365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Giant Steps Birthday Party

(Photo from Unsplash)

“Destination Moon” is our destination for “The Giant Steps Birthday Party.” We are being given a preview of this exhibition which promises to be a major blockbuster coming to the National Air and Space Museum in 2022. 

Building on the Washington, D.C. museum’s unrivaled collection of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo artifacts, “Destination Moon,” shows how an extraordinary combination of vision, American ingenuity, motivations, resources and technology made it possible for humans to walk on the moon. 


You feel the pride and joy the moment you enter the “Destination Moon” exhibit and see Neil Armstrong’s white beta cloth lunar spacesuit from the Apollo 11 mission. HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.) 


July 31—ANDY MACDONALD is one of the most popular professional skateboarders in the world. He holds the record for the most “X Games” medals in vert skateboarding and won the World Cup Skateboarding competition eight times. Macdonald started skateboarding when he was 12 and he is now 47. He is the headlining star of the video game “MTV Sports: Skateboarding Featuring Andy Macdonald” for Dreamcast and PlayStation. 

For those of us new to understanding the sport of skateboarding, these quotes get us rolling: 

“Skateboarding has nothing to do with competition or sport. It has to do with trying to stay as immature as you can for the rest of your life.”—skateboarder, Lance Mountain 

“It’s a strange phenomenon how this piece of wood, wheels and turning system has made so many people so happy.” 

“Skateboarding doesn’t make you a skateboarder; not being able to stop skateboarding makes you a skateboarder.” 

“If you really want a career in professional skateboarding, you really got to stop pushing mongo.”—skateboarder, Jamie Thomas (Full Disclosure: I had to Google search “skateboard mongo.”) 

“You don’t quit skateboarding because you get old. You get old because you quite skateboarding.” 

“Think about how much skateboarding opens your eyes to see the world differently.” 

Aug. 1—JERRY GARCIA was a singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was best known as the principal songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist with the band, Grateful Dead, which came to prominence during the counterculture of the 1960s. Many viewed him as the leader of the “Dead.” When Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream created their popular flavor, “Cherry Garcia,” they sent the first 8 pints to Jerry Garcia who loved the tribute and the taste. 

Aug. 2—JAMES BALDWIN was a novelist, playwright, essayist, poet and activist. The native New Yorker’s novels, short stories and plays fictionalize personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. His published titles include: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone.” He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Foreign Drama Critics Award and in France, a Commandeur de Legion d’honneur. 

Aug. 3—TONY BENNETT (Anthony Dominick Benedetto) is a singer of traditional pop standards, big band, showtunes and jazz. He has won 19 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), two Primetime Emmy Awards and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. 

Aug. 4—JEFF GORDON is a four-time NASCAR Cup Series auto-racing champion and a three-time Daytona 500 winner. Gordon has 93 NASCAR race wins. Since 2016, he has been a FOX Network sportscaster. 

Aug. 5—NEIL ARMSTRONG (born in Wapakoneta, Ohio) was the first earthling to walk on the moon. He was an astronaut, test pilot and aeronautical engineer. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and he and his Apollo 11 crewmates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, received the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Aug. 6—LUCILLE BALL (Lucille Desiree’ Ball) began her performing career on Broadway using the name, Dianne Belmont. (“I Love Dianne,” anyone?) She was an actress, comedian, model, studio executive and producer. In 1951, Lucille Ball and her husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, created the classic and enduring sitcom, “I Love Lucy.” She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which produced many popular series including “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek.” Lucille Ball was a multiple Primetime Emmy winner and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—one for her work in television and the other for film. She is inducted in the Television Hall of Fame and saluted with the Kennedy Center Honors. 


“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”—Jerry Garcia 

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”—James Baldwin 

“If you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.”—Tony Bennett 

“Racing is not what I like to do; it’s winning.”—Jeff Gordon 

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”—Neil Armstrong 

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”—Lucille Ball 

“Once in a while, you get shown the light, in the strangest places if you look at it right.”—Jerry Garcia 

“Be careful what you set your heart upon for it will surely be yours.”—James Baldwin 

“I still feel that I can get better somehow. And, I search for it all the time.”—Tony Bennett 

“You’ve got to be the best person you can be in your life.”—Jeff Gordon 

“Shoot for the stars but if you happen to miss, shoot for the moon instead.”—Neil Armstrong 

“Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.”—Lucille Ball 

“I’m not Beethoven.”—Jerry Garcia 

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”—James Baldwin 

“When the uncreative tell the creative what to do, it stops being art.”—Tony Bennett 

“I want to force the other drivers to find a way past me.”—Jeff Gordon 

“It’s a great thing for a man to walk on the moon. But it’s a greater thing for God to walk on the earth.”—Neil Armstrong 

“I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things I haven’t.”—Lucille Ball 

“It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”—Jerry Garcia 

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”—James Baldwin 

“My name ‘Benedetto’ means ‘blessed one’ and I feel that I have truly been blessed.”—Tony Bennett 

“I don’t feel I’m a step above anyone on the racing team. I’m just another link in the chain.”—Jeff Gordon 

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was Earth. I put up my thumb and covered one eye and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I felt very, very small.”—Neil Armstrong 

“I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”—Lucille Ball 

“If the thunder don’t get ya, then the lightning will.”—Jerry Garcia 

“It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country distrustful of the independent mind.”—James Baldwin 

“I’ll call it a day when I die.”—Tony Bennett 

“Our fans would never waste good beer by pouring it on us.”—Jeff Gordon 

“There are places to go beyond belief.”—Neil Armstrong 

“I’m happy that I have brought laughter because I have been shown by many the value of it in so many lives in so many ways.”—Lucille Ball 


APPETIZER—James Baldwin Beale Street BBQ Wings (allrecipes.com) 

SALAD—Cherry Garcia Congealed Salad (myrecipes.com) 

ENTRÉE—Andy Macdonald Fried Skate Fish (thespruceeats.com) 

SIDE DISH—Tony Bennett San Francisco Rice (recipeland.com) 

BREAD—Jeff Gordon Rye Beer Bread (beerandbrewing.com) 

BEVERAGE—Lucille Ball Vitameatavegamin Vodka Shots (see below) 

DESSERT—Neil Armstrong Homemade Moonpies (foodandwine.com) 

ONE TO GROW ON—It was difficult to choose between all the books by and about the celebrants of “The Giant Steps Birthday Party.” But for pure joy, I suggest searching YouTube for lots of Tony Bennett music and consider finding a copy of his 1998 book, “The Good Life: The Autobiography of Tony Bennet. The renowned artist shares a half-century of personal memories from Depression-era Queens to the 1940s jazz scene to his latest generation of fans. 

The light of the silvery moon was shining as “The Giant Steps Birthday Party” moved to homemade “moonpies” for dessert. Jeff Gordon reminded us that “moonshiners” running from the law was the inspiration for stock-car racing in America. Lucille Ball recalled some nostalgic television of “The Lucy Show,” where her character was always ruffling the feathers of stuffy banker, Theodore J. Mooney. 

Champion skateboarder Andy Macdonald mentioned the popularity of “moonlit skateboarding” and suggested watching some beautiful videos of this balletic work on YouTube. Also, he saluted a company called “Sunset Skateboards” that specializes in nighttime skateboards with LED wheels. 

James Baldwin shared these lines from one of his poems: “The universe, which is not merely the stars and the moon and the planets, flowers, grass and trees, but other people, has evolved no terms for your existence, has made no room for you, and if love will not swing wide the gates, no other power will or can.” 

Moon tunes came from both Tony Bennett and Jerry Garcia. The first was “Standing on the Moon” which was first performed by the Grateful Dead in 1989 and then during more than 50 concerts over the years. The chorus is: “Standing on the moon, I see the battle rage below. Standing on the moon, I see the soldiers come and go. There’s a metal flag beside me someone planted long ago; Old Glory standing stiffly, crimson, white and indigo.” 

Tony Bennett introduced his joy-giving, moon tune by recalling a midnight clear in February 1965 when he recorded it at the CBS 30th Street Studio in his hometown, New York City. This was the song all of these giants stepped into the moonlight humming: “Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars. Let me know what love is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other words, hold my hand. In other words, darling, kiss me…Fill my heart with song and let me sing forever more. You are all I longed for all I worship and adore. In other words, please be true. In other words—I love you.” 


                                                   (source: justapinch.com) 


1 small, peeled cucumber, coarsely chopped 

1 red bell pepper 

1 cup tomato juice 

3 drops Tabasco sauce 

4 drops Worchestershire sauce 

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish 

2 teaspoon Rose’s lime juice 

¾ cup vodka 


  1. Hold pepper over medium high flame to blacken skin, then peel under running water. 
  1. In a food processor, mix cucumber and red pepper by pulsing until a puree is obtained. Mix puree with remaining ingredients. Pour into a tall, chilled glass filled with ice. Makes four drinks or chill a pitcher of mixture ahead of time for several shots. 

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Ben South