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Food. Moon.

Successfully, I treated myself last night. Yes, this is true (even if the sentence structure was odd).

First there was food, at a cool place...

Away from OHSU early, riding a bus to the stop near the east-west Max lines (going to have to start distinguishing them downtown, with the north-south line going in now) and then west-ish to a source of good burgers downtown, the Virginia Cafe right behind Nordstrom. I had a Cajun Jack Burger with a cup of tortilla soup on the side; about the perfect amount of food at that moment.

While waiting for my meal, I alternated between reading, doing a crossword, and soaking up the ambiance of the place, with its several decades of smoke and drama permeating the wood fixtures. The bar is losing its lease -- a developer's planning a tower on that block -- so the owners are preparing to move to the old Willamette Week building across from the downtown library. Furnishings and fixtures will move along with the restaurant, and along with them -- I hope -- at least some of said ambiance.

And after dinner: a movie, In the Shadow of the Moon...

I walked the multiple blocks from downtown to NW 21st (a.k.a. "Trendy-First"), so I'd exert away at least some of those burger calories before sitting in Cinema 21 with a Dr. Pepper and Skittles, waiting for the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon (and here's the official site).

Several of the surviving Apollo astronauts reminisce about their training and their travels to that big gray ball that's near us, celestially speaking. The Apollo astronauts who are still alive are now grandfather age, and each of them has a hell of a story for his grandchildren (and, collectively, us): how they all felt about making history, how the mission affected them, and how they related to each other. (Several tease "Buzz" Aldrin over his obsession with getting spacecraft to dock, to the point they nicknamed him "Captain Rendezvous." That's kind of endearingly dorky.) And they tell their stories with directness, humor, and feeling: Michal Collins actually rather enjoyed orbiting the Moon by himself, and was amused that someone called him "the loneliest man in the universe" because of that job. They all voice admiration of Neil Armstrong (who didn't participate in the film) and how utterly inflappable he was; you get the sense they all agree Armstrong was the perfect choice to be the first person to walk on the moon. And two of them, with a somewhat well-I'm-glad-it-didn't-come-to-this tone, read from the speech prepared for then-President Nixon in the event that Apollo 11 failed, stranding Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon.

For some of them, the mission was a religious experience. One of them (I'm blanking on his name; sorry) talks about his journey towards Christ; he applied a scientist's approach to the question of Why are we here? Why is the universe the way it is? And his logic led him to his faith. It's a beautiful story, one that even a relatively agnostic person like myself can appreciate. And it's true of many scientists; they don't believe that science and faith are irreconcilable. I'm glad the story is there in the film.

And, of course, there's the moon footage, much of it unearthed from NASA archives and not seen until now. And I was reminded again and again of how beautiful the moon is in its (as Aldrin put it) "magnificent desolation."

In the Shadow of the Moon: a nice reminder of the bigger things humanity can do. When it comes to the filmed story of Apollo, I still am most fond of the film For All Mankind (1989), which took more of a tone poem approach to the Apollo program; footage from all of the Apollo shots were edited together into what looks like a single mission, set to a score by Brian Eno. Plus I saw For All Mankind under the special circumstances of an Imax screening at the National Air and Space Museum. But I'm always up for stories of Apollo, and so In the Shadow of the Moon was an appreciated event.