Ever since an unidentified flying object was spotted over Northern California last month, I have been receiving telephone calls from Southern Californians who are reporting that they have seen UFOs too.
I don't know exactly why they call me, except that I probably seem to them someone who would be receptive to that sort of information, writing as I do about people who practice astral projection and past-life regression.
The UFO was seen just north of San Francisco. It was described as a large orange X with blinking lights that hovered for a moment and then took off like a virgin at a truckers' convention.
The calls started the next day.
The first few callers said what they had seen down here matched the description of the object observed up north. Later, a man insisted that what he saw appeared to resemble a sliced orange rather than a flying X.
The idea of someone seeing an unidentified sliced orange over the San Fernando Valley appealed to me, but then I learned that the man was from Topanga and I hung up.
They see sliced oranges in the sky over Topanga all the time. That's nothing new.
I heard next from a lady who said she had not only seen a UFO but had observed its occupants on the ground at close range.
It was a lazy afternoon when she called. The sun shone in a beautiful brown sky, flashers played on the beaches and yuppies killed each other on the canyon roads in red, turbo-boosted sports cars. A summer day in Southern California.
I was messin' with my word processor when the telephone rang. The lady identified herself only as Blendeena and said she had seen an unidentified flying object.
I sighed. "What did it look like?"
"Well," she said thoughtfully, "like a Scotch Tape dispenser."
I almost swallowed my cigar.
I have heard UFOs described in a variety of ways over the years: as saucers, bananas, weather balloons, mangoes, Ping-Pong balls, potatoes, panatelas, crayons and even as human skulls.
But only once before have I heard them described as Scotch Tape dispensers. That was in 1955, when I was a boy reporter for a small daily newspaper near San Francisco.
Reporters were easily accessible then, and people could walk in off the streets and accost us--and often did.
Sometimes they came in carrying giant zucchini squashes they had grown, sometimes two-headed snakes and sometimes plastic models of flying Scotch Tape dispensers.
A man named Boris Macalia strolled in one day and confided to me that he had not only seen a UFO but had built one.
He opened a large paper bag and showed me the tape dispenser, a silver facsimile of which, he said, had appeared to him first in dream and then in reality over Gen. Douglas MacArthur Boulevard.
I had just gotten the newspaper job and was anxious to please, so I interviewed the man and wrote a story. It earned me the first byline I ever had.
The editor said, "You write funny stuff, kid. I laughed all the way through it."
It was never intended as a humorous essay, but I never told him that.
The point is, I had heard no one since then describe a UFO as a tape dispenser. Until Blendeena.
"Where did you see it?" I asked her.
"Over Encino," she said.
That gave me some pause because a lot of women drink during the day in Encino and often see things that do not exist.
"Did the dispenser have tape in it?"
"Yes," she said, "but I don't know if it was actually Scotch brand."
"That's not important. You say you actually saw its occupants?"
"Yes. The dispenser landed on a hillside. It was only the size of a normal tape dispenser. Maybe five inches in length and three inches in height to the top of the tape."
"And you saw its occupants?"
"I'm getting to that. The doors swung wide. They were real cute doors."
"Come on, Blendeena, for God's sake."
"And then the aliens stepped out."
I have an editor who suspects that about 14% of what I write is fiction.
"That's a little high," I assure him.
"Elmer," he replies, "you've got people out there believing what you write, and that worries me."
So I want to assure him now that Blendeena is real. And so is her description of what she saw:
"They were perfectly formed alien men. I know that's true because they were naked."
"I know what naked means."
"Everything was in exact proportion. A little head, two little arms, a cute torso, a little . . ."
"What did they say?" I quickly interrupted.
"They were too far away to hear," she said, "but I could sort of read their little lips. One, who appeared to be their little leader, said, 'God bless us every one.' "
"Like little Tiny Tim."
"May the Force be with you."