"What The F**k Is That?"
Have You Ever Seen A UFO?
There seems to be more chatter about UFOs in polite society these days.
I remember a moment in time in the not so distant past when these conversations were held with more restraint and only approached when one found themselves in a mutually assured confidence that what was to be said wouldn’t be met with ridicule or at the very least, that unmistakable “are you being serious” look. I use the term UFOs as a kind of catch-all for a more broad based phenomenon we usually associate with the ideas of extraterrestrial life, spacecraft, interstellar travel, aliens and peripheral subjects relating to topics “off world”. Recently there has been a push to rebrand UFOs with a newer, shinier term: UAPs or ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ is the term de jour, and it even has an official designation as a branch of the United States Office Of Naval Intelligence, but I prefer the tried and true designation as ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ so I’ll stick with that for now. (Call me old fashioned.)
If I read my info incorrectly, and this branch of ‘Naval Intelligence’ was misspelled by one letter and is actually dedicated to the study of how smart belly buttons really are, I do apologize. That would be amazing, by the way, and a bang up way to spend our tax dollars. But I digress…
Have you ever seen a UFO? I’d love to hear your regaling of any experience(s) you may have had. My youth was littered with encounters and events that to this day still make me scratch my head and wonder. The ‘wonder’ is the terrain that I still choose to occupy. I’ve grown ever more agnostic about what it was that I was actually experiencing and/or witnessing from the age of about 13 into my early twenties. Was it literally life forms from other locales traveling great distances using tech that we have yet to even imagine? Perhaps. Was it bleed over from neighboring timelines, an elbow knocking another elbow through some folding of space-time? Maybe. Or even closer still; some undiscovered, very natural earthen phenomena that has been here all along and because of some severe limitations on this iteration of waking consciousness we moderns don’t yet have the evolutionary capacity to witness and or digest what might have been here long before us. There are countless terrestrial lifeforms here on earth that see and experience light, color, sound and hence, life dramatically differently than we humans do. It is another good example of our tendency towards anthropocentrism- for us to assume that the human experience is the only experience. Ever watched your cat starring into a corner and sing-talking to something that you cannot see? Creepy feeling, huh? I could list another hundred examples of this non-human interaction with the natural world but I think I’ll rest on the cat anecdote. Cats are probably aliens anyway, but that is another conversation.
The first time I saw a UFO I think I was 13 years old.
I was a couple hours south of Los Angeles in San Onofre, with my surf coach and some pals. He’d pick us up before dawn on occasion; we’d pile into his red pick up truck and bury ourselves in our wetsuits and surf bags so we could stay warm on the chilly ride to wherever it was that we were heading that morning. On this day we were chasing swell down south and I hadn’t surfed much outside of LA so it was exciting to visit new lineups with other kids from my school who were as obsessed with surfing as I was. We parked his truck in a Carl’s Jr parking lot across the highway from the spot and we spent the morning and early afternoon walking on water. Exhausted and elated, I remember making our way back to his truck and changing out of our wetsuits, the inimitable smell of mildew growing on our towels and wetsuits was always a sharp reminder of how joyous surfing was: so joyous that we rarely had time to even wash our wetsuits and towels out and let them dry properly. There were too many waves to ride!
I don’t remember precisely if we’d gone and gotten something to eat after we surfed or that we surfed into the late hours of the day, but what I do recall is that the sun was almost set, and the sky had that Southern California, multicolor blast before it faded into the deeper blues of late twilight. And then what happened next is forever etched into my memory.
Our surf coach, Mike, was talking to the three (or four?) of us that were there when he abruptly stopped talking and just said, “What the fuck is that?” as he squinted and pointed almost directly above us in that Carl’s Jr parking lot. All of us groms shifted our attention to where his finger was aiming and we saw what can only be described as a glowing ball of light, kind of bouncing gently above us. I couldn’t tell how close or how far away it was, and therefor how big or how small it was, because it had a sort of fuzziness to it. I blinked my eyes a few times and looked around me a little to try to restart and give it a clearer look but it stayed hovering there, fuzzy as before, for another fifteen or so seconds. Then it swelled in size, noticeably, and darted away instantly, becoming a tiny speck of light, like a distant star, but still visible. As I am typing this, a couple of hummingbirds are jostling around outside my living room window and it is eerily similar to how this glowing orb from my childhood behaved. But back to (circa) 1989. The object darted back towards us with the same alarming swiftness but appeared closer than before and it proceeded to demonstrate some interesting lateral movements that indicated it wasn’t bound by some of the same laws of physics that even I, at 13 years old, was aware of. There were a few “whoa!’s” and “whaaaat!’s” swimming around that parking lot, and just when our little monkey minds were about sufficiently blown, our animated, anomalous, flying friend had yet another trick up its sleeve. A new orb appeared next to it, but smaller and more distinct. It quickly started to make orbits around the larger orb, like a tiny moon. Then within seconds, another smaller ball manifested and did the same thing but in the opposite direction, like electrons orbiting a soft, velutinous nucleus.
I’ll return to us, its captive audience for a moment because if memory serves, it wasn’t only three or four teens and their surf coach in the lot bearing witness to this free fireworks display, I’m quite certain there were others present, though not many. What we all had in common was that we were watching something transpire that none of us had a point of reference for, so to say that this dancing orb’s audience was rapt would be a massive understatement. Eventually there wasn’t a word uttered amongst us. It was silent, save for the sounds of the highway, the waves beating the shore in the background and a muffled, “welcome to Carl’s Jr, can I take your order”, coming from somewhere in the distance.
This orb and its circling satellites bounced above us for another 30 seconds (if memory serves), and continued with the strange and impressive lateral maneuvers at lightening speed, then swelled again in size, revealing how complex its core structure was. Then, faster than you could blink, it darted off into the horizon. So expeditiously that it was almost as if it disappeared completely, but I know it wouldn’t be accurate to describe it as such because I remember it took a distinct line in the sky. It went from big and arresting above us to infinitesimally small in the bat of an eyelid, to a speck in the air- then nothing.
I don’t remember getting back into the red truck, who called shotgun, and who climbed under the board bags, damp wetsuits and towels. I just remember nobody saying much of anything. Which is sort of odd, now that I am indulging this deeper recollection. The event itself is still crystal clear, as described above, but the afterwards is fuzzy, ironically because that is the best way I can describe the object itself.
Alien spacecraft? Psychokinetic plasma? Preseismic or coseismic earthquake lights? Some extreme, understudied variation on aurora australis? Black Ops govt tech being taken for a joy ride by a disgruntled employee? Haha. Dare I say…swamp gas? I am not claiming to know. That would be foolish and egregiously short-sighted to arrive at any definitive conclusion about my brief experience as a kid.
The ‘sightings’, for want of a better way of describing them, didn’t stop there. Like I mentioned earlier, my young life was littered with experiences from then until early adulthood. I will gather some more memories of these odd phenoms and share more in the months to come, but please do share your stories here! If these happenings are an as yet to be understood, mass-psychological phenomenon that is unique to us humans, which I am also open to the possibility of, then it wouldn’t be any less fun to discuss. So let’s do!
P.S., I just read through this draft and it occurs to me that San Onofre, California is home to what was then an active nuclear power plant. It sits right alongside the pacific coast highway like two enormous, disembodied breasts. You can’t miss it, especially if you’re a 13 year old boy. To my knowledge, it has long since been decommissioned but stories of unidentified flying objects, or UAPs (fine!) hovering around nuclear facilities are replete on the internet, so there is that. Lastly, San Onofre is also adjacent to the largest United States Marine Corps training base. It occupies about 125,000 acres along the coast and coastal mountains there, so maybe seeing some weird ass shit in the sky in the late 80’s isn’t so unusual after all. That being said, who fuckin’ knows. I’ll keep doing my little agnostic dance for the foreseeable future.