Friday, June 22, 2012

Adventures in Space and Time

It must have been space science week here at Twin Rocks Trading Post, because we were visited by several people associated with that particular discipline.  My first encounter was with an elderly couple who wandered into the store.  As soon as they walked through the Kokopelli doors, the woman veered away from her partner and began cruising on her own.  Because of his jaunty attitude, the man immediately caught my attention.  He was seventy-something years of age with a full head of snowy white hair.  Perched low on his cherry-like nose was a pair of 1970s era, over-sized, rectangular eye glasses.  Sparkling mischievously, his bright blue eyes stared out over the silver wire rims.  The man strolled around the store with his hands stuffed into his hefty jeans pockets and began making pointed inquiries.
Navajo Sky People Story Basket - Peggy Black (#353)

First off, the old codger turned to me and questioned, "You live here?  Is this where you're from?"  "Born and raised," I replied with pride.  "Humph," he grumped, "It looks like a pile of rubble, rocks, sharp sticks and such."  Deciding not to bite on his bothersome bait, I said, "It is, that's why I like it."  "Humph," was his surly response.  Next he queried, "Is this stuff made by real Indians?"  "All right", I said, joking with the man, "so far you have insulted my home and business.  If you start in on my family, you are in for a brouhaha.  Why you wanna' be like that?"  Both people busted out laughing, and the woman said, "He's messing with you.  That's his curmudgeon character.  He was testing your sense of humor."  "Lucky for you it was me he picked to pester", I laughed.  I informed him there are several people in town who would have slapped a knot on his noodle after the first unkind comment.  "A kidney punch would have been the least of your worries," I told him.

The couple turned out to be aerospace engineers who designed and installed software for science, military and communication satellites, including deep space probes.  "You name it, we've built it", they said.  They told me "Mr. Curmudgeon" had worked for NASA, and was a casualty of Mr. Obama's budget cuts.  Consequently he was not a fan of our present President.  His wife was an independent contractor and still had work, so they combined their clever command of the craft and were now working as a team.  I was surprised to learn the couple was aware of the Navajo legends involving stars and the universe.  They were also familiar with the Navajo constellation concept.  They knew First Man and First Woman had made the sun and moon and hung them in the heavens with a spider web, and mentioned the interaction between First Man and Coyote during the creation of the heavens.  I was duly impressed and had a great visit with them.  Our meeting made me  wonder if the satellite software they designed was embedded with curmudgeon code.  Would that be the first interaction between the human race and extraterrestrial explorers?  If aliens had anger management issues similar to those of the local Bluffoons we all might wind-up as space dust.

A few days later a couple in their mid-sixties and their thirty-something daughter visited.  They were all German nationals.  Because communication is an essential element in our business, I am constantly on the look-out for conversation starters.  I noticed the older gentleman looked exceptionally fit, so I asked about his exercise routine.  Big mistake!  I got the extended version of exercise physiology, proper nutrition and necessary sleep patterns.  I did not have to say a thing for 20 solid minutes; I just listened.   Come to find out, he was a health nut who worked out seven days a week.  I discovered he was driving his wife and daughter crazy, because he constantly asked to be let out of the car to run, and would not stay the night anywhere that did not have a gym or pool.  Finally, I had a chance to speak with his daughter.  Noticing she wore a wedding ring, I asked about her husband.  She smiled sadly and said she had lost him to a new mistress.  Thinking I had stepped into a sticky situation, I tried to withdraw by attempting to drag dear old dad back into the conversation.  Suddenly I was no longer bored with his excessive exercise routines.

The little lady laughed at my discomfort and said, "You don't understand, let me explain."  She told me the name of the new mistress was "SOFIA."  I really did not want to go there, whether I understood or not.  At this point her dad lost interest and told his companions they could pick him up somewhere on the open road; he was going for a run.   His wife followed him out, clucking impatiently in German.   My new friend continued the explanation of her unfaithful man.  Trying to end the conversation, I commented that her fellow must be a fool to have left such an attractive and intelligent woman.  She laughed at my discomfort, thanked me for the compliment and explained that SOFIA is an acronym for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy; the largest airborne observatory in the world.  Its charge is to study the universe using infrared wavelengths, which are capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes.

Apparently SOFIA is an 80/20 partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, consisting of an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft which sports a reflecting telescope engineered with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches).  SOFIA is based at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, and flies most of its missions over the open ocean.  The water allows for better atmospheric conditions and less light pollution.  The young woman's husband is an astrophysicist assigned to the project and had to miss this vacation due to his demanding, but exciting, work schedule.

When the young woman finished her explanation, and I began feeling less anxious, I told her she might want to inform her man that he was missing out on essential elements of earthly entertainment.  Flying over the Pacific Ocean in a marvelous airship looking to the heavens through rose colored glasses must seem fundamental to the progress of mankind and extremely exciting to him.  It would be great to have a fabulous view of the heavens and be star-struck by what he sees, but he might also want to focus some of his attention on what grounds him.  Balance is always a good thing.  The German woman assured me she would tell her husband and SOFIA just that.  She said good-bye and went out the door to find her father and mother.

With warm regards,
Barry, and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

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Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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