Thursday, July 19, 2012

Watching the Moon Disappear

A full lunar eclipse was forecast. I planned to make my way to Chicago's lake front park to witness the event, perhaps hitting gay bars afterward to celebrate in true pagan fashion. At the time I was living in a neighborhood that was largely Latino. A smattering of young bohemian types, my personal genre at the time, shared the area with them due to the low rents there. I called a cab to transport me to my desired viewing spot.

The eclipse occurred on the same night as Puerto Rican Independence Day and my neighborhood was in full celebration mode. At the first corner we came to one of the revelers decided to mount the hood of the taxi. Honking furiously, the driver managed to get him to dismount and we continued to the lake without further incident. I paid the driver, got out and made my way through the park. I found a tree which provided a comfortable back support and splendid view of the upcoming celestial spectacle. Shortly a shadow began to move across the moon obscuring it bit by bit. It began in the lower right hand corner and slowly crept up to it's upper left until it appeared as a black spot in the sky sporting a glowing edge. I was somewhat surprised at what transpired next. I had assumed that the portion of the moon that disappeared first would also reappear first. What actually happens is that  the shadow slides back across the moon in the opposite direction from which it came. The first part of the moon to reappear was the upper left hand corner. Eventually the shadow receded completely and the full moon returned to lighting the night sky.

Several years later my fortunes had changed. Me and my partner then lived on the 7th floor of a 28 story highrise. Another eclipse is forecast and the night promises to be clear and cloudless affording us an excellent view of the phenomenon. We invited several friends to join us on our building's rooftop to witness the event. Our guests gathered at our apartment. The evening was rather cold. After putting on our hats, gloves, scarfs and winter coats we headed upstairs. There was a party atmosphere as we walked out on the deck. Several of our neighbors in the building, some with binoculars, had also decided to watch the special moment from the deck.  The excess heat from the building was released through large vents mounted under eaves which extended from the decks "penthouse" entrance. The warm air flowing down from them had earned them the nickname "the hair dryers". We and our fellow rooftop revelers would duck under them to warm up waiting for the heavens to begin their show. I explained to my partner's boss the mechanics of the eclipse as it began. We all stood gazing at the corona surrounding the black hole in the night sky as the eclipse reached it's apex. We were silent, almost reverent in our attitude. As the moon began to reappear the party mood returned. Photos from the evening show us sitting, lined up under the "hair dryers", passing bottles of liquor encased in paper bags back and forth. Viewing the photos some said we resembled upscale homeless people.

The last eclipse occurred on a deeply frigid winter night. It would be the last one visible for a number of years. My partner and I now lived in our present apartment, 2 blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan. Donning layer upon layer we walked to the lake looking like lumbering Michelin men. We sat on a bench. My partner pulled a blanket from his backpack and we  wrapped it around us. We sat, silent and alone, the only one ones on the shore that night watching the show in the sky reflected off the near frozen water of the lake.  


  1. that is a lovely story; thank you for sharing it.

  2. You're a good writer J. This post is very atmospheric.

    As a side note, why were the bottles in paper bags while on your roof? I thought that was something one did to avoid arrest when drinking on the street....I've heard. Never done it myself, of course, but I have seen it as I rushed past on my way to a museum, prayer meeting or New Age bookstore.