Thursday, April 8, 2010

Space rocks rock

A reflection on a recent article, which you can read here.

You're not supposed to be taken with a source. Bias, and all that.

Still, it's damn near impossible not to be drawn in by Geoff Notkin.

"So let me get this straight," my husband said, as I raced around on a Friday morning, already late for the drive down to Tucson. "You're talking to an attractive television personality with nice hair who loves science, the outdoors, geeky sci-fi things and wildlife photography? AND he has a British accent? Should I wait up, or will you be moving to Tucson?"

"I think it's only slight," I mumbled, stuffing my interview-questions list in my notebook. It fell out, whereupon my husband trampled it. I restuffed it in the notebook, giving him the stink eye.


"His accent. He only has a slight British accent."

"OH! Well then, that makes a huge difference. Never mind!"

He was joking, of course. And while I certainly don't mind interviewing attractive, sciencey adventurers, I was only moderately impressed on paper. I am only ever moderately impressed on paper.

The appeal did indeed turn out to be irresistible. It's not bias (or anything that should concern my husband); rather, it's his unflagging enthusiasm for his field. It's also the field itself. Geoff's a space-rock Indiana Jones. Seriously. He has a TV show about it (Meteorite Men on the Science Channel, now hoping to be picked up for a second season). I mean, how can you not be interested?

Besides that, he's just fun to talk to, particularly for me. We had a bit in common. His license plate reads BBLBROX. The bar in his home bears a sign accepting Arrakis spice, among other things. (Anyone who shares or is even aware of my propensity for rampant sci-fi geekery will understand.) Our dads both played clarinet. We're cat people. We don't really care about television. (Except Meteorite Men, of course. Well, and Lost, for me, particularly the Sawyer-centric episodes, but I imagine that's one fixation Geoff and I don't share.)

The only trait we don't share that readily comes to mind is something I would dearly love to cultivate -- he's a self-confessed neat freak, while my office looks like I'm auditioning for an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. Well, OK. Also, I'm a parent, and he's not. And he's been in a successful punk rock band, while I can sorta-kinda-teensy-bit play a trumpet. And, well, the TV show. Don't have one of those. And...

OK, OK. I get carried away. I will say, though, it's easy to get drawn in, and it would be no matter who was doing the telling, though he tells is superbly. The guy chases fireballs from space.

He brought out a slice of meteorite with chondrules, pieces that were around before our solar system had even completely formed, and had found their way into the meteorite we were holding. I was touching material older than the earth. Freaking cool.

He brought out several other meteorites -- he has drawers and shelves and rooms full of them -- some rocky, some whimsically shaped, one with this weirdly smooth, undulated surface that felt undeniably, well, alien.

He got his start at about three, when his dad would show him Jupiter's moons at midnight. His parents encouraged him constantly, indulging his science/sci-fi/bookworm ways. His room was an amalgamation of collected fossils and rocks and piles of books. It makes me think I must be doing something right with my own son. From where I sit I can see a giant conch shell he's been carrying in his backpack all week, a pile of quartz he collected from the desert (only ever one at a time, so others can enjoy it, he says), a lizard skeleton, and a tower of books (A Bug Compendium, Fossils of the World, and so on, along with a starter sci-fi/fantasy series.) He sent a small meteorite home for my son, which now resides with the rocks, shells and skeletons.

Also? The guy's all about Arizona, and not just because it has clearer skies and better weather than his childhood London home.

Arizona is ideal meteorite-hunting ground, he says. While falling meteorites aren’t statistically more likely to fall in Arizona than anywhere else in the world, the arid desert environment helps preserve them, and it’s also easier to hunt than, say, deep foliage (or the bottom of the ocean, where the majority of fragments are bound to fall). A dark iron meteorite is bound to stand out against a bright, bare desert floor.

In addition, Tucson's Mexican and Native American influence, thriving arts community, desert environment, and the support from scientific institutions and other prominent meteorite collectors all proved an irresistible pull for Geoff, who had long wanted to move to the desert. The Fremen would approve.


If you read my ramblings first instead of the link at the top, you can find the article here. If you want to check out Geoffrey Notkin you can find his business here or his blog here, or go check out Meteorite Men. Here's to hoping for a second season. Thanks for sharing your story, Geoff.


Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Great! :)

Dawn Suzette said... Best Blogger Tips

Cool article Kim! What fun to meet him and see his collection!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, guys!

It was really fun to meet him, and I could have spent ages looking at his collection. I think I was so absorbed in it that I quite forgot to ask if it was OK to pick up and marvel at the meteorites, but it turned out that by the time I remembered to ask (by the fourth or fifth piece) he was thrilled that I was thrilled.

Angie said... Best Blogger Tips

What an adventure in itself, just interviewing him and seeing all those meteorites. Great job with the article, by the way!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks a lot, Angie. It was a blast.

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