Meet LESLIE JOY ICKOWITZ
Leslie Joy Ickowitz possesses a passionate spirit devoted to exploring possibilities and her unique perspectives have earned her the reputation as an authority on the lifestyle experience. An avid world traveler, Leslie understands that the meaning of life lies in the journey. With appreciation for the beauty that surrounds her, she seeks opportunities to make a difference in her community, inspires others to achieve their potential, to get VERTICAL…and to be part of something fabulous!
Over the Moon
A Close Encounter With Buzz Aldrin
Protected by a ziplock bag and tucked inside a beautifully embroidered box filled with photographs is one of my most treasured possessions. It measures 2” x 3.5” imprinted with the words “Rocket Hero” and features a gold foil logo illustrating the concept.
The item is merely a business card but it belongs to one of my personal heroes, legendary astronaut and moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. Seven distinguished designations including Astronaut, Explorer, Lunar Ambassador, Rocket Scientist and Space Advocate are listed on the card. Dr. Aldrin handed it to me during a chance encounter at Kennedy Space Center, where I remember thinking “This man has walked on the surface of the moon and now he’s sitting here talking to me.” I walked away feeling so lofty I thought my feet would never touch the ground.
Usually, I’m not the star-struck type but there’s something about hanging out with someone who has hung out among the stars that blows me away. You could say I’m a bit of a space groupie—I’ve watched Apollo 13 at least a hundred times (even though I’m well aware of how it ends) and recently, I combined references from both Star Wars and Star Trek in the same sentence. Although he is cool enough to have Disney and Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear named for him and MTV’s Moonman modeled after him, there’s nothing sci-fi about Buzz. Dr. Aldrin is the real deal and he has his eye fixed on a future that involves sending space tourists rocketing into the sky to experience a sliver of the moon for themselves.
“A-W-E,” he says, is the emotion that most closely resembles the feeling he experienced on the moon’s surface. “One of the purposes of my ShareSpace Foundation is to share space with as many people as possible,” Dr. Aldrin asserts.
In his estimation, the first lunar resort should feature, “activities that boost visitors’ common experience,” rather than competitive games.
Alliances with Omega Watches, Louis Vuitton and Snoop Dogg, with whom he recorded a rap song, position Aldrin fashionably front and center, enabling him to share his passion with the public. To inspire the next generation of space explorers, he has authored two children’s books, Look to the Stars and Reaching for the Moon. Never one to shy away from the glory of technology, he also tweets on Twitter and blogs for The Huffington Post.
One simple observation Dr. Aldrin shared truly applied perspective to the sheer exclusivity of his lunar excursion.
“Dust behaved differently on the surface of the moon,” he said.
Now honestly, how many people can say that and actually know what they are talking about? Better yet, how many people have a first-hand account of how anything behaves on the surface of the moon? The same man who planted and saluted the American flag up there, and who demonstrated mobility by “prancing around and bouncing up and down” in front of the video camera. “We didn’t do it for the fun,” he says seriously. “It was a learning experience.”
Aldrin’s dramatic life, including his battles with depression and alcoholism, is an open book. His memoir, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, provides a fascinating view of his experience both out of this world and back again.
His existence after the Apollo 11 mission was a very lonely time. His mother, Marion Moon, tragically committed suicide the year before his lunar landing. And after a hero’s welcome home here on earth, Aldrin eventually felt used up and spit out.
So what frightens the man who strapped himself to a Saturn V rocket to forge the footsteps of history? “Loneliness, discouragement and disappointment,” Aldrin says. “Things that could lead me back to the very dim parts of my life of depression and alcoholism.”
Sharing is at the core of Aldrin’s life-long dedication to educating, inspiring and broadening the horizons that lead to future exploration and further discoveries. His captivating stories shed light on both the triumphs and the frailties of the human experience. Despite frustrations, what impresses him most about humanity is, “the individual freedoms to have differing points of view on our experiences but then the challenge to come together for the common benefit of each of us.”
These days, his journey centers around, “seeking out and sharing new experiences that cause you to think,” Aldrin says. “I marvel at the coincidental nature of chance, and of statistics. How that tempts many people to think that something was somehow destined to be. There are sudden changes of good fortune and not-so-good fortune that we have to experience that cause us to learn and to educate following generations.”
After traveling 250,000 miles into outer space and 2.5 miles beneath the ocean’s surface to Titanic’s resting place on the Atlantic floor, Aldrin’s radar is locked on future adventures. The avid explorer, who admittedly, “got rather distracted by things like the moon,” plans to visit Antarctica in 2010 and his son, a successful businessman, has offered to sponsor a diving trip to the Galapagos Islands. “There’s an infinite number of locations under the ocean to explore.”
“My life has been driven by certain pursuits,” Aldrin says. “Aviation was one, the military another, human space activity the next. Then I’ve chosen to share those as my ongoing purpose for the benefit of our country and the world.”
Visiting with Dr. Aldrin reminded me to dream dreams, have hope and believe that anything is possible. Not long after that day, VERTICAL launched. Since then, I try to live by what I have come to believe as a direct result of my Buzz encounter: The sky is not the limit. In fact, we can reach for the stars.