The “right stuff” . . . Neil Armstrong had it. The first man to leave a mark in moondust died Saturday at age 82 from complications related to heart surgery. Armstrong was a complex man that American popular culture could never crack open. That’s a good and rare thing.
All these decades, Armstrong, the lunar Adam, has represented a code his admirers knew better than to try to crack. Not that, early on, great literary minds—besotted by the baby-faced genius—didn’t try.
Wolfe continued: “You’d ask him a question, and he would just stare at you with those pale-blue eyes of his, and you’d start to ask the question again, figuring he hadn’t understood, and— click —out of his mouth would come forth a sequence of long, quiet, perfectly formed, precisely thought-out sentences.”
So Wolfe warned against understanding Armstrong in “The Right Stuff.” And that warning was more or less heeded, somewhat miraculously, until Armstrong’s dying day. Profilers kept their mitts off him. Hollywood starlets didn’t swoop in to wreck his family. And, most mercifully of all, Carson and Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore and Ali G and Oprah didn’t demand that he couch-surf with them. — Virginia Heffernan, for Yahoo News
July 20, 1969: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” If you were alive then and sentient enough to recognize that iconic history was being made, that quote is burned into your brain in a way that youngsters might appreciate but never fully understand. This was a moment of American pride and human exceptionalism that reminded us that even while America seemed on the verge of coming undone, we would overcome.
Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong. The eagle has landed.