'Night, night, night, night and stars above that shine so bright
The mystery of their fading light
That shines upon our caravan.'
- Duke Ellington -
I remember the first time I met her. 1967. Edwards Air Force Base. It was a sunny day. I heard the soldiers' loud voice cheering themselves on. The winds came from the Mojave Desert tickled my cheek. She was tall and has long, curly blonde hair. She looked like a little boy. She came to the salute and I retuned her salute. We moved to somewhere we had never been to. On the second floor of the brick building, there was a room at the end of the passage. We met a big shot who had one or two (maybe three?) stars on his hat. We both stood to attention and saluted to him about the same time. At that moment, I first realized the she was my partner.
From that day on, we have met innumerable numbers of stars; how many stars were on the generals’ hat? it felt like ridiculous question. Two? Three? If he had five, would it matter to us? There were zillions of stars out there. Why we worry about three, four, or five? If we reached out for the stars, we would get a handful of them. Linda loved stars because they are always shinning and glittering; she doesn’t like them for now. I loved stars, too; it is a goddam frightening sight for now. We’re bored! It’s quite natural since this endless mission has been continued for ten years. Until now, we haven’t seen anything except stars: countless star groups repeating ad infinitum. (What a goddam sight!) Yes. We’re totally bored and have serious skepticism with regards to the mission.
The mission. The wonderful, tremendous, and fantastic mission. If we had understood it correctly, our goal is to reach the Moon. And if we had not been mistaken, we would have landed the Moon long time ago: 9 years, 11 months, plus 27 days ago. Then, we might go back to the Earth, where all of my family and friends live. However, our boomerang hasn’t found a turning point; still, marching to nowhere. The communication with Arlington spacecraft control center had been lost long ago. We gave up all hope to return home. We don’t remember what the mission was. It might be written somewhere: manual, mission log, diary, whatever. However, I don’t want do that. That's too much of a hassle, and we can't afford to do that.
We called it a tin can. The spacecraft we're on now. The reason for this is that anyone who has never seen it is doing a clapboard that will remind you of the can of Campbell soup. At any rate, it did not seem like it would spring into space at an astonishing rate. I do not know the physics, but there was a common sense that the shape of the soup cans would be a good design for air resistance. The inside of the can was extremely cramped. At first, only three astronauts could sit. The rest of the space was filled with chunks of machinery and dashboards, and we even left without knowing all the buttons on them. Here we are referring to me, Linda, and senior pilot, Captain Smith.
Captain Smith. He was the director in this mission. He was also a solid figure and an affectionate appearance owner. Also, he was a man of moderation. During the training sessions, including mock flight, he had only one joke thrown at us (here we are talking about Linda and me). "My name is Smith. Do not be confused with Switzerland." It was such a shocking sense of humor that it is hard to laugh at all; however, we (we here at referring to Linda and I) miss him. His absence leaves us with as much emptiness as an empty seat. Even with him, the mission would not have been successful. He would not have had more to laugh at us. Nevertheless we miss him. very very much.
Full Account of the Accident
The captain was not wearing a seat belt when the tin cans started. For an excuse for himIt seems that his seat belt had been broken. When we entered the countdown, I heard the captain jarring in the back seats (the seat was stalwart). It was a fuss which was not suitable in view of his character and rank. He was a symbol of a soldier who always behaved with discipline. Linda asked. "Captain, do you have any problems?" So I looked back and caught his eyes. I won’t forget a quizzical expression on his face. Because all the muscles in the face seemed to be furiously clutching the four-letter word that starts with F. Oh, God. I was trying to contact the Arlington Cosmodrome Center for delaying the launch; but, the tin can launched with our even a short interlude. At the moment, the tin can was not the only one that sprang up. Hugh, so it goes.
It was fortunate that the radio was in the tin can. Whether the Arlington Cosmodrome Center responds or not, the radio has been received the signal without any problems; so we had the last hope. Especially when Captain Smith's corpse is floating in the tin can. At the time of the accident, Captain’s neck was broken and he died instantly. There was no way to take care of him; so we let him float. Sometimes it came to us, then I shoved it with a shoehorn or a long stick and sent it to the personless side. In such a terrible situation, radio has become a great comfort. I do not know which channel it was. I do not know what program it was. I do not even know who is the moderator (the man with strong southern accent). The selection of music was made between songs from the 1920s to the 1950s. Most of them were Pop Standards or Show Tune; so I felt like I was living up to twenty years. I did not get a single song in my age. I mean, '60s with the rock.’
The Great American Songbook
To be honest, neither I nor Linda I were a fan of those kinds of music. In those days I was a big fan of the Rolling Stones (who wouldn’t!). Just shortly before a launch day, I had a very exciting day to go to their tour venues in Phoenix, Arizona, a few days before launch. Meanwhile, Linda was on the side of folk-rock. That’s right. Bob Dylan. Like a Rolling Stone, Blowin' the Wind. We had a complaint about this problem: why do not they play the songs we like? Sometimes we turned out the radio, and sang a songs ourselves, but we were not excited at all. In the meantime, we adapted to the songs from the radio and seem to have had a love for the pop standard I did not know about: Rogers and Heart, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Allen, George Gershwin, and so on. It was really a review of the golden age of American pop music. Suddenly, at a certain point, Linda said like this: "Do you like Duke Ellington?” Then I replied: "Oh! Duke Ellington! All of his songs are great, too!" (I remember exactly) “Yet, his song still has not even played on the radio.”
Surprisingly, on the radio, Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" played slowly. I was surprised. Linda was also surprised. Captain Smith's face was also exceptionally pale, and he might be also surprised by this exquisite coincidence. Almost three months after the tin can launched. We always kept the radio on, but it was REALLY the first time that Duke Ellington's songs came out. It was not a big deal if you thought about it, but it was a great job if you thought otherwise. Could it be that Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine,” Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean,” or “Come Rain or Come Shine?” (Those songs had been played over a hundred times.) Is it just a coincidence that Duke Ellington’s song was played on the radio when we were talking about him. Yes. At least we thought so. Linda and I seem to have taken this special fact interestingly.
The Second Case
Until then, of course, we did not intend to wrap this phenomenon or define a great concept. Captain Smith said, “If we give a big name every coincidences we discover, the dictionary will be as long as the train?" His point was right. It was amazing, It seems to be a common coincidence. Again we went bak to normal life: an endless stargazing with a meaningless chat. The second Duke Ellington Effect was discovered a month later. I do not know how the story started. What I remember is the following conversation.
(Translation In Progress)
Mars is heaven!
- Ray Bradbury -
But the film is a saddening bore
For she's lived it ten times or more
- David Bowie -
The couple next door bought a 6o-inch flat screen television. If Mr. Smith knew that, he wouldn't buy a 5o-inch flat screen television. The 5o-inch television was big enough for his room; but it doesn't matter at all. The real problem was a bruised ego. He doesn't like the couple because they are such a snob. They ring their own bell all the time. Did they also despise him? Pshaw, he doesn’t care at all. They ain’t got nothing on him!
The guy next door also works at MARS & Mr. Recycling, Inc., just like Mr. Smith do. He is a professional waste picker. Some people call him garbage scavengers; he salvages reusable or recyclable materials thrown away by others to sell. That's how he has been making a living on Mars. That's how Mr. Smith has been making a living on Mars: hyena, giving a longing look at the abandoned stuffs. They all are tarred with the same brush.
Mr. Smith raised bottle caps by selling those things. Bottle cap: a monetary unit of new era. Paper money became extinct a long time ago. Bottle cap is the only honest inheritance from a society of mass production, mass distribution, and mass consumption. Interestingly, it satisfies all the requisites of currency.
He has put all he earns on home decoration, and so did the couple next door. In fact, all immigrants were the same. The surface of Mars had been covered with garbage for a few centuries, forming a huge pile; and there always been valuable things, appearance to the contrary. Valuable garbages, bringing money, no, bottle caps. Evan if it might not be enough for him, it would make a jingle in his pocket.
"I need more bottle caps to invest more in home decoration," he said.
(Translation In Progress)