Tag Archives: aviano italy

My Life Stories: My UFO Story

Iconic blurry photo of a disk-shaped UFO hovering over pine tries, above the words, "I WANT TO BELIEVE"

In the year 1999, I drove from San Marcos, TX to Sugar Land, TX to meet my girlfriend’s family. She had already made the trip a few days earlier, but I couldn’t go with her because I had to work. After my shift ended, I drove to Sugar Land alone, and I decided to take a more scenic route through the country instead of a major highway.

Around 11pm, I was driving down a  two-lane country road, about an hour outside of Sugar Land. There were no buildings or street lights in any direction, nor were there very many cars on the road. The sky was moonless, not that I would have been able to see it because of the low cloud ceiling. I kept glancing upward, because… well, I really like clouds, and it’s not very often you get to see a low cloud ceiling blanketing the sky in Texas. Usually, mountain-sized clouds lumber across the gigantic, open skyline, high in the atmosphere.

That’s when I noticed something even more out of place. I kept seeing lights flash from the clouds above the field to my left. I couldn’t see any aircraft, but lights glowed through the clouds, as if something bright was flying inside them, obscured from view. It couldn’t have been an airplane because I was keeping up with it driving 50 miles per hour. At first, I assumed it was a helicopter, but when I looked closer, I realized there were nine lights, each a perfect circle. Six were arranged in a ring that rotated clockwise. In the middle, the other three lights rotated counterclockwise in a perfect circle. Every once and a while the lights would change directions in unison. Then the outer ring of lights would rotate counterclockwise and the inner ring would spin clockwise.

I strained my eyes to see the source of the lights, but it never came out of the clouds. I started to get the feeling the source of the light was either invisible, or it was being projected upwards from the ground like a spotlight, but the lights were traveling over corn fields and patches of trees. I followed the unidentified flying objects for at least half an hour, constantly almost crashing as I looked up instead of at the road. They stayed steady at fifty miles per hour the whole time. I kept waiting for them to suddenly accelerate and shoot out of sight, but they never did. The show ended when they veered North and moved away over farmlands where I had no road to chase them.

When I got to my girlfriend’s house, all I could talk about was the UFO I saw. She was intrigued for a minute, but she didn’t take it seriously and got bored with my ranting quickly. I was bursting with excitement, but I had nowhere to direct it. I didn’t have any video since smartphones didn’t exist at the time. I wanted to tell the whole world about my experience, but since I couldn’t prove what had happened, there was no one I could convince.

A few months later, I joined the U.S. Air Force. After completing basic training in San Antonio, Texas and military trade school in Biloxi, Mississippi, I got stationed at Aviano, Italy, which has had its own share of UFO sightings. Some Italians believe there’s an underground bunker underneath the base that contains a crashed UFO and the body of at least one alien.

The base did belong to the Nazis during WWII, who dug miles of tunnels underneath it, but the American forces supposedly collapsed them all so enemies couldn’t use them to sneak behind the perimeter. So I suppose there could be large spaces under there nobody knows about, but I had a top-secret security clearance, and my job took me to every building. I never heard or saw anything to suggest Aviano has a UFO or aliens.

One Friday after work, I drove a car full of friends North across the Italian/Austrian border to the city of Graz to check out the nightlife. By the time we neared Graz, it was already dark, and there was a low cloud ceiling, which is very common in Austria. Not far from town, I saw the exact same pattern of lights shining down through the clouds, spinning in concentric circles.

My eyes bulged, and I shouted for everyone to stick their heads out the windows. They all got excited when they saw the lights too. I told them we were going to follow the UFO as far as we could, and they all agreed, not that I had asked. The chase didn’t last long, as we caught up to them hovering above a very fancy McDonald’s restaurant, which had a spotlight on the roof projecting the circles across the bottom of the clouds.

All my friends mocked me abusively… as if they didn’t almost pee their pants when they first saw the “UFO” themselves. I deserved it though, and I continued to beat myself up for years afterward. The worst part wasn’t the shame. I want to believe there are alien spaceships in our skies. For a few years, I lived in a reality where that was a confirmed fact, but that magical time of my life ended in a McDonald’s parking lot in Austria.

My story does teach something novel about our world though. If you’ll remember, the lights I saw in Texas were traveling at fifty miles per hour for half an hour, in the middle of nowhere. The only explanation is that some red necks put a spotlight in the back of their truck and went driving through the countryside freaking out motorists like myself. That’s fucking hilarious, and it’s almost as bizarre as alien spaceships. I have to wonder how many other UFO sightings were caused by humans behaving absurdly and probably drunk.


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Conspiracy Theories and Theorists
My Life Stories (in chronological order)


Piancavollos’ Traveling Snail

Sign of the "Piancovollo" city limit sign in the Dolomite mountains of North East Italy.

From 2000-2001, I was stationed at Aviano Air Base in North-Eastern Italy, at the base of the Dolomite Mountains. One day I hiked to the top of a nearby mountain named Piancavollo. From the top, you can see miles and miles of farmland, small towns, and the long runway of Aviano Air Base. They say on a good day you can see Venice, an hour’s drive away. From Piancavollo all of civilization is spread out before you in a panorama. It makes you wonder how many people are milling around down there going on about their lives? How many dramas, how many love affairs, how many tragedies, how many criminals? But then again, you know all about what’s going on down there. You live there, somewhere, and you’ll be back before you know it. But from up here it seems so far away as to be surreal, just like how the top of the mountain does from down there.

Arial photo of the city of Piancavollo, looking down from the mountain of the same name

When I first arrived in Italy and saw that mountaintop commanding the horizon I told myself that I had to climb it to be able to say I did it and chalk up one more experience in the story of my life. When I finally got to the top and started looking down at so many places that I hadn’t been yet I started thinking about all the other places around the world that was craving to visit before I die. I didn’t want to look back on my life and say that I didn’t live a vibrant life because I never went to Hawaii, or Moscow, or London, or Key West, or Alaska.

I’m terrified of living a mundane life. Never mind the fact that in the short 22 years of my life I’ve been to Athens, Jerusalem, Cairo, Paris, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Vienna, New York, LA, and Cancun to name a few. But that’s not good enough. I’ve gotta keep moving,

Anyway. So I was standing on this mountain, eye level with the clouds, adding up all the places I needed to visit when my concentration was broken by the thought that I really had to pee. So I scurried over behind some tall rocks and whip it out to do my business when I realized that there was a large snail lying right where I was aiming. So I took a step to the side, and while I was standing there waiting to finish relieving myself occupied my attention by staring at that black and yellow snail.

Look at this little snail. Its life was a total contradiction to my quest for variety. In its entire life, it would never travel more than 20 feet (or something like that). It may never even see another human. It might not even see me right now. It certainly will never notice the vast panorama that’s embracing a hundred miles of varied landscape behind it or understand what’s going on in any of those towns. But do I have the right to say the snail’s life is a tragedy because it won’t see the Eiffel Tower or touch the Wailing Wall?

I won’t ever get to see what a blade of grass four times my height looks like. Surely that snail is getting to see some pretty amazing things down there. But there’s something more important implied by this snail than appreciating the view from a quarter inch above the ground. How many amazing places do you have to go and how many amazing situations do you have to get yourself into before you can say that you lived an amazing life. What if there were more than 7 wonders of the ancient world ever built? What if there was a structure built in every single city on Earth that was worthy of being called a “wonder of the world”? You couldn’t see all of them in one lifetime. So how many do you have to see before you officially lived a vibrant life? How few can you get away with seeing and still say you didn’t live a mundane life?

Taking this idea one step further let’s ask if you really need to see any of these “wonders” at all. Maybe I’m wasting my time and money traveling, and all these adventures that I’m so proud of having have really been distracting me from focusing on something more important. Maybe visiting amazing places is less important than having an amazing personality. Maybe the quality of your environment is determined by the extent that you appreciate it regardless of what or where it is. Maybe it doesn’t matter how many mountains, rivers, or antique buildings you get to see, especially when there’s an entire universe of complex uniqueness in the mind of everyone you pass on your way to see these inanimate buildings and rocks.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Whatever the answers I at least figured I could lighten up a little about not getting to visit more famous places. By the time I finished thinking about all this, I had been done peeing for about a minute now and had just been standing there on that mountain exposing myself to a snail and staring into oblivion. So I collected myself mentally (and physically) and started off down the mountain back to my busy, little town where I had plans to do nothing for the rest of the day.

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My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)
My Art

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