Give it up, for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!

The blind woodchuck rubbed her paws together furiously. She’d been digging a new burrow for weeks now and was never going to be able to get the dirt out from under her nails. The new body scrub from Goop she had ordered was supposed to be fabulous for this, but it hadn’t come yet; it was possible that her credit card hadn’t gone through.

She wasn’t actually still blind, but the nickname had stuck.  It had been nearly a year since the retina-burning experience that had been the eclipse and her vision had mostly returned, but she still wore the sunglasses because she thought they looked cool. Also, it matched the picture on her Tinder profile.

Things had gotten very strange in the woods since the moon had blotted out the sun on that steaming day last August. The Fox had been obnoxious to begin with, but now he was terrifying. His orange fur was styled and sprayed so that it looked like he was wearing his tail on his head, and he had somehow gotten the idea that he was king. The weasels helped him, of course, by letting him do whatever he wanted and then covering up for him when what he did was really stupid. There were rumors that the bears were in on this conspiracy as well; that they might have even planned it. The woodchuck tried to steer clear of bears, as one had eaten a second cousin of hers just last week. Even scarier was the possum who seemed to be in control of the whole thing; his little pink eyes looked amused at all the chaos he was causing. The woodchuck had seen a picture of the shirtless possum riding a horse, and it had made her question the reality in which they were living. 

The new burrow she had been furiously digging was a way out of the madness. If she kept heading north, she assumed she would end up somewhere in Canada. They were supposedly much nicer to refugees up there, and she hoped that even if she was stopped at the border, she wouldn’t be put in a cage. One of her third cousins had been arrested and thrown into a detention center called Gitmo or PetCo or something like that. 

She thought she must be close. There had been a lot of shouting above ground a few weeks ago—she could hear people yelling “Puck, yea!” and talking excitedly about some cup that Stanley had won. Cups held ice and ice had something to do with hockey, so that meant that she must be in Canada.

She switched directions and started tunnelling upwards, manicure be damned. Her need to know where she was became all consuming. Her tiny paws scooped up earth like a furry backhoe, and suddenly a whole clump of it fell in her face. She shook the dirt from her whiskers as the light filled her burrow, and then cautiously poked her head up to the surface, her sunglasses just clearing the edge. She knew enough to be careful about peering out of a hole; one of her fourth cousins had been hit with a golf club swung by a groundskeeper. For some reason, she remembered that every time she heard a Kenny Loggins song.

A ray of sunlight beamed from the clear blue shy, and for a moment she was filled with joy; she had made it! She would feast on poutine tonight! But suddenly the sun was blotted out and a huge shadow covered her face. Was it another eclipse? She wasn’t prepared! She was wearing the wrong kind of glasses! She was going to burn her damn retinas again! 

But it was not the shadow of the moon that passed over her. A giant orange baby blimp floated above her in the sky, its’ tiny hand holding a phone while waving in the breeze as a crowd of people below started cheering. A drumline joined in with the voices, and then bagpipes added their wail to the cacophony. The sound was deafening, as people began to chant “Lock him up! Lock him up!” This couldn’t be Canada – those northerners were much too polite to be making this much noise.

The woodchuck glanced around, trying to find some kind of a landmark to help identify where she had ended up. There was a statue on a very tall pedestal directly in front of her and she squinted up to see if she could recognize who it was. Of course! It was Lafayette! She hadn’t seen Hamilton yet but she would recognize Daveed Diggs anywhere! 

That meant that this must be Lafayette Park, which was located . . . where? A huge white house with columns loomed in the distance as a shiver of sharks danced past her holding a sign that said “You have terrible taste in chums!” when the realization finally hit her: this was not the birthplace of Wayne Gretsky. She must have veered too far east, and that meant . . . New York City! This must be Times Square!

A large lit up sign blinked “LIAR!” and another one screamed “TREASON!” as she took in the scene. The crowds were growing and the energy was palpable in this city where no one ever slept, including the person who lived in that big white house across the field. Off in the distance, a song was beginning, and she could barely make out the words:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

The tune was familiar and she began to hum along. What was this song?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!!

The music swelled as the masses raised their fists and marched toward the white house. In perfect four part harmony, they raised their voices as one and joined into the chorus that promised that they would not go gentle into that good night!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

The woodchuck sang along loudly, thrilled to the bone to be a participant in saving democracy, when she suddenly realized what it was. The song was from Les Miz, which was on Broadway, and that meant only one thing:

Maybe she could get Hamilton tickets!


The woodchuck does not have a very good grasp on geography, but you have opposable thumbs and Google maps. Protests are happening every night in Lafayette Park across from the White House. You are encouraged to join the chorus on August 6 for a spirited rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” And if you are in Canada or somewhere else, donations are being encouraged to buy bigger and louder sound systems.

You Had One Job.

The pounding kept getting louder and louder and the woodchuck, deep in hibernation, was jolted awake. It was hard to locate the source of the vibration as her mind was still groggy. Was it the pounding of her heart, she wondered, as she was ripped from her recurring Tommy Skilling dream into consciousness? Or maybe the hammering was her head, a hangover from the last bottle of wine she had polished off before going to sleep for the winter. She did enjoy her pre-nap Chardonnay. Also her post-nap one.

“What is that noise?!” she shrieked. “If they have started fracking again, I’m going to chew through the brake lines of all their vehicles.”

The pounding suddenly stopped and the upside down head of the weasel popped into the woodchuck’s burrow. “Hey, Phil, you up?” he shouted.

“Well, I’m awake because someone has been using a jack hammer above my bed, but that doesn’t mean I’m up. I’m hibernating, damn it. And don’t call me Phil. I hate that nickname.”

“Okay, Philomena, but nap time is over. Doncha know what day it is?”

“Of course I know what day it is,” she snapped, as she glanced at her iPhone and realized with dismay that it was dead because she had forgotten to plug the charger in and had, in fact, no clue. “It’s Tuesday.”

“Nice try, dummy,” smirked the weasel. “Try Friday. The second day of the second month. Come on, baby, it’s named for you!”

The woodchuck glanced over at the paper planner that she still kept in her burrow. She knew it was old-fashioned but it came in handy whenever her T-Mobile went out, which was always. Also it had pictures of kittens on it. There was a red circle around February 2.

“It’s Groundhog Day!” yelled the weasel unnecessarily. He was so rude to her, and she hadn’t yet forgiven him for not telling her to put on the special glasses during the eclipse. She was still not completely recovered from her vision issues, although she could see a shadowy silhouette of his body. His short little legs were hilarious.

“I’m not doing it this year,” she announced. “I’ve already been up once and I need to rest.”

“Whatta ya talking about? It’s still cold out – why would you have been up?”

“If you weren’t so busy killing five times your body weight in prey and read a newspaper once in a while, you would know why. Honestly, that habit of storing your leftover rabbit parts in your burrow is disgusting. Don’t you know there is political turmoil everywhere and people are marching in the streets? We are the Resistance! We have to take back the government!”

“Oh yeah, how ya gonna do that? Make some little signs and walk in a circle with all the other land beavers?”

“That’s a rude way to put it but, yes, that’s what we did. There were more than a million of us, and we marched in solidarity with all of our sisters and supportive brothers who promised to stop abusing their power for the afternoon. There were gopher and squirrels, prairie dogs and marmots, all of us united as one! It was glorious! I got a t-shirt!”

The weasel saw some bent cardboard in the corner and turned it over. It was a hand-lettered sign in red and blue marker that read, “Impeach the Treason Weasel!” The letters were outlined in glitter glue and gave the message a festive, sparkly look. “Hey, you mentioned me!”

“Your name seems to come up a lot. Just the other day, the former head of the FBI mentioned you in a tweet. He said “But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.” I assume he meant woodchucks as well, although it would be nice if he were more inclusive.”

“I didn’t hear nothing about rodents marching. I woulda gone to it  – sounds like dinner to me!”

“That’s because you get all your news from the Fox and he never mentions anything like that. Although, no one else did either. Millions of woodchucks in the streets with something to say and they interviewed a bunch of white guys on all the news shows. I hate Chuck Todd.”

“What about your meteorologist gig? You gonna go outside and make your prediction?”

“To quote the bio-pic they made about my life –without permission, I might add– “I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be gray, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” Or at least until the mid-terms.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I’m going back to bed. You want to know what the weather is, go call Tommy Skilling. He’s much more accurate than a simple whistle pig, plus he knows tons about tornadoes. And tell your cousin Devin to stop hanging around my burrow. Apparently he didn’t get the memo I sent him telling him I think he’s creep.”

How much wood would Chuck Todd chuck?

The blind woodchuck spent most of the last year huddled in a fetal position in her burrow. Save for that one magical day of August 21 when she acquired her new moniker as well as a collection of necessary sunglasses (she swears the weasel told her it was okay to look at the sun), she found the results of November 8, 2016 to be too depressing to even contemplate.

But something told her she should at least check out the world above and see if anything had changed. As she crawled out of her cozy burrow, she could hear birds singing. Not a lot of birds, mind you, but enough to let you know that perhaps the end of the world hadn’t actually happened. The sun was warm on her whiskers as she heard another woodland creature scampering by and she called out to it. “Hey, what happened? Did Trump resign?”

“No such luck,” squeaked the chipmunk. “But the Democrats won two governorships and a bunch of House delegates in Virginia!”

“Is that a big deal?” asked the woodchuck. She didn’t really know anything about the south.

“Well, not according to Fox News,” said the chipmunk, “but I hate foxes so imma have to believe that they are lying. Nate Silver says we can be cautiously optimistic but not to assume we can take over the House in 2018. A lot of us were really happy about how big the win seemed but the press keeps telling us that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. And then they interview white Trump voters to see what they think about it.”

“But that’s the first positive thing that got me out of my burrow all year!” exclaimed the woodchuck. “Everyone must be so happy! I’ll bet Bernie Sanders is thrilled that our candidate won!”

“Bit of a glitch there,” smirked the chipmunk. “Turns out he endorsed the guy who primaried the eventual winner Ralph Northam, and then refused to work for the actual candidate. But Chris Hayes keeps having him on his MSNBC show anyway to speak for all Democrats.”

“But he’s not a democrat!” The woodchuck was confused. “What does Donna Brazille have to say about that? As a former head of the DNC, she must be furious!”

“Rumor has it that Donna was bitten by a rabid racoon and has lost her mind,” replied the chipmunk. “Sad!”

“Oh, dear. This is all so upsetting. Is there anything to be happy about?” The woodchuck could feel her depression enveloping her like a chemical fog unleashed by toxic waste set loose during a hurricane.

“Well, of the fifteen delegate seats that were won in VA, eleven of the winners were woman! And every single person they will replace was an old, white man! Not that I have anything against old white men, but you have to admit that this has not been the best year for them.”

“Why would you say that?” fretted the woodchuck. “You have brothers! Don’t you want to defend them?”

“Well, I would, but Alvin and Theodore are both in prison now for inappropriately touching that porcupine who lives under a log. They tried to bust out with the help of that Pepe LePew guy but got caught. They actually made a movie about it  – The Shawskunk Redemption. It will be on Netflix this month.”

The woodchuck crawled back into her burrow,  cheered up because of all the gains made by her sisters. She was still a little sad, though, because she had given up cable and would not be able to watch the movie. She could only get NBC and she hated Chuck Todd.


Part Two: Taking Umbrage


Our Wise Old Owl house was 150 miles away from where we needed to be for Totality, so on Monday, August 21, we set our alarms for stun and got up at 5am. The drive was long but thankfully traffic was not the gridlock we had worried about. Not yet, anyway.

We arrived in Hopkinsville around 10am and found our reserved spots on a sun-bleached field that had been chalked into a grid. The lingering morning fog we had encountered as we entered Kentucky had burned away, promising a full day of sweltering and squinting at the cloudless sky. The atmosphere was festive, the crowd giddy with anticipation; Hubble-sized telescopes were set up next to amateurs who hadn’t even brought sunscreen. NASA was supposedly roaming around somewhere, answering questions. Our group had shelters and chairs and a buffet table, because if you’re going to bear witness to a celestial event, you don’t want your stomach growling while it’s happening.

The temperature was already in the 90s, a fact we knew for certain because my niece had arrived with a variety of activities to measure the temp drop for when the moon slid in front of the sun. We sat on blankets as we wove ultra-violet sensitive beads together to make ankle bracelets. The beads were pink and purple when exposed to UV rays, but would turn white when the sun and its’ beams were in shadow. That was how we would know that we were in totality; that and the fact that thousands of people would be screaming and pointing up in the dark.

Two hours away and people started checking the sky. Everyone had eclipse glasses, because they obviously had heeded the warning of the woodchuck, or possibly seen a million articles online in the past week about not staring at it with naked eyes. The tiniest bite appeared in the blazing white sun and a cheer went up from the crowd. Viewed through the filtered glasses, the sun was a perfect circle of orange. It looked like a logo design created with graphics software, the edges crisp and clean as the black crescent shape moved across the surface.

It was still full daylight, but something weird was happening to the light. It seemed to flatten, sharpening shadows and causing strange angles that were unfamiliar and foreign, like I imagine Bizzaro World would look. There is a filter in Photoshop that allows you to polarize an image and it felt like the entire landscape had been run through it. Tiny crescent shapes appeared on different surfaces as the splintered sun beams pushed through leafy trees. As the light drained from the sky, the air cooled and a chorus of cicadas woke up and began to sing. It was dusk to them and they were going to have sex no matter what time their phones said it was.

We were now just minutes from totality but not at full dark. Venus was a brilliant bright spot in the sky, but the horizon was still lit. I had expected complete darkness, but I realized that I could still see a thin band of sunset in front of me. Confused, I turned around and saw the same rosy glow behind me. To my astonishment, the sunset was everywhere! We had reached totality and the moon had blocked the entire star, creating a night sky on top of a perfect circle of a 360 degree setting sun. The effect was thrilling and surreal at the same time; it felt like we were on a different planet, one with more suns or a couple of extra moons. My bracelet was completely white, with zero UV rays reaching my ankle. For the next two minutes and forty seconds, I could throw away my sunscreen!

It’s hard to come up with an adjective that adequately describes what it felt like to be in the middle of that darkness in the middle of that day. A chill ran through me that had nothing to do with the temperature drop, and my eyes filled with tears. One would expect to feel insignificant in the midst of an extraordinary moment where it’s clear that our existence is barely a blip in the lifetime of the universe, but I didn’t. I felt connected, with the earth and all the people around me and all the others standing in fields across the country, staring up at the sky. It felt powerful, and unexpectedly hopeful. I haven’t felt hopeful in a long time, specifically since November 9. Chaos and confusion may be ruling our daily lives, but the universe is going to continue to do whatever the hell it wants. There is some comfort in that thought.



Part 3: The Really, Really Dark Side of the Moon

And then we got in our cars and drove home. All several million of us, at the same time. On the same road.

Talk about harshing your buzz.

We were filled with wonder and inspiration from this remarkable event that we had borne witness to as a community. We were not filled with common sense, for it did not occur to us that trying to drive home that night might also be on the agenda of everyone else in said community. It looked like we were evacuating Florida.

We tried small country roads where amused farm folks directed traffic through the lone stop sign, but cars still backed up for miles. The entire world used the Waze app and we all ended up at the same Dairy Queen for dinner in a town of 200 people. It took a really long time to get our Blizzards. Darkness fell and we were still barely a third of the way through Illinois. Torrential rain and non-stop lightning lit up a gridlocked I-57 North, where two lanes merged into one in a completely unneccessary construction zone that added at least two hours to the journey. When cars finally emerged from the single lane nightmare, every single one of them got off at the next rest stop. It took a really long time to pee. Fourteen hours after we had held hands and sung Kumbaya as a nation, we finally made it back to Chicago. It took a really long time to get my knees to bend into a standing position.

After the butt-numbing commute memories began to fade a bit, I was reliving the event on the internet and saw disappointment expressed in online forums about how unimpressive the partial eclipse had been; the word people used was “meh.”  I can understand why people weren’t that impressed because they were doing it wrong. Any fool could get up from the couch and walk out into the yard with a shoebox on their head and see the partial eclipse. But to really experience the whole phenomenon, you’re going to have to leave your living room. You’re going to have to commit.

Kelly Clarkson says some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this, but she’s wrong. You only have to wait seven years! On April 8, 2024, the Path of Totality will again cross the United States, this time starting in Mexico and going north to Maine. The center of the big X that started in 2017 will be the same place – Carbondale, IL, with many other towns along the Path where you will have a perfect view.

It’s hard to predict where we might be in seven years. We could be speaking Korean or living the script of Waterworld or, as I may have mentioned before, ruled by robot overlords. The robots might show us some pity, or I suppose they could tattoo bar codes on the back of our necks. But at least we can count on the universe to keep doing what it does, with the moon playing chicken with the Earth. As long as scientists can project real data and true facts that will give us lots of information about how and when to get ready, we can all experience this again together.

Or we can just pretend the whole thing is fake and kiss Uranus goodbye.


Part One: Barbie was Right*

Planning for the eclipse weekend had started almost a year ago. My oldest sister Kathy was the first to alert us all to the importance of the event, and months ago discovered that many houses and camping sites in the Path of Totality had already been booked. But my youngest sister Karen was persistant enough to find a huge log cabin-ish farmhouse in southern Indiana that would sleep the entire family. While not directly in the Path, it was close enough that we could get there before the eclipse.

(As is fitting for her profession as a psychiatrist, Karen is pragmatic and practical. But as a sign of her committment to this event, she had dressed the statue in her front yard as an eclipse enthusiast. Karen calls the figurine Georgeanne and she has an outfit for every holiday. I warn my sister that this is one step away from decorating a concrete goose and I mock her accordingly, but damn, the old girl looked good.)


So we gathered on the Friday before the event at the Wise Old Owl cottage, where every surface was decorated with either an owl or a moose, but sadly, no woodchucks. My other sister Carolyn and I were the last to arrive from Chicago, as we had been led down the wrong road by an arrogant, disembodied voice from Google maps. In my phone, the voice is known as Joyce, and she insisted we turn at a place we had no business turning. We had been warned that cell service could be spotty and had printed out two different sets of directions, neither of which matched the way Joyce urged us to go: yet still we followed her instructions rather than our own instincts. She gayly led us down winding, unmarked roads and then abandoned us in a field. I believe this was a test by the robot overlords to see if people would blindly follow the voices coming from their phones and may be the precursor to the robot uprising, as we did exactly what we were told and then pleaded for Joyce to come and save us. When they instruct us all to drive our cars into quarries, we will  join all the other lemmings at the bottom, holding up our iphones and searching for bars.

Eventually we came upon two gentlemen and a chihuahua sitting on a front porch and they gave us directions back to the main road in a bemused tone, as if we were not the first fools that the voices had led down their road. The chihuahua, however, was furious and had to be restrained, no doubt angered by the clear and present danger that no one except him seemed to understand. It was a weird beginning to the trip.

The house was huge and supposedly slept 20, if your idea of sleeping is two bedrooms on the top floors and then sixteen assorted bunk beds, double beds and pull out couches in one big basement room. It was very cozy down there with all the nieces and nephews and aunts and owls and squirrels. It was also very cold and completely dark, or as I call it, perfect vacation sleeping weather, with none of that pesky natural light to wake you up. I felt like Kevin in Home Alone when I woke up in the dark silence and realized that I had no idea where my family had gone.

The next two days were a whirl of activities, with some people participating in everything and some not moving from the porch swing. I like a vacation where no one judges you for inertia. There were fabulous meals and many bottles of wine, and games and a fire pit and a funtoon boat with a slide, but always lurking in the back of our minds was the event on Monday. We became obsessed with finding gas, stopping at every tiny station to top off a tank in a car that had only driven 2 miles since the last time it was filled. We worried that there would not be enough ice for the coolers and ended up with enough to fill the back of a station wagon. One of my favorite finds out in the middle of nowhere was an ice ATM. You fed two bucks into the slot and it dispensed 16 pounds of ice, no clerks needed. You could even get it unbagged and let it flow right into a cooler. Clearly this is once again the robots looking to catch us off guard as we complacently let them control the flow of cubes, but I’m willing to let them have this one. You can just never have enough ice.

Sunday was our last evening at the house, and after another amazing meal with lots of wine to wash it down, the core four sisters sat down to try to figure out who owed what. We are all smart women; some of us hold advanced degrees and at the very least, all of us can use a calculator. So we were amazed and chagrined when the simple task of dividing up costs turned into an SAT math problem, one that assured that none of us were getting into college, not even a community one. For over an hour, we subtracted and divided and swore and multiplied and could not come up with the correct sum. A spread sheet was created and abandoned, amounts were rounded up and down and the final amount owed was furiously scratched out in order to begin again. One by one, the grown nieces and nephews left the room, completely embarrassed by their algebraically impaired mothers. At one point, my brother-in-law begged to let him eat the cost of the whole trip, just to get us to stop. I’m still not sure the number we came up with was correct, but it was such a relief to move on that I don’t even care. There is no place for math on a vacation, especially when combined with a nice red.

*Math is Hard.

Next: Part Two: Hopkinsville

Gold Llamaé

There is nothing I like better than a good theme party. It gives you a nice hook to base your decorations on and will often suggest ideas for snacks and party favors. So the first thing that came to mind when my family decided to gather to observe the eclipse was that we would need a signature cocktail. All the best hosts are hiring mixologists to create a drink for their special events, and what could be more special than something that hasn’t been observed in totality for almost one hundred years?

Full disclosure: I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I like a glass of a nice red wine, but by the time I get anywhere near a refill, my face has gone red and my fingertips numb. I laugh so hard at my own jokes that no one can understand what I am trying to say; then I fall asleep. So I am not exactly an expert when it comes to creating something that will taste delicious and not require someone to hold your hair back the next morning. However, I am a graphic designer by day, so the most important thing to me was the visual.

Picture this on Youtube: a glowing ice orb to represent the sun, floating gently on a sea of cloud like crushed ice. At the moment the music swells and Bonnie T. sings “total eclipse of the heart”, a shot glass full of a dark liquor is poured over the spherical orange sun and blots out the color and metaphorical light. I could picture it in my mind and it was breathtaking!

With the help of my sister, I started experimenting a few weeks ago. I found silicon ice cube trays to create the sun, with versions of spheres made of orange Fanta, orange juice or water with yellow food coloring. The pale cloudy liquid it would float on was either sparkling ginger lemonade, sparkling pear cider or ginger beer. The shadow of the moon would be rum, Kahlua, or bourbon. While we made some interesting combinations, we never conclusively finished because we stopped to take three-hour naps.

Knowing that the big day was nearing, I decided to finish up the recipe by myself. I lined all the bottles up on the table and tried each one with a different mixer. I documented the tasting by art directing each shot and imagining these as high quality liquor ads in Esquire magazine. I also added a plastic gold llama to the tableaux for scale.

Sometimes what you want and what you get are two different things; all of my cocktails with the glowing sun orb looked like they had an egg yolk floating in the middle of them. The sparkling lemonade and bourbon was pretty good but the Jim Beam wasn’t dark enough to blot out the yolk; the pear cider was undrinkable and the ginger beer and rum might have been delicious, but when I was trying to video the effect, I accidentally poured the rum over the llama instead of the sun. It’s really hard to do slo-mo when your depth perception is gone.

I finally gave up, knowing that my family was pretty much going to guzzle gin straight out of the bottle anyway. I’m sure there are fabulous drink recipes available online that you can use to toast the sun blockage; me and the llama are sticking to Corona.



VSL* vs. VPL*

There is a well-known tradition that if you are traveling on a car trip, you must announce it when you drive over a state line; hence, the shout of “Two States at Once!” as we left Illinois and headed south into Indiana. (If you have never heard of this tradition before, you must immediately start doing it whenever you take a long drive. Maybe it isn’t so much a “well-known tradition” as it is “something we only do in my family, ” but I would encourage you to participate in this ritual. It is enormously satisfying and when this goes viral and sweeps the country, I will get credit for creating it.)

The journey south to the Path of Totality followed a meandering interstate through Mike Pence country all the way to the bottom of Indiana. The whole northern hemisphere is excited about the upcoming eclipse, and nothing illustrates that better than people trying to figure out ways to use this remarkable once-in-a-century celestial event to sell stuff. We encountered Mooncakes at Denny’s, MoonPies at Cracker Barrel and Dark Side of the Moon bikini underwear at Target. (I thought about buying the underwear but realized I had passed the part of my life where I can get away with wearing a Pink Floyd logo on my ass. This realization made me sad.)



The first part of the weekend is being spent at a big old farm house near French Lick, IN. Most of my family has gathered at this spot to share their excitement about the eclipse, play board games and drink lots and lots of gin. We have a variety of professions represented here who know a lot about many things and also a number of people who know nothing about anything but are very good at making you believe they do. (I place myself in the latter category).

We will relax for the weekend and prepare our stamina for Monday, when we will get up reaaaalllly early and drive south to Kentucky, where we will shout “Two States at Once” as we cross the border. But the unknown awaits: Will there be an autopocalypse? Will the gas stations run out of gas? Will we be able to post on Facebook?

This excursion has been planned for over a year, long before the general public became aware that there was going to be an eclipse and everyone decided to go to the exact same spot we are going, damn it. I like to think we were the first ones to come up with the idea of going to Hopkinsville, even though there are some scientists claiming that they knew about this years ago. (Ha! Like they could know that.)

Hopkinsville is the Point of Greatest Eclipse, where there will be a solid 2 minutes and 41 seconds of sun blockage. We have six reserved spaces in a field there, guaranteeing us at least a 15 x 15 foot area per space.  We have paid actual money to reserve grass, which makes me admire the entrepreneurial spirit of America.

Our little eclipse piece of real estate is quite roomy, but the spaces are end to end so we will have to stand shoulder to shoulder in a line and stare up. We will bring our own snacks and shade, but they have promised us there will be bathrooms and the National Guard. Our group will number 13, which could be a potent symbol of something menacing as the dimming begins and the wolves start to howl. Maybe we will, too.


* Visual State Line

*Visual Panty Line

It’s Not Plagiarism if I Admit I Didn’t Write It, Right?

If you’ve ever expressed a fondness for something whimsical—let’s say, ceramic figurines of llamas—you are probably now the proud owner of an entire collection of the little Peruvian porcelains. When people find out you’re a collector of something, it makes buying a birthday present so much easier.

And so it follows that when you mention that you are jotting down a few thoughts about a specific astronomical event, that people will start sending you links to articles about said happening. It is both gratifying and annoying at the same time, because most of the articles are far better than anything I’m going to write and thus make me feel sad and inferior. But I soldier on!  And rather than pretend that no one else had the unique idea to write about the eclipse, today the woodchuck will share with you the best of the internet. Think of these fascinating articles as way to fill your thirst for knowledge with actual research and facts so that you won’t be disappointed when I get back to quoting

fake glasses

These Are Not Going to Work


The Best Picture Ever Taken of People Gathered Together to Celebrate the Eclipse


CU bear at Williams Village

Cranky Bears and Other Pissed Off Deities


Bonnie Tyler Died For Your Sins and other pop culture stuff


Do We Really Think This Is Going to be Worth It?



Tomorrow: The Journey to Hopkinsville Begins!

You Light Up My Life

You’re going to need a playlist.

Not for the actual event – that should be two minutes and forty-one seconds of quality silence, orchestrated by freaked-out birds and chilly cicadas who stop swiping left when the temps drop because they don’t have enough body heat to look for a date. You definitely need to be unplugged and present for that.

But there will be a lot of travel time to fill up as people make their way towards the Path of Totality, and for that you’re going to need tunes. My own journey starts on Friday, August 18 and will involve many hours in the car. Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of “Hamilton”, so here are a few ideas on what to look for in appropriate music.

1) It should contain factual information, and no song gets that better than “Brain Damage/Eclipse” by Pink Floyd from the album Dark Side of the Moon.

One side of the moon is always lit by the sun, but the lit side isn’t always facing the Earth. This is how we get the phases of the moon. For a solar eclipse to occur, it needs to be in its “new moon” phase. During the new moon, the dark side of the moon is directly facing the Earth.

Brian Resnick

Nobody puts the lunatic in lunar quite like Pink Floyd, and their lyrics perfectly illustrate what it will be like if it’s too crowded or the weather doesn’t cooperate:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The album “Dark Side of the Moon” syncs up perfectly with “The Wizard of Oz”. Start the record right after the MGM lion roars at beginning of film. Here I am as a winged monkey.

I am going to be so mad if it rains. I know I shouldn’t worry about that but every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the rest of all the clouds won’t go by.

2) It should reference all parties involved, so anything mentioning the sun, the moon, or a shadow are acceptable. Easy enough, as there are a million songs that touch on all these things. “Here Comes the Sun” will be great as it emerges from behind the darkness. “Moonshadow” is a twofer! If you’re a Smashmouth fan (and who isn’t!)  “Walking on the Sun” can merge right into “Walking on the Moon” by the Police. I’m putting together a mashup of “Big Hard Sun” and “Moondance” – it worked perfectly when I sang it in the car this morning so I just need a sound editor to mix it together for me and maybe add some reverb and autotune my voice. (Fun fact: I always thought the song was “Big Hot Sun” until I googled it just now. One of those “someone ate my wife tonight” situations.)

3) It should probably be something pretty obvious that everyone can sing. Come on, you know what I’m talking about! “Then you flew your Learjet to Nova Scotia, to see the total eclipse of the sun”.

In the 1970s, a small group of astronomers used the first prototype of the Concorde to pursue a total eclipse across the Sahara at twice the speed of sound.
                                                                                     Chris Hatherill/

When I read about these scientists who chartered the Concorde in order to follow the Path of Totality across the earth for 70 minutes, I actually thought it was this episode that Carly Simon was referring to in “You’re So Vain”. But apparently this happened in 1973 and the song was written in 1971, so I guess not. Unless . . . the plane went fast enough to reverse the spin of the earth and turn back time so that Warren Beatty could go with them!  Turn, earth! Turn around!

It’s so easy to find the correct info on the internet. And I’ll only be making it right, ‘Cause we’ll never be wrong together! We can take it to the end of the line –
this blog is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time).

Um… sorry.
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark.
It’s like I’m living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.
Nothing I can do.
But let’s just return to the start . . .

You’re going to need a playlist.


Note: Here are some songs you should NOT add to your iPod
A Whiter Shade of Pale
On a Clear Day You Can Nazi Forever
Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee
Springtime for Hitler
Tomorrow Belongs To Me

#Charlottesville #fuckinnazis

Burn, Baby, Burn


Countless articles are warning that you will need special glasses if you plan on looking at the eclipse. Make sure you get the right kind —shameless grifters are apparently repurposing old 3D glasses and trying to pass them off as NASA approved, so be suspicious if yours have a Captain America logo on the side. I found a pair at a local hardware store for under two bucks and was surprised at how flimsy they are. For all the worry about blind woodchucks, I was expecting something a bit more substantial.

Some procedural questions for those of us who already wear glasses: do you duct tape the cardboard ones over your existing specs or shove them underneath? What if you have bifocals? Can I get these in my prescription? Are the disposables biodegradable or will they still be in landfills by the time we go through this again in 2024? Can I get the eclipse pair in those really thick, dark frames that all the hipsters are wearing?

Not peeking may be the safest option, but you can’t hear all the hype about this event and then elect to just stare at your shoes while it is happening. Looking at your feet should at least remind you to make the classic Pinhole Shoebox experiment. This diagram shows how to construct this project. It works exactly as described but should come with a warning— opinions may vary on its effectiveness.

Pinhole Shoebox

The last eclipse that was visible from the midwest area of the U.S. was in 1994. Chicago wasn’t anywhere near the path of totality so there wasn’t quite the amount of coverage there is now, but it was still in the news. I had been talking it up to my kids (who were nine and four at the time) and perhaps raising expectations for this great event in the sky just a tad more than I should have. Since I was all about Safety First and crafty as hell to boot, we constructed the Pinhole Shoebox as a family project. It was very low-tech but I assured them it was going to work perfectly. They seemed doubtful.

The afternoon of the eclipse found us out on the playground of the elementary school with kids milling about waiting for something momentous to happen. As the time approached, the light started to vaguely dim but it wasn’t as if total darkness fell. It just seemed cloudy. I had the shoebox positioned correctly to catch the light and as the moon moved in front of the sun, a perfect crescent shadow slowly advanced over the white circle that was the sun projected at the back of the box. It looked exactly as Carl Sagan had promised!

The problem with this whole experiment is that it happens inside of a shoebox and the image is about the size of a pencil eraser. You could call it anticlimactic. Others might use the words profoundly underwhelming.

Excitedly I called the kids over to show them that it had worked and they looked baffled. They had imagined something like the stream of light hitting the crystal staff and sending a laser beam through the darkness of the pyramid tomb in Raiders of the Lost Ark. What they got was their mother with her head in a shoebox acting like she had discovered something about the sun that Galileo might have missed. As I handed the box to my daughter so that she, too, could marvel at this astronomical event, I caught the look on her face. It was the dawning realization that this was to be the first of many moments when her up-to-that-point cool mom was actual going to turn out to be the embarrassment of her life. She’d heard about this in the girl’s bathroom but hadn’t expected it to happen this soon. And why was the waist of her jeans so high?!?

Shortly after this, she refused to be picked up from school in the battered old Chevy Chevette I was driving at the time. My advice is don’t try the shoebox experiment with anyone over the age of eight. You’re setting yourself up for humiliation. It’s going to happen eventually, but why add fuel to the fire? And for God’s sake, stop wearing those mom jeans.

Fun fact: Galileo was completely blind by the age of 74. Coincidence? I think not.