Monday, September 8, 2008

Airship Surprise

Last month when my wife and kids and I were in Boston (where I grew up), I told them about the Hindenburg flying overhead at 1000 feet on its way to Lakehurst. (My parents do not remember this, but I have read it in several places.) The ship was over 800 feet long, so the Hindenberg at 1,000 was kind of like a Taylorcraft over the city at 20 feet. Man, I would love to have seen that...

While I was glider flying on Saturday (a personal best, 3.1 hours in the Jantar, including almost 20 miles of straight-and-level (!) along the ridge), my wife and my kids were shopping. (How many millions of guys have said that before?) This evening after dinner, my daughter sat down next to me and said "We got you a present," and handed me a small package. "It only cost a dollar," she added, like it was no big deal.

The package consisted of a dozen or so small black-and-white photographs of Boston, taken in the 1930s. The focus was super-sharp, and although each one had a hand-written caption, I identified each sight as we fanned through them. "Wow, honey, these are really nice," I said. Sincerely.

Then I hit one that was a picture of the Boston skyline. The most recognizable building was the Custom House. This one had what appeared to be a smudge or maybe a lenticular cloud above the skyline. I took off my glasses for a closer look.

The smudge was an airship.

I strained to see. Was that a swastika on the tail? It was very, very small, and even my world-class closeup vision couldn't resolve it. I ran through the house, looking for a magnifying glass. From my son's bug collection? Couldn't find it. From the Oxford English Dictionary? Wrong edition. I remembered that there was a small magnifier in my compass.

I took the photo into the brightest room in the house, the one with the world's most power-hungry light fixture that nobody ever turns off. I focused the glass on the tail of the airship.

"It's the Hindenburg!" I literally jumped for joy. "The Hindenburg! You got me a picture of the Hindenburg!"

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