Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Thirteen)

By the first week of August I had bought myself a car (a Buick Super), settled into my apartment, developed all my film, made friends with a few workers at the small factory next door to my garage, and began collecting the names of journalists who might have some actual guts. I also bought a good mimeograph machine. (A mimeograph was a low-tech version of a copy machine.)

Driving in 1947 was almost relaxing, since there were fewer cars, fewer stoplights and far fewer stop signs. The cars were a bit noisier and bouncier than in our era, and they required more maintenance, but they ran reasonably well and weren’t any harder to drive than, let’s say, a 1970s pickup truck.

The mass entertainment of the era was still radio, and I listened both in the car and at home, mainly to well produced dramas, Big Band music and comedies, which were interspersed with some very quaint advertising. I was surprised at how much better I liked it than television: TV requires you to sit and immerse yourself, radio left you free to walk around the house and do things while listening.

For a week or so I divided my time between my release of Roswell truths and evidence, and getting myself together emotionally. My existential disappointment over living in an underdeveloped world rather than one like Renn’s had pulled back most of the way (I had occasional spates of disgust with our world), but I wasn’t in a daily groove, and wasn’t sure I could be until I had revealed the probe and supported the effort sufficiently. After that I might take a job and enjoy my time, as I had in 1965.

I had a fairly good idea of what I’d do, but you never know how others are going to respond, and so I needed a few key people to get my information out. I had a number of names to start with: Rose Wilder Lane, H.L. Mencken, Ben Hecht, Isabel Patterson and Dorothy Kilgallen, but I couldn’t know which of them, if any, would go for such a wild story as mine. (Finding addresses for them was difficult too.) I couldn’t recall which outlets had supported the Roswell story back in 47 and 48, but I did know there weren’t many. How well I could push this was in question.

Still, I wrote several introductory letters and gave them safe ways of letting me know they were interested. As it did in 1963, this involved them using code words in their regular columns. That, in turn, required me to get all those columns, which would be work. Ultimately I found a way to do it fairly easily, by using the newsstand at Six Corners (the junction of Irving, Cicero and Milwaukee), which was a reasonable drive for me.

And so, my first mailing was ready to go by the second week of August. The letters were marked URGENT. They were brief, but they said I had not just a full explanation of the “saucer” incident, but that I had both photos and physical evidence. I included a photo of Renn posing with one of the probes, with his face obscured. I offered to prove everything I said, if they had courage enough to pursue it.

All of this meant that once the letters dropped, I’d have to be ready to follow up with all I had promised, and I wasn’t quite ready to do that. And so I sealed all the letters in stamped envelopes, ready to go, and took a week off to get myself ready. I was prepared to take further weeks off if needed.

I was, at least, in a nice head-space again: I had plenty of money, I knew what would happen in the world, and I had a magnificent adventure ready to go. And so I went out to find my grandparents.

A telephone book confirmed my recollections of where they’d be living, and so I spent one day each, surveilling them. My grandfathers were easy enough to find, since I knew where they both lived and worked. I had seen both of them in my first excursion to spin-off worlds (the trip to 1963), but I hadn’t seen either of my grandmothers, save for one of them through a window.

I spent one day each on my grandfathers, at the same time figuring out how to best see my grandmothers. (I didn’t want to just knock on their doors.) I was able to have longer and more intimate experiences with my grandfathers this time – one at a restaurant and one on buses – again renewing the impressions of them I had from my childhood. But more than that, I got a feel for these men; I sensed their histories, their assumptions of life… their successes and their disappointments.

My grandmothers were much the same: I was able to talk to one in front of a church (twice), and another at a bus stop (again, twice). I came away from both with a little bit more direct information and a lot more gut-level feeling. And I’ve been thinking about both of them ever since.

I also went to a baseball game; not just confirming remembrances from my youth (I had gone to my first Cubs game in 1965 or 1966), but deepening them, which was healthful in some way I haven’t been able to define. The Cubs weren’t very good, and I remembered only two names from their entire roster (Phil Cavaretta and Charlie Grimm), but taking the train to the game, along with all the little details, made it a memorable day.

It also became my habit of having lunch at some of the wonderful ethnic restaurants of Chicago, taking extra meals home and putting them in my beast of a refrigerator. There were no microwaves for reheating everything, but I had all the pots and pans I needed, and I listened to my radio dramas while cooking. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

All of this was pleasant, and by the end of August I was ready for my mission. And so I bought tickets to New York on the 20th Century Limited train. It was, by far, the finest train I’ve ever ridden. I got a sleeper car, the food was excellent, and everything was first class. They even had a barber shop and mail service on the train. It left Chicago from the LaSalle Station and arrived at Grand Central Station in Manhattan the next morning at eight o’clock. I vowed to take it whenever I could.

I stayed three nights in New York, and I have to say that the New York of this era was the best New York.

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Paul Rosenberg