Looking at the behemoth, poised in its techno-mechanical superiority as it waits to slip the surly bonds, ready to cheat death one more time (we Hope), Agricola cannot help but think of the FIRST Pad 39.
Located behind a house on Murray Boulevard, a group of young teenagers were ‘given’ a small structure in the back yard. It wasn’t very much, maybe 20 feet on a side, with a bar and electricity. But it was ours, and we made it better. Based on the address of the ‘big house’, our place became Pad 39.
Hidden from the inquiring views of parents, and with a lenient landlord, himself a man of the time who fancied good whiskey, cigarettes, and the company of pretty ladies, we were free to act as young or as old as we desired. Our gang would pile into Pad 39, and recline on the single sofa, and drag a mattress from the big house to our house, turn on the fans to keep the lowcountry summer at bay, and drink cold PBRs, and Schlitz, and smoke red marlboros or Kools. For fourteen year olds, we were very cool. A few parties, but everyone in those days was pretty well behaved. There were relationships, but mostly it was a pack of boys dancing with a pack of girls. IBack then, the girls had to be home by 11 or so, and frankly we were not as sexually driven as teens seem to be these days,
I got my first kiss at Pad 39, a full blown right on the lips kiss. It was like sticking my finger in an electric socket. It was as powerful as unexpected, and left me in a daze for a day or so. She wasn’t then, and would never be, a girlfriend, and so the wisdom of time explains that she wanted to kiss somebody, I wanted to kiss somebody, and our needs meet in the patio for about 5 seconds. We were both fifteen.
So every time I see Pad 39 at Cape Canaveral, I think about our pad 39. We were getting ready to blast off into life, and had our share of phallic images, and it was a great time of life. We had our tragedies along the way, but most of us made it, just like the astronauts will.
But I don’t think being strapped into the wayback of the shuttle, tied to explosive rocket fuel, while the whole world watches can compare to that first gentle kiss, in the dark of a hot summer night, at Pad 39 in Charleston, SC.