My Telescope

I asked for a telescope for my 16th birthday. Not a long, skinny, stupid telescope that you put in your library for show. This was bad to the bone. Think of a six-tiered bamboo dumpling steamer in shape and size—for the cultured. And for the rest of you, imagine a big, chromed-out Campbell’s soup can-shaped thing (also known as a cylinder). Low to the ground. The color? Metallic violet, and it was a beauty.


I just don’t read instructions. I guess I consider it a design flaw if I’m not able to figure it out by just messing with it. So while the nerds are combing through the manual, I’m outside under the stars. I was determined to see the moon up close for the first time that night. And I did… It was unforgettable.


However, it’s not as easy as you might think to find the moon on your first try… Like, you would imagine flying an airplane on your first try. You’ve seen enough movies to know the controls are all backward. You know you have to push the throttle down if you want to gain altitude. I think telescopes feel wrong in much the same way.


As much as I wanted to punch it or throw it at a tree, it was a dope telescope and I made it work. It was just so sensitive that if you tapped it with a Q-tip as lightly as possible, it would move your view like 9 light-years to the right. I’m not even exaggerating.


I would like to tell you upfront about how I judge Saturn based entirely on its goofy looks… I only judge Saturn on superficialities. Never judge people the way I’m about to judge Saturn, kids—got that? Saturn looks like a Fisher-Price baby toy. It’s most disappointing. You want to punt it out of the universe for not fitting in. Saturn is as much a dog toy to me as it is a respectable planet. But hey, you form your own opinion, which will probably resemble a ring pop, a dreidel, a balloon animal hat, or a five-cent plastic wedding ring wrapped around a tiny stale gumball.




I worked my way around the sky with fresh eyes, always looking at the sky as a puzzle. I learned next to nothing about constellations in school, and what I did learn, I had to unlearn. I wanted to see things clearly. I look up and see something undeciphered. A deep code.


So, I felt it was worth introducing my telescope. As a tool, it helps me see farther, but what I find in the end is Nature. A part of a beautiful metaphor.


Think about the telescope, now fast forward 21 years… I end up giving it away to one of my good friends who worked as my doorman in Brooklyn. Within 15 seconds, he found an on/off switch—something I failed to find in all those years. So I guess he saw more stars that very night than I ever did. With the touch of a button, it was fully automated. But five years at war with a beautiful piece of technology, plugged in or not, undoubtedly teaches you something.

Thomas Hoppe