Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Week of Enchantment: Roswell: They Call it Home
After enjoying the Living Desert Zoo, I returned to 285 north for Roswell. Even if it were not Roswell, the city made a good camp for the night, its main street juncture providing access to Alamagordo and Las Cruces. But it was....Roswell. I've mentioned here before that in middle school my best friend and I were obsessive fans of the Roswell High book series, and I later became a fan of the loosely-adapted television show based on it. It was for those books that I wanted to see the town; it's the same reason I used to comb California maps looking for the Palo City of California Diaries. (Just being on 285 gave me a fanboy thrill, because an episode of the show is called..."285 South").
The nearer I drew to Roswell, though, the more it became a real place. The road south of it is plains again, with hills far in the distance. To my surprise, I spotted not just trees but orchards. The Roswell I discovered was not a desert town surviving with kitchsy alien crap; it was a farming and mining town, a country town. Trade the mineral mining and refining for logging, and I could have been home. (There are even houses with a southern stamp!) As soon as I hit the downtown area, I felt at home; it reminded me of Montevallo's coziness. There is a relationship between street width and building height that has a sweet spot; some streets just feel right, while others feel too exposed or too cramped. Roswell often felt just right, and I regretted having to leave the next day.
I winced to see all the alien nonsense coming into town, the goofy balloons with 'welcome' signs, because I come from a tourist town and know what it's like to be whored out. A visitor comes into town and is excitedly told about the city's long history as an industrial power, a hub of transportation that produced a wealthy and expansive historic district...but invariably, their only object of interest is something that merely happened around the town.
Solidarity aside, I decided to poke my head inside the alien museum, because...well, I was there. I might not ever be again.
The museum proved to be in the shape of a U, with this exhibit perched at the turnaround. The walls were lined with different presentations; photos of Walker Air Field, now a municipal airport; newspapers from the incident itself; military equipment, pictures of UFOs; models of various scenarios, including one that involved a Nazi flying saucer; a horse covered in newspapers, science fiction movie posters, ancient art with purported extraterrestrials, and of course a few aliens being dissected. More interesting is the research library attached to the museum.
This photograph is only one small part of their selection. It uses the Dewey decimal system and includes actual science books and science fiction in with the UFO and aliens-among-us material. Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Contact were both on the shelves.
Another room contained an entire wall full of science journals and magazine, and a wall filled with mysterious documents, NASA technical reports.
It would be interesting to learn when Roswell became a town that became an object of interest to tourists, and embraced it. The girl I spoke with in the UFO museum confirmed that many townsfolk were very tired of it, but main street is lined with places selling trade to tourists.
The abundance of material -- statues, plaques, murals -- hailing Roswell's founding and prospering as a cattle town indicate that people wish to be appreciated for something else for a change. I'd like to think I did, because I felt very comfortable here.
As dusk approached, I retreated to my motel room. My plans for eating at the Mexican place next door were dashed when it closed at five (?!), and so I visited a chain restaurant across the street that I'd never seen before.
I took a picture of it not because it was new, but because of the trees. Usually, this kind of modern development is surrounded by a parking lot apron and looks ghastly, but here the trees kept faith with the trees lining much of the main street and made it look attractive.
A final note: based on the amount of Trump signs I saw, Roswellians' embrace of aliens is inconsistent.