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Seeing the light thanks to Leonid

November 26, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

Five minutes into it I was thinking "This is the last time, the LAST TIME I buy into one of these astrological boondoggles that promises a dazzling firmament of celestial glory but produces only a tiny fizz on the investment.

Bitterly, I remembered Comet Kohoutek. Six weeks of hype and then the day it got here the papers dutifully reported that the "comet will appear as a faint star over the southwest horizon."

If I had wanted to see a faint star, I would have rented "GI Jane" and freeze-framed Demi Moore.

The Halley's, then something-Tuttle, then all manner or meteor showers and Northern Lights and asteroids and space invaders and I don't know what all - all flops.

My neck tilts back 5 degrees that it shouldn't for all the looking up at the sky I've done for celestial no-shows.

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So when the Leonid meteor shower (named for Star Trek scientist Leonid NeMoy) was hyped as the last great meteor shower until I turn age 112, I was dubious at best. But much like Charlie Brown when Lucy holds down the football, I couldn't resist taking a running kick, no matter how often the product has been pulled out from under me before.

I got up at 4:30 a.m., shaved my teeth and brushed my face and set out for a vantage point favorable to meteor viewing. I watched for a while and saw nothing. I consulted the newsclip to see what I was doing wrong, and noticed you're supposed to be "far away from artificial light." It occurred to me that maybe my choice of the Sheetz parking lot didn't offer the most advantageous view, so I set out for darker environs.

I drove out Downsville Pike past Allegheny Energy - and speaking of which, real classy move on the part of the City of Hagerstown to dump Allegheny Power like a porked-up girlfriend once the company hit hard financial times.

I suppose that the city can expect Dominion Energy to support community projects near and dear to the city's heart the same as Allegheny did by giving to the Salvation Army, YMCA, Hospice, the Maryland Symphony, Alzheimer's Association, Kids' Voting, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Maryland Theatre, Frostburg State University, Boys and Girls Club, the 140th Antietam Anniversary re-enactment and computer classrooms for South High.

Driving past, I began soliloquizing, "How fast the city forgot that when it was begging private business to step forward with funding for a new minor league baseball stadium, the only company that offered serious jack was Allegheny Energy!

"How fast the city forgot that when Allegheny was choosing a new site for its corporate headquarters, it chose us, giving the community millions in tax revenue!

"How fast ..."

At this point I almost hit a deer. But the point of that rant is that by the time I passed Allegheny I was so good and mad that I was all prepared to be Chris Matthews furious at what I was sure to be the George Jones of meteor showers.

It was a good thing I was hot, because the weather sure wasn't. I sat in the frost by the side of the road at a time and place you would think it would be totally free of traffic.

Well, of course everyone in that part of the county was out on the highway, and they all slowed to look at me before speeding off like I was the Downsville Pike Cow Sniper or something. I shouted at a few of them, "What are you looking at?" or, "I'm waiting on meteors, what does it look like?"

I felt almost exactly like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, to bag a second "Peanuts" reference in the same column. But then the most amazing and unexpected thing happened: The sky lit with meteors, going every which way, just like they said it would.

It was gorgeous; I counted about 100 in a half-hour. And I take back every bad thing I ever said about Rodney Martin.

Of course the way I see it, the Lord - or whoever is the processing agent of these things - owes me about 100 wishes. To start, I'll wish that come next meteor shower it's cloudy so I won't feel guilty about staying in bed.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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