We’ll look back at this whole thing and realize that the pursuit of comfort and ease in the outer limits started with an espresso on the International Space Station. Leave it to the Italians. In an experiment to understand the effects of being smug in outer space an engineering firm in Turin has built the first ever zero or “micro” gravity espresso maker for use on any number of spaceships. The Neil Armstrong moment came when Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, with the bone structure and hair of a Milanese runway model, sipped the first space espresso and exclaimed for the ages, “One small sip for man, one giant sip…no you can’t have any Dmitri. Why don’t you go drink some vodka? Because it’s not nine in the morning, is that it? If you can’t have a belt when you wake up then what’s the point, right? Which one of you geeks wants to rub my feet?”
Argotec, the firm responsible for the intergalactic coffee machine, is already planning to launch a low-lit space trattoria with cheeses and Italian meats–the kind that they wrap in that hemp string, as well as a wine bar where astronauts can sample the finest Sangiovese and Barbera. A place where men can whistle at the women who happen to float by, smoke rich space tobacco and play space grab-ass while their mothers weep at the feet of any number of “Virtual Mary” statues.
“In an effort to evaluate the effects of rare spices and the finest Italian wines in a zero-G environment we plan to have a full-service cafe up and running by 2020,” said an Argotec spokesman. “There will be a replica of the Trevi fountain where buxom Italian astronauts can frolic in the water in a state of carefree splendor and a small area where as many as seven Vespa scooters can try to fit in an opening clearly only wide enough for three.”
It doesn’t stop there. Already Silvio Berlusconi is planning a zero-G Bunga Bunga party high above the earth’s atmosphere, where the laws of pandering and prostitution and buggery don’t necessarily apply. The Germans are planning a zero-G beer garden, and the Netherlands is already in the process of putting together a space hash bar, although the project has experienced numerous delays since the designers are constantly distracted by “that thing over there” that looks “pretty fuckin cool” because it has “all different sorts of lights and shit.”
The early pioneers would be seething with jealousy if they knew that modern travelers didn’t have to sleep in the same soggy clothes day in and day out, risk illness and injury and rarely feed on the bodies of the dead in order to survive the treacherous journey across the Continental Divide. Instead they could just fly overhead on the same day from New York to Los Angeles with an in-flight meal, a movie and all the booze they can drink. So the generations of tomorrow will be mystified to hear about what a pain in the ass it was to get into space back in the early twenty-first century. “You mean you had to have like seven PhDs and wear big clunky suits and worry about burning up upon re-entry?” People will wonder what space was like before the rave scene took over. Old astronauts will have to explain that it was silent and cold and radiation was a constant danger but at least traffic wasn’t as bad, crime was way down and Paris Hilton wasn’t constantly having a friggin CD release space-party for some over-produced collection of off-key crap.
Innovation takes our species from conditions of privation to levels of serious indulgence. The days of chopping wood, gardening and tending the whiskey stills have given way to electric heaters, food postings on social media and bottle service poolside at the Delano. We find ourselves relying heavily on the genius of others and outraged when these creature comforts become a slight inconvenience. Thus I like to watch people pitch a fit when their flight is oversold. I like to watch people have tantrums when their coq au vin has too much “vin” or not enough “vin.” It is a stark reminder of the disparity between invention and our understanding of it when I see a car off on the side of the road pouring smoke from under the hood; while the driver stands in front of it helplessly trying to locate a virgin to throw into the engine in order to appease the angry god who runs the pistons and gearshifts.
Speaking of cars breaking down and unavailable virgins, my car broke down a few weeks ago right outside the Pink Pony Gentlemen’s Club on Buford Highway in Atlanta. A lot of cars break down there. In fact it is such a big problem that there is an on-site mechanic, Sal, who has a little garage next to the valet attendant. Sal can figure out any car’s problem, and usually when he realizes that there is no problem he can break something, fix it and work up a legitimate bill of sale that will pacify the most hysterical of housewives. He usually has it good as new in the time it takes to drink a few beers and chat with some of the bawdier members of the burlesque community. I told Sal I wasn’t sure what was wrong with my car but when I park it and shut it off it stops running. Sal said he’d take a look. Inside it was business as usual. I always have the vague feeling of being hermetically sealed off from the outside world when I’m in a strip club. There are never any windows. Everything is soundproofed, artificially lit and the air is recycled. The shots arrive in test tubes. It is difficult to keep track of time. The girls simulate legitimate interest. We listen to the unseen D.J. like he is “Hal” from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Good lord, I thought, suddenly seeing the bigger picture. We were all part of a mad experiment. Before I knew it a young woman in a bikini descended upon me from overhead, inverted, hanging from a brass pole.
“Hi. I’m Candi, Sandi, Brandi, Mandi or Randi.”
“Nice to meet all of you,” I said. “You know something? I just realized how the inside of a strip club always feels so cut off from the outside world. It’s almost like being in outer space.”
“Maybe that is why I’m so interested in science,” she said, hovering.
“Is this your full-time gig?”
“I’m in college for aeronautics. Heading to Embry-Riddle in August.”
“Impressive. Have you heard of any plans to build a Space Pony? Some type of satellite strip joint?”
“That’s top secret,” she said, flipping herself down and dropping her feet angrily next to my head. “Who are you?” she asked, arms akimbo.
“You’re a nosy nobody.” She made some strange motion with her hands and seconds later the bouncers were behind me. I was thrown out the door faster than the speed of light. My head hit the pavement and I thought, “My god, it’s full of stars.” I hugged the ground, happy to be back on good ol’ planet earth. Some people just aren’t meant for space travel.
More Alembics to come.