Saturday, November 12, 2011

Casey Kasem

"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Many of us recognize this as the weekly sign-off phrase of Casey Kasem, host of the syndicated weekly radio program, America's Top 40. Not sure if the program is on any more or not, and quite frankly I do not care. I was just surprised that I remembered it after all of these years.

Now back to the countdown....

I recently learned the difference between being a writer and being an author. An author gets paid for their work. A writer does not. Simple. Authors are capitalists and writers are hippies. Let's say, however, that a hippie dreams of buying things someday without using money stolen from their "old lady's" purse in the middle of the night. Then, they must embrace the dream of capitalism.

So as an aspiring capitalist looking to shed my hippie skin, I dream of being a paid author. It wouldn't have to be much, just something so my Dad would stop looking at me in such an unsavory manner when I tell him about my writing. Worst part of that arrangement is that I work for my Dad, whom I am sure would rather I stick with the capitalism I already know, that of a Licensed Professional Engineer, instead of trying to get paid for my ability to string words into sentences.

Today was a sort of mixed metaphor for me. I had to meet with a client to deliver some plans. Not something I always do on a Saturday morning, but this is a good client and we want to show the extra care that is due. The project is located in Wisconsin, near the Yerkes Observatory. After I was done on the site, I took a little side trip to the observatory to soothe my eyes.

Established by the University of Chicago in 1897, the observatory sits on 77 acres in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. At the time of its creation, it was close enough to Chicago to allow communication with the University staff while far enough away to be unfettered by the lights, and indeed the ground vibrations of the city. It also was accessible by train and I am sure quite a few professors took advantage of the beautiful location near Lake Geneva to entertain friends, families, and the occasional student 'wink!'. Aside from the atomic bomb, I would say the Yerkes Observatory is the nicest thing the U of C ever did for mankind.

Driving to the observatory is a trip back in time itself. A long straight road leads from the highway to a single flag pole and two large cedar trees. It is here a large looped road begins and ends. The cedars and other trees mask the existence of the structure from full view. Easy to imagine are horse drawn wagons bringing supplies down this very road at the time of its opening. Not easy to imagine is the building that awaits, should you decide to proceed on the loop.

I am always impressed when I drive up, noting in my head that the Yerkes Observatory is what all observatories should look like. It is a statement in mankind's ability to rise above, to live within nature and yet show that we are more than what nature can produce. We build, and dream, and look outward, away from what we are comfortable with, to learn.

Here are some photos I captured of the outside I would like to share with you, so you may also be inspired at what we can create.

 I sit now, with darkness having fallen, in my living room. My wife is with me, a fire is in the fireplace, and I think about my writing, hoping soon everyone will. Perhaps it will be for my readers like a trip to yerkes, not knowing what to expect, then pleased within by what they find. 

I am not sure who the Yerkes Observatory is named after, but I thank its namesake. It seems you dreamed once, that you tried reaching for the stars, and did very well.

I hope my time will come soon.