Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a series of interviews I conducted regarding End Times. You can view previous posts by clicking here. No pretense here of a deep theological discussion. This is a look at people and how they think about End Times and how that thinking affects their daily living. Star Captain was one of my favorite interviewees, such a nice soul.
One of the reasons publishers gave for not picking up this particular work was that it had too many kooks featured. I think people need to spend less time in their cubicles studying profit charts and more time on the back roads of America, sitting with people, hearing their stories. Story is an investment in eternity. When it’s all said and done, our story is all that matters. Are you telling a good one? Star Captain is telling a fascinating one:
The people who think they know him best would likely be shocked to know The Landscaper isn’t anticipating Christ’s return. What they don’t know is that he thinks differently on these matters. “Most people who go around saying that Jesus is coming soon are having a hard time and are just hoping Jesus will come along and get them out of it,” he says with a chuckle.
Whenever someone says “Jesus is coming soon” The Landscaper typically replies, “You know, he probably will” although he doesn’t believe it for one second. “I don’t think they are right. I say it because it’s easier than trying to explain my position.”
He readily admits that his beliefs are a departure from mainstream Christianity and from the wisdom of many well-schooled theologians. “I’m not saying any of this makes me right and them wrong. The more I study it, the more sense it makes to me, but it’s not like any of this is going to make or break my faith,” he says.
The Landscaper isn’t living for his resurrection day. “I don’t think I will be resurrected,” he says. “When I die my body will rot and my spirit will go directly into the presence of God.”
Until then, don’t be looking for him to spend too much time worrying about Revelation. Charts or no charts, “It’s still just as confusing to me,” he says.
I have long suspected that it is possible to have an opinion on something, a well-defined opinion, and still be just as confused as a person who doesn’t have one. The Landscaper confirmed that for me.
I could have spent another couple of hours discussing these matters of great importance with the Landscaper but 3 p.m. was drawing nigh and Star Captain would be sorely disappointed if I didn’t show. He had been reluctant to meet me.
“Mercury is in retrograde,” he said. “I can’t meet with you until late August.”
It was May for pity’s sake. Jesus might return any day now. I couldn’t wait until August. “But I’m only in town this one day,” I pleaded. “If you can’t meet me today then I’ll never know what you know.”
“All right,” he said, his voice full of something other than resignation. Dread perhaps? “But it will have to be after 3 p.m..”
“Sure. No problem.”
We agreed to meet at the city park.
The city park was desolate and isolated. It looked like the kind of place a person would expect to meet up with rabid demon dogs or worse, yet, be left behind. My friend had driven me out to see the knoll where Star Captain had told me to meet him. My buddy was feeling uneasy about me meeting up with some man I’d never met before. He suggested maybe I might want to pick a more public spot.
Star Captain didn’t seem like the sort of fellow who was amenable to last minute change of plans. I was already worried that he might cancel the meeting, given that Mercury was being so moody and all. On the way out to the park I’d assured my friend that I was a big girl, that I’d be fine, that I did this sort of thing all the time. How desolate could this place be?
But as soon as I saw the park I changed my mind. It looked exactly like the sort of place where Ted Bundy and Charles Manson might gather to play checkers and discuss brands of knives and old girlfriends.
Any writer has to commit to a story beforehand. I was willing to go to great lengths in an effort to gather as much information as I could so that we can all better prepare for the End Time, but meeting my Maker in the process wasn’t part of my interview plan.
I called Star Captain and told him that I simply couldn’t meet him outdoors.
“The bugs will eat me up,” I said. It’s true. Skeeters, ticks and fleas will hunt me down for a sip of my blood. Vampires, I’m sure, would kill for it.
“Too much banana oil,” Star Captain said, as if somehow that was the most sensible thing in the world to say.
“You eat too many bananas,” he said. “That’s why the bugs bite you.”
“Uh, okay,” I replied, trying my darndest to recall the last time I’d eaten a banana. All this time I thought it was because my cholesterol was too high. I wish somebody would put all this information in a handbook so I’d know what I am supposed to eat so that skeeters won’t pester me.
Star Captain agreed to meet me at Wendy’s instead.
The girl at the counter ordering lunch is wearing a t-shirt with the verse Jeremiah 29:11 in bold ink: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Star Captain arrives at 3:15. He’s wearing black pants, a black vest, black shoes and a black cap with “Atmospheres” stitched across the front. He’s lithe as a ballet dancer, small of bone and frame. He might tip the scales at 140-pounds. Gray stubble roughs up his otherwise translucent skin. A sure sign in this southeast region of someone who spends a lot of time indoors. There’s a gentleness to his hazel eyes, the way they turn down at the corners when he’s studying on something, and the wide-eyed animated wonder of some discovery he’s makes as he talks. You can see the boy behind the man in Star Captain’s eyes.
He carries a white vinyl notebook with him. It’s thick with astrological charts that he’s sketched himself. “We are going to have a total and complete economic collapse,” Star Captain says, opening up his notebook. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. See this?” He turns to a chart that looks every so much like an Spiro-graph drawing of sorts. Across the top in small but readable print is a date: Feb. 3rd, 1970. Beneath that is the event: Pan Am Crash.
“Remember the day the Twin Towers came down?” Star Captain asks. “Saturn and Pluto were in direct dead opposition.”
I shook my head up and down. I remember.
He pulls another chart from his folder.
“Now we have a hard square. Five planet square of opposition. When we hit August all hell is going to break loose.”
“This August?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says. “We’re in a Mercury retrograde.”
“Yeah,” I nod, remembering that too. Not that I had any idea what that means. I’m not even sure what retrograde means. It has a bad sound to it, though, and in my experience as a writer if a word makes a guttural sound when pronounced, you can bet that somewhere in the heavens the angels are singing Bad Moon Rising, which if you think about it is really the perfect theme song inspired by Revelation:
I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin’.
I see bad times today.
I hear hurricanes a’blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
Call it an Astrological Apocalypse if you like. “Everything is being held up, delayed,” Star Captain says. “That’s especially true for anything in the publishing business. Mercury is the control to all our communication.”
Expect to be frustrated, a lot, he cautions. Star Captain doles out warnings like Cooney Island quarters. He’s operating on full alert these days. But, don’t you dare scoff at this man. His eyes narrow and his jaw is set. Star Captain is serious. People better get ready.
“People are not paying attention to what’s going on,” he says. “Earthquakes and volcanic activity is going to increase. All this is co-relating to Revelation, to the Bible. The signs of the planets, moon and stars are going into alignment with Scriptures.”
He’s been having dreams for the past two years. Dreams of Nashville flooding. Dreams of people jumping out of buildings. Dreams of people committing suicide. Dreams of people in a panic.
And that’s not all.
Thirty days before 9-11 he was visited by a creature. “A big winged-creature.” A Phoenix bird. “He was at my front door.”
Uh. Oh. Uh. Oh. Uh. Oh.
Native Americans consider it a great blessing when the Eagle swoops down to visit them. It’s a sign from the Great Father. But you don’t want the Phoenix creature to come a’knocking. Star Captain took the creature’s appearance for the warning it was intended.
“Somebody told me I can’t live by this stuff,” he says, flipping through the pages of his notebook. “Yes you can.”
See this hard square? he asks, pointing. This one? The one where five planets enter into direct opposition? It’s going to last a long time. “The square is still going to be there on December 21, 2012. Once society is torn down, it will not be put back. Our way of living is going to change permanently,” he prophesies. “What has been will be again but we’ll have no remembrance of things to come. People don’t realize how close we are.”
There are some who might consider Star Captain left of plumb, one pickle shy. Perhaps. But maybe he’s just born to the wrong age. There’s a lot unreasonable about this age of reason in which we live. The more civilized we’ve come the less civilized we act. Maybe ingenious tribes who still pay attention to the stars have something in common with Star Captain. Maybe they have insights the rest of us overlook.
Or maybe they are just paranoid.
Star Captain is preparing aggressively for the coming collapse. He’s got oil lanterns, glo-lights, cases of Tang, bags of rice, cans of chicken, guns and ammo.
“Enough to take care of myself,” he says.
He’s not standing on a street corner, preaching, but he does what he can to warn those within his circle of contact. Sometimes they listen and heed his advice. Sometimes they don’t.
“Not a damn thing I can do about any of it,” he says. “People have very closed minds. They have unblinkered thinking.”
That’s their problem, not his.
Fear is not motivating him.
“I’m not scared of death.”
He believes he will rise to live again, in some form or another.
“We have the choice to either stay earthbound when we die or head toward the light.”
He was raised up Baptist and he believes in an eternal damnation for rapists, murderers and homicidal maniacs and such.
“They will all have their Waterloo,” he says.
But Star Captain parted ways with the Baptist on March 1, 1970. He has an uncanny knack for remembering dates, a very helpful trait for those who plan their lives according to complicated equations. He started studying Astrology upon the recommendations of a friend. As he began to tell me about all that a cell phone rang.
It’s mine. I answer it. It’s one of my three daughters. “I’ll call you back,” I say. “I’m in the middle of an interview.”
I hang up the phone.
“She’s 27,” he says.
“Your daughter – she’s 27.”
He’s right. She is.
It’s kind of whoo-hoo creepy but I believe Star Captain has the gift of knowing things, things like my daughter’s age. He tells me more stuff about myself, mostly true: You live in a house that’s less than 10 years old. You have a dog. A male dog. Small. Mostly white. You have long windows next to your front door. You need to replace that front door. It’s not secure. Get a solid wood one.
Has he been reading my blog site? I ask.
“I don’t have Internet,” he says. “The Spirit told me not to get it.”
He’s a survivalist if he’s anything.
“I believe in God, the Supreme Being, the Ruler of the Universe, Ruler of everything,” he explains.
Too many people are ignoring God and the warnings he’s given us.
“They are going about their daily fashion, thinking it is going to continue keeping on like this. They are planning things way too far in advance.” And not planning for basic survival.
Star Captain is a survivalist if he’s anything, but don’t discount him as a doomsayer. He’s primary concern is that of any good Boy Scout – Be prepared.
“There is nothing we can do to alter or change the course of the events to come. All we can do is prepare.”
Still, he’s bright enough to know that his warnings are falling on deaf ears.
“People are heedless and ignorant,” he says.
The life of a prophet is tough.
“It’s hard when you see so much, feel so much, but nobody else can understand it. It’s not an easy life to have.”
He points again to the hard square on the dotted chart.
“What the universe is going to do, it’s going to do. Once it sets in we can’t alter the course of it. It’s going to get real, real, real bad.”
About a week after Star Captain and I met at the Wendy’s things took a bad turn for me. I was in Florida, driving along Interstate 10 and crying so hard I thought I might swallow my tongue in the suck backs. A series of exhausting speaking engagements, long days on the road, the death of two good friends and the betrayal of another had rendered me a bawl baby.
The phone rang. I stopped crying long enough to answer it. It was Star Captain.
“You know how I get impressions about things?” he said, not even saying hello first. Star Captain’s voice is unmistakable, like Sarah Palin’s or Glen Beck’s.
“Yeah,” I answer softly. I still haven’t figured out if Star Captain is suffering from delusions or if he bubbles right below the surface, able to see two worlds simultaneously.
“Well, I got this impression a little while ago about you. I thought I better call and make sure you’re okay.”
I was so stunned I didn’t say anything.
“You need to get yourself a manual typewriter,” Star Captain said. “Stock up on some paper and ribbon.”
I haven’t typed on a manual typewriter since Billy Carter strolled the streets of Plains, Georgia, drinking beer. I’ve lived long enough that the tools of my youth are now flea market treasures. Writing is a hard enough task without having to fool with liquid White-Out, but I didn’t want to get into all that with Star Captain.
“Why do I need a typewriter?” I asked. “I mean if the world is coming to an end in August, why bother writing?”
I wasn’t trying to be rude but it’s a reasonable question to consider. If you aren’t doing the thing you’d be doing if this was your last week on earth maybe you ought to be doing some other thing. Writing is that thing for me. But even so, I wasn’t expecting the answer Star Captain gave me: “Because we need your voice,” he said.
“Even if the world is ending?” I replied.
“Yes, especially then.”
Star Captain had another word of caution for me that might have creeped me out if I were the superstitious sort. “You need to hurry and get on home as quickly as possible.”
I told Star Captain that while I was on my way home it was by no means going to be a quick trip. I had over 2,400 miles to drive.
“Are you driving that alone?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Uh.Oh. Uh.Oh,” he said.
Okay. It is unsettling whenever Star Captain gets the Uh-ohs.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he answered. “You just need to get home as quickly as possible. Be careful and don’t stop to talk to strangers along the way. Keep to yourself.”
I didn’t bother asking Star Captain if that meant I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers like him.
And what? Miss a good story?
While I appreciated Star Captain’s concern for my well-being and all, I wasn’t about to make a bee-line for Oregon and the safe life.