17 Things I Saw in Roswell

Just finished a trip to Roswell, NM, and I know there’s nothing more interesting than vacation pictures from the desert.

So, here they are:

1 – Alien-Themed Stuff


It starts well outside of town, so as you’re driving through endless southwest desert (and trying not to pee in the car) you begin to notice a theme…



2 – Unintentionally Funny Signs


If you can trust your stuff with Billy the Kid, then who can you trust?


Someone call Mulder and Scully–we saw a Blockbuster sign.

I couldn’t (from the road) see a big dome made from Ramen, but that image will live on in my dreams.


3 – A Newspaper about a UFO


I think this is gonna be a big story.


4 – Those UFOs under my eyes.


Dear goodness, someone call a bellhop to help me check these bags.


5 – A Spot Where the Enola Gay Once Parked



6 – Emilie de Ravin Making Out


Okay, that might be something I remember from the show. It’s hard to keep it all straight. Who knows?


7 – Aleins. Everywhere.




8 – Aliens Who Have Given up on Life



9 – Emilie de Ravin Moving Stuff with her Mindtumblr_ok1scvvlow1rerzc4o1_400Full disclosure: This also could be something I remember from the TV show.


10 – UFO Research

The UFO museum is a fun slice of Americana, but take a look around back and you’ll find a serious research library with every document a UFO researcher could need.



11 – The Iron Cross of Germany Embedded in a Creek


Interesting story. Some German POWs were kept in Roswell during WWII, because it’s the middle of a desert and there’s no where to run. They built lots of stuff before being returned to Germany after the war…but these prisoners found that their homeland was not in good shape (for obvious reasons) and came back, sometimes with their families, to live in the New Mexico desert.

There’s also a lot of German culture in Texas (where I’m from), and most of it predates WWII. It’s a part of southwestern culture most people don’t know about.


12 – This Donut Shop with a Happy Alien Landing


Yes, I prefer the Donut spelling. “Doughnut” takes longer to type and life is short.


13 – A Magical Mountain Community


Less than 90 minutes from the dry, empty desert of Roswell is a lush mountain community called Ruidoso, where it’s cool in the summer and often rains. (When we first got to Roswell, the temperature was 113 degrees. Ruidoso was in the 60s.) There is endless shopping and excellent coffee, so we felt like hobbits stumbling into Bombadil’s house.

It’s surreal to see such different climates right next to each other, with almost no transition between the two. You’re in the desert, then you blink and it’s the rain forest.


This dog stood in the doorway of a candle shop. He stared and panted expectantly until we drew near, and then he retreated into the store. We followed him in and he ran to the back to join his owner at the register, apparently proud of bringing in some potential customers. I told you, it’s a magic village. The dogs work the shops.


14 – The local TV station and the Live and Amplified Show

Live and Amplified is a podcast run mostly out of Roswell, and since my wife’s a songwriter they asked us to play a few songs for them. I didn’t expect a podcast to have such a technically impressive setup, but these guys really know what they’re doing.


(The episode isn’t out yet. I’ll let you know.)


15 – The Abandoned Air Force Hangar Where (I’m Told) they Kept the Alien Bodies



16 – Emilie de Ravin was there Posing as Air Force Personnel


This one I’m pretty sure happened for real.


17 – A…Protest Horse?


This horse is covered in newspaper articles in an effort to combat the official Roswell UFO story. I don’t understand any part of that sentence I just wrote, but apparently there was once a tradition of doing this sort of thing in the Southwest. This country is so huge that lots of American culture seems foreign to me.


Just a weather balloon? Naaayyyy!


Roadtrips and Restrooms

The following things happened when I joined my friend Jared on a trip to Arkansas to help our friend Andrew move the last of his stuff to his new place in Texas.


–During a pit stop, Jared points and says, “Andrew just came out of the women’s bathroom!” Andrew blinked in response, but offered no shame or explanation.






–We saw a horse in a boat with a hat on its butt. Thanks, Oklahoma, I never thought I’d get a chance to write that sentence.






–This was in Andrew’s trashcan. All of them were labeled “Not Abnormal Enough.”






–Around midnight we played a game about middle-eastern stereotypes that made no sense. I kid you not, Jared’s house (in the game) caught on fire and he literally did nothing while it burned down and then the entire city came out and crowned him a hero for doing nothing. For doing nothing. Meanwhile, I got sent to jail for battling an evil warlord. Well, excuse me for living.

Tales Of The Arabian Nights


–We had to spend the night in the now-abandoned house. Strange, loud noises were coming from the ceiling all night. No big deal, right? It’s not like there was a squatter living in the attic or something.


–The next morning I joked about Jared’s snoring. Andrew said he heard it too, but thought it was me. Jared was certain he had heard Andrew or me snoring. Basically, during breakfast we realized that someone was snoring and it wasn’t one of us. No big deal. It’s not like someone in the attic was snoring all night…


–At the moving place, a tiny woman with a pixie cut single-handedly dragged the trailer to the truck hitch in the blink of an eye and fastened everything while giving us directions. She looked at me and said, “You look like someone who’s good at getting lids off of pickle jars–make sure I got this tight enough!” I smirked and then reached down to check her work…and found out that she’s a lot stronger than yours truly. (Which doesn’t say much.) Back home, we required a pulley system and a few professional linebackers to get the darned thing off.








–You can’t stop to pee while you’re driving down a mountain carrying a trailer. So Jared and I rode like this:


–At dinner, I wanted to use the single-occupancy bathroom in the restaurant but Jared was in there first. Andrew observed that the women’s bathroom was not in use, and then he stared at me as I made a tough decision.

The Little People I Discovered in Chattanooga, Tennessee

On my last trip, the wife and I visited Tennessee and everyone told me I was tall. Even though I’ve been getting that comment all of my life, It happened a lot more often during this trip.  Maybe in Texas people are expected to be huge, I don’t know, but I felt like a sideshow attraction. Being a frustrated writer, I had to come up with a more fun explanation.

So, allow me to show you our trip and also let you in on a little secret I learned.


We stayed in a Victorian era train car that had been converted into a hotel room. It’s smaller than it looks, and I banged my head on many things. The water from the showerhead hit me square in the belly. Washing my face wasn’t easy.

We went to Ruby Falls, which is a huge, underground waterfall. It’s very neat. For some reason, every Baby Boomer in our tour group felt like they needed to photograph every square inch of the place with their phones and tablets. Sure, their generation likes to complain about “those darned kids and their cell phones,” but they were the ones holding us up at every turn.

But, more importantly, the caverns leading to the waterfall aren’t very tall.

 Along the way, we were told that the first people to find Ruby Falls traveled through these tiny passages. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but that passage is a foot tall at best. Really–someone crawled through that? Something didn’t seem right.
Then we visited Rock City, a wonderful trail through huge rocks, up high in a mountain. I pretended to be Indiana Jones. As usual.
It’s a beautiful place. Gnomes, eh? Hmmmm…
Visiting that place is sort of like walking through Middle-Earth.
With ridiculously tiny paths.
Who can fit in there?
Fat Man Squeeze. That’s funny. Also, if you’re tall you can’t get through unless you crouch low while walking sideways. Try it sometime. Not as easy as it sounds.
Ooh, Fairyland Caverns! That sounds like a good place to take kids!
Mildly creepy…
Gnomes are watching you sleep! Ok. That’s, uh…hmm…
Gnome hipsters.
Probably inventing Pabst.
Always watching.

While walking through this collection of strange scenes I finally understood all that I had seen.

The creepy menagerie of gnomes that is totally not fit for kids. The tiny walkways and impossibly small tunnels. The way everyone treated my meager 6’6″ like a band of lilliputians surrounding Gulliver.

There was only one explanation: the town was built by gnomes that have learned to live as humans.

I was not walking through a roadside attraction, but a museum detailing the fantastic legacy of these people.

It was obvious to me that the locals were still adjusting to being normal sized. But how did these gnomes grow into human-sized people? I wasn’t sure  until I found this provocative box in the lobby of a hotel that explained everything…

 “I wish I was big…”


Comic-Con 2012! (Dallas)

I’ve always wanted to go to a nerd convention, and I got my wish this year.  How could I resist seeing Patrick Stewart and John De Lancie?  And it’s worth the small price of admission just to see the amazing costumes.  I never thought I would care about costumes, but when they are done well it’s hard not to stand in awe of them.

But that’s not all – at Comic-Con I didn’t feel strange or different.  I actually felt like I blended into the crowd and could not be considered “that weird guy” by anyone around me.  Normally, my social clumsiness  and fondness for unusual things (“Hey, that reminds of the original ‘Dune’ movie, you know the part where…you guys have seen that, right?”) I end up being an outsider, but not at Comic-Con.  Not even close.  I went with my mother and my wife, and we all had a blast.

The line was outrageous, and those of us who had tickets in advance (which usually is not necessary) were very thankful.  It took some people four hours to get inside.


The Black Widow was a popular costume, this year, but this lady had the best one.
Believe it, or not, this guy was really nice.  I’m not sure how he could see.  There a lot of these costumes, too, but only one that was really great.


This 6’5″ Jawa was my favorite costume.  He regretted that one of the eye-bulbs had stopped working, but I thought it looked cool.  I don’t think my picture does it justice, but I was reduced to using a camera phone in bad lighting so this is what I am stuck with.


And that’s Adam West stepping out of the bathroom.  Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.


Yeah, that’s me, Picard, and Q.  (I’m well aware that they have real names.)  My mother and I were on cloud nine.  Or warp nine.  Or something.  Also, Patrick Stewart is 71, but he’s in such good shape that I felt embarrassed to stand near him.  Q is one of my favorite TV characters of all time, and it was neat to stand next to him.
And my wife got Sir Patrick Stewart to sign a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works.  He turned out to be a very charming and nice fellow, despite his celebrity.  Everyone should be as cool as him.

Spain – Part II

When I returned from Spain a few months ago, I was horrified to learn that many pictures were missing from my camera.  I don’t know how it happened, but I did find many of them.  And I found similar pictures on my co-travelers’ uploads to replace the ones I lost.  Here’s the pictures I didn’t get to put up, last time.


At the start of the trip, we visited the house of the great Spanish painter, Jaoquin Sorolla.  That’s his grand-daughter on the right, giving us a personal tour of his amazing gardens.  On the left is our friend, Rene Prieto, who translated for her.


That’s Sorolla, looking out over his patio.  I looked at what he was writing and it said, “Get off of my lawn.”
And this is the amazing room where Sorolla worked.  The walls are more than 20 feet high and each one is filled with the artist’s wonderful paintings.
Toledo is built on a very steep hill, so when you’re tired in the morning you head for the really large escalator that takes you to the top.  It’s hard to believe that an outdoor escalator can be so large and so reliable.  (Also, when you’re tired in the morning you forget to set your F-stop and end up taking crappy pictures.)
Steven – The Most Interesting Man in the World.  (“I don’t always go to Spain, but when I do, I stand underneath cool archways.”)
Here’s the inside of Toledo’s majestic cathedral.  It’s huge.  If you look closely you can see a small door in the middle of this picture, and that will give you a sense of the scale of the place.  It was pitch dark (the ceiling was usually not visible due to the lack of lighting), and getting this picture without a flash was tricky.
Here’s another shot from the same building.  That’s a hole leading outside, and there are statues and paintings of saints and angels pointing to Heaven.  It’s very cool, and none of my pictures do it justice because you just can’t get a really good shot of that sort of thing when there’s no light and pictures aren’t allowed.  How did I get these pictures?  Well, you see, my camera fell out of my pocket and just happened to land on the button, snapping a picture…moving on…
“Hey, guys, I dropped something that kind of looks like my passport…nah…”
I’m not sure how it happened; all I remember is that Andy said, “watch this!” and suddenly we were all in a Bollywood film.  Five hours later we started the second act.


In this picture, Andy, once again, appears to be showing off his mastery over time and space.  I have no idea who took this picture, what exactly is going on, or what Andy is sitting on.
Nothing scandalous happened that evening.  Nope.  Nothing, at all.  Move along…


Everyone wanted to eat at the famous Market of St. Michael, which is a well-known cultural place, or something.  This place is great if you’ve always wondered what it would be like to eat on a New York subway at 5 o’clock.  I’m pretty sure that every person in Spain shoved themselves into this little building when I was there, and I spent the evening avoiding the smelly people (it’s exactly like a New York  subway) who were pushing up against me while trying to eat over-priced appetizers in a loud room.  It was like taking lunch at Thunderdome
We visited an old crypt and were instructed not to take any pictures.  That’s when my camera fell out of my pocket and took this picture (with a 1″ exposure).  It was a very cold and creepy dungeon with coffins and Gothic art; it was like being in an Edgar Allen Poe story.
This guy showed us some very rare documents from the middle ages.  Later, I told him that his purple gloves reminded me of the Joker, and he asked me if I had ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight.  Then, I sat still while he explained the history of a particular facsimile for two whole hours.


‘Till next time!

Paris, Texas, and the Adventure of the Baby Deer

It was a day like any other in my hometown.  Hamburgers were on the grill, and a nice breeze was blowing our way when a tiny baby deer, scared and malnourished, ran through our backyard and collapsed in our pasture.  Being people of sympathy, we decided to help it rather than leave it for predators.  Oh, sure, deer get eaten by hungry wolves all the time and we don’t bat an eye, but little adorable animals make us throw our practicality to the wind and disrupt the natural order.  (The Parks & Wildlife folks told us that if we left it in the pasture then its mother would come along for it.  Give us a break, park ranger, we’re not children.)

It was almost impossible to find it in this tall grass, and we didn’t want to scare it, but, once we got there it had grown too weak to get away.  It had been separated from it’s mother for quite a while. 


 My dad’s pretty good with animals, and it didn’t complain at all when he carried it to the house.  I’m sure if I had picked it up it would have bitten my ear off, or peed on me, or something.


Dad used an old turkey baster (I think) and fed it some health juice that he used to feed to our calves.  My brother brought out that small animal cage so it could stay somewhere and be safe.  I contributed by naming it “spot.”  Also, I took it for walks (we made a leash/collar out of some string) when it regained its strength and it led me on clumsy trips through our pasture in the dark.  I started wondering about how ironic it would be if predators got both of us because I wanted to take baby deer for a walk.


Here’s where he slept for a few nights.  My parents finally found a family that wanted a pet deer and gave Spot away.  Now, try not to think about how difficult it can be do have a pet deer when one lives in the country.

San Antonio: Pop-Culture Conference the Wonderful Riverwalk

A few weeks ago, the wife and I traveled to San Antonio, TX to attend an academic conference on pop-culture (the PCA/ACA conference) that was held right on the beautiful Riverwalk.  It was a good conference and a very interesting trip.  Although, the conference was mostly about nerdy counter-cultural trends rather than popular media.  Shouldn’t we have been discussing The King’s Speech rather than obscure films from the 70s that are hardly known?  Well, that’s what happens when you let a bunch of nerdy academics talk about pop-culture – a subject geeks like me know nothing about.  There was even a moment when fans of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer criticized the Twilight fans for preferring a supposedly inferior teenaged vampire love story.  These people were experts on pop-culture?  Of course, there were some excellent scholarly panels on pop-culture subjects, but I kept on thinking that half of the presenters thought they were at a sci-fi convention.  Oh, well.  It was still a neat weekend.
It was Easter weekend, and while we were having lunch the local Corpus Christ parade came by.  It is a re-enactment of Jesus’ passion with a local group of actors portraying the scene through the city streets.  Our taco restaurant just happened to have a perfect view.
At the outdoor amphitheater we sat and watched a German guitar orchestra play classical and popular music.  The conductor talked to the boats that went by and made a lot of jokes.


A really good jazz band on the Riverwalk (in really bad lighting).  Listening to this sort of music on a cool night by the water is exactly why people keep coming to San Antonio.
The first panel I attended was a discussion of LOST’s final season.  It was led by palywright/professor Thomas Parham, and his thoughts on the last season were quite similar to my own.  (Long story short – it’s bad storytelling to start with one story and end with another.)
There was a sing-along of Whedon’s Dr. Horrible film.  I didn’t go because that would be really dorky.  How did I get the picture?  Well, uh, you see…oh, all right, Columbo, you got me.  How can I resist singing along with Captain Hammer?
My wife discussed Bob Dylan in a panel about folk music.  Of all the panels I attended it was the one that would most easily fit in at another scholastic conference because of the quality of the research that went into each paper.  (As opposed to hearing people say, “I watched every episode of Angel and noticed that my favorite characters are like other characters in books.”)