The account I am about to disclose to you may change your life forever. It will certainly frighten you and hopefully you may avoid the pitfalls that I experienced and the terrible cost they extracted. Prior to my acquaintance with The Upham Curse I, possibly as you, believed in a world that is solid and predictable as science had taught me.
This tale begins only a few days ago and now, as I recount these events, they seem as real as if they were occurring in the present.
It was the ASLC deep sky observing and imaging night at Upham and I happily packed my telescope and equipment in order to soon meet the rest of the party at Lowe's parking lot. I now had my new Canon DSLR and was anticipating the images I would capture of the Gerbil Nebula, the Otis Redding Cluster and the Trout Galaxy. It would be a night of great accomplishments, or so I thought.
Later, as I whipped into the meeting place there was Mystic Bob and Doctor George waiting for me and drawing constellation maps on the parking lot with spray paint they had just purchased at Lowe's.
Mystic Bob yelled, "Well, it's about time you got here Sonny. Them stars are gonna be shining pretty soon. Opps, sorry about your SUV. I guess I had my finger on the spray can. Chuckle, chuckle."
It was about this time I was beginning wonder what I was doing with these guys again but destiny seems to have thrown us together so I drew a deep breath and said, "It's OK. I think the yellow graffiti looks nice on the silver paint."
"Glad you like it. Now, let's get down to business. Doctor George here has never been out to Upham so I'll lead the way and you both follow."
I wasn't sure he really meant it because as soon as he entered the freeway he disappeared.
It would now be my responsibility to get Doctor George to Upham and I felt the weight of leadership descent upon my shoulders. What if I screwed up? What if he got stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint? Should I wait for him? What if they found over-the-counter non-prescription medications in his truck? Would they arrest him? I became plagued by doubt and worry. In order to relax and 'go with the flow' as they say, I dug out one of my 'Jimi Hendrix and the London Philharmonic' CDs and popped it into the player.
Feeling much better now and seeing that Doctor George made it through OK I turned off the freeway onto the Upham exit. Mystic Bob was nowhere to be seen. There was a small speck of dust out on the prairie and I assumed it was either him or a herd of wild western box turtles on their summer migration to Mexico where they would work uprooting agave plants for the tequila makers.
After making sure I got ahead of Doctor George so I wouldn't have to eat his dust I began the journey up the dirt road. Soon an eerie feeling began to descend upon me. I felt like I had eaten too many strawberry blintzes or something because I began to get light headed and my vision began to blur.
As the landscape began to fade some great and a terrible apparition formed in front of me. It was a Blue Wrathful Deity with six arms and hands and wearing a T shirt that said, "Stars R Us." In three of the hands were telescopes (a refractor, a reflector and a SCT, of course) and in the other three hands were computers and wires and cameras.
In a great booming voice the wrathful deity sang:
"If you think you can see the stars
You've probably been in too many bars
There never was a better night
To give amateur astronomers a fright!
If you go to Upham now
You will turn into a cow
Then you'll weep and moan
Just wanting to go home.
Don't take your scope out and try
Cause if you do you will cry
The stars are not for you tonight
Even if they are bright."
As I came slowly back into consciousness I felt a sense of dread and confusion. Should I go on? Should I turn back? But I decided I had to get Doctor George through to the site. I took a deep breath, tried to brush it off and drove on.
After bouncing through the ruts for about a half a mile I looked ahead and my heart really sank into my feet. Standing in the road with a giant red flag on a pole was Sheriff Rich. Ye Gads! Where did he come from? Not again. After what I had just been through and now I would have to deal with Sheriff Rich. He held up the flag and I could read it.
OBEY ALL COMMANDS OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES
I rolled down my window and put on a big smile. "Hello Sheriff Rich, how have you been? Hope everything is going OK."
"Don't try and butter me up Sonny. We got a real bad parking problem out here at Upham and you just ain't mak'in it any better."
"But…" I stammered. "There is lots of room. In fact, miles of it in every direction."
"Don't sass me Sonny………..say, don't I know you from somewhere? You that trouble maker from down at the Texas Cloud Party?"
"No, no Sheriff Rich. Not me."
"Humm. Well, OK. Park over there next to Mystic Bob. Two feet, three inches to the left of his right rear tire. No mistakes. We don't like mistakes out here."
Glad to be away from Sheriff Rich I pulled into my designated parking space and began to unload my car. It was starting to look like a great night and I tried to shake off the uneasy feeling from meeting the Blue Wrathful Deity.
After about an hour or so I had everything all set up and during that time Doctor George, Sheriff Rich and Mystic Bob had used their Ouigi board to select their targets for the night. I was hoping I would have a chance at the Ouigi board but as soon as they saw me walking their way it was quickly hidden from sight.
I pleaded, "Can I have a go at the board? I don't know what to image yet."
They replied in unison, singing as if in a choir, "No soap Kid. You have to be in ASLC for at least two years before you get to use the Ouigi board. Sorry....giggle."
I didn't know quite how to respond to this but anyway this was the moment I had been anticipating. It was time to hook up my new deep cell battery to supply power to my set up and computer. Just as I was about to attach the positive terminal I felt a strong presence and Master Dave's image appeared to my inner vision.
"DO NOT PUT THE RED WIRE ON THE RED BATTERY TERMINAL."
"But….Master Dave." I thought back, "The red wire always goes on the red terminal. I know. I checked it out."
"Leafhopper, is not the yin sometimes the yang and the yang sometimes the yin?"
Oh cripes. The last time I had to answer one Master Dave's questions I got into all kinds of trouble. But I knew if I didn't answer, and correctly, I would be cursed with cloudy eyepieces forever.
"Uh….Master Dave. I thought my name was Grasshopper."
"Whatever. Now look Fencehopper, answer the question."
I replied, "Well, according to Oriental philosophy, the yin and yang are the two opposing forces that flow from the Tao and make up all physical and non-physical reality"
"They said you were a smart aleck. One more stupid remark like that and you will go to your room."
"Uhhh…..that things aren't always as they seem?"
"Bingo Cliffhopper. It's about time you got something right. So long."
And just like that Master Dave blinked out. I was now free to pursue my own devices and proceeded to hook up the red wire to the red terminal. After all, isn't that the way the world works?
It wasn't long before I discovered my power inverter would not work and after that my GPS would not function. Perplexed I called out for Mystic Bob who by now had finished all his pre-imaging preparations and was reading the latest copy of 'Optics for the Visually Challenged'.
He sauntered over, took one look at my setup, and remarked, "Look Kid, I don't know who told you how to hook up a telescope to a battery but you never put the plus wire on the negative terminal. It'll blow everything you got and then some."
The Blue Wrathful Deity was right. So if you ever meet him on the road to Upham heed his warnings, turn around, and head back down the highway to home.