & Tom were the same age as my brother and me so we hung around the most during our visits. We have kept in touch all these years, in fact Tom & I went on a 6-month trip to Australia together back in 1978. One of the traditions of the Campbell-Cullen gatherings was to gather around a piano for a little song-song. That tradition continued last week when we belted out some Beatles, Bee Gees and good old barbershop songs. And it’s a small world. I was asking Burke about his daughter. He said she was getting her English PhD at Oxford University. I said, “Where did she get her Masters?” He said, “Queens.” I said, “Was one of her profs Rob Morrison?”

He was. Rob is from Lethbridge and a good friend and apparently gave Burke’s daughter a glowing reference. (Rob, by the way also got a PhD from Oxford.) Indeed a small world.

A friendship like ours is rare and I truly cherish it. I “made” the pizza, they brought the beer. It was magic.

tomburke

Another friend who I went to school with since Grade One is Curt Lizzi. He has moved to Houston Texas and was in town for a couple of days. It’s remarkable that I’ve known him for almost 60 years and it’s still easy to talk to him. We can never take for granted our friendships.

curt

I was on a CCHS Facebook page where people were talking about their time at CCH and I made the comment that our drama teacher Gloria Benz allowed us to watch the Canada-Russia final game in her classroom back in 1972. I wondered where Gloria was and I was informed that she had passed away. I was saddened to hear that. She was a fun teacher. My little Canada-Russia trivia that I like to share. I sat beside Kathy Opyr when Paul Henderson scored that famous goal. She went on to marry Darcy Regier who was a Lethbridge Bronco and later became GM of the Buffalo Sabres.

Another friend from Lethbridge is Dan Niehaus. Dan coached at Westwind Gymnastics for many years before getting a dream job working for Cirque Du Soleil in Vegas. Our Global TV Scene & Heard crew went down to Vegas to do a segment backstage and on stage with Mystere at Treasure Island. We also went backstage with Wayne Newton who is best friends with Gary Kirk of Lethbridge. (Again, small world.) That was almost 20 years ago. Dan has since helped create the Love show at the Mirage and just came back from Montreal where he was helping create a new show that will replace Criss Angel at Mandalay Bay this fall. He came back to visit his folks last week and we used it as an opportunity to do a Cool Cars, Interesting People episode with him. I really enjoyed the interview. Find out about what life is like in Vegas, the impact of the Vegas Knights and where he was on the night of the shooting tragedy from a couple of years ago. I really loved the truck we got for him from Neil G. at Northside Dodge. Without me asking, Dan said how he still loved coming back to Lethbridge and what a great city it was and still is. Find out more soon on our website, www.coolcarsinterestingpeople.com

danniehous

So Kawhi Leonard is leaving Toronto to play for the Clippers. While I’m disappointed he couldn’t stay for a few more years in Raptorland it seems it’s more important for him to be back in his home town and I can respect that. He was going to make a ton of money no matter where he played so when you hold all the cards, you may as well make it what you want. I think of the many times in my career where I was told what I want. The old line: “Mark, come into my office,” is never a good thing. So power to him.

kawhi

I was sad to see that Arte Johnson of Laugh-In fame died. I loved that show. He had some of my favorite characters…”Verrrry interesting.” He’s also the answer on a lot of crossword puzzles.

Until next time….

That Word

Let’s be clear. I have used the F-word. I have used the F-word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb and any combination that you can think of. It is part of my vocabulary. It all started when I learned golf. I was such a good altar boy but when you put 10 consecutive balls into the rough your curse word repertoire tends to expand from the innocent, “Oh darn it all anyway.”

I played hockey for most of my life and any dressing room I’ve been in has been filled with expletive deletives.  The squash court has turned a shade of red from embarrassment when I missed a simple drop shot and I yelled at the tin for being so high. The F-word is certainly part of my normal conversation among my friends.

Having said that, I find that there are times when I become uncomfortable when the word pops up. Case in point: I was recently in Las Vegas and I sat down at a Black Jack table. There was a young couple who were probably in their early 20s. They were either married or dating. The dealer was a woman. We were in a shuffle break when I sat down and the guy started talking about how he was at another table “When the f-n dealer kept pulling out an f-n Ace and had 4 f-n Black Jacks in a row. It was f-n ridiculous.”

Again, I’ve heard this type of compounded f-word sentence once or twice in my life but there was something about hearing the profane-laced diatribe in this context that was disturbing. I didn’t know this guy, he didn’t know me and for him to assume that I was O.K. with his choice of language didn’t feel right.

Mabey I’ve just become an old guy. I still don’t like to swear in front of women or strangers. I find it disrespectful. The f-bomb has become as common as saying the word like. For me it also becomes a sign of ignorance. Surely there are other words that can be used to convey a feeling especially when we haven’t gone through the emotion of losing 10 hands in a row. Let’s get to know each other’s misery before we get to our lowest common denominator.

I’m probably being hypocritical here when I say I’m both bothered and entertained when rock stars come out and F-bomb an audience or when comedians use it in every sentence. I recently saw Jay Leno do his stand-up without using any profanity. Then I saw Tim Allen and it was kind of shocking. They were both really funny yet I admit to perhaps laughing a little more at Tim than Jay.

Younger kids seem to have no issues using the F-word in any situation. They are immune to being offended by it. I was discreet during my language evolution.

More hypocrisy on my part: I hate watching a movie that has cleaned up the language for TV like when Bruce Willis says “Yipee Ki Yay, Mr. Falcon” in Die Hard.

My point is, we don’t always have to use the word and maybe we should expand our vocabulary a little (myself included) to express ourselves. Know your audience too. At least I think that’s my point.

The Blues, Raptors, Jays, Bulls

When I first started my Blog a number of years ago I did it hoping to discipline myself to continue writing. I had the perhaps unrealistic goal of trying to compose something new every day whether it be to comment on an event, recount a story, tell a few jokes or to interview someone. It is also in some strange way a form of therapy for me. There is a kind of satisfaction in getting something posted that is of some substance. (That, of course is debatable among my throng of readers. I’m hoping to break 10 this year.) While I can’t say I’ve been writing something every day I’ve been fairly consistent in updating it on at least a weekly basis. I hate going to a site only to find out that the material is about 3 weeks old. I’ve been slacking off lately and that’s going to stop right now. So….as the name of the blog implies…Here’s a few random thoughts:

I love that the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history. I remember when they first came into the league in 1967 and the Blues fans went nuts for them giving them standing ovations every time they came on the ice. It is a storied franchise that never got the big prize. And there was some local history: John Davidson who played for the Lethbridge Sugar Kings was drafted by St. Louis and became their president. Brian Sutter who played with the Lethbridge Broncos had a remarkable career with the Blues. Former Hurricane Bryce Salvador is another name that pops into my mind. I also love that there were 19 Canadians on the team. There’s something about the heart of a Canadian that helps to win championships. I have to say that while I normally hate watching all the post-game interviews Scott Oake does a great job of getting some emotional responses from the players. (Other than Jay Bouwmeester…he’s just wired differently.)There were some great stories among those Blues players and the team itself. And I will always love an underdog story. I’m not sure I get the whole Laura Branigan Gloria thing but hey, whatever works for ya.

It was also incredible to see a country come together to cheer on the Toronto Raptors. While there will always be an anti-Toronto sentiment among some sectors of our population it was remarkable to watch Kawhi Leonard take the team on his shoulders and say, “We’re going to win this thing.” (I had to google Kawhi to make sure I spelled his name right.) And love him or hate him, you can’t buy the kind of publicity that Drake gave the team.

O.K. Leafs, what’s up your sleeve?

Happy to see that Dylan Cozens became the highest drafted Lethbridge Hurricane in history. Sorry you’re going to Buffalo Dylan. That’s just a cheap joke. Anytime you get drafted into the NHL, that is an incredible accomplishment. And I still think back to when Eric Lindros was drafted by Quebec and he refused to put on the jersey. No matter how great you were in junior you still have to prove yourself in the NHL and, in my opinion you shouldn’t be able to call the shots when you have yet to play one minute in the best league in the world. (He did prove himself, but he never won a cup. The hockey gods were on that one.)

The Blue Jays are having a tough season but I’m really optimistic about their future. Vlad is the real deal as is Cavin Biggio. I love that the organization is giving their young guys an opportunity to hone their craft right now in the big leagues. Think about where Houston was before they won their World Series. I see a lot of similarities. It’s also interesting to see the talk of Tampa playing some games in Montreal. Hmmm. I would love to see a franchise in Montreal again. I still have my Expo hat.

I’m hoping the Lethbridge Bulls can have a winning season this year and knock off those pesky Okotokians. I enjoyed my year with the organization and there are a lot of great kids on the team. The stadium is looking great as well.

It’s funny, I’m going to be 64 but I still think that I can run as fast as when I was 34. I tried to turn back time at the 1-minue pick-up basketball game we had at the opening of the ATB centre. My body and I had a major disagreement about what kind of condition I was in. Sigh.

Till next time.