The people of Roswell, NM are brilliant farmers. They have taken the seeds of a likely-fictitious incident and have cultivated it into a major industry and attraction. In only 60 years, the tall tales of a bored kid on a ranch have grown into modern legends and perceived realities.

ufoWe both wholeheartedly believe that there is life outside our solar system. The odds that there is some form of life form on a distant planet in other galaxies is too great to doubt. And come on, could we really be the only intelligent life forms?! However, neither one of us believes that it are little green men in silver suits flying around in pie-tin shaped saucers in the sky. What makes Roswell so fascinating is that it is a decent sized town with a thriving tourist industry as evident by the dozens of hotels and chain restaurants. There is nothing surrounding the town but scrub land and desert.

The alien theme has been woven into every aspect of the town’s life: the green-glowing street lights have almond-shaped black eyes, the vending machines feature ET drinking cold soda pop, most of the stores and restaurants near the International UFO Museum and Research Center have an alien or outer space theme. Even the chain restaurants are into the action: the McDonalds is shaped like a space saucer and the Arby’s sign proudly welcomes aliens. I assume they mean little green ones, and not necessarily the brown ones from across the Rio Grande. Granted, all of this is done in a clever and DIY way — no slickly-produced Madison Avenue glitz.

alienWe did not have a lot of interaction with the Roswell natives. Chances are that they are not all believers too — except in the sense that the believe that UFOs are good for business and the local economy. And why shouldn’t they be — people of DC gush over everything political when visitors come to town, yet few of us really believe in the sanctity of the system. Call it being jaded. Call it grasping reality.

Anyway, the UFO Museum was a bit of a disappointment — housed in an old movie theater (which was probably beautiful in its heyday). After paying $5 (which I guess will help finance the building of a new, Gehry-styled complex), we started perusing the bland exhibits — all which look as though they were created by a museum designer in the mid 1960s. Pegboard backdrops held paper-matteboard frames with second and third generation photocopies of old newspaper clippings, “newly released” Top Secret government files and letters, and grainy photos of “real” sightings. At the end of the large hall is a diorama of an alien autopsy — the only thing that looked like it was created in the last decade or two. Truth be told, the tacky alien-inspired window displays of the local knicknack shops were more interesting and gave us what I think we really wanted to see: kitsch.

autopsyNonetheless, I do not doubt that the “sightings” are real — as personal visions. In the renaissance and time of the first kings of England, visions of angels were common — some “verified” and are now held as religious “knowledge.” Throughout time, people have seen ghosts and visions of loved ones in distant places. So the modern phenomenon of seeing aliens is not so out-of-the-norm. It is the fervent need to validate these psychotic episodes that disturbs me. It is important for people to believe in something greater than themselves — that is one reason religions are so popular — it helps to keep us in line with our fellow human beings, and gives us a sense of place in the world.

We are both glad to have made the pilgrimage to Roswell. Its quirkiness is a refreshing change from the homogenized and over-produced offerings we have seen elsewhere.

I am sorry that many of the “oddities” — fun stops along the highway — are gone in New Mexico. We really wanted to see the Sacred Tortilla — the original “Jesus-in-your-food” sighting from the late 1970s. Evidently, after many years on display, the granddaughter of the woman who discovered the relic took it to school for show-and-tell, and broke the stale flour disc when she dropped it. I guess that little girl is in her own personal hell.

Can I just say how much I love the Sirius radio again? The 70s station and the New Wave station have kept Brian and my sanity on these long hauls. The Partridge Family is singing “I Think I Love You” as we race through the flat, straight desert highway. Again, thanks Kryn for the radio!

Brian is driving now — and is loving the desert landscape. As monotonous as it is, the scene is rather beautiful — and makes us feel like we are really doing the cross-country thing. Brian has remarked that he feels like he is in a scene from “Thelma and Louise.” I am just wondering which one I am? And does that make Pilot the Brad Pitt character?!