If you grew up in the U.S. in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, the chances that the public television show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was part of your childhood. The host of this iconic children’s show was Fred Rogers, a man who used his gentle voice to teach us about friendship, diversity, growing up, loss, music, and above all how to use our imagination. Fred Rogers would welcome us to his home every morning or afternoon telling us how happy he was to spend time with his neighbors. The documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” was released this past year and was a resounding success. A feature film starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers is currently in production. The filming of the tentatively titled “You Are My Friend” was mainly shot in Rogers’ hometowns of Latrobe and Pittsburgh, PA. Amanda and I both answered the production call for extras and were chosen to be background actors in the film. She participated in a scene a couple of weeks ago and my scene was filmed this week. We couldn’t take any pictures and can’t say much about the show other than the days were extremely long and involved a lot of waiting. I was 14 feet from Tom Hanks for a couple of hours and can tell you he truly looks and acts like our favorite neighbor. We can’t wait to tell you more about the production when the film finally hits theaters next fall.
In marriage, you often find that you have to make compromises and learn to like new things that your spouse likes. I had to do that this past Thursday. Amanda’s musical tastes are a little hardcore compared to mine. Her favorite rock group is the legendary band Metallica. The group was in concert at PPG Paints Arena and I agreed to go to the concert with her. We’ve mentioned before that the arena is in walking distance, so making a trip over there isn’t a big deal for us. We just avert our eyes from all the NHL Penguins gear and banners hanging all over their home rink. Watching a heavy metal band in concert is an experience. I didn’t need to know the words of the songs I could just feel the music. I literally mean that; the parts of my clothing that weren’t touching my skin were vibrating like a speaker membrane. We sat for about three hours listening to these truly professional performers pump out more energy on stage than OPEC has in their oil fields. Amanda, though not as animated or intoxicated as some of the fans around us, really seemed to enjoy it. I’m glad I had the experience and really happy that we were able to see them together.
We know it is well established that Amanda and I are space nuts. We love everything to do with the science of exploring the stars and other celestial bodies. The chance to get up close and personal to some of the most important space artifacts in history was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. As part of the upcoming commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, the Heinz History Center is hosting Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission. The epic exhibition about the moon landing was created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) is currently at the museum only a few blocks from our apartment. We had to take a couple hours to stare in wonder at the Columbia Command Module that ferried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon and back. The exhibit also offers the chance to listen to hours of audio from the NASA archives collected during the mission. I have trouble explaining to people, especially Millenials, the amazing idea of the moonshot. The idea that from the time we had our first powered flight to landing on the moon was only 66 years. In the span of a lifetime we went from being unable to fly to landing on the moon; the accomplishment still awes me today. You can even be more dumbstruck when you think about how your smartphone has a million times more computing power (not an exaggeration) than all of NASA during the Apollo program. If the traveling show comes to a museum near you it is something to check out. Seeing a vehicle that’s been to space and back is an exciting and rare opportunity.
Destination Moon is open at the Heinz History Center until February 18, 2019.