By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
I've seen the summer blockbuster and Tom Cruise vehicle War of the Worlds. Let me tell ya, space aliens are out there, ready to swoop down on Earth, for the sole purpose of:
Putting us humans in human space zoos.
Using us humans in lab experiments to test out the safety of their alien cosmetic products.
Kicking our human butts and then simply laughing that smug alien laugh of theirs (a laugh only dogs can hear).
That's why I need to protect the world from an alien invasion. They're not going to destroy my Earth. No sirree! Sneaking over OUR intergalactic borders, taking OUR intergalactic jobs, and messing up OUR neighborhoods, while playing their loud extraterrestrial hoochie music -- not in my backyard, they don't! We need to preserve the human race, especially the American humans. Chant with me: HUMANS-OF-USA! HUMANS-OF-USA! HUMANS-OF-USA! That's right, we're No. 1, we humans (of USA, of course)!
Already there are clear-cut signs that aliens are fucking with our species. How else do you explain Tom Cruise freaking out about Scientology on the Today Show? Do you want what happened to Tom Cruise to happen to you? (Damn you, aliens!) Nothing good comes from an alien invasion (unless it's the oft-mentioned "alien anal-probe").
Just like most of you routinely have fire drills in your homes, we humans need to have alien drills, to be ready for an invasion by those shifty-eyed, E.T.-looking, towel-headed space aliens.
Through a Google search, I find a listing for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, with a phone number you can use to give your babbling report of a UFO sighting to a "Field Investigator." This is great; it will give me a little practice for when we're at full intergalactic Amber Alert. The MUFON site says that UFO field investigators not only have references from the UFO community, but also have experience in UFO cases, animal mutilations, or UFO government cover-ups. These are my kind of people!
But let's test the waters to see if they can handle a full-on, War of the Worlds invasion.
I call a UFO field investigator who is located in Mobile, Ala. His name is Clay. I give him the full scoop.
"UFO Reporting Center," says UFO Field Investigator Clay.
"SON OF A BITCH! SON OF A BITCH!" I exclaim to indicate the frazzled state I'm in as a result of my recent sighting. Besides, the swearing adds to my credibility. "I'm spooked! I'm kind of spooked! Son of a bitch!"
"Calm down, sir."
"I would like to report a sighting!" [Pause] "I am not a crackpot!"
"Let me turn off the TV." [Sound of loud TV being turned off]
"Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch!"
"OK, tell me what you saw."
"It looked like a goddamn giant woodshed with lights that hovered, then shot straight up like a goddamn bullet, that's all! Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch!"
The best that MUFON Field Investigator Clay can do is take down all the information concerning the incident, while I graphically describe the alien anal-probe I encountered, after which I give him the phone number and address of my ex-girlfriend, in case he needs further information.
But it soon becomes clear: If they just take notes in Mobile, field investigators like Clay offer little hope to the human race. And I need to hit the aliens where they live. So I go to Mountain View and attend NASA Space Camp for kids -- as an adult! To take action for the good of mankind. To prepare for space. To get one step closer to an alien anal-probe.
Aahh, an alien anal-probe!
Sure, I know what you're thinking: This all sounds like a craaaaaazy Jack Black movie waiting to happen. Can you see it? Jack Black as a chubby, hung-over, way-over-the-top substitute Space Camp instructor who must whip a ragamuffin crew of kids together to become space cadets. Then, due to a series of mishaps, he accidentally ends up launching himself and the kids into outer space, causing them to bond together to get the craft safely back to Earth. But here's the ironic twist: They all end up tragically dying of asphyxiation in their capsule, like the Russian Sputnik dog Laika, because they're all severely undertrained for a space mission. Whoops!
The movie would be called Crazy Space Death!
In preparation for NASA Space Camp, I study the NASA manual and memorize many space acronyms that I'll spout freely so I fit in during training with my space-enthusiast peers. Also, I devise my own spacesuit for "my mission" -- an orange jumpsuit, with the words "HUMANS #1" scrawled on the back, and adorned with bits of Christmas tinsel, to give it a futuristic look of tomorrow.
It's time for liftoff.
Inside a large NASA building with walls lined with smiley pictures of past astronauts, I soon learn my fellow Space Camp-mates are spotty, pre-adolescent kids who have paunchy dads. I guess NASA is preparing for a time when children and paunchy adults are needed in space. These are my fellow astronauts, an elite squadron I'll recruit to be on my team when the alien invasion begins. I'm the only one dressed in space regalia. Yes, just a grown man alone, taking in NASA Space Camp.
"What are you wearing?!" asks the woman at the Space Camp check-in desk.
"It's a jumpsuit," I explain. "It gives me more space-mobility." Shifting from foot to foot, I demonstrate my space-mobility theory.
My Space Camp team leader, or commander, goes by the name of Roman; he's a happy man in a large "Space Camp" sweat shirt. Roman explains that he's a Space Camp leader for at least another six months; for some reason, he can't join the Los Angeles Police Department until then.
"Have you ever thought about joining the Intergalactic Police Force?" I suggest, thinking he'd make an excellent second lieutenant in my squadron. The question draws big Space Camp laughs. I elaborate further: "No, really, it might help with your EVA."
"My what?" Roman asks.
"EVA: extra-vehicular activity," I clarify with a smug laugh.
"Aah," is his reply. Apparently he hasn't memorized the NASA handbook. Maybe he wouldn't make a good second lieutenant after all.
"What are you wearing?" Roman asks after a moment of silence.
"It's a space-mobility suit," I explain.
Our purpose tonight is to master a few space simulators. The first is called the Five Degrees of Freedom simulator. It's an apparatus that floats on air and pivots on all axes, simulating what it would be like to fix a satellite station in the weightlessness of space.
"Who wants to try it first?" asks Roman.
"I will, sir!" I answer, giving my commander a respectful salute and butting in line in front of all the children and paunchy dads.
I'm strapped into something that looks like a high-tech, futuristic highchair. I feel like a big baby of tomorrow. I proceed to simulate raising a solar panel. It raises. Mission complete. So far, I'd have to say, space is kind of easy. I salute my fellow astronauts.
"I'm getting some LOS," I say.
"What?!" says Roman.
"Oh, PLEASE!" I remark indignantly. Doesn't he know that means Loss of Signal? Doesn't he understand my little space joke, from my sophisticated, intergalactic sense of space humor?
It's the next cadet's turn. He is 9 years old. He has trouble raising the solar panel. He is going ATO (Abort to Orbit). This is uncalled for. There's no room for the weak in my space squadron, and I'm the first to tell him so.
"Well, thank you very much! If this were a real mission, we'd all be dead!" I inform the 9-year-old. The cadet's mom, or mom-cadet, gives me a nasty look. But hey, if he can't take the pressure, he's not space material. One day she'll thank me for my stern approach to space preparation. Especially when we're blowing the antennas off of alien badasses!
We next go to the cockpit of the space shuttle. I immediately take position in the commander's chair. The screen has a view of the orbiting Earth. I put on the headset and start pushing all the buttons while making rocket noises. One of the paunchy dads makes the obvious joke:
"Houston, we have a problem!"
"Ha ha ha ha," everyone laughs.
"Shut up," I say under my breath. "Shut the hell up!"
The 9-year-old cadet wants to try out my commander's chair.
"GET LOST, KID!" I say.
He whimpers away. (Commander's note: Court-martial the little bastard!)
The headset is hooked to a mock Mission Control. I use this opportunity to be witty:
"Luke, use the force!"
"Lock phasers on target."
The appreciation of my space humor is limited.
"Please don't push all the buttons," pipes in Roman.
The coolest thing at Space Camp is the Zero-G Wall. It simulates weightlessness in space. A specially designed swivel chair is attached to suspension ropes to create the anti-gravity effect, making it feel like the chair can float alongside a wall.
Our mission is to float to the top of the wall, maneuvering side to side while simulating exercises for constructing a space station. Space isn't all about floating around, you know; there's also responsibility! My thoughts turn to how great it would be to have one of these at home, to help with simulating "space sex."
Again butting in line to be the first to test Zero-G out, I bend my knees, jump, and soar to the top of the wall, like a normal spaceman floating around a space wall. This exercise will come in handy for hand-to-hand alien space combat. I refuse to come down from the wall, so my fellow astronauts must watch me with space envy.
Our last exercise is the Multi-Axis Trainer. It was built for the early Mercury space program and simulates not only a space capsule spinning out of control, but also what it's like to vomit in space. I'm strapped into a chair spinning on three axes. I'm spinning like a motherfuck! Roman is finally getting his revenge on me, opening this baby up.
"ATO!" I scream for my safe word. (Doesn't Roman know this means Abort to Orbit?!)
I'm going to throw up space food. If this is a daily part of space travel, then space travel is certainly not for me!
"Abort mission! Abort mission!" I scream. The Multi-Axis Trainer comes to a halt. Fuck the aliens. I'm dizzy as hell; I'll let someone else save the planet. I'm going to forfeit my potential alien anal-probe and remain here on Earth. We humans should just try to get along with the extraterrestrials, as best we can. I think the poem I wrote after my Space Camp sojourn best sums up my feelings:
Oh alien visitors, Our little friends from beyond. We welcome you in peace. Or else, we'll disembowel you and put your head on a stick and parade it through the town square!
Shameless Plug: See Infiltrator live at the Off-Market Theater, 965 Mission at Fifth Street, at 8 p.m. Friday, July 22.