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Editor's note: Pete hosts an open mike poetry night in Los Angeles. Details available in the Clubhouse for those who might be interested in participating.

The Summer of '69
By Pete Justus

They were talking about the moonshot
Thirty years ago tonight
Back when man walked on the moon,
Back when things looked so bright.

Now it's just a memory,
A distant view of man's highest climb,
A reminder of what man can do,
Given the will and the time.

It was a crowning moment,
Man's footprints on untouched ground,
That flag hanging over black space,
The world listening for just a sound.

I thought about that long gone summer,
Watching the landing in the midday heat
On an old black and white while my roomie and a friend
Did their own kind of lunar beat.

I had dinner with Jim and Diana
And we watched Armstrong's one small step for man
In an image so hard to follow
From a camera above that white empty land.

That was quite a summer,
A time for change in a world gone mad.
The best thing about that year
Was that after '68 it wasn't so bad.

After war and riots,
After assassinations and worse
I was thinking that the land of the free
Was living through a curse.

I was finding new love
And losing it just as fast.
I was gazing into her eyes
And at the same time knew it couldn't last.

I met Linda at the start of summer.
She had oceans of long blond hair.
But she had an ease and grace,
An attitude that said "I don't care."

We went out into hot nights
And got higher than I can recall.
It was a crazy era.
We had to just try it all.

The Eagle sat among the rocks
At the aptly named Tranquility Base
Looking at the good blue earth
Shining in contrast to deep dark space.

Just like the white peace of the moon
Contradicted the reality down below.
Back here in the real world
Life was still touch and go.

A few weeks after the moonshot,
On a night hot with humid heat
We heard a story on the radio
About killings on a Bel Air street.

This was down in depths murder,
Charlie and his drug crazed clan
Spreading terror through the Southland
With their insane helter skelter plan.

The story grabbed the headlines
Pushing Armstrong and Chappaquidick out
As the tabloids speculated on the killings,
The city teetering with shock and doubt.

And through all of this,
In spite of one giant leap for man
There were over half a million boys
Bogged down in the green jungle of Vietnam.

Nixon said we came in peace
As he basked in the moon's bright glow
But down here in the trenches
We all knew it wasn't so.

Mary Jo had died with Kennedy
Who had a story no one really bought.
Manson was butchering the rich and innocent.
"There really isn't much peace here," I thought.

And now we are basking
In the memory of that great July day,
Thinking about how far we've come,
Without thinking about the price we pay.

I was just looking around
And it all seems so much the same.
Not much is so different
Except now we have different names.

Kennedy's only son was lost
As the world watched the moon so bright
And thought about thirty years ago,
Thought about that long ago night.

And today he is given up
Into the sea and God's gracious hands
And we see his little salute
Back when our tears watered this land.

The streets are still so dirty
And the killers still lurk in the dark.
I don't think we've learned all that much
From Armstrong's moonshot spark.

Woodstock rocked that summer
And we all thought music could save the day
But that was before Joplin and Hendrix
Made their final get away.

Yeah, that was before Altamont,
That fall moment with the Rolling Stones.
When peace, love and the Hells Angels
Collided with flesh and bone.

In '68 I learned the hard way
About the power of the powers that be.
In '69 I think I found out
That they still had plenty for me to see.

I blasted through that summer
Like I would live forever more.
I acted like the future didn't matter
Because I thought I knew the score.

I lost Linda in the wind
Because I didn't understand
What it meant to love and be loved,
What it meant to be a man.

I dated Cheryl for awhile,
Slipped into arms while I ignored her craft.
She worked for the Selective Service
And I was trying to stay out of the draft.

I couldn't handle the contradictions,
And I wished I hadn't let Linda fade
So when summer ended I was back
In my old one man parade.

I became a teacher that Fall,
A job that just came my way,
And I was suddenly forced to become an adult,
Forced to find a better way.

Sure I had my lapses
And there were still too many long stoned nights
But I was starting to see things as they were
Starting to learn about wrongs and rights.

Still that summer stands out to me,
Bright like a burning star,
Taking me back to when I was so much younger,
When I was still learning how things really are.

So I watched those heroes on Nightline
And the specials on the Evening News,
Tried to remember what being poor meant,
Tried to touch those Sixties blues.

But no matter how I see it,
It looks like another lifetime to me.
I can't believe I went through all that,
That I escaped being struck by the debris.

It was a shining moment,
The highest we've reached so far
But under all that glory
We still carry some of those ugly scars.

And though it meant so much,
That footstep so far away on a journey long
Back here in the real world
We still face so much that's so wrong.

One giant leap for mankind
Got us computers and the microwave,
Got us pagers and instant orange juice,
Got us so many new things to crave.

But it was really one small step
On a road rutted, muddy and dark
In our two steps up, one step back
Effort to get home to God's original spark.

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