The solar eclipse watch party of one, sort of …

The solar eclipse reaches totality Monday, April 8, at Lake Placid News Editor/Publisher Andy Flynn’s home in Saranac Lake. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Even as I was having trouble breathing and experiencing an irregular heartbeat late last week, I was planning to cover the solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 for the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I thought it would be neat to watch totality at the North Elba Show Grounds or somewhere else in Lake Placid, possibly the Adirondak Loj at Heart Lake.

Instead, I watched it alone … sort of.

Walking around the Albany International Airport on Wednesday, April 3, while picking up my brother Steve, my lungs were burning. I didn’t know what was wrong. I hadn’t felt right since the weekend, when I woke up from a nap on the couch, violently coughing up a piece of chocolate that I ate after lunch. Perhaps the two incidents were related? That was my guess.

The condition worsened on April 4 — my mother’s 80th birthday — and I set up a doctor’s appointment for the following morning.

After being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and rapid heart rhythm known more popularly as AFib — at the doctor’s office on the Adirondack Medical Center’s second floor, I was sent downstairs to the emergency room for a series of tests.

Solar eclipse in totality on Monday, April 8 (News photo — Andy Flynn)

These symptoms were eerily similar to the ones I had in September 2017 when I was diagnosed with blood clots in my lungs, known as pulmonary embolisms or PEs. So I feared the worst. Fully expecting to be transported to Burlington for treatment, like I had in 2017, I packed a cellphone charger and my eclipse glasses inside the pockets of my winter coat. (Burlington was also in the path of totality on April 8.)

Yet after a few hours, the ER doctor walked in Room No. 4, and all I heard from behind the privacy curtain before I could see her face was, “Good news.” I didn’t have blood clots. Instead, I had pneumonia. My hunch was correct. During the coughing fit on the couch Saturday, March 30 — with that stupid Cadbury egg coming up from my stomach — I apparently aspirated some chocolate into my lungs. Then an infection formed around the unwanted food, and voila, aspirational pneumonia.

I spent the weekend recovering from the pneumonia and AFib, and although I was still hoping as of Sunday night to cover the solar eclipse the next day for the newspapers, I continued to have breathing and heartbeat issues Monday morning. So I had to call in sick and watch the eclipse from the deck of my Saranac Lake home, looking out toward the backyard.

At 2:13 p.m., as the eclipse began in Saranac Lake, I headed to the deck with my iPhone, eclipse glasses from the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau, a tall glass of ice water and my dog Arabella, a chiweenie. As I played the NASA solar eclipse live feed from YouTube on my phone, I took periodic glimpses of the moon starting to cover the sun and took notes of my surroundings. Then I realized that I would be able to take off my eclipse glasses, which were pressed against my corrective lenses as I looked up, during totality. So I went inside to grab my binoculars, which I used to get a better look at the sun’s corona during totality.

Arabella was sprawled out on the deck next to me enjoying the sunshine, when she wasn’t eating bird seed or chasing flies, while birds sang around the neighborhood — American robins, northern cardinals, a mix of finches and other smaller birds and mourning doves cooing much of the time before, during and after totality.

Arabella — Lake Placid News Editor/Publisher Andy Flynn’s dog — watches birds during the solar eclipse on April 8. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

As my afternoon progressed, I watched the NASA feed cover totality in Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Niagara Falls before it headed to Tupper Lake about 20 miles away.

I had plenty of time to enjoy the eclipse before totality hit at 3:24:51 p.m., so I soaked in the moment.

I heard neighbors in their backyards watching the eclipse, dogs barking, traffic moving steadily along Broadway and helicopters swirling overhead now and then. Airplanes rocketed across the sky, leaving vapor trails from left to right and from right to left. I also heard an ambulance siren as totality neared its end at 3:28:24 p.m.

The live feed from NASA was full of description as the eclipse went in and out of totality across the country, with terms such as diamond rings and Baily’s beads being thrown around like everyone knew what they were talking about. Cheers went up in all the cities as totality hit in those locations.

The same happened here in Saranac Lake, with cheers across the village when it got dark and cold as the moon covered the sun for 3 minutes and 33 seconds. Someone near our neighborhood had timed the beginning and end of totality with a burst of fireworks to bookend the historic event.

An American robin sits on a fence at the Saranac Lake home of Lake Placid News Editor/Publisher Andy Flynn during the solar eclipse on April 8. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

All I could think as I looked at the sky during totality — with the moon-covered sun, its corona and the surrounding planets and stars — was, “This is f_ing awesome,” “Oh, my god” and “This is pretty cool.”

My last thought after the sun began getting brighter was, “That was too quick.”

Then I went inside and took a nap on the couch — with no chocolate in sight.

Starting at $1.44/week.

Subscribe Today