This is not to say that interns are not highly evolved creatures with a sense of refinement and class, but certain situations (i.e. abject poverty and long hours) can easily reduce us to a more primitive state. Basic needs take over and suddenly we are driven by the instincts of our ancestors. Take an average day at NPR West for me for example.
Mornings begin before dawn when I creep about my cave-like apartment scavenging for clothing and the occasional piece of toast in the dark. By 5:45 I am at work, busily booking, adrenaline pumping through my system as I conduct research on Live Earth for Frangela. By 11:30 when it’s time for lunch, I cautiously scarf down my sandwich, carefully watching to make sure no one tries to steal my yogurt and banana. By late afternoon, with lunch gone, I am suddenly aware of every piece of edible food in the entire building. Someone unwraps a lifesaver three cubicles away, and I can sense it. The moment a half finished box of Wheat Thins is left on the counter, I can immediately smell the nutty, wheaty fragrance of the slightly stale crackers. Before the generous Wheat Thin donor has even finished writing “Please Take Some” in Sharpie on a paper towel, I am there, hands outstretched. I hate to conform to these stereotypic intern behavior patterns, but I honestly can’t resist my caveman instincts. The need for food—both powerful and blinding—consumes me and I can suddenly picture what it must have been like for primitive man, always hunting, always searching, never satisfied.
But last night, plentiful feasts abounded. The PBS and Wired Science event at the Observatory was catered by Wolfgang Puck, which meant enough chicken tostatadas and guacamole plantains to feed an entire cave of interns. And those were just the hor dourves. As the sun set and the dim lights of the buffet table illuminated the Observatory’s courtyard, I imagined what it must have been like to gather about a campfire after a long hunt and feast. It must have been here, their needs momentarily met, that my ancestors discovered the heavens and connected stories to its constellations.
Rising above us over the brightly lit, smog filled city of
Watching the giant universe swallow up our little planet is always a haunting, disorienting reminder of how delicate the balance of our lives on Earth are. And how rare, amid the race for food and bookings, are the moments when we can truly look heavenward, and be filled the same feeling of astonishment and satiation humans must have felt since the dawn of the zodiac and the first storytellers. On the bus ride home from the Observatory, looking out across the glowing din of the city, I squinted and turned the LA skyline into a sea of starry light.