Part One: Getting There.
About two months prior to the Roswell event a website called Parascope, as part of their weekly e-mailing, mentioned the possibility of renting some astonishingly affordable camp space with them. Knowing that the hotels would probably all have been booked at least 6 months in advance and not having the slightest idea of the layout of the town or even it's population, I sent in 20 bucks to cover 3 days of camping. I've been on their website at least once a week for the past six months and find it to be one of the better maintained sites out there that deals with paranormal subject matter. The visual aesthetics and layout of the site are impressive. I generally find the writing on the site to be in the "pretty good to not bad" range, however it tends to descend into the realm of the sophomoric when they deal with certain areas they are openly skeptical about. There seems to be a certain agenda based upon the preconceptions of those who run the site that frequently annoys me. Willing to buy into a lot of the right-wing conspiracy scenarios hook, line, and sinker, they are rather narrow-minded in their approach to some other areas, using the two-dimensional tools of ridicule and satire where thoughtful analysis might better serve their purpose. Also, there is this sort of (fortunately infrequent) snickering adolescent fascination with softcore scatology that kind of strikes me as somewhat juvenile at times. In addition, the "corporate" nature of this site has always made me a bit wary, they have commercial tie-ins with major media sources that have made me a bit suspicious. As any of you who have read some of my other writings in the past well know, I'm just not very trusting of "Big Money" in any of it's varied manifestations. So it was with more than a few trepidations that I took advantage of their offer.
Many of the Parascopers were planning on caravaning to Roswell from a member's house just outside of Albuquerque. I had a fairly pleasant phone conversation with this individual and decided that she seemed affable and interesting and not at all what I had expected. I thought it would be interesting to meet some of these people beforehand and so I found myself driving though a maze of dirt roads in the New Mexican hills in the New Mexican darkness. If you've never been to this part of the country I have one word of advice for you: GO. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Albuquerque itself is kind of a dump, but most of the rest of New Mexico is just haunting. I've never seen so many stars. Driving at night in the mountains is treacherous however, and my car nearly took up permanent residence in a ditch before I arrived at the residence of a woman who calls herself Kokyan
There were around 20 or so people there, most of whom were in Kokyan's kitchen engaged in a fairly spirited series of conversations that belied the fatigue many there were apparently suffering from. Several people seemed interesting including an amusing character from New York who regaled those assembled with a great many lively (and almost believable) tales of his encounters with the paranormal and urban violence that had me laughing hysterically. Kokyan herself seemed nice, if a bit hyper and stressed out. It was decided that we would leave ahead of schedule as all who were expected to arrive were in attendance at that point in time.
Before we left I hung out in Kokyan's computer room watching one of the chat hosts (whose name escapes me though he lives about 10 blocks away from me in Minneapolis) host his chats. The question arose of if I myself was a "Knollie" (a Parascope chatroom regular) and if so, what my chat handle was. I had to admit that I was not. That raised a few eyebrows, two of them being his. I further explained that I had neither a subscription to AOL or Windows 95 and that, to the best of my knowledge, those were the only two ways to engage in their chatroom activities. This seemed to displease this individual. I did not dare mention the real reason I don't do chats. The real reason is that, for the most part, it is a complete and utter waste of time...especially if you have better things to do and you have a real social life. I've tried it several times...I've gotten hopelessly bored every time. The level of conversation is usually at the lower primate level and that is in chatrooms that are dedicated to relatively lofty topics. Mind you if I had a specific purpose for being in a chatroom, such as interviewing someone, I'd do it. But as a means of meaningful discourse it falls far short of the real thing. Myself, I'm a tactile person. I like to look at people when I talk to them. I like to hear the tone of their voice, the inflections marking the difference between sincerity and sarcasm. I like to shake people's hands, sense the rate of their breathing, the way they stand, where they place their eyes. Not to mention the subtle psychic messages that are beamed from their big grey bag of neurons to mine and back again. If we don't have these things we do not have a conversation, we merely have words being carelessly flung back and forth without regard of their impact, subtle or otherwise. The idiot who gets off on making a nuisance of himself in a chatroom by repeatedly pledging his allegiance to Hitler would not exist for very long in a real social setting. He'd either be ostracized, avoided, or injured. I've come to view chatrooms as a refuge for the socially incompetent at worst. At best I suppose you could say that you can meet people that you normally would not have access to in the normal course of your life, but just look around you: the world has no shortage of people. In fact the world is just slopping over with people, far too many of them in my opinion. Perhaps we should spend less time trying to build virtual relationships and work on building real ones with the people we are compatible with in our own neighborhoods. In short, I can't stand chatting on-line and I have only used it as a precursor to phone conversations or face to face meetings...and I've barely used it for that! End of speech.
Admitting that I had never been in any of their chatrooms might have been a bad move. At this point I started to get the feeling that I was being kind of an interloper. Just some guy who took advantage of a situation offered that maybe wouldn't have if he had had a modicum of tact or common sense. I kind of felt that I was crashing a somewhat private party. This feeling was only going to grow over the next two days.
After about 15 minutes of Keystone Cops-like attempts at organization, we left for Roswell at about 12:30 A.M. It became a trial by fire for my 85 Lynx as the estimated peak cruising speed of the large RV Parascope had rented rose from 75 to 85 MPH. Fortunately my car did not shake too horribly and no wildlife or livestock choose to migrate from one side of the road to the other while I careened through the darkness debating the wisdom of the choice I had made to caravan with these people.
Part Two: The Arrival.
About a half hour before we reached the actual town of Roswell my bladder reminded me vigorously of the Faustian bargain one generally makes when one chooses the lesser of two evils between falling asleep at the wheel in the middle of the night or drinking copious (nay, obscene) amounts of coffee to the point of grave internal injury. I debated on urinating into an empty Mountain Dew bottle as we drove into a town that seemed entirely unremarkable with the exception of a series of completely inane alien oriented sayings on the marquees of practically every business that had one and the town's close proximity to absolutely nothing. I was at the point of tears (which are usually reserved for movies, books, and the opera) regarding my imperiled urinary tract when I spied a Denny's in the distance, still some ways out from both our campsite and the ground zero point of the next day's festivities. I pulled into the parking lot, vaulted from my car, nearly smashed my head on a pane of glass that looked suspiciously like a door to my beleaguered eyes, managed to locate the actual entrance, and found my relief. I kept thinking of weasels. Big rabid weasels with immense teeth.
After this unfortunate episode which managed to waylay several other members of the caravan, we stood in the parking lot for a brief period discussing the latest "bombshell" to be broadcast on Art Bell's show. I did not hear the report myself but one of the members of the caravan made it sound like the Air Force itself was going to spill the beans at a major press conference on Friday morning. Like most of what I hear on Art Bell I took this with a grain of salt. I really don't know what to make of Art Bell. I don't listen to him religiously by any means. I'm not much for sensationalism myself but I do give him credit for turning on a lot of people to paranormal matters who normally wouldn't have much of an interest in such. He kind of strikes me as the Rush Limbaugh of the paranormal world, though I doubt either of them would find the comparison that flattering (can't stand Limbaugh myself). There are times when the mobilization of mass public sentiment is needed to break through the ossified bureaucracy. The bureaucracy that insists, despite all of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that UFOs are nothing but reflections of the planet Venus off of a weather balloon trapped in a cloud of swamp gas (or whatever). Or mass hallucinations. (Can someone kindly explain the mechanics of a mass hallucination for me, by the way? How is it possible for more than one person to see the same imaginary object without some sort of nonmaterial mental communication going on? Just curious...)
People like Art Bell and shows like The X-Files are a net positive in my opinion, giving the 95% of the American public who refuse to read anything but the sports section of their local daily the chance the explore the possibility that their world may not be the tiny little place their foreshortened concepts of reality envision it to be. Sure they can be painfully superficial to anyone who takes these issues as seriously as I for example, do, but they are necessary and, speaking for myself, entertaining as hell at times. I just have a difficulty with the tendency that we have as a species in general, and as Americans in particular, to simplify everything down to a nicely digestible soundbite-sized chunk of reality. These phenomena (and the whole universe for that matter) are far too complex for us to define with any of the yardsticks we are currently comfortable with. And it is only in books and resources that the majority never hears of, let alone reads or pursues, that the boundaries of our constrictive worldviews are being challenged.
So my feelings towards Mr. Bell are mixed. And after the whole Hale Bopp fiasco I have tended to be that much more hesitant about him. Thus I was less enthusiastic than some of the others when I heard this bit of news. It seemed rather odd that the government would come clean after they just released the latest salvo in their confusing attempt to attempt to be confusing. But I'm used to our over-compartmentalized government doing odd and inexplicable things with a warped sense of timing, so I though "well...maybe."
(I am of course referring to the recent report that claims that the alleged alien bodies were actually crash dummies. The contradictions and flaws in this latest pack of ineptly configured lies are being exposed by enough other, and far more knowledgeable, people in the field of ufology that for me to do so would be redundant. Suffice it to say I was far from impressed with what I read about it. But the air force did spend a lot of our time and money on it and it did stir up that much more mud and make the air force look that much more suspect, so I suppose we should applaud them. Thanks guys!)
We continued on to our campgrounds, which were more than ample for the quantity of people who were there. Parascope had rented both a large camping area on the state fairgrounds and the Arts and Crafts building adjoining it. It being rather late, we all set up our bedding inside the building which was large and almost entirely empty save for a tiny cluster of tables in the middle that bore several laptops, what looked to be a decent PC, and assorted other computer gear. My girlfriend and I set up our leaky airmattress unsuspectingly close to the individual who apparently IS Parascope, a young, tall, rotund guy with a ponytail and goatee who had to be one of the least congenial people I've met in the past few years. He calls himself Ruffin Prevost.
Part Three: Bad Vibes and Visions of Silliness.
Although there can be a substantial difference in how we perceive ourselves and how the "world" perceives us, I feel that, despite the often abrasive nature of my music and writing, I'm a fairly likeable individual. This was not always the case. It has taken years of self imposed behavior modification to evolve from a snide sarcastic intellectual prick to a snide sarcastic intellectual prick with a decent personality. I smile a lot, laugh frequently, and am fairly amiable in my deportment overall. Thus I tend to get along with most of the people I meet. That is not to say that I've become a psychic doormat who will agree publicly with opinions that run contrary to whatever I have that resembles a belief system just to get by...far from it. What it means is that I've learned the art of diplomacy. I've learned how to make people laugh as I disagree with them. I'm a "nice" guy, an introvert who has had to learn the ropes in the world of extroverts and done a not bad job of it. I tend to find myself at parties most weekends and tend to be pretty gregarious overall. Further, I've learned to always try to find SOMETHING to like about most of the people I meet. I look for some strain of commonality in others that nurtures feeling of community, thus encouraging free and open conversation. All that being said however, I didn't much care for Mr. Prevost...I thought he was a jerk. I did like some of the other Parascopeds quite a bit, but we did not spend much time at the campsite as we were much more interested in all of the silliness that Roswell had to offer us.
And silly it was. What I had not noticed in the darkness of the early A.M. was that every third business had some sort of alien theme in their windows. And here are a few:
Sadly, some of my favorite shots did not come out (crappy little $20.00 camera!). The best displays were one of a Grey bride at a bridal shop and a band of Greys in front of a music store (with the mythologically erroneous moniker "The Pleiadians" on the kick drum), those were a stitch! I must assume that they don't leave these things up all year round. It would be interesting to see what this town is like when the tourists aren't here.
Part Four: The Madness Continues.
It was definitely a spectacle all the while we were in attendance, loonies both local and otherwise thronged the streets bedecked in every variation on the alien costume theme possible.
Mothers pushed their infants down the sidewalks in saucer shaped walkers. Those who lacked the gene responsible for creativity simply wrapped themselves in tinfoil. Some odd but personable character who looked like he had just been sidetracked on his way to a Renaissance festival offered rides on what can best be described as a...a...a thing.
When it came to sheer overkill the street life just could not hold a candle to the Alien Expo. It was quite the experience. The only way I can describe it is that it was a flea market for the extraterrestrially obsessed. There were grey heads EVERYWHERE and on EVERYTHING! Someone even had the perverse idea of carving grey faces on cactus leaves! Every possible permutation of the subject was emblazoned on tee shirts, coffee cups, bumper stickers, postcards, etc. There were grey dolls, grey candles, grey earrings, grey bloody everything! If a real grey had shown up no one would have noticed it. Or they would have tried to buy it.
My girlfriend bought a doll (she named it AL) and several tee shirts for friends and family. I fell prey only to a coffee cup myself, though I was momentarily tempted to buy a couple fairly tasty books until I came to my senses and realized that I could buy them cheaper at home. I did get a free copy of FATE magazine and a free copy of a book of theirs called STRANGE ENCOUNTERS by Curt Sutherly which, despite a having veeerrrryyyy stoooooopid cover, is actually very well written.
After about an hour of this insane commercial bombast I had to leave, even if the outside air temperature was 106 DEGREES! I just had to get out of there!
Part Five: Of Michael Lindemann, The Weather, and Bad Camping.
When my head stopped pounding and I had a moment to reflect I pondered the unreality of what I had just witnessed. Hundreds of seemingly typical American consumers wandering around buying trinkets shaped like an entity that the government denies the existence of. In just ten short years the term The Greys has gone from total obscurity to being a part of almost everyone's common vernacular. The image of the dark-eyed earless little bugger has been festooned everywhere, you would have to have been in a coma for the past ten years not to have seen it. Thanks Whitley...WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?????
The fascinating thing is that, unlike other insipid trends of the past, this insipid trend is one that actually can give one pause for thought. Is this just commercialism? Is it acclimatization? What the hell is going on with this? The powers that be have long known that if you want to nullify the possible power of a symbol or set of beliefs you can just make a fad out of it. Make it a marketing tool. If a wall street lawyer walks around with a set of Grey-faced cufflinks on, how threatening to our dominant paradigm can that particular image be? Is THIS what is happening? Will all of these toys end up in a pile with our pet rocks and moods rings? Will the great sodden and murky mass mind of America forget what that image represents when the next trite fad is foisted upon them? Do the majority of them really have the slightest inkling now?
This sort of circular thinking could not improve my headache. I needed some intellectual sustenance. I came here for more than just the flash. My brain was hungry for something! Anything!
So we went to a lecture.
Michael Lindemann is a handsome individual. And personable. And a very skilled communicator. I'd suggest that he run for president if he didn't seem like such an honest fellow. If there is anyone in the entire pantheon of ufology that would get my vote to be THE one person who can best explain ufology to the masses, he'd be it. I considered myself fortunate to catch his lecture, which was basically an overview of the "extraterrestrial hypothesis", not because I really learned anything new but because it was such a pleasure to listen to this man speak. The structure of his presentation was excellent, his delivery flawless, and he lent a dignity to the process that can be sadly lacking in the fractious world of ufology. When I've tried to explain the basics of this science without a home to friends of mine who are not particularly familiar with the subject, I've ended up stumbling all over myself verbally. There is just simply too much data...despite what the debunkers claim. I wished I could have video taped his lecture and, instead of spinning my verbal wheels trying not to sound like a lunatic as I so often do, just given a copy to everyone I've met who was unacquainted with the essentials. So while there were only a couple small facts presented that I had not been previously aware of, I did have a good time listening to his lecture. His warmth and sense of humor was a welcome respite from a field that can occasionally descend into the realm of the barbaric.
It was about 9:00 P.M. when the lecture ended. I was devastatingly tired from not having slept the night before, so we decided to make an early evening of it. We went back to the campgrounds.
The weather in New Mexico is a capricious thing indeed. I had, earlier Thursday morning, attempted to set our large and spacious (but old and scummy) tent up in dirt that was trying very hard to become concrete. I had whacked with sweaty futility at the fragile pipecleaner-like tentposts, bending several into positions of utter uselessness. Thus, supported by only four posts that slid in and out of the cracked dry earth, I left the tent in a precarious state of instability. I hoped for calm winds and no rain. I would have had more luck hoping for locusts and eels to plummet from the sky.
While we had been in the lecture nature had decided to bless the lunatic fringe magnet called Roswell with a small sample of its primal wrath, just for the tourists. Lightning filled the horizon in an eldritch display while winds buffeted everything that stood more than 3 inches off of the ground. Dust was blowing everywhere, finding time in it's busy agenda to locate my eyes and nose and burrow away like angry moles. It felt like I had covered my face with honey and stuck my head in a bucket of flies. Needless to say the tent had collapsed into a undefinable blob on the ground. No use even thinking about setting it up again. We tried to rest inside the building but several more people had shown up and they were, unfortunately, more in the "geek with a serious ego problem" category than the more laidback people that we had met the night before at Kokyan's house. (One notable exception was a blond bespectacled guy who goes by the handle Legend, real nice person.) "God, this field attracts some serious buttheads" I kept thinking to myself as we rolled up our bedding and resolved to pay any price we had to to rent a motel room. They were getting just too annoying for us and I kept feeling that I WAS being an interloper, that I just didn't belong with these people. It's kind of an odd feeling for me as I usually feel comfortable in just about any situation even when I'm surrounded by people I don't necessarily think that much of, but I HAD to get out of there and the girlfriend concurred greatly. So we loaded up my car and left in search of more congenial lodgings.
Our first stop convinced us that we were doomed. We found a cheesy no name motel (my favorite kind) that had rooms available, but the price was just too steep. It had to be about three times what they would've normally charged, everyone was making money off the rubes THIS weekend, and we figured it would be futile to go to any of the motels along the main drag. Our options? Sleep in the car or buy another tent and go back to the campgrounds. We chose the latter.
We bought a cheap little child's tent and slept fitfully in the rain, the leaky airmattress slowly becoming a blubbery mass on the tent floor. I awoke to the sound of children screaming at each other in shrill sopranos accompanied by the screechy alto of a mother who had evidently not yet learned how to rule her brood without the tools of intimidation, threats, and fear. Fortunately I had a few things to attend to under the hood of my car as this early morning display of the adverse conditioning school of parenting was gnawing at my nerves like a starving badger. Despite the fact that I'm a musician I've always hated loud noises, especially in the mornings before I've caffinated my bloodstream sufficiently enough to be able to ignore the voices in my head that cry out "buy a gun, you need a gun, guns are good" when my aural space is invaded by willfully stupid people. At least there were no "boom cars" in the immediate vicinity, thank god for small favors. So, already suffering from a pissy mood, I arose to meet the day.
Part Six: Paul Davids and The Hard Evidence.
The Arts and Crafts building was a blur of activity as several of it's denizens had decided to break through their lethargy long enough to attend the BIG DEAL PRESS CONFERENCE that was scheduled that morning. A couple people asked me if I planned on attending.
"But I'm not press" I managed to mumble as my veins shrieked "CAFFEINE!!!!" "do you think they'd let me in?"
"I dunno, maybe you should try to slip in anyway" a voice I could not attach to a face spoke to me though my premedicated mental haze.
"That's an idea I guess" I uttered, my hands shaking, my will to live diminishing with each second I denied myself "CAFFFEEEEEINE!!!"
"We're headed out there ourselves if you want to follow us," offered one of the Parascopies that I had had several pleasant conversations with the day before.
"Cool, thanks! Say do you (coffee) know anywhere (coffee) I can get some (coffee) COFFEE?"
Once having ascertained (with the helpful advice of the aforementioned friendly soul) that any of the coffee available in the immediate vicinity would completely suck, I decided to find a decent diner or gas station. In my never-ending attempt to be nice to people who don't necessarily deserve it, I went inside the Arts and Crafts Building to offer a ride to the conference to anyone who didn't have a way to get there. Several Parascopids turned and stared at me blankly. I repeated my offer and got a similar reaction. I wondered if, instead of offering to give some of them a ride, I should have offered to fill all of their shoes with black widow spiders or suck all of their eyeballs out with a vacuum cleaner. I might have gotten a more communicative response. "Have these people lost the ability to converse in the real world, should I have e-mailed my offer to them?" I asked myself as I shrugged and left the building. I got into my car, drove to the nearest gas station that I could find, and availed myself of some standard issue gas station coffee that, while nothing to scream about, was at least better than what I would have consumed had I drank the coffee on sale at the ribs and salsa place next to the campsite. Thus invigorated and given my daily undeserved new lease on life, I went back to the Pearson Auditorium where all of the lectures and this "press conference" were being held.
It had nothing to do with the Air Force.
The press conference turned out to be Paul Davids' scheduled lecture with a whole lot of frosting on top. I managed to get in without pulling my "I'm terribly important and I'm in a big hurry, so get out of my way" routine or by crouching down and hiding between some taller person's legs. Dame Fortune had remembered that she owed me a few decent favors in lieu of an outright apology for how she's crapped on my pointed little head so many times in the past, so she presented me with a total stranger who walked up to me while I was in line and asked, "Hey, one of my crew couldn't make it this morning, do you want a free ticket to get in?"
"Sure, wow, thanks!" I gushed, realizing that I would have the ability to attend this alleged press conference without having to have press credentials AND I would get in without having to pay the $10.00 they were charging at the door. All of this accomplished without having to look, act, and feel like a complete idiot in front of a mass of people whose asses I may someday be forced to kiss if I ever decide to take a more active role in ufology. I thanked the gentleman profusely and proceeded to walk through the entrance. I became aware, however, of a small middle-aged man to my left saying the words "excuse me...sir?" in a thick French accent. I responded in my typical American way by saying "uh..duh..what?" and by feeling the kneejerk reaction to hide my wallet I usually feel when approached by a total stranger in a public place.
"I am (can't remember) from the French paper (I forget), may I interview you?"
"Wha...me? Do I look like I have anything useful to say?"
"You look like an interesting person."
I suppose I did. I look like an aging Goth except meaner. My wardrobe is about 70% black and the rest is made up of very dingy shades of grey with a few odd business suits and other things thrown in for when I have to act like a legitimate human being (usually for money). Everyone else on the steps around me looked like Joe and Josephine Lunchbucket out for a Sunday stroll, lots of light pastel colors. I kind of stood out. In fact I probably looked like a total fool for wearing black in the 100 degree heat...and a fool I was indeed. I stood at the entrance of the auditorium and spewed my two cents about life, the universe, and everything to a man whose name I cannot remember because I did not have the wherewithal to write it down. It's a shame, I'd be very interested to read his article, he asked some rather interesting and insightful questions. I hope he got his cassette's worth.
At the entrance to the auditorium Stanton Friedman was standing next to the door. I was amused to see that he is even shorter than I am. Figure that, shorter than me...Napoleon's little brother. This particular lecture was not his show so the attention of the attendees was focused elsewhere as they rushed to get the best positions for their video cameras and microphones. He seemed a rather forlorn figure standing there behind his display of books. I felt empathy for him. I'm not one of those who hates Mr. Friedman. Though he does seem to be permanently embroiled in controversy, the man has done a lot of work over the years that is indispensable. Had he not opened the whole Roswell can of worms the level of awareness of the overall phenomenon would not be where it is today. Is he a spook? Perhaps...I don't know. Are the MJ-12 papers a hoax? I can't say...maybe. Are a lot of the people who dog the man merely jealous of the fact that he's THE guy everyone interviews that capitalizes on the current UFO craze by making a documentary about it? Hmmmm...THAT wouldn't surprise me in the least. Next to the urge to buy lots of useless trinkets to bolster a false sense of security and the desire to propagate feverishly with whomever we can, jealousy is THE quintessential human motivator.
Myself, I feel that there are "deeper" elements involved in the whole UFO issue, twisted paths through esoterica and obscurity that reach into the very heart of the human condition itself. When you peel away the top layers of this onion you end up finding that the contents are very strange and troubling indeed. And they get progressively stranger the further in you go. If you follow the steps of other brave souls who have dared to maintain an open mind regarding "The Visitors" you can end up in a confusing morass of mind-blowing scenarios that can reduce the undisciplined and unprepared into quivering blobs of paranoid uncertainty. Some friends of mine have complained about the superficial nature of RAH RAH ROSWELL, that it is a distraction. They've whined that the popular media keeps repeating the same few themes endlessly, never getting past stage one. They have grumbled about the endless amount of tail-chasing that seems to go on on the surface levels of this latest cottage industry gone berserk. Grumble away friends, those of us who are sick of hearing about MJ-12 don't have to listen. Other people need this. We have to learn to crawl before we can run. I for one am heartened by the fact that, in just a few short decades, many humans have gone from thinking that we are the crowning achievement of God's creation and KING SHIT of an empty universe, to thinking that it is JUST POSSIBLE that we are being visited by beings whose abilities are UTTERLY beyond our comprehension! Now THAT my friends, is a pretty big step for a bunch of monkeys whose main motivations seem to be food, sex, and killing each other in inventively horrible ways! Galileo and Copernicus would feel pretty vindicated by this, I'll bet.
The Air Force was not part of this press conference, as I had suspected. I'll forgo the details as you can find them all over the Internet. An overview will suffice.
Pauls Davids gave a rather rushed version of his lecture which was basically an outline of the Roswell Incident. He did a good job and, while I was squirming in my seat at having to hear a story I've heard about 10,000 times in the past few years, I realized that this was all new to a lot of people out there and that they needed to hear it. I busied myself by taking lots of pictures that did not turn out as the stage was too dark and the foreground too well lit. When I got the pictures developed all that came out were the backs of the camera crew stationed in front of me. After about 45 minutes, Paul Davids introduced the man who would be presenting THE BIG NEWS: Derrel Sims.
My attention, which had been wandering a bit despite the more than adequate quality of Mr. David's lecture, focused right back onto the stage. Robert O'Dean was seated a few rows in front of me and I had been staring at his ponytail with envy, knowing that I will not have nearly as much hair when I'm his age (tall guy too...lucky bastard). I thought to myself, "Hmmmm...Derrel Sims. I've read a lot about this guy. He sounds like a bit of a character. Where does he register on my credibility meter?" I had read a rather scathing smear piece about this man on Parascope's site and thought that, if any of the article was true (which is a big question in and of itself), this guy is bit unbalanced. Then I thought about some of the weird things I've done in the past and came to the conclusion that I had no room to criticize this man. If someone ever decides to research me and digs deep enough into my wild years they could very easily paint a portrait of a drug crazed sex maniac thieving vandal communist psycho for all the world to see. I'll never run for political office, I blew my chances of that in my teens. I inhaled. Lots of times. I don't anymore, but that doesn't matter in the world of illusions and lies the media has made for us to drool contentedly in.
I made up my mind to not make up my mind and simply listened to the conference. I have to say that the evidence presented was convincing, at least from a distance. The studies performed on the alleged piece of crash debris seemed legit to my untrained eyes and ears. Mr. Sims, though he seemed to have the manner of a marine drill sergeant (you know: no warmth, no levity, an inflexible steel rod for a backbone, tightly wound and vaguely menacing but very well disciplined) presented his bit without a hint of lunacy and the other panel members, those that spoke, behaved admirably. They brought up Jesse Marcel Jr. to the podium a couple times to thunderous applause. The gentleman who did the actual testing seemed to be very sincere. His presentation of his test results was dignified and methodical. Not knowing the slightest thing about chemistry I had a hard time poking holes in his conclusions. (At the time of this writing there seem to be plenty of other people up to that particular task who are much more capable than I of critiquing the data. I'm remaining, as always, open-minded but cautious.) After the presentation the natural questions of "where did you get the fragment?" and "who else is testing this thing?" naturally sprang to my mind as they apparently did to the reporters who mobbed Mr. Davids after the lecture. (Well, he asked for it didn't he? That kind of thing can happen when you go around claiming that you have incontrovertible proof that another sentient form of life crashed it's interstellar RV in the military's backyard.)
I left Pearson Auditorium with the same mixed feelings that a lot of other people apparently felt. For me these feelings were merely the continuation of the mixed feelings I've had towards this and other subjects for quite a while. On the one hand I've delved into a lot of arcane areas that make the issue of wether or not a UFO crashed in Roswell trivial at best. On the other hand, even keeping in mind some of the odd things that have occurred in my life (metaphysically speaking), there is a part of me that wants personal proof before I'll commit to even accepting the fundamentals that I left behind a long time ago in my endless attempt to blow my mind. I want one of these things to land in MY backyard dammit! I'm 99 and 99/100ths percent sure that, not only does extraterrestrial life exist, and not only have they visited yon fair Earth, but that they have an intimate and very complex relationship with our species that transcends our ability to define it at this point in time. And I have a whole headful of other notions that I have no intention of talking about to anyone until I'm able to make more sense out of them than I currently can. But there is just that slightest part of me that can't go on wholeheartedly without some tangible evidence that I can fondle with my opposable thumbs. And not someone else's tangible evidence...MY evidence! And I know full well how frail this mass delusion we call reality is. I know that our brains and our culture filter out all of those aspects of our reality that we are too psychically underdeveloped to bear. I know I can't trust my senses even if I do find compelling evidence personally. I know this through theory AND intuition. But still I cling to my materialistic monkey ways and demand proof, material proof. But who the hell am I to ask for such a thing anyway? And does my pathetic opinion on such weighty issues matter one iota? I hope not, or the whole universe is a lot more limited than I though it was.
I had time to kill before the next lecture, plenty of it, so I went back to the camp, chatted briefly to a few surly and sullen Parascopeds, gathered up my traveling companion and left for another descent into the maelstrom of Roswell.
Part Seven: The UFO Museum.
The Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center is a surreal place indeed. We were greeted inside the door by several friendly octogenarian women who seemed to be completely out of place standing not 30 feet away from the grisly sculpture of an alien autopsy.
A series of displays detailing the entire Roswell Mythos lines the right side of the place as you begin your walkthrough. It's all pretty much there from the crash to the cover-up to the MJ-12 hoax/non-hoax to the Santilli debacle.
All this and some horrendously bad art too! Not all of the artwork was technically awful, but the image of the grey is becoming so popular and ubiquitous that everyone is getting in the act...even "artists" who would be better off painting the sides of barns.
I was pleased to see that there was a bit of equal time given to the skeptics and their objections to the alien crash scenario, but I did note that the books being sold in their gift shop tended to be a bit slanted towards those writers who wholeheartedly espoused said scenario. I suppose this makes sense, if there is a gift shop at the Vatican it probably does not stock too many books by Lutherans. All in all I enjoyed the place, it was a hoot! The strangeness of the place is only accented by the fact that it is located in this sprawling suburb smack dab in the middle of nowhere.
Roswell itself is a weird place. Forget all of the alien hype, it's just a bizarre town. Not because of anything overtly peculiar, it's rather plain actually, but because of its utter normalcy. It has a Target and a Wal-Mart. Every fast food place imaginable claims an outpost there. It's a town of 50,000 people located about 120 miles from the Mexican border and about 180 miles from the nearest big city (Albuquerque). Seemingly the only justification for its existence is the military, and maybe a little spare change from the tourism. If we ever go to war with Mexico we'll be able to do it with a belly full of Wendy's french fries. A very odd place, that Roswell. I hate to be provincial but the best way to describe it is to take Warren, Michigan (an ugly inner suburb of Detroit, full of rednecks and liquor stores) and drop it in the middle of the desert. (Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.) I was not expecting the place I saw. I envisioned some old west desert town with a few bars, an abandoned gas station, and an old style barbershop with a couple pack mules tied outside to a rotten wooden post. My vision was just a wee bit off the mark. It was the picture of a slightly stale modernity, making the intrusion of the alien theme all the more jarring in it's obtrusiveness.
The most remarkable thing was that the most interesting conversations I had during my brief visit were with the locals. True, some of them were illiterate hicks who were not blessed with the curse of an imagination, but there were a few here and there that had some thought provoking things to say. There were some serious morons about though. Evolution has bestowed its favors unevenly throughout our world. At a gas station some rat-like adolescent with bristly blond hair and beady eyes said to no one in particular, "if ya'll lived heah ya'll would know thet this alien shit is a buncha crap."
I took the bait, being a schmuck and all.
"Oh yeah," I said, mustering up all of the mannerisms I learned growing up on the lower east side of Detroit, "how zat?"
"It's just a buncha crap...nothin' ever landed heah, just a buncha assholes makin' money!"
I was about to load my Pistol of Pomposity and give it to him both barrels, citing the names of eyewitnesses 70 years older than him and the titles of books he'll never read, when a sudden burst of errant maturity found it's way into my consciousness and stood waving it's arms in front of my ego.
"Hey Elder," it said, "why bother?"
"Well, his ignorance is pissing me off!" my ego sputtered back, enraged.
"So? He's an atavism! A genetic throwback! You'll never change his mind, and besides...by all available evidence he doesn't really have a mind to change."
My ego fumed, but such logic was irrefutable. With a world-weariness that I fought hard to not show to my mentally stunted young debate partner I said, "Yeah well, you live here, you probably know."
The rodent-faced boy looked about as startled as someone can whose life is probably little more than MTV, cheap beer, and bad sex. He had effortlessly won an argument with one of those "alien people." I chuckled to myself as I envisioned him recounting his tale of intellectual victory to his cadre of equally blighted friends. I shoved my ego back into the hole from which it had escaped and walked back into the blazing sun.
We wandered aimlessly about the town for a while, window-shopping, amusing ourselves. I stopped in a cafe where some kid was doing a set of acoustic tunes. He was good. A little contrived as he tried to force his voice into an artificial raspiness, but talented, clearly talented. I was in the habit of leaving copies of my CD at various spots along the way on our trip, so I left a few with the proprietor who was oddly grateful. I wondered if he'd be as grateful once he listened to it.
Part Eight: John Mack, The Dreaded Expo, and THE END.
It was getting close to the time that John Mack would take the stage so we hightailed it back to Pearson Auditorium. As much as I hate the idea of shelling out $10.00 for a lecture when I can learn much more from reading the actual books, I felt OK about giving my money to Mack. I feel sorry for the guy. Harvard treated him like dirt.
Mack's lecture was good. Though he lacked the big screen charm of Lindemann, he made up for it with his warmth and sincerity. There are a lot of opportunists who are taking advantage of people with genuine psychological ailments out there who have used regressive hypnotherapy for very selfish ends. They have destroyed lives and families in their attempts to either further their own philosophical agendas or make lots of money. I have personally been effected by such a situation in my own family, so when I view regressive hypnotherapy I view it with a very critical eye. That being said, I don't think Mack is one of those therapists who is trying to damage people, inadvertently or otherwise. I don't think he abuses his position. I could be wrong, but I think that he is earnest...and very bright. Watching the video footage that he presented before his lecture I was pleased to say that, out of all of the questions he asked his subjects, only a tiny handful could be construed as leading in any conceivable way. More often, when he would make a suggestion that led in any direction that the subject did not agree with, the subject would have no difficulty in disagreeing with Mack. And he had no issue about backing down, he made it obvious that he did not need to coerce them into anything. In the case of the schoolchildren he interviewed regarding one particular close encounter case, some of the responses bordered on the comical in their assertive nature. I did not see someone who was trying to gain the upper hand in a "power" relationship. What I did see was a very patient, communicative, and compassionate man allowing the children to recount the events they were part of in their own words in their own time. None of them seemed particularly traumatized by the event, they were all pretty matter of fact about it.
Mack took questions at the end of his lecture from some rather...um...interesting individuals. Some of the questions that were asked of Mack were incredibly juvenile, they made Mack's child hypnosis subjects look downright scholarly by comparison. He handled the inane queries with the studied aplomb of one who is used to dealing with jerks. As Whitley Strieber was the next merry little tune on the ET hit parade the hall behind us was filling up rapidly with jes' plain folks. I decided to forgo Strieber's lecture as I'm just a poor unemployed waif and I couldn't justify spending another cent in this town. Not that I have anything against Streiber, he's another one who, for better or for worse, has brought this issue to the forefront of the world's consciousness, I just had other fish to fry. Like visiting a friend in Hollywood and another one in San Francisco. We left the auditorium by the back entrance as the front one was reaching critical mass.
I went grudgingly back to the Expo as the girlfriend had a couple more souvenirs to purchase. The crowd was even thicker than before. I don't like crowds. Not only is it an issue of having a lack of faith in the control mechanisms humans have inherited through millennia of wantonly destructive behavior, it is also that I tend to get psychically confused. Being in a large crowd turns my head into a beehive of random voices and emotions and I no longer have the luxury at this point in my life of being able to close off my psyche with alcohol or drugs. I have to use self-discipline and concentration and that tends to get to be a pain in the ass after a while. I urged my companion to finish her shopping so I could exit the inferno before I freaked out and started hissing at people like a reptile.
Once again the mid-afternoon heat was intense and draining, but not nearly so much so as being trapped amongst a bloodthirsty pack of consuming consumers. We wandered some more, absorbing more of the sun's overly friendly rays. I took a few more pictures, drank more coffee, drank more water as the coffee was dehydrating me, and debated to myself whether or not to stay another day in the merry town of Roswell. There was a lot more going on over the weekend and I was tempted to stay for some of it. Outside Pearson auditorium after Mack's lecture a woman had handed me a flyer advertising an all day event on Sunday called "New Frontiers of the Alien Presence" that looked like it would offer a fair amount of mind-bending amusement. It was a lineup that promised to be a rather entertaining exploration of some of the fringes of this phenomenon. It appealed to me despite the price. However, that WAS two days off and the cover charge was just a bit too much to justify spending another two nights camping with Parascope.
We decided to pack it in. We had seen enough. The teeming throngs were just getting off work, some were already packing their bags and heading to Roswell for the big weekend. I didn't think I could take much more pastel. I enjoyed my visit, mind you. The rampant commercialism nauseated me, but I did think that it was worth it in some odd way. Despite the lunacy that threatened to discredit ufology back all the way to the bad old days of the 50s, I thought it was worth going to. Let me put it this way: I'm better for going than not.
We left the way we came. It was July 4th, we were hoping to make it to Albuquerque in time for some fireworks. On the way we stopped at the entrance to the alleged crash site. It cost $15.00 a head. No way. I like dirt, but I'm not going to pay $15.00 to stand around and stare at it. The desert sun boring into my left eye, we drove off into the horizon.