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The Great Red Spot, Lonesome George and Happy Memories of My Youth


NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics For those out of the loop, Lonesome George died about this time last year (June 2012).

What’s that? Name’s familiar but you can’t place the face?

You think that’s a Canadian comic? Maybe a character in some straight to DVD movie?

Lonesome GeorgeNo, Lonesome George was the last of his species, a Galapagos tortoise. He died unexpectedly after an estimated 100 year run.

Aye, Georgie, we hardly knew ye.

No others of his species were ever found. Nor was George willing to mate with females of close species. Okay, he did once. Nothing came of it.

I remember first hearing of Lonesome George late in high school. I was amazed, dumbfounded, awestruck. A living fossil much like the coelacanth, except we only ever found one, him. I read about him in National Geographic. I argued about his meaning with kids in the chess club and Mr. Edmunds, my science teacher.

He became the symbol of the environment, the Green movement, ecological activism, et cetera.

And more than anything else, I wondered about him. Did he know he was the last of his kind? A tortoise version of Ishi, the last of the Yahi people? Did he wish his humans would let him back into the wild so that he could teach all of his tortoise wisdom to tortoises who weren’t of his tribe?

And now he’s gone. I do mourn.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Jupiter's Great Red SpotBack in the early 2000s I was sitting in a parking lot listening to NPR (you did notice my “chess club” reference above, right?). Talk of the Nation was doing an episode on Comet Schumacher-Levy’s plunging through Jupiter’s atmosphere and taking out the Red Spot.

I knew about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot longer than I knew about Lonesome George. I was interested in astronomy since 3rd grade and got my first telescope (still have it, along with some others) when I was in 8th grade. I used it every night that first summer. I did the whole Galileo thing — craters of the moon, rings of Saturn, the girl’s dorm across the street.

And Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

I remember calling into Talk of the Nation and saying that to me, seeing the Great Red Spot fade away after impact was mythic, an icon of my childhood imagination lost.

Because, of course, I was going to explore that Great Red Spot. I was going to be on one of those rockets that did that kind of exploring.

Kids think things like that.

I still do.

Happy Memories of Youth

Lonesome George is now on one of my bookshelves, right beside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Okay, just pictures of them.

I sometimes wonder about the people I knew in school and college. I’ve pretty much done everything I ever wanted to do. Maybe my goals were small, I don’t know. But I wonder about the people I knew. What do they have on their bookcases? Do they even have bookcases?

Do they ever remember their youth?

Susan and I hold hands when we walk. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a mall, down the street, grocery shopping or in the woods.

She is a transport mechanism for me. Not a time machine, but a transport. I hold her hand and I don’t have to remember any youths because I’m young again. A soft kiss and I’m exploring Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. I hear her laugh and I’m walking with Lonesome George but neither of us are lonesome and the world is not yet ancient around us.

Happy Memories, Period

Don’t ever give up your memories of youth. Just find someone who’ll help you find them.

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