Close Encounters of the Erin Kind or Steven Spielberg walk with me

Most people watch “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and see a pretty good movie about a guy who really wants to get on a space ship.

They are wrong. This movie is about me.

Every day, I see Devil’s Tower in my mind. I see it and I must create it. So I go to my keyboard and start to form it up. The first attempt is a rough sketch, a shape. It is something, but it is not right. I print it out and study it, decide what is working and what is not. The next attempt is closer–not right, just closer.

I must get it right.

“Mom?” says my kid from the doorway of my office.

But I am consumed with the mashed potato model in front of me, the mud model in front of me. I know that I have been summoned to do this, to realize this, that it is a pilgrimage of sorts and that nothing can stop me.

The trained guys in the space suits that are supposed to get onto the spaceship? Those are not trained guys in space suits.

Them’s your book-learned guys.

The book-learned guys really know space ships! They have all the technical capabilities. They can turn out one perfect sentence after another and deconstruct James Joyce and discuss every book the NYT reviewed this week.

But all the book-learning in the world will not give them the calling.

Funny thing about the calling is that when you have it, the book learning is delivered unto you. Because in your quest to realize that which is inside of you, you’re going to need some tools. So with the bottomless obsession and energy that drives you to create, you

“Hey Honey? What about dinner?”

seek out those tools. And at once the word “you” transforms from three simple letters into a tricky device called second person.

Suddenly, the nuance of punctuation is no longer a preposterous assertion.




Suddenly The Overuse Of Capitalization Becomes Really Funny To You. You learn how to SHOUT without uttering one noise.

Yeah, yeah.

And just like in the movie, plenty of people try and stop you and tell you that you are crazy and that the whole thing is stupid. On the journey, you find one or two others as obsessed as you and you immediately understand one another. You fall down. And when the canary dies, you second guess yourself until the compulsion wells up again and thrusts you forward.

The movie is about the quest. The prize is far away, a reverie in Technicolor flying overhead. But the power of wishing upon a star is in the wish, not the star.

It is a good day when you realize this.

Now you will excuse me, dear reader. Despite being hopelessly insufficient, this essay has gone on entirely too long and I have a date with a dozen or so little space men.




  1. Effing brilliant, O’Brien. I just hope there’s a François Truffaut out there to shove back the authority figures marching in lockstep and say (in a fetching accent): “She belongs here. She was summoned.”

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