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Best Person to Put Things in Perspective

Street-corner astronomer Herman Heyn

Posted 9/18/1996

OK, let’s say you’re a tired and broke twentysomething in Fells Point on a crowded Saturday night. Your new girlfriend is flirting with your best friend (the pal who puked in your car last week—and you still haven’t gotten the smell out). At home your folks are talking divorce, while at your apartment the landlord is talking eviction. Though you should head home to study for your GREs, on a whim you step up to the telescope Herman Heyn has set up near the Recreation Pier. It’s pointed up and away from the bacchanalia that surrounds you—the screaming drunks, bass-booming cars, and insolent skate punks clattering their boards across the bricks. More than 600 million miles dissolve before your eye, and you see Jupiter, fat as a plum. Around it, appearing as specs of pure white light, are Europa, Io, Ganymede, and Callisto, four of the great planet’s moons. You feel small. You feel awe. You feel better. (You give Herman a donation.)

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