Esperanza Enlaces, Chief Media Contact for
Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., Chief Communicator
My Transformations during the Transition
Kairos is the Greek word for the perfect moment, a non-chronological time experience that is the most opportune of all possible moments. Serendipity, fluke, luck, karma, synchronicity, coincidence: these all combine and influence kairos, for me, and are the ways I think about my being contacted by Clara Branon in 2012. My meeting her and being selected to be the Chief Media Contact change me and my life forever.
Clara tells me that she steals that phrase for the title of this Volume in The Spanners Series, but since I give her permission, it's not a theft. It's the least I can do after all she gives me.
If you are following this series, you already know about our first meetings, with her pretending to be writing fiction books and wanting to base the character of the journalist in it on me, asking for my opinion, life details and editing comments. These ruses are clever.
It is not until I show up at her little cottage in Kirov on that fateful January 3, 2013, and meet The Band, that I realize she is not writing fiction.
People clamor for me to tell my close-encounter-of-the-first-kind story often. We decide not to put it into Volume I for many reasons, so here it is, in my words.
January 3, 2013
Espe's First Close Encounter of the Third Kind
“Hi, Espe!” Clara calls out to me. I slow down as I pass her porch.
Cute place. I like the feel of it. There is a cemetery next door, behind the fence I'm driving along. I drive past vineyards and apple orchards all along this road. Redwoods line the driveway. Beyond her house is a larger house; must belong to the landowners, like this huge, black dog that won't stop barking.
Clara stands on her porch, waving to me. She must hear the dog.
I roll down my window to hear what she's saying: “Banjo won’t hurt you. You can ignore him. He only barks. If you try to go over to him, he runs away."
Good to know. I'm not keen on dogs. I nod.
"Park over there and bring your stuff in. Or, you can unload here, park there, and then come back. Your choice. You just can’t leave your car here since my neighbor can’t get by you." Clara seems nervous and kind of excited. Over-explaining. Interesting.
“Hi,” I reply. “OK. Big, black, barking dog: not dangerous. I hear you. I will unload here,” I say, “since I have a lot of stuff to carry.” At this point, I believe I am doing a “dry run,” meaning, I think Clara's book is all fiction. But, as promised, I have everything I would need for a video shoot and plan to bring it all in, set it up and talk Clara through what's involved.
Clara turns around and moves back into the house to say something I can't hear. Then she comes back outside to help me unload.
We put my equipment on the porch and Banjo runs away, exactly as Clara predicts. Excellent. Last thing I need is for that dog to pee on my camera case or mike stand.
As we're unloading my car, I take a closer look at Clara. She has shrunk. A lot. I haven't seen her since March, so I ask her: "Have you lost a lot of weight or something? Are you okay?"
"I'm great, now. I was kind of sick; digestive problems. Nothing serious. But, I have lost about 70 pounds. Need to lose about 60 more. On my way. Thanks for noticing!" Clara smiles at me and I smile back.
She's so frickin' cheerful all the time, it's contagious.
"Oh, good. I'm glad you're all right." I make a point of not commenting on anyone's weight except as a health thing; judging a person's appearance based on weight is a pet peeve of mine. Facts, fine; meanness, not.
We finish unloading and she says: "I'll start taking in the lighter things and you go park. See you in a minute." She picks up my mike stand and goes inside.
"Okay," I agree. I move my car to the parking area and walk back to the cottage. The air smells so sweet out here. It rained yesterday and the dampness makes the piney scents stronger. I love the redwoods. I should live in a place like this. Then, I laugh to myself. I'd be bored in about ten minutes.
I hear Clara talking as I step onto the porch. Who is she talking to? Is she on the phone?
I stand outside the screen door and peer in, not wanting to intrude. Maybe she doesn't live alone?
I see Clara standing towards the back of the main area, in the doorway to a back room, talking. I hear her say, "You stay here until I introduce you, all right?"
Who else is here? I knock. "Clara? Should I come in?"
Clara turns around and waves me in. "Yes, yes. Come in, Esperanza."
"Call me 'Espe,'" I tell her as I enter. "Only my grandmother calls me 'Esperanza.'"
I walk all the way in and look around. I don't see or hear anyone else. Her house is small but not cluttered. I like it. Futon couch with a quilt covering it, old, spinet piano and bench, comfy chair and heater in the living room area. Very old TV on top of the piano, facing the couch and chair. Large, round dining table and its chairs, bookshelves in the dining area. Opens into the kitchen, which has an old, yellow Formica table and one chair plus the normal counters and appliances.
A few Buddhist-looking, fabric artwork pieces and script-things as well as some framed pieces that look as if they're hand-painted, from Japan and Australia are on the white walls. Some photos: a guy about her age with long hair; a younger guy with a woman; her with two women that look like her, probably sisters; the Dalai Lama with a Rabbi, touching foreheads. Must be her son with the woman. Who's the other guy? Boyfriend?
"Nice place," I say, and mean it. Feels good in here.
"Thanks," Clara replies. Looking more nervous. "Do you want anything to drink or eat?"
"Some water would be great," I answer. I have to remember to drink more water.
She goes into the kitchen area and gets me a glass of water.
"Where should I set up?" I ask as she hands me the water.
"Oh. Right." Clara looks flustered and glances towards the back room. "Um. Well. That's the thing," she begins. "Remember how I say I'm writing a novel? About the aliens coming to visit the main character and all that?"
"Of course," I answer, drinking the water down. She must have a well. Tastes great right out of the tap. "I remember. You told me I am your model for the character who acts as her media person and you wanted me to help you figure out how to write about the first time the journalist comes to meet the aliens and videos them. Isn't that why I'm here?"
Clara nods vigorously.
Why is she so hyped up?
"Esperanza. I mean, Espe: yes. You're right. That is the reason I give for getting you here. But, I am not yet completely, well, honest about that. There is more to it than that. I actually have a need for you to take some videos today, and not just for 'practice.'"
My stomach flutters. This should be interesting. I put down my empty glass on her dining room table and turn to the back room. "Does your not being 'honest' have something to do with whoever is in the back room?"
Clara seems surprised, then recovers quickly. "Oh. Of course. You're a journalist. You notice things!"
"So, who else is here?" I ask. I'm all curious, now. "'Come out, come out, whoever you are'!" I raise my sing-song voice so whoever is in there can hear me. "Is this some kind of competition and we have to prove who is better?" I joke. "'Media Idol'?"
"Um, no, nothing like that," Clara says, laughing uneasily. "You already have the position, if you want the job."
"Job? What job?" I am perplexed, now, feeling a little impatient. "Who is back there?"
Clara puts out her hands out flat in front of her as if to stop me, but I'm not moving. "Wait," she says, "just listen, first."
"I'm listening," I say, "but I don't like an unseen audience."
"I promise, you'll meet them in a minute. May I explain?" Clara asks. "Please? Sit down."
She points to the chairs at the table. She takes one and I take the other. "Okay. Explain. But, it's kind of creepy to have people in the next room I don't know and haven't met."
"Yes, yes. Sorry about that. Soon, you'll meet." Clara runs her fingers through her curly hair and tousles it absentmindedly, composing her words. "I'm not actually writing a novel. Well, I am, but it's not all fiction. It is called 'fiction,' but most of it is, um, not exactly fiction."
What in the world could be "not all fiction" in a book about aliens? "Are you trying to tell me you are writing a non-fiction book about aliens?"
I grab most of my long, wavy brown hair and wind it into a knot, out of my way, as I always do before using my cameras. Clara is watching me attentively.
I return the scrutiny, checking for signs of her being high, drunk, psychotic: don't see any. Just nervousness.
She nods as if she appreciates that I have to check her out.
I try again. "What do you mean, 'not exactly fiction'?" Give her a chance. If I don't like what she says, I can leave.
"I mean," she licks her lips, pauses, takes a deep breath and plunges in, "the aliens are here. In my house. Today. Well, their holograms are, not them, physically. But, the holos are here. In my back room, temporarily. That is what I want you to video. Do you want to meet them now?" She says it all in a rush as if she's afraid she'll lose her nerve if she pauses.
I can see why she'd be nervous about that! She's got to be kidding, but I'll play along. Why not? What's the harm? "Sure. I'd love to meet your aliens. Bring 'em out."
I crane my neck around her to see the back room's doorway better. I don't see anything but her furniture and walls. "Are they invisible to anyone but you?" I ask, proud that I'm hiding my skepticism so well.
Clara turns towards the doorway and says, "Led? Come on out. The rest of you, too, please."
I feel a little sorry for her when nothing happens. Whom should I call to have this woman checked out? I wonder if I can find out how to reach her son? I'm running scenarios in my mind, my asking for his contact info, getting him on the phone, explaining. I really don't want to have to do that.
Suddenly, as I'm daydreaming about calling this guy I don't even know to tell him his mother's gone over the edge, I see movement in the back room's doorway. Must be a trick of light.
No. Real movement. Yes. A floating, hovering ball-like thing comes drifting out of the room towards us. I can see through this tiny blimp, but it's kind of bluish-grey. ¿Qué demonios? [What demons are these, Spanish]
I look around for hidden projectors, computers. I don't see anything that can produce this effect. Before I have more time to consider how Clara has arranged this trick, more forms come drifting out of the doorway, moving oddly, all different colors, shapes and sizes.
Two human-sized but blob-shaped greenish forms wiggle out together, moving right through the door frame and wall. Another, very tall, orangish form with a triangular head-thing that touches the ceiling, which must be at least eight feet high, moves jerkily toward us on multi-jointed "legs." Last, another almost-as-tall, turquoise-blue form, metallic-looking and thin, with a flat head-piece with blinking lights struts smoothly over.
How is she doing this? These are the best holo tricks I've ever seen, or....
Wait a minute: What are these? Who are they?
I must have pushed back in my chair, edging more towards the kitchen, further away from them, whatever they are.
Clara says, reassuringly, "It's okay, Espe. They're harmless. Really. You don't have to be afraid."
I can't speak. If these aren't tricks....
The floating, basketball-sized thing makes sounds. I recognize the oddly-formed English words almost as if I'm in a dream. It says: "Greetings, Esperanza Enlaces. Glad to meet you. You may call me 'Led.'"
"Uh, uh," I'm sputtering. I get up and stand back further. "Stay over there."
Clara stands up next to me and puts her hand on my arm, calmly. "Espe. It's OK. I promise. First of all, they're not even really here: they are holograms. They can't hurt you."
The two bright green wigglers move closer to Led and say, in a chorus, "Hello. We are pleased to meet you. We are 'Janis'—'Diana.'"
Without a pause, the other two move a bit closer to the table.
The tall blue one says, "Hi. I'm called 'Mick.'" His head's-lights blink at varying rates as he talks.
Orange guy says: "I'm called 'Ringo.'" He's the shorter one. One of his orange appendages protrudes toward me as if he wants to shake my hand. I don't extend mine, so he waves.
"Clara?" I finally squeak another word out. "What...What is this? How are you doing it? I don't see any projectors."
Clara laughs. "Oh. I'm not 'doing' it," she says. "They are."
I am feeling very shaky and a bit nauseated. I reach for my glass, but it's empty. Clara sees this and takes it, goes to the sink, fills it, returns and hands the full glass to me. "Drink," she says. "You'll feel better in a minute."
I watch her do these normal things, so calmly. How can she be fine with this?
I sit back down and drink, my mind racing. If these are real....If this is happening.... ¡Dios mío!¿Qué carajo? [My God! What the hell? Spanish]
Startling myself, I jerk back into reality. What am I doing, just sitting here? I'm a journalist! Record! ¡Sal de ella, Espe! [Snap out of it! Spanish slang] This is the chance of a lifetime!
I put down my glass and jump up. "I have to turn on my camera!" I look at Clara. "Right? That's what you want me to do, isn't it? Film them? Okay! Let's do it!"
What do I have to lose? If it turns out to be a trick, I'll have great footage of a trick. If not.... ¡Santo caballa! ¡Madre del amor hermoso! [Holy mackerel! Holy cow! Spanish slang]
Clara gets up and takes my hand. "Espe. Thank you. Yes. Please film them. I call them 'The Band,' because of the names they choose."
"What?" I'm opening my cases and setting up the equipment, not really listening. "'The Band'? Oh, sure. Fine."
My hand are shaking and it's difficult to get the camera on the tripod. "The Band"? Oohh: Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, Mick Jaggar, Ringo Starr. Funny.
My fingers are so clumsy that I almost drop the camera. What is wrong with me? I need to calm down. I know this is fake. It has to be.
"Let me help," Clara says. "I used to do some video work myself." She takes the camera and deftly snaps it into place on the platform. "Shall we set up the mike over here?" She points to the area near the piano. "Do we need more lights?"
Following her lead, I try to put my shakes on hold and get into equipment set-up mode. I move as quickly as I can, pointing here and there for where to set up each piece, holding out plugs which Clara takes and puts into a surge suppressor near the piano.
By the time we're all set up, I remember my manners and turn back to the forms. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Espe." I nod to each of them, saying their names as they gave them to me: "Led, Janis—Diana, Mick, Ringo."
As I greet each one, there is a surge of physical pleasure coming to me. Really? I must be imagining that.
Sure. I can do this. Why not?
Everything is set. I test it all once, making sure everything records and is on. The Band individual holos wait, hovering, floating, standing—whatever they're doing—watching me. It's eerie.
Automatically, I reach into my pocket to turn off my cell phone. Clara sees me doing that and reaches for her own to do the same. I nod in appreciation of her attentiveness.
Getting started, in full journalist mode, now, I ask Clara the standard background info questions, adjust the lights, un-pause the camera, push the button on the mike I'm holding and get in between the camera and the holos.
No time to agonize. Just another story, really. Right.
I'm standing in front of the bouncy one, Led, with the rest arrayed behind us, Clara to my right. I take a deep breath and say these now-famous words:
"This is Esperanza Enlaces. I'm here in the Kirov, California, cottage of Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., with holograms beamed here from the Many Worlds Collective. These five very different alien life forms are here as official representatives, or delegates, from the MWC's InterGalactic Council to invite Earth formally to become a Member of this organization. They also have invited Dr. Branon to be Earth's Liaison to their Collective's Council. Dr. Branon has accepted the role.
"According to Dr. Branon, she met these five alien delegates when they appeared as holograms in her Kirov cottage, two weeks ago on December 22, 2012.
"Today is January 3, 2013. At Dr. Branon's invitation, I am here for the first time with her and the Many Worlds Collective's five holographic delegates.
"Because we will not be able to pronounce their names properly, each of them has selected an English nickname for us to use. Please introduce yourselves again for the official record. I'm sure everyone wants to know who you are!"
Each one moves a bit and speaks, saying its name, first in its original incomprehensible native language, then its rock-and-roll star's nickname.
As they talk, I move over to the camera. I check the red Record light: "on." Good.
Clara is watching them make their introductions so I make sure to angle the lens to catch her reactions a few times as they speak.
Tape is rolling. We make history.
ESPE: I'm sure you all know the rest of this often-run vid, so I won't rehash the remainder here. If by some odd chance you don't have an opportunity to see it before now, check the 'verseweb. It's everywhere. Use your Access iD.
As you know, I do not edit this footage. The next morning, I bring it raw and untouched directly to the San Francisco Chronicle media office, as Clara and I plan in our talks so many months ago. They see me take it out of the camera and play it for them, so they know I haven't doctored it.
They can see the seconds and minutes ticking by, time-stamped on every part consecutively, with no breaks or pauses. That is the key to having a documented video report. I know it; they know it. It's real.
I am still a bit shocked about the whole thing, but I'm getting used to it. I recognize my progress when I see the shock on their faces and hear their surprise and disbelief as they react to the footage. I realize how far I've already come, into acceptance in only 24 hours.
Over the next several weeks, I come back almost every day to video another segment. I interview Clara frequently. I next ask her about her first meeting with The Band. [See Volume I, This Changes Everything, of The Spanners Series, for a description of that encounter.]
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