There’s nothing like a natural phenomenon to get people all riled up. In case you haven’t heard, certain parts of the United States are going to experience a total solar eclipse on August 21st, and everyone around here is going bat shit crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, it is kind of exciting. It’s being billed as a “once in a lifetime” kind of thing. For various sciency reasons that I won’t get into here, (click here or here if you want to learn more), this hasn’t happened in the lower 48 states since 1979, and won’t happen again until 2024. But here’s the kicker – it will never be in the same place again.
And that place, this time, is pretty much right in my backyard. Well, that’s an exaggeration. My backyard is right near the edge of the 70-mile-wide path where the moon will travel, blocking out the sun for roughly 2 and a half spine tingling minutes.
Around here, this is big news. We’ve had our share of big news in the region, but for once the news doesn’t put us in a bad light. The state of Illinois is broke. We’ve gone years now without being able to pass a budget. And several of our past governors are doing, or have done time in prison. Belleville, Illinois, home of James T. Hogkinson – the nut job who shot at the congressmen’s baseball practice, is just one town over. Nearby Columbia, Illinois was where a psycho Chris Coleman murdered his wife and two sons, bringing crews from CBS’s 48 Hours to town. And Ferguson, Missouri is just across the Mississippi from here.
We’ve had our share of negative notoriety. It’s no wonder the news outlets are making the most of this story.
Every day there is another article in the newspaper meant to educate, excite, or terrify us. We’re being told “You Can’t Miss This!” but for God’s sake “Don’t Look at it!” In case you’re not aware, looking up at an eclipse can be as harmful as looking directly into the sun, so everyone is buying up solar eclipse glasses. Libraries were giving away free ones, but they ran out within a few days. Apparently, the stores are all out of stock as well. I caved and bought some from Amazon. They are on back order, but should arrive in time. I’m telling you – this is a big deal!
As if that weren’t stressful enough, they’re now reporting that some vendors are selling glasses that are not ISO certified. I forget exactly what ISO means, but without it your retinas will burst into flame and you will be blinded for life.
Local newscasters and journalists are trying their hardest to put their catastrophist spin on things. In addition to the counterfeit glasses scam, they’ve issued other warnings:
- Get to your viewing destination hours in advance and stay off the roads because a) you will be tempted to look up, which you shouldn’t do while driving, or b) other drivers will be tempted to look up and may hit you.
- But don’t pull to the side of the road because the drivers who are driving will be tempted to look up and will hit you.
- Your pets may become confused, and think it is nighttime. And what? They’ll lay down and go to sleep? Not sure why this would be something to watch out for, unless they decide to take their nap in the middle of the road where someone who is tempted to look up is driving.
The state of Missouri is closing non-essential state offices due to “traffic and parking concerns.” And several schools in the area have decided to close. They felt it was safer to have the kids stay home all day, rather than risk sending them home during the time where they might look up into the sky and become blind. I’m wondering… couldn’t this actually become, um, I don’t know, a science lesson for the kiddies? It might even prove safer, since the kids would be supervised. Based on the letters to the editor, I’m not alone in that thinking, but no one asked us.
An article in the paper today poked some fun at this “eclipse anxiety.” The writer mused that you’d think it was a solar apocalypse rather than a solar eclipse. They printed the list below that was posted on Massac County’s Facebook page. Massac County includes Metropolis, Illinois. I suspect Superman is shaking his head in shame and disbelief.
All this ridiculousness aside, I am getting excited about the event. We are sure to experience a partial eclipse at our house, but as everyone around here knows, it’s all about “TOTALITY,” baby.
One of the prime places to see the eclipse is about 90 miles away in Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University. NASA will be streaming live from there. The university and the town are hosting numerous events. Ozzy Osbourne will Bark at the Moon at a nearby winery. Towns all around the southern tip of the state are poised to enjoy their moment in the moon obscured sun.
They are predicting tens of thousands of visitors to the region. Hotels have been booked for weeks. If I may be so bold as to quote a recent post by James, a fellow blogger “It is a minor irritation that everywhere in the world that is worth visiting appears to attract lots of other people.” Which is precisely why Mr. Maid and I won’t be joining those throngs of visitors. Instead, our plan is like just about everything we do – low key. (When you’re done here, check out James’ blog. It’s a lot of fun.)
I haven’t talked about it before on this blog, but Mr. Maid is involved in the world of competitive pistol shooting. I’m from Chicago, where pistol shooters are less about the competition and more about the killing and maiming of other pistol shooters. It’s taken me years to come to grips with this hobby. I’ll never be entirely on board, but at least he doesn’t hunt. I have zero interest in hosing blood out of the back of the pickup truck and finding recipes and room in my freezer for Bambi’s mother. I’ll buy my meat at the grocery store on little squares of Styrofoam, thank you very much.
Anyhoo – I was going somewhere with this. He spends a lot of time at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois. It’s a 1600-acre site about 45 miles south of our home. It has plenty of wide open spaces, and is coincidentally along the path of totality. We plan to pack a picnic lunch, find ourselves a quiet hillside (where we hopefully won’t be mistaken for clay pigeons) and watch day turn to night.
Will you be near enough the path of the eclipse to experience it on August 21? If so, how do you plan to mark the occasion?