“Aliens are outside. Did you see? Did you hear?”
I’m standing in the lobby of the Second City building, waiting for the show to start when the commotion begins. People are walking out of the building, craning their necks to the left and staring into the dark night sky.
“Come see the U.F.O.,” he says to me.
“It just happened as I was driving up,” he says. “Look at that.”
“What is it?” someone behind me said.
“It’s probably a missile launch,” Ryan Stiles turns to us and says. “There’s an air force base over there.”
“So it’s over the water?” I ask him.
“No, I don’t think so. It’s probably so far up in the air that it’s catching the sunlight, bouncing it up through those clouds. It’s giving off a lot of light, huh?”
“So it’s a missile?”
“I guess I hope so. What else could it be?”
My brain is flashing images of Joaquin Phoenix flinging himself backwards off a chair, his hand covering his quivering chin, eyes brimming with tears. My mind imagines hundreds of people screaming through the streets of Hollywood, their fingers pointing upwards towards the looming ball of doom. Here it is. War is here. Death is soon. Only Ryan Stiles stays calm through it all, holding a tumbler of Scotch as he says quietly, “Probably just missile testing. Nothing to worry about.”
The L.A. Times explains it thusly (since you need to register to read):
Vandenberg Missile Launching Produces Light Show
Residents throughout the Southland were startled Thursday night by a spectacular light show caused by the launching of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The missile blasted off at 7:36 p.m., and the colorful contrail was seen over almost all of the state.
The missile was launched from an underground silo. Its two re-entry vehicles were expected to travel about 4,200 miles in 30 minutes, hitting predetermined targets at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands.
In Los Angeles, the flashy display 150 miles to the north startled the crowd at a Dodgers home game and brought calls to authorities.
“We got a handful of calls about the panorama of colors over Western skies,” said a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman, Brian Humphrey. “They were mostly from motorists who’d never seen what has become a beautiful Southern California tradition.”
The launching was part of a program to test missile launching systems and make missiles more accurate and reliable.
I love how they’re making it sound like the missile just had its premiere at Mann’s Chinese. Like, “The missile was wearing Prada; it could not be reached for comment.” A light show, like we were all listening to Pink Floyd and having the time of our lives.
I was at the Dodgers game the night before. If I had seen that missile blast off over my head during the Giants game, you bet your ass I’d be going home faster than a Dodgers fan in the sixth inning. It was not “lovely” or “spectacular.” It was “scary” and “whatthefuckisgoingon.”
A “beautiful Southern California tradition.” Yeah. Also known as “War Dress Rehearsal.” Don’t try and tell me that the missile was launched so I can see the pretty colors. Couldn’t you have said something about it earlier? Like, “Early this evening we’ll be launching a missile. Don’t lose your shit.” Don’t tell me afterwards that I was supposed to be chomping popcorn and having a grand time as Ryan Stiles calmed me down on Melrose.
You think I’d have one predictable, boring day around here. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.