The UFO Landing Pad
By Monte Thrasher
I went to John Muir Middle School (“junior high,” it was called then), a beautifully designed work of architecture, laid out in terraces on the Burbank hillside with a spectacular view. For many years you could simply walk into it at night. Actually, as a teenager I saw this as a brilliant idea on the part of the school authorities: since it was no challenge to get into, there was no graffiti or vandalism to declare a daring teenage breech of territory. Of course in time they built ugly iron gates and fences, so I can't go there to gaze out at the city at night and dream.
Anyway, I knew a girl who lived right nearby, and Muir was her place to sit and dream or party at night. There's this gigantic concrete platform outside the cafeteria that juts like a wing from the hillside, right out into space, so it seems to hover or float. It's a sheer drop on the North and west sides, with a magnificent view I've spent many years contemplating by night.
We'd get high and watch the planes land at the airport. They form a long lovely chain of lights, lining up for miles and miles across the Valley to come in. I called it the diamond strand, a long wavering string of lights trailing off to the farthest distance, six or eight at any one time, always being refreshed with new lights at the end.
When they come in close they turn on their brilliant landing lights. Now, the landing strip aims straight at the cafeteria platform, so the lights blast right into your eyes. They look very much like UFO's with lights around their saucer rim, dazzlingly bright, easily the brightest lights in that whole ocean of nocturnal lights.
The runway points right at you, so when the planes came down to land, their long sloping gliding path gets foreshortened to what looked like a slow vertical drop, as if they were landing straight down. So: brilliant clusters of lights, landing straight down with slow patient grace that looked like they didn't care about gravity one bit. There's no noise at all (or so it seems) like the famously silent UFO's. It took no effort at all to pretend we were watching The Landing, aliens coming at long last to save us from our boring teenage lives.
When they do land the brilliant lights go out, and a brief howling roar is heard; this is the plane's engines firing a braking thrust. You see the lights long before the sound reaches you, so it seems unrelated to the “UFO.”
I hear that planes simply cut the engines and glide in, nowadays, to cut down on noise, so the roar may be gone. But the UFO's still land in Burbank, all night long.