In Which I Explore the International UFO Museum and Research Center at Roswell, New Mexico
To where would Odile McDonald have made a point of making a pilgrimage after having seen a UFO?
Okay, well, maybe not exactly a pilgrimage, but perhaps on a kind of must-stop-by lark. Especially if she was in the area. Somewhere within, five hundred miles, maybe seven-fifty on the outside. Let’s say she was driving through Kansas on her way to Cottonwood, Arizona. Why skip Roswell when it’s so conveniently on the way? (If you believe Roswell is conveniently between Kansas and Cottonwood, Arizona then you need to make a trip to Google Maps and do a destination search.) Not that she would have known anything about Roswell and the UFO that supposedly crashed there in the summer of 1947 (at least, not anything more than what a quick visit to Wikipedia might tell her), and not that she would even believe in a physical UFO crashing at Roswell and some surviving aliens being captured by the army and then not surviving and being autopsied. Having concocted Odile as a character for Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, I can tell you for a fact she would be a skeptic. But I figured this would be just the kind of joy ride into shady mythologized territory that Odile might take and, as I had just begun writing Thunderbird, and, as I was on my way from Kansas to Cottonwood, I made the point of fitting in a visit to Roswell to see what there was to be seen at the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
In fact, I ended up visiting twice, two years apart. Because I’d had a really good meal in Roswell the first time. Well, I’d had a really good meal the day after I’d gotten sick after eating at a steak restaurant that had been recommended by the desk clerk at the hotel. Maybe I became sick because I rarely ate steak. All I know is for sake of Thunderbird and Odile, I went to Roswell, was hungry when I got there, asked where was a decent place to eat, was directed to a steak restaurant that was very packed-full-of-people-busy, had a not very good meal that was still okay to me as I was that hungry after a long several days of driving, went back to the hotel and a couple of hours later was really sick. Or maybe it was the fault of some food I’d eaten even earlier in the day, or the day before. Let’s get off this subject, shall we? Not a good memory.
So, I went to Roswell twice, because of the good meal. And because I wanted some more pics of the International UFO Museum and Research Center (I’ll be using pics from both trips in this series of posts), and because I had just visited The Very Large Array and Roswell lined up nicely on the map as a convenient intermission on my way back east. And if you believe that then you again need to consult Google Maps and see how I had to take little not-interstate 380 through a state’s worth of desert, which was okay as somewhere between Socorro and Roswell I would find myself in the area of the Trinity Atomic Test Site–which has nothing at all to do with Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine but with my having grown up at plutoniumville, USA (aka, Richland, Washington) and my not liking nukes which is of course a reason to visit Trinity and stand a moment and meditate on what was to follow.
I had visited The Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory because of the WOW! signal that is part of the plot in Thunderbird. The WOW! signal wasn’t picked up at The Very Large Array. It was detected at Big Ear in Ohio instead, but Big Ear was demolished in 1997. Attempts were made, in 1996-1997, to pick up WOW! at The Very Large Array. So, there I went. To see for myself those great big dishes directed at space.
Getting good pictures of the exterior of the museum presented some difficulty while I was there (even more while I’m not). The museum is in what looks like a former movie theater, and the facade should have made for some interesting shots. Traffic parked in front of the museum and that facade being cramped by street lamps and trees (yes, I like trees, I’m a tree hugger, I’m not suggesting the trees be cut down, I’m not wishing they die) made problematic getting good shots of the museum’s exterior, no matter my angle and whether I was to the right of it…
Or to the left of it. There were people. And trees, and cars parked directly in front. Including us, only a little way down.
Frustrated by trees and people and street lamps, I turned my attention to the shops across the street so that I could one day post on this blog how aliens abound in the shop windows at Roswell, New Mexico and have the pictures to prove it. See? There are aliens waving at me from the store windows of Roswell Home Furnishings across the street from the museum. They are waving at you, too, now. Happy, friendly aliens, excited with all these tourists bringing business to Roswell. “Hi, tourists!” those aliens in the furniture store windows call. “Come in and check out our three piece sectional sofa sets, now on sale!”
There are more aliens at a place called Starchild, and it looks like maybe a UFO crashed into the building or something, though I’ve not read anything about that particular incident.
They were hawking t-shirts. Easier to pack than a three piece sectional sofa set. However, the tattoo place next door would be the place to head for the most super portable souvenir of them all.
Finally, I stepped into the parking lot to the side of the museum, to see what kind of pictures I could get from a side street. As it happened, there were two other people with the same idea of taking photos in the parking lot. As the person not lying on the ground was the one with the camera and had it pointed down at the subject’s face, I’m not sure how they were working the UFO signage into the frame, but I like to think they got some good shots of the UFO reflected in mirrored glasses or something, and that they immediately posted them to Flickr. Except that the person lying on the ground wasn’t wearing glasses and had their hands over their eyes.
Standing on that side of the building gave me the idea to do the below digital painting that I based on the above photo.
Click on painting for enlargement
The painting is titled, And Then I Saw Her Face, based on the Monkee’s song, of course, the follow up line being, “Now, I’m a believer.” Get it? Of course, you do. I needn’t even add, “It seemed to fit the situation.”
Because books take a long time to write (at least they do for me) I knew I had a long while of writing ahead of me with Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, and the painting was a way of meditating while I was writing and letting Odile and Johnnie’s story develop. The woman in the painting shouldn’t be imagined as being Odile. She was never ever in my head as Odile, so please don’t get her stuck in your imagination as being the face of Odile as she’s not. Of course, if you think she has a really nice face and you want her to be the face of Odile, I can’t exactly stop that from happening. (I think this woman is instead Neftoon Zamora.)
You might be thinking, “If she was able to get some shots of shops across the street from the museum, then why didn’t she simply cross the street and take shots of the museum’s facade from in front of the home furnishings place?”
And, you know, you can just be quiet and not raise that question, because it’s not exactly useful to propose that solution to me several years down the road and hundreds of miles away, is it?
That’s enough photos for today. I shall continue later with yet more photos of the International UfO Museum and Research Center at Roswell, which Odile most certainly would have visited eventually, though not likely immediately, after having seen whatever it was she happened to see in the sky that day that Johnnie crashed his Thunderbird into her car.