Where Did the Summer Go?

In many ways I’m a bit old fashion and somewhat of a traditionalist. For example, I don’t believe in wearing a hat at the dinner table, I think holding a door open for a lady is still pure class, and teaching your kids to mow the lawn, pull the weeds, put out the trash and put away the dishes is important. I also believe that having them get a job to pay for gas and car insurance builds responsibility and character. Lastly, I believe school in the second week of August is too early, especially when most other schools start two weeks later.

There is still something pure about summer unofficially beginning on Memorial Day weekend and ending after Labor Day weekend, thus starting the school year. For all of the reasons for starting at the beginning of August, it still seems odd and doesn’t feel right and most families haven’t adjusted and in some cases continue to rebel by taking their family vacation during the first week of the new school calendar. After all, isn’t that what August is for, vacations? The only saving grace this year is that June gloom seems to have turned into July gloom, but I am sure by the time this column comes out we will be in the last days of beautiful, sunny, 90-degree August days enjoying the beach with the kids.

Oh yeah, they’ll be in school.

Although cut short, this summer has been a blast. My family spent a couple days with friends up in Paso Robles having a great time on Lake Nacimiento, then a week in Palm Desert with 100 or so fellow San Pedro locals for Pedro Springs week, most of whom live in our neighborhood, and a week in Florida visiting Universal Studios Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center, and Cape Canaveral then experiencing the launch of a communication satellite all while enjoying Cocoa Beach. It was a summer to remember.

What is most memorable about most summers though is watching the kids in our neighborhood growing up together. When we moved into our house back in December of 1996, the only kids in the neighborhood were Nick and Courtney Synstelien and our three-month-old, Antonio. Today, Nick just graduated from UCLA, Courtney attends San Jose State, and Antonio is a junior at SPHS and just received his driver’s license. Wow, how time flies.

Since then, we have seen the neighborhood grow in the number of kids, 20 to be exact. The nine girls and 11 boys; my other two sons Vincent and Luca, as well as Shereese, Sydney, Noah, Logan, Heather, David C., Tiana, Falo, Vincent A., Hailey, Madison, Avery, Joey, Kaitlyn, Nathan, Liz, Eric, and David O. are all growing up together in various stages. I think of them as the neighborhoods Little Rascals as each of them have some characteristics similar to Alfalfa, Darla, Spanky, Buckwheat, Porky, and Froggy. Watching them grow over the past 17 years has been great and it’s not over yet. Recently, the neighborhood graduated from elementary school and having two of my own in high school and one in middle school promises to bring even more experiences to the neighborhood, let alone our house.

The summers are filled with late nights with the kids either playing sports, capture the flag, skating boarding, video games, wiffle ball, swimming or just hanging out in front of the house. As I sit hear writing this column the street is full of the kids skating up and down the street, yelling “car!” anytime they see a car heading up or down the street so nobody gets hit. Even on family nights out for dinner, Noah Botica and Dave Carlton are on their skateboards in our driveway when we pull up as the boys constantly text each other on when they are almost home so they can hang out together. Soon, the question will come up from one of my boys, “Can so and so sleep over?”

As I finish up this column the next morning, sure enough, David Olivieri is crashed out on one of our couches and my son Antonio on the other. After all, isn’t this what summer is all about? spt

Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns Home

On April 12, 1981, the maiden voyage of space shuttle Columbia not only marked the day twenty years prior when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth, but also began the first of 135 STS missions to and from space with a reusable spacecraft. One of the most complex machines ever devised the space shuttle was the only spacecraft capable of delivering and returning people, large payloads and scientific experiments to and from space. So, when NASA announced that the California Science Center in Exposition Park would be awarded Space Shuttle Endeavour it not only complimented Southern California’s rich aerospace history but also the dedication and commitment of thousands to shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

The arrival of Endeavour is also a homecoming for one of the nation’s space shuttle fleet that were built and maintained in Downey, Canoga Park and Palmdale by our regions once dominant aerospace industry. Up until the early 1990s, the aerospace industry not only dominated the Southern California job market but the industry itself transformed the city as a whole. Companies such as Rockwell International, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Rocketdyne employed thousands who all contributed to the shuttle program. Edwards Air Force Base served as the shuttle’s second home and alternate landing facility if bad weather was forecasted for Cape Canaveral, Fla. On those occasions sonic booms would quickly catch our attention and would be overcome by a strong sense of pride that “our” shuttle was landing.

The presence of Endeavour at the California Space Center will not only provide a learning experience for students and pride for those who designed, built and launched it, but will also be a constant reminder of those brave astronauts who perished aboard Challenger in January of 1986 and Columbia in February 2003, including local Hughes Aircraft Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis who was a member of the Challenger crew.

The last of NASA’s shuttles to be built, Endeavour was the second to the last of all space shuttle flights, STS-134. Atlantis STS-135 would be the final flight and mission of the space shuttle program. In 25 missions over 20 years, Endeavour logged more that 122 million miles in space and circled the globe at 17,500 mph, but it will be the last 12 miles that may be the most memorable for this shuttle. As Endeavour made its grand entrance to the west coast this month a top a modified 747 flying as low as 1,500 feet passing by some of California’s points of interest as well as over the very facilities that gave life to the shuttle program here locally.

Among others, the shuttle derived technologies that have been used in developing an artificial heart and limbs, three-dimensional biotechnology, a light for treating tumors in children, improving crime prevention and wildfire detection to name a few. Endeavour’s final journey will be a reminder of the last 30 years of space shuttle missions, a sign of American ingenuity, pride for thousands who dedicated decades to its success and will remind us of a shared commitment to sending humans into space and returning them safely to earth. This will be the legacy of America’s space shuttle program.

We experienced the exhilarating triumph and dealt with two heartbreaking shuttle tragedies together. Endeavour’s presence will tie us all together to this as well as this great national accomplishment. The ending of the shuttle means the beginning of a successor to once again have American’s send astronauts into orbit and beyond to do what we do best, explore. Godspeed, Endeavour and welcome home. spt