Sunday, November 13, 2005

Orion’s back in town

Winter is on its way here, which is a good thing, because cereal takes a lot longer to go stale in winter. If you ate Corn Pops for dinner three nights a week like I do, you’d be excited about it, too. And even if you’re not a big fan of winter, at the very least, you can take solace in the fact that you won’t have to hear anybody say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” for the next several months.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the arrival of the constellation Orion, which I will refer to from here on out as if he were a person, because I think he’d probably want it that way. I saw him for the first time a couple of nights ago as I strolled around the neighborhood, enjoying the quiet of late evening, when I have time to think about important things like, “If I ever get struck by lightning, I’m definitely getting a lightning bolt tattoo, assuming I’m still alive,” and “If the world was a fair place, leftover pizza would be healthier for you because it doesn’t taste as good.” As I turned the corner to head back to the house, I happened to glance up over the horizon, and there he was, Orion the Hunter, clubbing all the other stars over the head and making jerky out of them in his garage.

There’s a song I keep hearing on the radio that goes: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh.” Whenever I hear those lyrics, I think, “It makes you laugh every time you look at it? I even stopped laughing at the postcard I used to have of a horse getting frisky with a cow. I must see the picture that makes you laugh every single time.” I suppose I can understand the sentiment, though; every time I see Orion for the first time, I just have to smile and say, “Hello, winter,” and then try to remember where the heck I left my gloves last March.

I feel a special connection to Orion, because he’s the only constellation I can identify besides the Big Dipper, although I can usually find three or four Little Dippers. I’m also really good at finding triangles in the sky. Those things are all over the place, if you know where to look. Hint: up. It’s a good thing other people came along and gave the constellations cool names like Cassiopeia, the Seven Sisters and Hydra. If it had been left up to me, the sky would be filled with constellations like Square, Messed-Up Trapezoid and Almost Ice Cream Cone.

If you’ve never seen him before, it’s worth taking the time to introduce yourself to Orion. He doesn’t usually let city lights drown him out; if you can see any stars at all, you can probably see Orion. Like Baby from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Orion in the corner.

He’s shaped like, well, actually like a big rectangle, but if you use your creativity, you can fill in a big dude wearing a belt and wielding a club. If you flip him upside-down, and imagine his head where his feet are supposed to be, he looks like a really cool archer, bent slightly backwards and launching an arrow into the sky.

If you don’t know where to look for him, the best way to find him is to have someone who recognizes him go outside with you, point upwards and say, “Next to that one star. See it? No, the other star.”

When you do finally see him for the first time, if the first thing you think is, “Good lord, Orion, put some pants on!” then you just failed an astronomical Rorschach test.

You can give Mike Todd some jerky online at


  1. But "Messed-Up Trapezoid" is by far my favorite winter constellation. He's somewhat of a loner - he always gets left out of playing those reindeer games.

  2. I still tell people about that hilarious "I saw it in Maine" postcard. I bet that the picture that makes the singer laugh everytime is a picture of Mother Theresa doing armpit farts.

  3. I love star gazing but am very bad at picking out the constellations...I will try yet AGAIN to locate Orion in the evening sky. Corn Pops is my all time favorite cereal and it IS always better in the winter. lol

  4. Yet another stellar post from the MT-dog.

    *pauses to let readers groan at very bad pun*

    I reckon whoever managed to join the dots of the stars into all those different shapes had to be smoking something illicit at the time. I don't even get as far as seeing triangles, all I see are dots.

  5. I have a huge box of Corn Pops that I bought in August in the cupboard and I keep trying to give them to my daughter... who promptly tells me they dont crunch anymore. I cna't bring myself to throw them out.... it's almost in-humane to throw out Corn Pops. Oh well... the box is almost empty.

    I need to find Orion soon. The Big & Little Dipper I can easily find but this other dude you spoke of.... HE must not like the humidity thus only comes out in the winter?

  6. My god man, you make mondays exciting. Whenever some dipsh*t in my office says "looks like somebody's got the case of the mundays" as i stroll in all hungover, I say "yeah, and I'm gonna laugh my ass off through it because of some guy named Mike."

  7. I can totally relate to this whole article! The winter sky has the best constellations, and Orion is also my favorite. And I nearly choked when you wrote "Hello Winter". Growing up in the country, star gazing is one of my favorite things to do (there's not much else to do in the country, apparently). So now I try and take my kids out there to see the cool night sky. But them being natural born city kids, find the whole thing creepy, too dark, and too cold, and just want to go inside. Oh well.

  8. I love Orion too... He's one of the three or four constellations I still recognize, thanks to that astronomy class I took at the Governor's school way back in the 70's.

    Star gazing ranks right up there with cloud watching... I can always find cool characters and animals.

    Great post.

  9. Dudes, thanks for making my day. I'm trying to think of a lousy star pun here, but I can't beat JL's.

  10. i will have to wait until i get out of the city to look for cant even see the dippers with out lights....