ufo


I’m not sure this is a genuine case of high strangeness. It’s easy to dismiss—and, in fact, I dismissed it almost as soon as it happened. But it is strange.

When my mother was still alive, I had to get up early every Saturday morning to take her to dialysis. It was a chore to get up early on Saturday, but at least I got to sleep in until 6:45 instead of 5:15 as I did on weekday mornings for work. And it meant I had 3 hours of precious me time when I didn’t have to worry about caregiving. I loved my mother, didn’t begrudge the giving of care, but during the week the only time I got alone was driving to and from work (and, I’m sorry, but that doesn’t really count as me time).

On this particular Saturday, I had just left my mother off at dialysis and was feeling good anticipating the free time. The quickest way between our house in Westchester (a suburb of L.A. near LAX) and Inglewood where her clinic was located, was the 105 Freeway. On that section of it’s run the 105 is built high up in the air, towering above all but the skyscrapers and gives you a panoramic view of the L.A. Basin. As well as LAX, since the freeway was built to be something of an expressway from various parts of L.A. to the airport. (On a sidenote, I remember taking my mother to dialysis one morning and watching the space shuttle in the distance wending its slow way through city streets.)

It was a bright, clear Chamber of Commerce day, blue skies all around and views to forever. The sun was behind me as I traveled west at high speed in the direction of the airport, and I had a clear view to the horizon from a long way out. From the 105, you see the backend of LAX, the south side behind the terminals and runways where they park planes and maintenance/emergency vehicles and the like, and where the outbuildings reside. I don’t know what made me look that way but I became suddenly aware of some odd thing floating low over this part of the airport. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred feet off the ground. It didn’t look like a balloon or a drone or any kind of aircraft. It was oblong and odd shaped and brownish. “It looks like a donut,” I thought. (I’d already had breakfast so I wasn’t especially hungry.) That was odd enough, but stranger still was that it was absolutely motionless. It didn’t seem to move a particle for many long minutes, then began to glide with painful slowness to the northwest, towards the terminals and the runways, gaining a little in altitude but not much. The sun glinted off it a bit then, but not much. I kept flicking my eyes back and forth between the road and the sky. Fortunately, early on a Saturday morning, the traffic was fairly light. As I approached the Sepulveda Blvd. off ramp (where I usually exited the freeway), I flicked my eyes towards the exit, then back to the thing—and it had completely disappeared.

One thing most people may not know about Los Angeles County is that it has one of the highest rates of UFO spottings of anyplace in the country. This may have to do with the large amount of air traffic in the area or the vastness of the skies on a sunny day or military bases or…other factors. I can’t say.

I usually prefer logical explanations before jumping on the high strangeness bandwagon (something those who have read this blog for a while may not credit, but I do). So I thought perhaps whatever it was had landed (although in four or five seconds, that would have been more like a crash). I could still see the ground underneath where it had been and there was nothing like it on the ground. Maybe it was an odd-looking balloon and the wind picked up and started to move it—but why did it hover motionless for at least five minutes if that was the case? It could have been a drone, but I’ve never seen a drone that looked like that, and they were much less common back then. I suppose because I was traveling at a high rate of speed towards the object, I could have had the illusion that a very slow-moving object was standing still and as I got closer it appeared to move. Or some other form of real life trompe l’oeil. These are the things I told myself as I finished that drive home—even wasted some of my precious me time on it—and what I’ve thought about in the time since it happened.

But it was strange. And it did share the one characteristic with other more clearly delineated incidents of high strangeness I’ve experienced: I’ve never forgotten it, and it periodically hawks itself back up again in my memory to be examined and wondered over before I put it away on the shelf.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Unless, of course, it’s a cruller.

*It didn’t really look like a cruller—more of a buttermilk Long John, oblong and irregular—but cruller just sounded better.

Shasta-Road

Whether you’re looking to find Bigfoot or find a cure for what ails ye, believe in flying saucers and the hollow earth theory, or just feel called to go spiritually journeying in a place where the “veil between this world/dimension and the next is thinner” there’s a destination in California that will fit the bill: a currently inactive volcano called Mt. Shasta. That it’s in California may not surprise some—Cali is the state of oddball seekers, after all—but the fact that the legends stretch back to the earliest settlers and further back into Indian lore may surprise some.

The New Agey stuff, of course, has been grafted onto the place wholesale, but Shasta has always been a place of legend. The mountain is sacred to many Indian tribes in the area: the Wintu, who believe they emerged from a sacred spring on the mountain; the Achumawi; the Atsugewi; the Modoc. The Shasta Indian tribe believe it to be the center of the universe and home to their creator god, Chareya, often called Old Man Above or Great Man in English. While he was creating the world, he made himself a gigantic tipi out of ice and snow. He lived there for thousands of years and the Indians knew he was in residence because they could see the smoke of his fire coming out of the tipi’s top. However, when white folks showed up in the area, Old Man Above decided it was time to go and the smoke wasn’t seen on the mountain after that.

Perhaps that’s why there are people who to this day believe Shasta is hollow inside, a interdimensional passageway, the place where the last of the Lemurians live in a crystal city called Telos, home of the ascended masters, a covert UFO base, a…well, you get the picture. UFO sightings are quite frequent in the area, even without the lenticular clouds that frequent the mountaintop. And it’s said to be a Bigfoot hotspot, as a recent Finding Bigfoot episode claimed. Many spiritual seekers there report “telepathic communication” with Bigfoot when they pop in and out of the fifth dimension…and saucer occupants, and Lemurians, and…again, you get the picture.

shastacloudsovermountain

I do not laugh at the belief systems of others. I may not take them on as my own, but I figure that as long as they’re harmless and make these people happy, why not? And the beliefs clinging to the mountain are mostly that—peaceful and transcendental. Well, if you discount that one Guy who started a cult in the 1930s. His wife and son wound up swindling people out of a lot of money and getting busted by the Feds. The Guy himself did not go to prison—he was dead when the swindling occurred—so his name remains “pure” and the cult lives on in a Visitor’s Center in the town of Shasta.

But hey, Mt. Shasta is not to blame for the darkness at the heart of some humans, and most activity there is pretty positive. One might even come to believe that Mt. Shasta could purify even the darkest of hearts.

At his first sight of Mt. Shasta in 1874, John Muir is reported to have said, “I was fifty miles away, afoot, alone and weary, yet all of my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since.”

And therein may lay the essence of the Mt. Shasta experience. More than anything, what fascinates people about the mountain is the gosh-awful grandeur of the place. It inspires awe, and so people pour that awe into a multiplicity of belief systems. The place may very well be a vortex to some otherworldly place, or it may just be a vortex of amazing beauty.

As Steven Jackson put it, writing for NPR, when he hiked there: “I don’t have a spiritual epiphany. But the air feels cold and sharp. The old-growth cedars are covered in brilliant green moss and shape-shifting clouds whip across the sky impossibly fast. In short, it is literally awesome. And regardless of what one believes about the mountain, it’s easy to see why it has so many legends to its name.”