Monday, June 26, 2006

My Back Pages: UFOs and a half-naked man in a small town in Brazoria County

I was Googling myself the other day when I happened upon a newspaper story I wrote more than 9 years ago.

(Here's the story, posted for posterity on the "World of the Strange" Website, if you'd like to read it.)

Now, as Paul Harvey says on the radio, is the rest of the story.

The article, as you may have deduced if you read the link, was written after the reporter (me) paid a visit to the regularly scheduled meeting of a group of Brazoria County Unidentified Flying Objects enthusiasts/believers/alleged abduction victims.

The meeting took place at the West Columbia, TX branch of the county library system.

In addition, I did separate one-on-one interviews with some of the more active participants of the UFO group.

The story was published in The Houston Chronicle and was then picked up by the wire services, which led to its publication in other periodicals around the country (and maybe overseas, for all I know.)

A day or so later, I get a call from one of the UFO believers.

You see, in the story, I referred to the local library in West Columbia, TX., as "UFO Central."

The UFO people didn't call it that. I called it that. It seemed like an apt description. After all, it was where the UFO group held held its meetings, or discussions, if you prefer.

The "UFO Central" verbiage applied to the small-town library, apparently, gave the curious, as well as the mischievous, something to hang their hat, so to speak.

And the library, as well as the library's dowdy overseers, were getting telephone calls from all over the place. People were asking, "Is this UFO Central?" and such as that.

The West Columbia librarian I had interviewed, a real nice lady, apparently was catching heck for the newspaper story, because the Brazoria County library system was being held up as a laughingstock, or perhaps just a kooky gathering place for UFO nuts, rather than the sort of quiet, august edifice that library professionals want the public to imagine their institutions to symbolize.

A place of serious learning and contemplation, in other words, not a place where wacky tall tales are told.

The UFO believer who called to tell me all this seemed sort of amused by the fallout, but, if I remember correctly, the extraterriastrial discussion group wasn't going to be able to continue their meetings on Brazoria County taxpayer-funded property, even though, as a nonbiased outside observer, I found the meeting to be informative and entertaining; plus, it really "made you think" about whether we're all alone in the universe or if there are weird-looking creatures with oversized heads living on other planets (or even among us Earthlings!)

I'm not sure where the UFO people ended up taking their discussion group.

The other odd thing that happened in gathering information for the story still befuddles me.

I was sitting in this guy's living room talking to him about his belief that he had been abducted by aliens. His wife was the kitchen, tending to chores, being quite pleasant about the visit by the Big City reporter, when all of a sudden this guy decides to change into a different pair of pants.

So right there, in his living room, he takes off his jeans, and it becomes apparent that he is WEARING NO UNDERPANTS. No boxers, no tiny whities, nothing.

He's got a shirt with a tail on it, which is affording a semblance of modesty, but not much of a semblance.

Then he proceeds to put on his other pair of pants.

I'm not sure why he decided to change pants then and there in his living room, rather than go into another room to do it. I don't think he was making a pass at me. I sure hope not. He didn't act like it, and, after all, his wife was right there in the kitchen. Swingers? No way. Still and all, without announcement, he did remove his dungarees right in the middle of an interview with a reporter employed by one of the biggest newspapers in the country!

I'd like to go back in time and see what kind of expression I had on my face.

I know I didn't say anything like, "Good God, man, I don't want to see your genitals!" or "Sir, have you sense no decency," but I'm fairly certain I was thinking thoughts roughly akin to those words.

Instead, I tried to act like everything was fine and normal. I didn't cover my eyes with my hands and I didn't avert my gaze, as if I had just spotted something very interesting out the window and across the street. By the same token, I didn't stare with mouth agape. At least I don't think I did. That's why I'd like to go back in time, just to see for myself.

Anyway, after the guy put on his other pair of pants, the interview proceeded as any other interview would, except I'm pretty sure I cut the question-and-answer session a little shorter than usual. Then I got the heck out of there.

And that, as Paul Harvey says, is the rest of the story.


Jim Thompson said...

These "back page" stories are great, Banjo. Keep 'em coming!

JD Allen said...

If you deal with nuts, you should assume that you may be exposed to them.

Leigh said...

Thanks for the belly laugh, Banjo!

Corey said...

West Columbia and most of the towns west of the Brazos are especially high on my list of things that just make me laugh when I think about growing up in Brazoria County. Great story.

Slampo said...

Banjo, you shoulda grabbed his wanger and gave it one quick, hard yank, then returned to your note-taking.

Obviously you learned nuthin' from B. Manley.

Keep 'em coming!

nx99 said...

Heh, I was at that meeting. Not much to do when you live in WC but go see the circus.