When I joined the Woodstock, I was promised the opportunity to see strange and exotic lands on far-off worlds. Guess what: they weren't wrong! The other day I was on this one planet that had this huge stone maze where things weren't what they seemed. You know, that kind of place. Anyway, I rounded a corner, and there were these two guards, guarding two different doors.
"One of these doors will take you closer to the finish," said the one guard, "But you may only ask one of us."
"But choose wisely," said the other guard, "For only one of us tells the truth, and the other one always lies!"
Yep; It was one of those puzzles. Fortunately, I found a loophole in the form of one simple word.
"No," said the second guard, "…I mean YES…I mean…GAH!"
I think I broke him. The first guard, seeing the damage done, aimed his thumb at the door behind him, and I was on my way again. After the door closed behind me, I could faintly hear the second guard say to the first guard "Next time, you be the lying guard!"
But there wasn't really much else worth telling from that
One day, Pipa invited a couple of us aliens to a flea market...
In New York…
West 25th Street.
"Have you been going through my stuff again?" I asked.
"Just that one time," said Pipa in defense, "When you invited me to your room when I accidentally locked myself out of mine."
This was Pipa's first visit to Earth. She was so excited, she couldn't keep her outer mouth open any longer. When a Nonan's outer mouth snaps shut, it takes a bit of strength to open it back up. Child Nonans suffer that problem more frequently than adult Nonans do.
It was me, Pipa and Numar in the space taxi ride down to Earth. Before we left, I reminded them to use the currency exchange machines to turn their wages into spendable Earth money. The flea market was in full swing when we got there. Vendors and patrons were everywhere. Many faces unfamiliar…but one was.
Volga Sonavvavich is the head of the Woodstock's competitor/arch nemesis, the radio space station Altamont. She is a tall woman dressed in a dark purple, skin-tight leotard that covers every curve of her body from her waist to her shoulders. Tied to her neck is a light purple cape that goes down, past her body, past her long, slender, uncovered legs; stopping at her high heel shoes with tips so sharp, they could pop a balloon in a heartbeat. She was so evil, but at the same time, she was so sexy…AHEM.
Volga spotted us in the crowd and walked toward us.
"Zeppelin," she said in a thick, cliché Russian accent, "We meet again."
"Volga," I said, gesturing to my audience, "They haven't."
"You know better than to get in my way," said Volga.
"Then what are you doing here?" We both said at the same time, "Shopping…GAH!"
There was a long, pregnant pause, then I was the next to speak.
"See you at yoga on Monday?"
"Wouldn't miss it for world, dollink."
Volga turned around and walked back into the mess that was the flea market crowd. My alien friends have already disappeared to somewhere else. Now it was my turn to do something. I made for a stall that sold used cassette tapes. All sorts were there: tapes that were on my list, tapes that I already had on another format, tapes I couldn't afford even if I wanted to, tapes that were set aside because somebody else called dibs…
"You have any blanks?" I asked the vendor.
"Sure," he said, pulling out one from behind his side of the stall.
"Is it 60 minutes or 90?"
"Maxell or TDK?"
"Are you gonna buy it or not?" The vendor snapped.
"Look," he said, "I'm supposed to sell this to someone who has bushy black hair, wears a ball cap and asks for a blank."
"My lucky day! How much?"
I didn't know it at the time, but that "blank" tape was actually pre-recorded…with computer data that was supposed to have hacked into the Woodstock's mainframe computer, destroying it. What followed should've been my first clue that something was up:
After I left the stall, Volga appeared in my place.
"Any luck?" she asked.
"He bought it," said the vendor.
"Wonderful, dollink! Now Woodstock is one step closer to history!"
Her victory was short-lived, because standing next to her was another customer, one with black, bushy hair and a ball cap—sorta like me.
"Do you have any blank tapes?"
Volga slapped her face in disgust. She stormed off in anger, vowing never to put her trust in flea market vendors again.
We shared our discoveries on the cab ride back to the Woodstock. Pipa bought a Rubik's Cube (already solved), but she wouldn't stop gnawing at it as if it were candy. Numar had a laser pointer, but accidentally aimed it at her eye. Silly aliens.
Eventually, Pipa put down the Ribik's Cube and talked to me.
"What's the deal with that lady…what was her name…Son-of-a-what?"
"Sonovvavich," I explained, "She started the Altamont as a way to finished what her country started."
"What was that?" asked Numar, rubbing her lasered eye.
"The space race. Actually, compared to the Woodstock, the way she run things is actually illegal."
"How so?" said Pipa.
"We pay royalties."
Don't get me wrong; the space fuzz does have a warrant for her arrest, but I think the Altamont has some sort of radar shield to keep them from finding it.
I took a look at the (supposedly) blank tape I bought. I noticed that it wasn't rewound (In retrospect, that was clue number two). I put the tape in to a portable cassette player I usually have clipped to my pants and pressed the play button. The sound that came through the attached headphones was something one would describe as…not music; more like logging into 90's AOL.
I shared the headphones with Numar.
"Is this what you Earthlings call 'electronic music'?"
"No," I said, "That's Daft Punk."
When the space cab reached the Woodstock's landing bay, two familiar faces greeted us, blocking our way to the main entrance.
"You may entrust only one of us to open the doors," said the red guard on the left.
"And only one of us tells the truth," said the blue guard on the right.
"Again?" I groaned.
"Yes…" said the blue guard before catching himself, "GAH! I've said too much."
"No, you haven't," the red guard quipped, before opening the door and letting us in.
A day or so later, I was in the studio for my turn at the consoles. I had on the turntable a Doors record.
"Coming up next," I spoke into the microphone, "We'll be hearing Morrison's opus 'Celebration of the Lizard' in its entirety. But first, let's go to the phones."
I pressed a flashing light on the phone, its display showing the words UNKNOWN CALLER.
"Unknown Caller, you're on the air."
"Where's the tape, Zeppelin?" said an unfortunately familiar voice.
"I'm alright," I said, trying to keep my cool, "How about you?"
"Don't play stupid with me, dollink," said Volga, "I want the tape!"
"You know the one.'
"Listen, I have a whole bunch of tapes, all of which I paid for…something you probably wouldn't do, you sexy cheapskate."
"Fish out of Soviet water."
"Don't make me come over…"
CLICK! I ended the call before it got any worse, then set the tonearm on my Doors record.
That told her, I thought.
The fish-headed guards in the landing bay shivered in fear as they heard the sound of pin-sharp high heels stepping on concrete growing louder and louder. Volga stopped in front of them. The guards gulped, too scared to go into their 'only one of us tells the truth' schtick.
"I'm here to see nemezida, Todd Zeppelin," she said, "Have you seen him?"
"Who?" said the guards.
Volga rolled her eyes. She shoved the two guards out of her way, and went inside.
"Imbeciles," she cursed.
I was on the phone with someone by the time she arrived outside my room.
"Well you should see her—her body would drive you crazy too. And that leotard; OH MY GAH…Why goes she have to be so EVIL?! Well… a morally-neutral kid sounds like a fun experiment, but with her? I'd rather have STD's."
It was that moment that Volga, showing a shimmer of politeness, knocked on my door.
"I gotta go," I said into the phone, "I love you too, Mom."
I hung up and opened the door. I shrieked when I saw who it was.
"Nice to see you too, dollink," said Volga, "Now where's the damn tape?"
"I still don't know what you're talking about," I said genuinely.
"Are you seriously trying to foil my plans, or are you just stupid?"
"Stupid is as stupid does, Volga."
Volga groaned out of frustration. She stepped forward into my room, slamming the door behind her. Now it was serious.
"Remember flea market? West 25th street? Asking for blanks? Ring any bells?"
"OHHHHHH!" I said in realization, "That tape! I still don't know why you want it so badly."
The tape was placed next to the tape deck in my stereo setup. I went to pick it up.
"It's just a stupid tape, right?"
"Stupid? STUPID?" Volga yelled, snatching the tape from my hand, "This tape contains computer data; information that will be used to take down Woodstock! Altamont will be number one in space race! I will be heroine for mother Russia!"
Volga laughed, mad with power.
"Is that what that was?" I said, "I thought it was amateur house music. Who records computer data on tape, anyway? Use a flash drive!"
"So you wouldn't mind if I just take this and be on my way?" said Volga.
"Well… Whatever was on there wasn't any use for me, so…"
"Oh no," Volga's pupils shrank, "Don't tell me!"
She walked over to my stereo, put the tape in the deck, and pressed play.
I love you
Won't you tell me your name?
I love you
Let me jump in your game.
That's right: I taped over it.
"No hard feelings?" I asked meekly.
Volga didn't answer. She stopped the tape and made for the door.
"We'll meet again," she threatened.
"Don't know where/Don't know when," I added, unable to help myself.
"Oh, shut up."
After Volga slammed the door, I realized that I knew where and when I would meet her again.
Yoga on Monday.
I played that Doors song again on my next turn in the studio. The music blared through speakers all throughout the space station, even the landing bay where the two fish-headed guards were (still) loitering. They started tapping their feet and bopping their heads to the beat.
"This is terrible!" said the red guard.
That was a lie.