television set was on, glowing eerily over the bottles of rye and bourbon, and that was how I happened to witness the event. I saw the two padded figures take their first steps in that airless world, bouncing like toys over the landscape, driving a golf cart through the dust, planting a flag in the eye of what had once been the goddess of love and lunacy. Radiant Diana, I thought, image of all that is dark within us. Then the president spoke. In a solemn, deadpan voice, he declared this to be the greatest event since the creation of man. The old-timers at the bar laughed when they heard this, and I believe I managed to crack a smile or two myself. But for all the absurdity of that remark, there was one thing no one could challenge: since the day he was expelled from Paradise, Adam had never been this far from home.
For a short time after that, I lived in a state of nearly perfect calm. My apartment was bare now, but rather than discourage me as I had thought it would, this emptiness seemed to give me comfort. I am quite at a loss to explain it, but all of a sudden my nerves became steadier, and for the next three or four days I almost began to recognize myself again. It is curious to use such a word in this context, but for that brief period following the sale of Uncle Victor’s last books, I would even go so far as to call myself
Like an epileptic on the brink of a seizure, I had entered that strange half-world in which everything starts to shine, to give off a new and astonishing clarity. I didn’t do much during those days.I paced around my room, I stretched out on my mattress, I wrote down my thoughts in a notebook. It didn’t matter. Even the act of doing nothing seemed important to me, and I had no qualms about letting the hours pass in idleness. Every now and then, I would plant myself between the two windows and watch the Moon Palace sign. Even that was enjoyable, and it always seemed to generate a series of interesting thoughts. Those thoughts are somewhat obscure to me now—clusters of wild associations, a rambling circuit of reveries—but at the time I felt they were terribly significant. Perhaps the word
had changed for me after I saw men wandering around its surface. Perhaps I was struck by the coincidence of having met a man named Neil Armstrong in Boise, Idaho, and then watching a man by the same name fly off into outer space. Perhaps I was simply delirious with hunger, and the lights of the sign had transfixed me. I can’t be sure of any of it, but the fact was that the words
began to haunt my mind with all the mystery and fascination of an oracle. Everything was mixed up in it at once: Uncle Victor and China, rocket ships and music, Marco Polo and the American West. I would look out at the sign and start to think about electricity. That would lead me to the blackout during my freshman year, which in turn would lead me to the baseball games played at Wrigley Field, which would then lead me back to Uncle Victor and the memorial candles burning on my windowsill. One thought kept giving way to another, spiraling into ever larger masses of connectedness. The idea of voyaging into the unknown, for example, and the parallels between Columbus and the astronauts. The discovery of America as a failure to reach China; Chinese food and my empty stomach; thought, as in food for thought, and the head as a palace of dreams. I would think: the Apollo Project; Apollo, the god of music; Uncle Victor and the Moon Men traveling out West. I would think: the West; the war against the Indians; the war in Vietnam, once called Indochina. I would think: weapons, bombs, explosions; nuclear clouds in the deserts of Utah and Nevada; and then I would ask myself—why does the American West look so much like the landscapeof the moon? It went on and on like that, and the more I opened myself to these secret correspondences, the closer I felt to understanding some fundamental truth about the world. I was going