This entry concludes with today's post. (Aren't you relieved?)
In the end, all we have of yesterday is our memories. Those who exist only in the present may claim “Memories are for losers,” but for the rest of us, memories represent our most precious treasure. Through remembering who we are, and where we have come from, we rate the progress of our own journeys through life. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, where anything we possess can be taken away from us at any time. We’re just not used to the idea of our memories being stolen away from us, overwritten, or corrupted like an old computer file.
Turk claimed he never said anything, but somehow word got around about those empty beer cans, and the Condor monitoring project dropped us. As they decided our observations couldn’t be trusted, no one investigated our claim about not being able to pick up one of the birds’ transponder signals. For a while, there was talk about prosecution, and I thought about going to the doctor to get my blood tested. But I couldn’t find a trace of any punctures in my skin from syringe needles or IV drips, so what would I have said? “Hey Doc, I was bitten by a rattlesnake, but no one believes me. No, I can’t show you the bite marks, but could you test me for Crofab antivenom?” Yeah, right.
There’s a reason why, for the most part, no one talks about UFO sightings, alien visitations, and of course, alien abductions. It’s because we live in the so-called information age, or if you prefer, the age of science and reason. Such events can no more be proven than the existence of God. We don’t even believe in demon possession, or ghosts, or miracles anymore. Instead, we explain everything in terms of what can be demonstrated or proven, and what cannot is consigned to the realm of Fantasy. Thankfully, even though they chose not to believe us, the Condor monitoring project decided against using their limited funds on litigation. So that prospect faded with time, as did, regretfully, my relationship with Turk.
At last year’s convention, Lowell Cunningham seemed to disappear after his Guest of Honor presentation. I finally tracked him down in the bar Saturday night, where he was surrounded by a group of fans. I joined the crowd, and followed a discussion that shifted topics faster than ocean waves break and reform. This was largely due to him, as whenever someone broached the subject of a covert government agency, or cited an “unsolved” incident, he deftly changed the subject. It was such a subtle thing, so artfully done, that I didn’t recognize it at the time. But looking back now, it’s obvious he’s learned to ward himself from participating in such discussions.
I’m not suggesting that the Men In Black were involved in what I think of as The Condor Incident, even though the movies based on his comic books play with the notion that aliens might disguise their shape and size. But after my experience, the aspect of the movies that most concerns me is a device called a Neuralyzer (spelled Neurolyser in his comics). I’ve wondered if the device were merely a product of his imaginings, or had some basis in fact. If it did exist, and one’s memories could be erased or changed by such a human agency, it might help explain what happened to us that weekend. It might not erase the question mark, in some people’s minds, as to our soundness. But it might help during job interviews, when, after the person has asked me all the preliminary questions, he or she pauses, as if in thought, and then says, “I noticed something odd when I was preparing for this interview. I was wondering if you could explain it?”
I don’t regret all those weekends of scientific observation. Did you know that, during the Pleistocene epoch, the California Condor was abundant on our continent, and feasted on animals like giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, and mammoths? They possess the longest wingspan of all North American birds, and fly so gracefully that they are often mistaken for small, distant airplanes. And they fly a lot, sometimes as far as 160 miles a day. Well, you get the picture. I still think of them as a fascinating species.
These days, my observations of them are limited to those on display at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park. I think I could still stare at them for hours, if given the chance. Occasionally, one of them will stare back at me for a time, and I’ll wonder, “What’s he thinking? What’s going on in his mind?” If it’s a particularly large male, my thoughts will return to that long ago weekend, the large male that hung back from the others, and the fact that we only picked up three transponder signals, when there should have been four. Then I’ll feel a tug on my arm, and turn to recognize that ever-so-patient look in my wife’s eyes. I’ll nod and smile, and allow her to pull me away.