Apr 15, 2024

When Even a Partial Eclipse Proves Totally Cool

An adventurer’s log

By Ed Goldman

Let’s be real: In Sacramento one week ago today we didn’t see the total solar eclipse. We saw something like a partial solar ellipse—more like an upended parenthetical aside. But we definitely missed the ominous, animal-scaring, Satan recruitment poster my friend Phil Syracopoulos saw in his hometown of Akron, Ohio—the “path of totality” event which began on Mexico’s Pacific coast and moved northeast from Texas to Maine, and then into eastern Canada (possibly to avoid the draft).

Phil, whom I’ve been best pals with since 1965, is a lifelong skeptic but also a brilliant photographer and illustrator, when he chooses to be. He told me that rather than gaze up at the eclipse he found it more fun to take photos of the hundreds of people in his city as they gazed upward. This is understandable, given that 50 some-odd years ago we both became hysterical with laughter when we went to a 3-D film and glanced at each other wearing our “special” glasses. I’m surprised Phil was able to keep his camera steady as he photographed the multitudes in their “special” glasses.

Edgy Cartoon


As it happens with most popular, possibly life-altering events—such as seeing “Barbie” on an IMAX screen or vacationing in Hawaii—I hadn’t even considered buying the glasses and joining the estimated 32 million other viewers who did such unbecoming things as renting recreational vehicles and driving for days to get to treeless settings where they could get the best view of an event whose running time was roughly four minutes. If I want to make that much effort for something that brief, I told myself, I’d wait in line to take the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland or start hanging out at singles bars.

But last Monday I decided to watch the eclipse from the American River levee. I used eclipse-watching glasses purchased at a 7-11 store. I realized that buying anything with supposedly science-approved protection from a place that exists largely on the sale of econo-gas and Slurpees was perhaps akin to gobbling up sushi rolls I’d pick up at a garage sale. But this was no time to quibble. For once, I was going to do something at roughly the same time as the rest of the world.

I didn’t expect much. But as I’ve spent much of my life saying, Man, was I wrong. I drove the 10 minutes or so to a levee access point, parked and scrambled up the embankment, expecting I’d have to fight for a spot to watch the eclipse.

Yet, to my surprise, delight and curiosity, I was pretty much alone on the levee. Pulling on my glasses, I was afraid my occasional vertigo would crop up when I threw my head back to look up at the sky, where the eclipse was slated to take place. People with vertigo are advised to not throw their heads back, which is why there aren’t many photos of them at events wearing nametags, holding glasses of cheap white wine and “sharing a laugh” (which requires a head throwback) with fellow attendees.

Well, it was magical, friends, even though all I could see from my little spot in the cosmos was the sun’s lower half being blocked by a little black ball (played in shadow by the moon, natch). It made it seem as though the sun was a big eyeball and the moon was its iris, lens, cornea and pupil looking downward, possibly in disapproval.

About an hour later, as I celebrated my adventure over an al fresco coffee and (living it up!) a maple scone, I felt it was mandatory that I make a confession when I documented this. In my seven-plus decades with the Department of Earth, this had been the first time I’d ever seen an eclipse, total or partial, except in photos.

It was so exhilarating, in fact, that it left me wondering if there are any plans to re-release “Barbie” in IMAX and how late Hawaii stays open.

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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).