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The Van Horn Chronicles - Part 2
Well, I suppose this is more of a monthly than a weekly newsletter, but I’m fine with that. I figure this way you can read it over a longer period of time (come back again and again!) and I can completely disregard the norms on email lengths. I ♡ long reads.
Since last we met, I’ve been to Chicago, New Orleans, and twice to Indianapolis, and had a blowout triple B'nei Mitzvah at home (yes, I am the father of triplets). So, it’s been busy.
But enough about me, let’s get back to getting ready to go to SPACE. This XL edition will wrap up the practice run in advance of what was to become the First Human Flight for Blue Origin.
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Project: Blue Origin
Cast of Characters:
Peter - Director
Tony - Director of Photography
Donny - 1st Assistant Camera
Xander - 2nd Assistant Camera
June 6, 2021
I Eat Garbage
Today was all about the B-Roll. Pretty pictures and some verite filming. Peter instructed Tony to get images that would "make him cry." So, before heading out, I fortified myself with an in-room suitcase & Keurig breakfast (instant oatmeal, yogurt, blueberries). Then, we geared up and headed out to WSO.
The VPF, now called something else entirely, was abuzz with activity. Engines were being tested and fitted, hydraulics were hyrdaulizing, and bolts bolted. All the while, the mechanics were working to the beat of the heavy and grinding soundtrack of Sirius XM's all-metal station, blasting from a pair of JBL Eons positioned on the third level of the crew capsule gantry. Tony remarked on how he loved the double bass drum. So, yes, it was rather hypnotic, even intoxicating - the hiss of the hydraulics, the pistons ratcheting in and out, the guitars churning, like metal parts breaking in a forge... My god, I thought, staring up at the Blue Origin crest, with its "Gradatim Ferociter" written in script, tortoises in awe of the blazing star overhead. It sounded like the voice of the planet itself, speaking from a hundred thousand aluminum tongues while running in place on a hot cosmic treadmill. It was a metal storm. Rock On!
Lunch was a Subway rerun. Well, not a complete rerun, because this time I got a chicken-something-hold-the-ranch and sub oil and vinegar wrap. It went down easy on the deck on the ASC. Tony was displeased with his meatball sub, claiming that the bread "was not up to Subway standards," which seemed to imply that it was too soft and soggy to stand up to the saucy meatball now in between his fingers. I don't like to blame the victim, but c'mon - who orders a meatball sub to eat in the middle of the desert? Was it for the protein? Because I'm pretty sure that one bite of that sandwich has half the nutrition of a bottle of non-alcoholic beer. However, I suppose I'm not one to talk. In full disclosure, I forgot I had ordered an oatmeal cookie along with my wrap, and after Xander was eating his, I went and retrieved mine from the garbage. Yes, dear reader, I took my Subway sandwich bag out of the garbage can, and there inside was my cookie, wrapped in wax paper, safe and ready to eat. And it was good.
Anyway, at some point, we then made our way to the Astronaut Village at the Corn Ranch. It's come a long way since the last time I was there; now there's the world's most awesome firepit and seven million-dollar airstreams. The firepit smelled like burnt sugar, wood, smoke, old leather, and a memory of campfires stirred by the wind. And there's a bar! And that's where we did a bit of verite filming with the practice astronauts. The launch is simulated, but the stay is not. The drink smoker is also decidedly real. But, I wondered, what's making that smoke?
Hooty kept us company the rest of the day around the village, as Tony and the camera crew framed up all the golden hour footage we could swallow. It all looked amazing! But as Hooty told us: "Never trust a big butt and a smile." Love Hooty; that guy has an aphorism for everything. And then Brian pulled out in his Rivian SUV and we were done.
Also, we had dinner from VHCC - probably the best yet so far for me. Same as last night (flat iron, salad) but now still warm and medium rare. Win!
Naked and Afraid is on TV now.
June 7, 2021
It Gets The Hose
I'll make this quick due to the late hour. It was hot, hot, and hot. The air was hot, thick, and heavy. It sounded like someone was running a heating grate over the hull of a rocket ship. At the ATC it was all "waist, crotch, shoulders," and how not to die under the scissor legs of the astronaut seats. And the barf bags. Don't use your feet in zero-G, and avoid heavy scents in the capsule. Sweat. Some of us had applied deodorant before we left, but when the sweat hit, it just became another smell, hot and rotten.
Lunch was from Chelas and my chicken tacos could have choked a skeleton. So dry... you can't. You can't even use words. It's like trying to describe a forest by describing the trees it's composed of one at a time. But, hey, Donny thought the food wasn't bad. Tony had some kind of beef kibble burrito backed up by last night's pizza from Marfa. I vote for Subway over this. We were again told about the infamous fish sticks foodservice debacle of yesteryear. And despite being warned about the tripe in the bean soup, Peter went all in. I demured.
Oh, and it was very hot both inside and outside. All day. The air tasted of hot metal, the smell of fire, and the tang of sweat.
After lunch, we made our way to the Astro Village where dinner was prepared and served most elegantly, but not for the crew. I purloined a goat cheese croquette. Tony lensed the scene with the "Hardmon Hose." Hooty got the firepit going and night fell across the wide open desert. Amen.
Salmon for dinner. House salad with chipotle dressing. They were out of the chicken.
June 8, 2021
The Hot Seat
I'm fading fast, and we have a 4:30AM call time tomorrow, so this won't take long... 106 degrees out today. The heat was relentless and any time outside was like getting smacked in the head with a hot 2x4. Every exposed part of my body sent waves of prickly heat rippling across my skin. This heat... It's like a small, loyal dog, but with a bipolar disposition; it likes to sit as close as possible, but flicks its tongue whenever anyone comes within range. Just walking from the car to a building was a challenge at times
.Anyway... Chase was a doll at the Barn. Laura got teary in the OCC, which must've had a domino effect because then so did the Saras during their interviews. But everyone is super committed to making this happen. They've been waiting a long time for this day to come.
Lunch was from Boots N Scoops, which I think is better than Subway. Tony got the roast beef dip and he jacked it up Pittsburgh style by putting potato chips right into the sandwich itself. My turkey wrap was completely nondescript and uninsulting. There was also a pickle, a slice of honeydew, and a small salad. Like I said, better than Subway.
Someday there will be space accountants, space lawyers, space teachers, space garbage collectors, space artists, and space deli sandwich makers. And it all starts now. As Space Mom says: When you get offered a ride on a rocket ship, you don't ask what seat. Welcome to Westworld.
Chicken fried steak for dinner. 40mg Lipitor for dessert.
June 9, 2021
The Hot Seat
Well, that was interesting... The big day finally arrived. The final rehearsal for M15. The day it all came together!
We rose in darkness for our 4:30 AM call time and loaded into the vehicles, silently slipping across the desert to LSO. At this time of the early morning, the air was cool and layered with the aroma of sagebrush and locust trees. It seemed like a perfect morning for a perfect dress rehearsal for an historic occasion.
At the ATC, Kevin briefed the astronauts of their pre-launch meeting, and everyone was ready to blast off. Then, in our Ford Expedition, we went over for the lineup. I must've dozed off because when I was jostled awake, it was counter to what I had expected - we were racing toward the launchpad! And then, a hard turn out into the desert, in search of the capsule.
And that's when things started to go sideways. Since the desert playa is super dry and dusty, the cars in front of ours immediately kicked up so much dust that visibility dropped to near zero. I suppose this should not have come as a surprise, as the desert floor is like sandbags with no bags and sand pouring out. Driving cautiously, Peter slowed down and when it seemed impossible to know if there was anything in front of us, he stopped the vehicle. Donny, suddenly sensing danger, looked behind us, and the next thing I knew, I heard "oh god, oh god, oh god..." and then WHAM, the car behind us collided with our rear fender. Thankfully, we were all fine. Someone who shall not be named had stove in his car's front end, deploying the airbag.
But, the show must go on! And on we went, to the capsule recovery site. It was quite the party, complete with breakfast sandwiches being made on an authentic Rivian pull-out kitchenette, sabered bottles of champagne, and the driest blueberry muffins in the solar system. We practiced the approach to the capsule, with Tony subbing in as the live camera, and Caitlin playing the role of Lauren. And then we did it again, and again, and again, and each time the mood shifted. I wasn't sure exactly when or why, but at some point, we shifted from being lighthearted, relaxed, and having fun to something more energetic, serious, and, frankly, awesome. We were actually about to do it. We were going to try to do an actual recovery! And everyone was on board. Damn, it was gonna be exciting to witness this finally.
After everyone was satisfied with the maneuvers, the gaggle headed back to the ASC, except for our car and he who shall not be named whereupon we were treated to a stern talking-to and an escort to the aid station for observation. Along the way, several Blue employees were struck with heatstroke.
Once back at the ASC, I ate my chicken ranch club wrap from Subway, hold the ranch. That's my new jam. Tony did not order anything but somehow a meatball sub labeled "Big Tony" materialized. Someone's not telling the truth. There were more lawyerly discussions and realizations on how no one is actually trained to drive in the desert. Who could have known this might happen? As they say in football, "You can't practice that!" So, I suppose, the logic holds also with rocket launches: you can't practice that!
After packing up from travel and a nap, I finally got to eat the Ale Roasted Chicken from Cattle Co. It arrived hot, fresh, and perfectly cooked. The chicken skin was thick and smooth, and the flesh a rich mahogany color. I placed a hind leg between my teeth and could tell that it was a leg that had worked hard. I'd say that this dish is definitely my #2 choice after the Flat Iron. Case closed
.Well, we ended with a bang! Off to Dallas tomorrow!
Also Of Interest
You could be three inches taller for a price.
It goes without saying, but do not cook chicken in NyQuil.
Minecraft in Minecraft.
Beyond Meat COO goes way beyond meat.
Best fake Billionaire Rabbi Astrologer scam ever.
Now Listening To
Dear Old Stockholm - Paul Chambers
All good thoughts,
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