I remember as a young child growing up in southern California the excitement summer always brought. Going to the beach from "the Valley" (yes, I'm an original Valley Girl) was always a highlight. We'd all pack into mom's Corvair and drive over Topanga Canyon to Santa Monica State Beach . Back in those days, you could actually find a real sand dollar if you looked around. And I vaguely remember going to POP (Pacific Ocean Park, a local amusement park featuring a wooden roller coaster, for the uninitiated) when I was about 4 or 5. A couple of weeks ago, I happened through Santa Monica on my way to visit a friend in Topanga Canyon and the McClure tunnel & pedestrian walkway over PCH to the beach with it's circular stairs is probably what set me off on this trip down memory lane. Somehow those stairs seemed much bigger back then.
Anyway, Mom had a friend that had a telescope and we would go over to Mary's house on warm summer nights and watch the summer sky. We'd lay in the grass on our backs and look into the sky and see the usual things like an occasional shooting star and identify the constellations but nothing brought more excitement than when we'd see the Mercury (or was it the Gemini) space capsule racing across the sky. We'd take turns looking through the telescope and ohhh & ahhh and wonder about the brave man in the tiny capsuel orbiting the Earth. We all got a turn to look through the telescope and because it came around every hour or so, no one missed seeing it. Sometimes we roasted marshmallows and sang songs and we always made an evening of it. The best nights were during August when the Perseids Meteor Shower sent so many shooting stars across the sky we'd get dizzy counting them all. The City lights weren't as bright back then and the show was always a crowd pleaser. These days, I go out in front of my house and squint at the night sky, looking for the elusive shooting star. Last year I saw several in an hours' time, but not like when I was a kid. It's August already and I'll be out there again this year on the 12th looking in the northeast sky for shooting stars. And I just may take a ride up the Ortega to get away from the city lights.