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Neil Armstrong, Where Are You?

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I chose the wrong month - during this panic and hysteria - to develop an obsession with the 1960s space program: In between watching stammering, sweating Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson not calm the nation and seeing the Dow plunge today after George Bush spoke - I've been switching to ancient history on my DVD player.

I am watching the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong is deftly maneuvering the lunar module above craters and boulders with about 20 seconds of fuel to spare before the engine could shut down, leading to a crash - and two men stranded on the moon. Forever.

Mission Control in Houston is holding its breath, expecting the worst, when the world hears Armstrong calmly say: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Almost 40 years ago, this was the news. Now it's just part of the 2007 documentary, "In the Shadow of the Moon."

Neil Armstrong is now 78 and lives in Ohio. He almost never speaks publicly. He never sells out. I don't know his politics - but I wonder what Armstrong is thinking as his country collapses.

Neil Armstrong, are you there? What should we do? Can we ever land this thing? P.S. I want you back.

I also want Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the other two Apollo 11 astronauts. I want former test pilots who sat on giant rockets and went to another planet and had 850-item checklists - and were steady, brave and landed on the moon with seconds to spare and millions of people watching - and had wry quips.

I also want 1969 Mission Control back. I want all those short-haired, cigarette-smoking guys in front of the giant consoles back. I want to tell Houston we have a problem and have them fix it.

I wouldn't even mind getting a beehive hairdo and posing in a wood-paneled rumpus room in a miniskirt with three toddlers on my lap if it meant Neil Armstrong was back at the controls.

I'm homesick for July 1969 America - the same way Mike Collins felt homesick when he saw the tiny planet Earth from his command module as he waited for Armstrong and Aldrin to return from the moon.

I'm even missing Mike Brady - and he wasn't an astronaut. Anyway, I want him back - him and his blueprints in the den. And Carol. And Alice and Tiger.

I want to go live in a split-level house and talk on a phone with a rotary dial and a cord. Or better yet, I want to join the Partridge Family and travel the country on a brightly-colored bus and sing harmony on "I Think I Love You."

I just don't want Henry Paulson, or George Bush, or Sarah Palin - or the CNN Breaking News alerts that appear on my inbox and can only mean more bad news.

I'm even missing Richard Nixon - now there was a villain worth his salt. Plus, we were vindicated when he did himself in. Bush is like a cipher from "The Matrix" who just walks through the wall every time you want to grab him by the throat and throttle him. So unsatisfying.

It's too hard to even watch President Kennedy. Seeing him in that old black-and-white footage from 1961 boldly calling for a man on the moon by the end of the decade - too difficult.

The right stuff? Just seems now like an historical artifact.

Am I wrong, Neil Armstrong? I wish you could tell me.