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THE CHOPPING BLOCK: Send in the clowns



 

Things have taken a turn for the weird in this corner of the pale blue dot. As I write this, there’s a debate raging about whether Earth, particularly America and our worn-out way of life, is under attack by aliens or Chinese clowns.


The recent “spy balloons,” some of which have since been categorized as UFOs by the high-ranking officials dealing with and disarming the crafts, were first spotted on Jan. 28. That’s when a UFO entered American airspace over Alaska, before making a cross-country trip to the coasts of South Carolina, where it was shot dead by the Air Force over open waters on Feb. 4. The debris is at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. There has been no more public information released about the ordeal. We can only hope agents Scully and Mulder are on the case.


If you were expecting some high-tech contraption with unexplainable, otherworldly propulsion and laser beams, you’d be beyond disappointed to see the white blob float through the air like a Kentucky cow caught in a twister.


I’d been needing a haircut, particularly before an upcoming trip to Vegas, and drove the 66 miles to my usual barber shop. A hand-written note met me: “Closed today. Open Monday. Sorry.”


Undeterred, I headed up the road, across the train tracks, to where the other coiffeur has been in business for the better part of 50 years. I’d never been there before, but it’s an old spot that’s named after some ambitious small business owner who took the time to purchase and place a traditional blue-red-and-white pole outside many moons ago. Two chairs greet you within five steps of the front door. There’s a little wood-burning stove between the red leather thrones. The day’s headlines, laid on top of a small pile of logs, make the best kindling after a certain hour.


The barber, with his white mustache waxed and styled into identical curly cues like Rollie Fingers, told me to have a seat. I gave him marching orders.


“About an inch off the top, but not too much or you’ll risk exposing the bald spot. Then fade the sides into the beard and give that a trim.”


He didn’t say a word but got to work spinning me around to face the flatscreen TV on the wall. Fox News had the story of the century: “Chinese spy balloon spotted over Montana.” The barber and his coworker shook their heads and blamed Biden.


“What a circus,” Rollie Fingers solemnly said.


Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Send In the Clowns” started playing in my brain.


Isn't it rich

Are we a pair

Me here at last on the ground

You in mid-air

Send in the clowns


Morbid visions of Bozo the Clown, acting as Secretary of Defense and launching a push pin the size of the Space Needle at the balloon, were next. If only there were sightings of Russian bears on tricycles across the Pacific Northwest and North Korean contortionists taking over Connecticut. My God, how quickly we devolve into raving lunatics at the first glance or mention of the abnormal. The truth might be out there, even here already, but Americans aren’t ready for it.


A man with square shoulders and a uniform covered in multi-colored lapel pins talked about the “invasion” and how the U.S. had been monitoring this mysterious vehicle.

Rollie Fingers carefully crafted the hair around the crop circle on the back of my head and asked for $20. What a deal. Something weird was afoot. I was sure of it, but at least I’d look good.


Another China spy balloon popped up over Latin America during the same time. Then there were unrelated detections and downings of high-altitude objects over Northern Alaska, Yukon and Lake Huron. The atmospheric breach seemed to be in full force while I boarded a plane to Vegas, which sits 100 miles south of Area 51.


A teenage influencer in the chair behind me announced to everyone within earshot that the U.S. is going to war with China. His source? An “Air Force Navy Seals” buddy who had been sent from his station in California to deal with the Northern Alaska incident. Such acts wouldn’t go without impunity under the former president, who started the Space Force, the TikToker said.


Pressing my forehead against the cool glass of the window to my right, I held out my thumb and looked for UFOs at 33,000 feet. The universe is infinitely expanding infinitely, and a fleet of wayward weather balloons is the proof we’re eagerly willing to accept as extraterrestrial life?


I returned from the desert fat and tired, but with no more evidence of a full-blown alien attack than when I left Colorado. While working on this piece, sci-fi author and UFO survivor Dan Harary sent me a note about all of this via his PR rep.


“News anchors laugh about ‘little green men’ and ‘The X-Files coming to life’ when discussing major news stories, like the recent U.S. Military’s downing of 3 craft over Canada that remain unidentified to this day,” he shared. “Aliens, UFO’s, or ET’s were never part of religious or parochial schoolings in any country around the world, and until the time comes when they land on the White House lawn and prove ‘THEY’RE HERE’ to the world, live, in living color, on TV, the human race will, sadly, remain unaware of the reality of this history-alerting phenomenon indefinitely.”


I hum a familiar tune.


But where are the clowns

Send in the clowns

Don't bother, they're here


The Chopping Block is Rev. Justin Criado's monthly column for the Telluride Daily Planet newspaper. It also appears in the monthly Four Corners Free Press print edition. This piece was originally published on Friday, Feb. 24.


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