Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of olives. Green olives, black olives, olives stuffed with pimentos or jalapenos. Olives by themselves or on salads or in other dishes.
When I finish a jar, I have lot of juice left over, so one day I took a sip of the vinegary brine and found it refreshing. It’s better than you would think, sort of like salty coffee.
Since then, I’ve become addicted to the stuff. I told a co-worker about my discovery and he said, “Oh, so you had a dirty martini without the liquor?”
Apparently I had, though I never knew what a dirty martini was. I’ve had only one martini in my life, and it was blue.
Years ago, an Elvis impersonator – sorry, Elvis tribute artist – was in town to play a New Year’s Eve party, and we went to see him. The specialty drink for seeing the new year in was a blue suede martini, in honor of The King. I tasted it and immediately felt more shook up than the cocktail.
As I set the drink down, the ersatz Elvis was singing Are You Lonesome Tonight?, a beautiful ballad whose lyrics include: “Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there with emptiness all around.”
It made me wonder whether Elvis Presley ever got lonely.
I don’t see how he could have. He was always surrounded by, if not the screaming fans, then his mafia of hangers-on who certainly did not add years to his life.
Still, perhaps he got lonely and that’s why he would shoot up television sets. Add to that all the “blue” songs he sang: Blue Suede Shoes and Blue Hawaii and Moody Blue.
All it takes for me to get lonely is to step into the backyard and look up. Some of the stars aren’t even around anymore. They have burned out, but their light is just now getting to us at 186,000 miles per second.
With an expanding universe, everything has moved, too. Our snapshot of a night sky is a page from ancient history. I could never visit that scene because it no longer exists.
Feeling small and inconsequential under such a sky, I try to put myself in perspective. Yes, I’m lonely on this particular night, for a short while, but tomorrow I will feel better. I think of how much worse it could be.
The epitome of loneliness, to me, is a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Early in the film, prehistoric people are huddled in a cave, afraid of the night. They shudder as wild beasts roar outside. That’s all they can do, and their ancestors had been doing it for thousands of years and their descendants would do it for thousands more. Each night would be the same.
All of this came to mind as NASA reported that its Voyager 1 spacecraft has finally popped out of the “hot gas bubble” of our solar system and is headed to the stars after a 36-year voyage. The first man-made object to leave our planetary system, it has traveled 11.5 billion miles since 1977 and is in uncharted territory – all by its lonesome.