Everyone has gone completely bat-guano eclipse cray cray.
While visiting family in Eugene, OR, a couple weeks ago, i noticed that the upcoming eclipse was getting a lot of attention. Temporary stands were going up selling Solar Eclipse 2017 schwag – everything from “I Saw Solar Eclipse 2017” t-shirts to water bottles to the oh-so haute couture, made in the USA, official eclipse “shades” which i suspect are just darkened recycled movie 3-D glasses.
Once we finish watching the eclipse, we can go see The Emojii Movie in 3D.
In a parallel-universe sort of way, Madras, Oregon became a hot spot for viewing the eclipse and suddenly the story of that sleepy-town was forever changed. The history of Madras goes something like this:
- Madras, OR began as a quiet little ranching/agricultural town with a population of 7,000 in central Oregon.
- It was incorporated in 1911 and served largely as an army base.
- The next notable thing that happened to Madras was in 2003, when Evil Corp/Scotts Company planted a trial field of weedkiller resistant bentgrass which accidentally pollinated and spread across 120 acres.
(The company was fined $500,000.)
- Then, on Aug 21, 2017, Madras experienced a total solar eclipse.
That’s pretty much the history of Madras, OR, according to Wikipedia, the Knower of All Things.
As a native Oregonian, i can pretty much corroborate that.
Really. Nothing much happens in Madras.
When 100,000 PEOPLE came to sleepy little Madras for “Solarfest 2017”, resulting in gridlock for hours and finally the calling in of the National Guard to help get these people MOOOOOOVING.
Suddenly, Madras was Woodstock and Burning Man and Coachella and the National Convention of the American Astronomical Society all rolled up in one. For one weekend, Madras was the fourth largest city in Oregon won themselves a fourth entry in the Wikipedia “History” section.
But meanwhile, here in the Bay Area, CA, we enjoyed heavier traffic than normal while folks got to work and settled in before the ‘countdown to totality’ ran out at 10:15am. i waited impatiently at my desk, ticking off the minutes (For what? lengthening shadows? Dark-ish smog?) i was so excited, i assumed everyone else was too. i imagined nothing much would be accomplished between 10-11am. Desks would be unmanned, phones unanswered, cars abandoned. It would probably be like Left Behind except folks wouldn’t actually disappear in a poof of angelic vapor leaving planes to crash and trains to derail – once the Apocaclypse was over, all of those starry-eyed humanoids would once again return to clog our area’s traffic arteries.
As it turned out, when i ran out of my campus office with ISO-official solar glasses clutched in one hand, i immediately saw that i was not alone. About 100 students milled about the entry to Student Affairs, crowding the sidewalk. AWESOME!! And yet…. i thought it was weird that they didn’t just cross the street to join me in the grass, staring up at the brightest spot in a smog-filled sky, oohing and ahhing at the yellow crescent “moon” i saw through my patriotic, made-in-the-USA-and-proud-of-it solar eclipse viewing glasses. After 5 minutes, i realized the crowd wasn’t JOINING me, they were STARING at me, and that these now 150 or so students were really in a windy, twisty line waiting to get their student ID before the first day of school.
And i’m the middle-aged fat chick with orange hair standing out on the lawn staring up at the sun.
Cool students: 1,000,000.
Round Ronald-ina: 0
i out-clipsed an eclipse. Yay.
All Apocaclyptic foreshadowing aside, the solar phenomenon really is kind of cool. We now know that it is the effect of the planetary and lunar movement so that the moon temporarily blocks the earthly view of the sun in certain areas. In fact, it is rather common, occurring about once a year somewhere on Earth.
But ancient civilizations either hadn’t figured this out quite yet or didn’t care because their explanations for why the sun temporarily disappears totally kick ass over our boring “lunar shadow” explanation.
Several civilizations believed that the solar eclipse was due to mythical creatures either stealing or eating the sun. In Vietnam, it was a giant frog who ate the sun. In China, it was a dragon. Ancient Hindus’ eating-of-the-sun story is one of my favorites. The deity Rahu was beheaded because he drank some special god juju juice and then his severed head flew off his body, careened through the sky, and swallowed the sun, eventually expelling it out his neck-hole because, duh, he’d been beheaded.
(And now, i can’t get this scene of Homer Simpson eating chips in a spaceship out of my head. )
Chip-eating, juju-drinking Homeresque Indian gods aside, many Western cultures also had their own ideas of what was happening during a solar eclipse.
Native American and Alaskan Indian tribes had a variety of stories including a bear who took a bite out of the sun and sibling rivalry between Sun Goddess and her brother Moon.
The Mexican Aztecs took the story to a dark place involving the earth splitting open and jaguars from hell emerging and eating everyone. In their attempt to avoid this Epic Cat-acolypse, they sacrificed all their captives and anyone “light skinned”.
The jaguars never showed and the sun came back and everyone lived happily ever after.
Except, of course, the poor prisoners and those pigmentally-challenged.
So, obviously, human sacrifice works.
TODAY, in 2017, we no longer sacrifice humans.
We DO however, sell them nifty official ISO “Solar Viewing” glasses (see paragraph 1) or give them away as a gift with purchase so everybody can jump on the commercializing bandwagon.
In Oregon, a few days before the Solar Eclipse 2017, Dutch Bro’s coffee kiosks decided to give away one pair of shades per coffee purchase. The lines at each of their locations were up to 50 cars long.
Then, just before the big event, they discovered the glasses they had purchased and given away were knock-off fakes and would actually damage the viewer’s eyes, which resulted in exposing their own thwarted attempt at human sacrifice and the Great 2017 Dutch Bro’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses Re-call.
Local 7-11 stores also put a pony in the race and just before the big event, decided to give away one free pair of eclipse glasses with the purchase of 4 bottles of Mountain Dew.
FOUR BOTTLES of Mountain Dew.
ONE PAIR of bona-fide, ISO rated, no-fakes-here, Solar Viewing Shades.
My parents found themselves, just a few short days before Countdown to Totality, suddenly needing several pairs of glasses to outfit unexpected family. And, after scouring the city, they ended up at the only place left with shades that wouldn’t blind you.
And now, if any of you find yourself needing a bottle, or two, (or 12) of Mountain Dew, please feel free to give them a call.
Human sacrifice and Mountain Dew Bacchanalia aside – except for a couple hundred ID-less San Jose State freshmen, the eclipse had the attention of the entire northern hemisphere.
Even here in sunny San Jose, where it only got dark enough to make shadows weird, the solar eclipse made its mark. But not on our delicate eyeballs. (We don’t have Dutch Bro’s coffee stands.)
No, the mark was left on our delicate eardrums. Especially in East San Jose, the TRUE melting pot of the whole city, where my ever-vigilant Vietnamese neighbors shot off booming firecrackers and whistling loud fireworks late into the night to scare off any lingering evil spirits or sun-eating frogs.
Now, THAT’S what i call Neighborhood Watch.