I learned about rape from the weatherman when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Two memorable things from early Adirondack are both difficult to relate to today: the excitement of the moon landing and learning about rape. Why these events, some seven years apart, are fused together in my memory, I’m not sure. This memory arrives replete with fragrance, as a skunk had cornered the dog the day before, and we bathed him in tomato juice. Sometimes when a skunk is near, I think about that little dog!

The moon landing was brought to us by a 13”  black and white beauty that sat on the top of the refrigerator, aluminum wrapped around the rabbit-ear antennae increasing reception like the tin foil  hats on the kids in that Mel Gibson movie.  There were 2 channels, 3 and 5, if you count 3 as a channel because it was usually too staticcy to watch. Think about it: no fighting over what to watch!!

I learned about rape from the weather man. It’s often called a “flash-bulb” memory when something happens that is so horrific you remember every detail. I was eating s Swanson TV dinner on a black TV tray that had Capodimonte flowers painted on it.  There were the little tater-tots and the delicious green beans that bear no resemblance to the real thing. The TV rested on a refrigerator that would fit in with the color scheme of Rachael Raye’s current studio kitchen.

When he said it, my grand-mother gasped.

Then she explained to me that rape was when a man pressed up against you and you didn’t want him to.  (Halt! You are thinking, wasn’t she old enough to know what sex was?) I might have been, but I did not. In the following days, the weatherman was fired, and his rape comment endlessly discussed in the limited media we had. Johnny Carson would do his “Amazing Karnac” routine with “Tex Antoine” as the answer/punch line. When I went to look this up, I found the entire Wikipedia entry to be of interest, so I will leave you with a taste:

“On November 24, 1976, his weather spot came up just after a report of a violent rape of a five year old girl. Tex, thereupon quipped: “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.'” (The same comment later helped derail Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams‘ 1990 election bid and got Indiana University Basketball coach Bob Knight in trouble [meaning?] during an interview with Connie Chung in 1988). Roger Grimsby led the 11 p.m. newscast that night with the official apology from WABC. Five days later Grimsby would introduce Antoine’s replacement, Storm Field, with “Lie back, relax and enjoy the weather with Storm Field.” Antoine closed out his career with a brief stint as weatherman for WNEW-TV in 1977. (Wikipedia).”

I was going to tell you about Neil Armstrong and his historic moonwalk.  Even though the two events (Neil’s and Tex’s) happened some seven years apart, I remember them smashed together, possibly because my little Nana gasped and gestured at the television similarly at both events. The Apollo missions brought people together in a lost way that we ought to stop and remember for a moment. Neighbors gathered for impromptu cocktail parties in front of massive console TVs, taking a break from Richard Nixon and Viet Nam war coverage. It was the equivalent to people today, all putting down their cell phones at one distinct moment. Imagine!

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