In a bar tonight a guy I know said to me: You want a pristine Hasselblad camera? You can have it for free.
What’s the catch? I said.
No catch. But to get it you’ve got to go to the moon.
He wasn’t kidding. I looked it up. During the lunar missions of 1969 to 1972 American astronauts had to make a choice. They wanted to bring moon rocks back to Earth, a weight of less than sixty pounds, but they had to leave something behind. It wasn’t like the airport, where you can check an extra bag. That spacecraft was pretty cramped. So they left a dozen Hasselblad cameras, the very ones they’d used to shoot those lonely lunar landscape pictures we’ve all seen. Feature that. Hasselblads, just sitting there, like beer cans along a Mississippi highway.
Couldn’t some follow-up mission have picked them up? What other gear, not counting Titleist golf balls, might be lying around up there, just a quarter million miles out of reach? Other stuff that’d make some Earthling’s life easier?
And speaking of that, how come no one but Americans ever went to the Moon?
The Hasselblad is a very fine piece of optical machinery, made in Sweden. The 70 mm Hasselblad 500s were fitted with precision-built German Zeiss lenses (also very fine machinery—like almost everything German-made, excepting, of course, their World War II Empire-of-a-Thousand-Years meat grinder, which ultimately, thank God, proved to be shit). The Hassleblads cost $12,000. apiece x 12.
That’s a lot of cheddar to lay out in exchange for some rocks, which we’ve got an abundance of on earth already. But there the cameras sit, patient in the lunar dust, waiting for me, or someone like me, to go fetch them.
I think: If I had one of those Hasselblads I might be a wedding photographer now, or a staff shooter for the Sierra Club and you’d see my images of Mt. Whitney in autumn, and the Painted Desert, on your datebook calendar, right next to where you write in your dentist appointment or your ex-husband’s new girlfriend’s phone number.
Though who can say? Maybe I’d have sold the camera for a couple mini moon rocks of crack and I’d be the strung-out ghost on the street who lies to you each morning and says he wants a cup of coffee when, deep inside, what he really wants, like all of us, is another chance.
David Daniel’s novel Ark was pulled out the slush pile at St. Martin’s Press and published to wide acclaim. Since then he has published eleven additional novels and two collections of short fiction. The Heaven Stone won a Private Eye Writers of America best mystery award. He has been the Jack Kerouac Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Recent work can be seen at TheStoryside.com.