Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Roswell, New Mexico

At the UFO Museum and Research Center, the woman at the desk sees me write "San Francisco" in the guest register.

"So you're from San Francisco," she says. She is older and move as if any motion could break a bone.

I tell her I am. She looks around to see if anyone is paying attention, then leans in to me. "You know what the truckers call San Francisco, don't you?"

I don't, but I'd be interested to hear it.

"The Gay Bay," she says, smiling broadly and then sitting back.

I had never heard that one before.

My favorite part of the UFO museum—other than the inclusion of bigfoot as an alien with absolutely no citation or reference whatsoever—is the graffiti on the wall of the men's bathroom. There's this wonderful optimistic quality to it that I can't really describe:

AUSTIN, TX believes '68




God will protect us from the aliens
and "aliens" has been scratched out, so it actually reads:

God will protect us from the aliens
They're not aliens!


They may have "created" Jesus



Despite all the UFO kitsch (and complimentary government mistrust), Roswell's still a conservative small town. The one coffee house closes at 5:301 and has a petition for "Ten Commandments Day" on the counter. The bike shop has closed, and the library is a beautiful space with few books. The most happening place on a Friday night seems to be the parking lot at the Walmart.

Outwardly, the town's identity is built on the UFO fans who come from near and far just to be near the crash site.2 But except for the museum, it's all kitsch, even for UFO enthusiasts. Does anyone go in the gallery of black light UFO art seriously?

I don't think that's even possible.

1 Except for Friday, when it closes at 5:30 and reopens at 6, and closes again at 9.

2 Footnote only because I am unsure whether to put quotations marks around "crash."

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