Momentous Monday: Welcome, Peter Bean

In honor of his marriage last Saturday, I’m running this story by Peter Bean again in which he writes about the Space Shuttle and its meaning to him. Hard to beleive that this piece originally ran at the beginning of lockdown in Los Angeles.

It’s a very special and, well, momentous Monday for one very big reason. This past Saturday, my friend Peter Bean tied the knot and married his fiancée, Cathleen, so in honor of the occasion, I’m rerunning this guest blog post he originally wrote in 2020.

First, I’m very excited to announce that today is the launch of what I hope will be many guest bloggers here, and my first guest is Peter Bean, who is a truly amazing human — the kind of person I really admire in that “I want to be him when I grow up” way. You can visit his blog and more at The Flushed.

Originally in honor of the ninth anniversary of the decommissioning of the space shuttle Discovery, in its honor I asked Peter to share his experience up close and personal with another shuttle, OV-105, better known as Endeavour, the one that wound up here in L.A. — my original, and his  adopted, hometown.

We finally both got to see the shuttle together a little over five years after it arrived here at the California Science Center, and it was a profoundly moving experience. Walking into that room and seeing the thing up close was like walking into a cathedral.

But now, I’m very proud to turn it over to Peter Bean, one of the most amazing and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and a walking anti-depressant. But don’t tell him I said any of that!


I hate you Space Shuttle, I love you Space Shuttle

By Peter Bean

Peter Bean as Endeavor continues its final voyage

The retired Endeavour space shuttle lumbers down an average Los Angeles street on October 13th, 2012, set to be on display in a local museum. As it rumbles towards me, feelings of love, hate, and sadness mix inside. The United States shuttle program crippled, gut-punched, and inspired humanity. The wings of the shuttle spread outward. Crowds of people push past me for a better look as I squint to see this plane. This is no rocket that pushed Neil Armstrong upward. I’m left wondering about when exactly we gave up the future. The Moon? Mars?

It was in a wood-paneled sixties-looking room complete with an ashtray, patterned fabric chairs, and white carpet. I can imagine the room was brimming with a specific old man funk due to the many, many reporters packed into the small space.

It’s January 5th 1972 and President Richard Nixon announces the shuttle program. He, his administration, and a Space Task Group he created all decided that the United States would not commit to a Mars mission, but instead to low-Earth orbit.

He’d be well out of office by the time the program began in 1981 due to his underhanded interest in getting dirt on his rivals. Between 1983 and 1992 space shuttles Columbia (1981), Challenger (1983), Discovery (1984), Atlantis (1985), and Endeavour (1992) were built and flown. Their primary function: deliver satellites into Earth’s orbit. No longer would we stretch humanity’s arms. No longer would we touch the soil of alien worlds.

The gut punch. Space isn’t easy. The Endeavour space shuttle is now directly in front of me as I stand on the sidewalk and I can see the nooks, the knobs, and the scrapes. It’s not the hulking beast I came to think of in my head. It’s fragile and vulnerable.

A miracle it too didn’t retire in the tragic way its sister ships did. Challenger disintegrated upon launch and killed all seven astronauts in 1986. Columbia broke up during reentry in 2003, killing all of its seven crew.

Challenger’s error came from an O-ring malfunction due to cost-cutting with new shuttle ship building. Columbia’s was a more systematic error in its underbelly shielding. Its sleek black bottom was meant to take on the heat of re-entry. Each tile is quite fragile and lightweight. It’s a marvel of engineering, but its fragility became its downfall.

After these public disasters we realized, as a country, that space very much was not, and is not easy. If there could be a silver lining to these tragedies, it came in the form of international relations. The Russian space program Roscosmos would help us with continued access to the ISS and beyond from then until the present day.

Endeavour’s many cones that form its butt inch past me at a snail’s pace and I can now see the other side of this wide Los Angeles street. There’s a large crowd of people smiling and waving at this space ship. A little girl sits on her dad’s shoulders watching.

With all of the missed opportunities, bloodshed, and limitations, there’s one thing the shuttle program has that Apollo missions before it didn’t: An Enterprise. The prototype ship named Enterprise was built in 1976 and never flew a mission.

I was a child when the shuttle program was in full force, but the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation got me falling in love with space exploration. Much like the beloved Enterprise ships of Captain Kirk and Picard, these real-world shuttles are objects that represent our need to explore. There are four surviving shuttles that a little kid can look upon seated high on their parents’ shoulders.

I recently had the chance to experience an Apollo VR game. It began with me sitting in a similar wood-paneled room much like the room in which Nixon announced the shuttle program, complete with an ashtray and blue fabric chairs. On the rounded television, President John F. Kennedy’s moon speech is blaring. His words echo around the room “Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships. As well as high reward. So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer.”

The game carts me to the tall Saturn V rocket and I’m tucked in. I’m blasted off and ultimately in the lunar lander with Neil Armstrong. As we stand on the moon with my cats rubbing my leg, attempting to break my immersion, I glance upwards at the blue Earth.

It’s a mesmerizing sight that I’m in awe of. It’s often said that when we went to the moon, we discovered Earth. Neil and I (we’re on a first name basis) look back at our fragile world and Carl Sagan‘s voice pounds in my memory from his show Cosmos, when he talked about future space explorers:

“They will strain to find the blue dot. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was. How perilous our infancy.”

Since the Apollo program, the shuttles launched many Earth-monitoring satellites that helped us understand climate change. The Hubble space telescope was launched to help us see into deep space, stretching our eyes farther than the Apollo missions ever could.

The space shuttle Endeavour is now in the distance on this 2012 October day and, despite the potential crippling effect it had on getting humans beyond Earth’s orbit, the crowd around me is a testament to our affection for this object, this ship.

The shuttle program was a step towards something greater. It helped us see beyond our solar system and helped us understand the danger of space. It didn’t dull our curiosity about space, it enflamed it. As President Kennedy described, “It is one of the great adventures of all time.”

Shuttle Visit 02

Image credits:

Header: ©2018 Jon Bastian: Peter and Endeavour meet face-to-face at the California Science Center to talk about their love-hate relationship.

Top of Peter’s post: ©2012 Peter Bean: on the trail of Endeavour’s final voyage to its new forever home. That’s right, it’s a shelter shuttle!

End of article: ©2018 Peter Bean: Curtis Crumbie, Peter Bean, and Jon Bastian under the shuttle at the California Science Center.

If you’d like to be a guest-blogger, use the form below, or send me an email if the form isn’t showing up for you. I anticipate launching the program on May 16, 2020.

Sunday Nibble #43: A short guide to knowing your shit #7

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This is the rarest poop of them all, and one you’re lucky to encounter once in a very blue moon. You go to the toilet as normal and begin your routine. Of course, none of us ever knows what to expect. Will it be a cheek-ripping Decepticon, or the disappointing Phantom? Is it time to bless the Chocolate Rains down on Aquaman, or experience the wonders of an endless Anaconda?

Every time you come here, it’s literally a crapshoot.

Then comes that magical time when you squat and everything comes out almost immediately, in two or three solid plops that follow one after another like paratroopers leaping from the plane. No muss, no fuss, barely any clean-up, and you’re done. You didn’t even get a chance to open your browser.

This is Nature’s way of telling you, “Yes, you are getting enough fiber, and your diet is good.” This is the one that starts your day off right or makes your afternoon a thousand percent better. This is the one you want to share with friends, co-workers, or family by proudly stating, “I took the most satisfying dump today!”

By the way, did you ever wonder why the expression is “took” and not “left?” But I do digress.

When you experience this poop, it’s as if the heavens open and choirs of angels sing. You almost expect this one to smell like rainbows and cotton candy. You plan to buy a bunch of lottery tickets as soon as you get out of the bathroom, and you might even let someone else have the remote tonight. It’s just that good a moment.

If this happens for you every single day, then your gastrointestinal tract is truly blessed and your colon is probably more sparkly than the clean-room at JPL. You most likely pity your fellow humans.

But if this is a rarity for you, like it is for most of us mere mortals, count it as a lucky day when it’s snap, crackle, plop, and done, for you have just had the most wondrous poop of them all.

This rarest of poops is called The Unicorn

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Sunday Nibble #42: A short guide to knowing your shit #6

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This is possibly the worst of the poops, especially if it happens when you’re stuck in a public restroom stall with only TP on hand and no sink within reach. It tends to feel pretty normal right until it gets to wiping time, and then…

You slip the paper between your cheeks, take a swipe and feel a sudden and unfortunate warmness on your finger. For whatever reason, this particular poop didn’t nosedive out. Instead, it used its little hands and grabbed the sides, leaving nasty palm prints on the door jambs, as it were.

Think of it as a Play-Doh pumper when you’ve gotten the dough wet first. No matter how small the opening is, that stuff is going to smear sideways on the way out. And if you have any kind of butt hair at all in your crack (which you should keep if you do) ta-da — instant Velcro® that’ll hang onto the mess tightly.

The causes of this disaster are uncertain, but it would seem to be a combination of a Decepticon and a Traitor. The solidity of the former keeps it from becoming the latter but, at the same time, the squishiness of the latter expands and turns the former into something else. And, ta-da, it’s peanut butter jelly time.

There’s really no good way to deal with this one other than using about six tons of TP to scour your crack and your hand, over and over and over. It’s either that or waddle to the quite public sink with your posterior out for all to see, hoping that no one else comes in while you try to aim the water up your crack. It’s also a reminder that bidets are an excellent idea, and why they haven’t caught on in America is a complete mystery.

Once you’ve managed to feel clean enough downstairs, you’re still going to have to awkwardly re-dress with your non-wiping hand, and then go play Lady Macbeth at the sink until you once again feel pure, all the while swearing that you are going to drink more water and eat more fiber.

You have just been a victim of The Sloppy Joe

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Sunday Nibble #41: A short guide to knowing your shit #5

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

Quite often, you won’t even detect this particular poop coming because it frequently happens during a normal morning dump. You won’t feel bloated or full, so figure it’ll be a quick trip as you settle down, smartphone in hand.

Then you sense movement. Your brown eye blinks open and the snake pokes out his head. Satisfied that he’s in the right place, he begins to slither out of his womb and into the world.

This is the Energizer Bunny of bowel movements — it just keeps going and going. Surprisingly, it doesn’t even really take any effort on your part. Gravity and the sheer mass of the thing are doing all the work for you. It may be moving slower than the line at the DMV, but it is moving.

To you, it feels like you’ve reeled out one foot, then another, and then it’s a yard. You marvel at the possibility of dropping a deuce that’s longer than you are tall, then wonder whether such a thing is even possible. After all, where could it all be hiding?

You’re beginning to regret that you didn’t weigh yourself before this one, because you’d sure love to know how much weight you’ll have lost when it’s finished. You haven’t timed it, but you’ve read four articles from the morning news feed and are starting a fifth with no end in sight. This thing is the CVS receipt of dumps.

Not once has this fecal freight train hesitated or stalled. It’s been rolling down the rails since it left the station. Far more than half of it is probably underwater by now. You’re contemplating instagramming the results — that is, if it ever actually stops coming out.

Secretly, you feel very proud of yourself, and perhaps even wonder how this can hurt so little in one direction and yet so much in the other. Then, as you’re finishing your sixth news story, you feel the tail of the serpent calmly slither past the pearly gates, which gently slide closed without any major ado.

In the aftermath, you’re surprised to find that, while this turd is impressively substantial, it’s nowhere near as long as it felt. It just decided to take its sweet time on the way out.

That was The Anaconda, also known as The Lincoln Log

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Sunday Nibble #39: A short guide to knowing your shit #3

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

This one can come on just as strongly as Chocolate Rain and it may even come with sudden cramps. All you know is you’d better get to the facilities stat. You think you have barely enough time before the howitzer fires as you settle onto the pot, brace yourself, and then… nothing.

Okay, maybe a little assistance is required, so you bear down to try to exorcise the demon hiding in your rectum. There’s more rumbling and gurgling and maybe another cramp, so you give it another hard push and then it all comes out for what seems like an hour.

What’s most noticeable about this one is that while you don’t feel anything, you hear a lot. Your butt is now a thundercloud hovering over the upper Mid-West during the worst storm of the season and, while you don’t have lightning shooting out of your rosebud, it sure as heck sounds like you do. The windows rattle and you might even knock a picture or two off of the wall. Your pets have long since gone into hiding, and pity any roommates or loved ones who are in the same building. Did they hear you? Oh yes, they most certainly did and, by now, they can probably also smell you.

“This is going to be a full can of Febreze job,” you think to yourself as your butt-tuba continues to play its solo in your personal Symphony Number Two, First Movement. Perhaps, sloth-like, you won’t even have to poop for a whole week after this one.

At least the sounds on the inside have stopped and so has the cramping, but since this is a full symphony, there are still a few movements to go, broken only by the brief silences between them.

Then, finally, the clouds part and the Sun returns. You can’t wait to see exactly what monstrosity just used your heinie for some base-jumping. So you look in the bowl and there’s nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. This movement was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

You expected so much but, alas, ‘twas but a fart.

This is known as The Phantom

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Read the next installment.

Sunday Nibble #38: A short guide to knowing your shit #2

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at least, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter in this ongoing series. How many of them do you recognize?

You knew that going to that new Indian-Mexican fusion place last night was a risky idea, but you’ve eaten there before and the food is just so damn awesome that the flaming chipotle sag paneer and tikka tacos with a side of chutney and mole salsa you had were totally worth it — until the next day, when you suffer Mahatmazuma’s Revenge.

It begins with a bit of rumbling and gurgling, then soon turns into a mad dash for the can, where you fumble your clothes into position for emergency evacuation, have a seat and, before you can say “Check, please,” the remains of last night’s meal blast out of you in a torrent that could launch a rocket for Elon Musk — and that’s just the beginning.

You didn’t even realize you could have this much in you, but every time you think you’re done, another wave hits the shore and firehoses its way out your nozzle. And the sound… oh, the noises you’re making! Just pray that this hit you at home and not anywhere you’d have to use a public bathroom, because the farts and gurgles and splats and splashes echoing in the porcelain bowl under your posterior could drown out all seven stages at Coachella combined, and the smell would make a skunk retch.

Did I mention how spicy that dinner was? Well, you’re experiencing that spiciness all over again, only this time via a more delicate opening. You subconsciously start humming Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” as you hope that it’s over, but you’re only halfway there. Now you’re regretting buying that rougher TP because it was cheaper. Like Spider Man, the aftermath isn’t going to feel so good.

When it finally seems like you’ve blasted out all of your internal organs, there’s one last, final hold-out, the only solid bit of the experience — the sad little turd that had to wait until the deluge was over. At least this job only needed one painful wipe. You glance in the bowl before you flush and mutter, “Holy moley,” because it looks exactly like the Mexican sauce that came with last night’s food.

My friends, you’ve just experienced Chocolate Rain

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Read the next installment.

Sunday Nibble #37: A short guide to knowing your shit #1

Listen to the podcast of all 8 episodes!

I originally wrote these pieces for my friend Peter’s website, TheFlushed.com, back when they had been planning to expand their editorial content. However, the actual shitshow that 2020 turned into intervened, and we sort of forgot about it. Until now! Here, at last, you can read all about the anal emanations you’re likely to encounter. This is number one in a series of eight.

How many of them do you recognize?

We’ve all had this moment, haven’t we? Nature calls on line two, so you head into the throne room and cop a squat, whip out the phone and (we hope) start reading “The Flushed.” But then it happens. You realize that this isn’t going to be an easy one. Nope. You can tell already that you’re facing a demon poop-brick of epic proportions.

So you push and push, but nothing is happening and you wonder what you’ve eaten in the last couple of days to deserve this, vowing to never mix beer and cheese again. It seems like hours. You’re sweating and grunting and your hands are shaking, but still nada. The Crusaders are battering the castle ramparts, but the walls aren’t giving… until they do.

But this isn’t the moment of relief, dear reader. Oh no. In that instant when the bomb-bay doors start to part, you realize that they’re too small for the payload that wants out — but now, it really wants out. Your next thought, if you’ve never experienced it, is that you suddenly understand what childbirth must be like. It’s as if your balloon-knot has been stretched out so much that you could wear your ass on your head like a helmet, and time has slowed to a crawl.

You’re now in a death-match with your own turd as it threatens to rip you in half. And then, with one last mighty push and grunt, you suddenly eject it with great force. Your sphincter slams shut audibly and you hear the no-doubt massive log cannonball into the water even as you feel the uncomfortable back-splash on your bum.

Relieved to be done with it, you clean up in eager anticipation of getting a look at the world-record holder that you’ve just unleashed. You stand, turn around to look — and the damn thing is no bigger than a Milk Dud, leading you to conclude that you might be a bit more uptight than you’d ever thought you were.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Decepticon

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