Some of my friends are highly educated and intellectual. They enjoy activities like going to lectures at the local university. For some time, they have talked excitedly about going to a “Star Party.” In the interest of keeping up with the Jones’, and possibly even learning something new, my guy and I decided to join them.
When I was a college student at this particular university back in the Dark Ages, there was no new Science Building. In fact the campus has changed so much that there is scarcely anything that I recognize any more. But we put the address in the GPS and figured we would find the place.
We barely had time to make it there after Honey got home from work, so he hurried and rushed around… No. Actually, he walked the dog and checked email. “We need to leave!” I insisted. Rush hour traffic in the suburbs is worse than in the city. I had visions of walking into a large lecture hall late and all eyes turning to look at us.
Once on the way, I insisted, “Don’t listen to the GPS. I know a short cut.” Famous last words in most cases, but in this particular instance, I actually did know a short cut. After commuting to campus for years, I had tried every route on the map. I might not know the campus layout, but I did know the way to the main gate and that had not changed.
Once there, we drove around the campus, but it was dark and nothing looked familiar. Scary when something once so familiar has totally changed. Finally, we gave up, but as we were leaving, we spotted some of our friends arriving. We made a quick U-turn and followed them to the parking lot.
Now a “Star Party” sounds like a fun thing. Think Hollywood. Think movie stars. Think country music stars, which are plentiful in this area. But these were not that kind of stars; they were the heavenly bodies found in the night sky – astronomical stars.
We were given maps of the evening sky in the northern hemisphere with tiny specks representing stars and lines from one star to another, showing the outline of constellations representing pictures like a hunter with dogs, the big dipper, or mythological twins. I’ve never been able to see those patterns myself, so I was doomed right from the beginning.
The lecture was about planets and their orbits around the sun, when they are closest, and in which direction they are facing. The focus was supposed to be a ninth planet they believe they have discovered, since Pluto has been officially expelled from the planet family.
Unless you are into astronomy or astrology, I didn’t see any particular need to know all this information. I politely tried to stay awake, wondering if it would be rude to take out my cell phone. The professor droned on and on about galaxies, planets, and celestial objects. He recommended going to a dark location to star gaze. I’m not sure how we would use the printed star map in the dark.
“What time is it?” I whispered to Honey. The forty-five minutes was up. When I was in college and a professor went past the time a lecture was supposed to be over, the class got up and walked out. I was sorely tempted.
Finally, the lecturer quit talking and invited us to freeze to death outside while looking through a telescope. Our friends passed on this and I found out the actual reason for attending the star party – beer and pizza. We adjourned to the Mellow Mushroom and proceeded to have the real party.
You don’t suppose my intellectual friends were as bored as I was and were only looking for a sophisticated excuse to party?