Nobody suspected that ours would be a monumental recording—all anyone cared about was the moon. We had other ideas. We were stuck on Earth, looking up, with cameras. Who were we going to point them at? What were we going to film? Each other? The launch was over. Stories from the astronauts’ wives were channeled out by every guy with a camera and a microphone. It was a gray day in Boston, snow and the threat of more by early morning. We were all hanging out on the deck of me and Nadine’s Brookline apartment. Toots and the Maytals played on the hi-fi, the first reggae I’d ever heard. My boom mike guy Mike grilled burgers and dogs on the deck. I cracked Millers. Mike’s girlfriend Penny laid out cole slaw and potato salad by the bowlful. My brother Bobby swept snow off the deck. Carmello, our bearish barber uncle, roughhoused with the kids, his fingers scissoring the air, threatening to cut the hair of little boys and girls. Our neighbor Liz had strung up Hawaiian pineapple lights along the deck rails, always a good vibe from her, always a romantic. Nadine filled tiki glasses with hot Myers’s Rum and Hawaiian Punch, our only concession to the season. We thought it was the end of times the way the sky was frosted over, glowing with just that clipping of light behind winter clouds. Christmas was two days away, but we were barbecuing, moonwatching, howling at the silvery sky.
A wave of brotherhood washed over the planet with that launch, and we wanted to play a part. We saw a story in the filming of the filming, those guys watching the monitor of the Apollo 8 mission around the moon. We saw the story in ourselves. Nadine was then a week past her due date. I shouldn’t have been anything but home. Yet the moon and those guys watching the guys orbiting the moon was all I could think about. I had my crew together by nine the next morning. Mike on audio; me with the 16mm; Dennis behind the wheel. Each of us looking to make our mark. By midnight we were in Florida. By morning we were at Kennedy on Merritt Island. Moments like that just happen, sneaking up on you just when you’ve lost all faith in the planet and the people on it. 1968 had been bad days all around—the Lorraine Motel and the Ambassador Hotel, Tet and My Lai, Prague Spring and Mao. Just when we felt let down by the future we sensed was coming.
Borman, Lovell, and Anders. Men of the Year. Ambassadors from our good earth—opposites meet, light and dark contrast, you’re allowed a glimpse of yourself, a once in a lifetime catch. Those guys saved 1968, let me tell you, saved us. Hell, the whole event would be worth it just for that picture of the earth rising over the moon. Maybe it was the snow glow of tiki torches and pineapple lights, umbrellas floating in rum punch. Maybe it was the whiff of wet winter air mixed with perfume and cigarettes and burgers on the grill. Or maybe it was just The Beach Boys—somebody put on Pet Sounds and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice?” kicked in just as Nadine wrapped a lei around my neck and whispered in my ear, Go, her belly plump and pressed against mine, the smoke of neighboring home fires rising to the cloudy night sky.