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Sep 18, 2023

It’s Never Too Early To Make Plans To View the April 2024 Eclipse

—Actually, it may already be too late

By Ed Goldman

Being the planner I am (pause for laughs), I find that in looking ahead to 2024, I’m already behind. According to various media reports, it’s even now too late to book a room for viewing the total solar eclipse, currently slated for April 8. The management (this would be God) reserves the right to make last-minute changes.

The news hit me like a bucket of cold water, which can be quite heavy if the bucket‘s dropped from even one story up. Less so if you first remove the water, I imagine. Still.

Edgy Cartoon

Nikked at night

Here’s why the news gob-smacked me (and believe me, being smacked by a gob can be as painful as having a bucket of water crash-land on your head): It seems that all of my life I’ve wrongly assumed that eclipses take place in the sky, not in a room. I mean, isn’t that why they tell us to never look at one with our naked eye?

Nevertheless, room, apartment and home rentals started exploding last July in such desirable destinations as Texarkana, Mabank and Carrollton, Texas, all of which share a motto (“Don’t feel bad. We’ve heard of only Texarkana, too”). Plattsburgh, New York, was also getting in on the booking frenzy, as well as Cobden, Illinois.

Some eclipse groupies have double- and triple-booked locations in case it’s cloudy that weekend in one of the sites. And some less-than-charitable rental owners, who discovered their digs will be a uranium mine for a night or two, have canceled existing reservations or quadrupled the price of an overnight stay.

While Mark Twain was said to have come into the world and stepped out of it with the arrival of Halley’s Comet 75 years apart—even if it’s an apocryphal story, you have to love it—I must admit I’ve missed almost every celestial phenomenon that’s occurred in my lifetime.

I’m not including the comet that allegedly toted William the Conqueror to victory in 1066. Nor the eclipse during World War I that’s said to have abetted Lawrence of Arabia’s crushing of the Ottomans, which I believe made the world safe for footrests. 

More recently I’ve missed less-publicized phenomena like strawberry, storm, snow, harvest or black moons (we had one of the latter this past May). A couple of years ago, I didn’t catch the “ring of fire” solar eclipse, the yearly Perseid meteor shower or “Leonard,” the unexpected December comet. I felt especially bad about missing Leonard. I have a friend by that name— Leonard Hoops, who’s the CEO of the “Visit Indiana” tourism bureau—and it would’ve been fun to kid him about it.

A few years ago, another friend of mine spent a bunch of money to travel to and stay in Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, to view the spectacular aurora borealis, the fabled Northern Lights. But the fog or haze never lifted and apparently, no refunds were offered. When I heard about it, I cheerfully suggested to my friend—apropos of a popular movie at the time—that it must have been Churchill’s Darkest Hour.

“Crickets” doesn’t begin to describe her reaction. “Ghosting” comes closer.

I feel a little bad that I never became a committed stargazer. I have a kaleidoscope that reveals the positioning of every celestial orb and a great pair of binoculars that belonged to my Dad. I rarely look through either. On the other hand, I love the notion of space exploration and was one of the millions of people on the planet who walked outside on the evening of July 20, 1969 and looked skyward as U.S. astronauts took that One Giant Leap For Mankind. Unlike some of my fellow onlookers, I didn’t claim afterward I could see the astronauts from the ground nor assert the belief that the whole thing was being staged on a Hollywood set. Having watched a few episodes of the original “Star Trek” convinced me that if Hollywood had staged the images we received from the moon, the picture would have been much sharper and the special effects much cheesier.   

As a final word of consolation, should you not be able to get a reservation in Mabank for this April, you can find a whole plethora of Eclipses at your local Mitsubishi dealership. Just don’t stare at the prices with your naked eye.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).