Written for "The Unlikely Muse" Houston Sidewalk 1998
The Martians have landed on Wayside Drive in East Houston. A field of bright orange saucers with their hatches poised to open invokes images of Grover Mills, New Jersey during Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast, "The War of the Worlds." Perhaps these strange vessels are carrying "the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars." Do they mean us harm? Actually, they mean to save our lives, but not in the Heaven's Gate sense.
The alien ships are really fiberglass lifeboats-- the lifesaving devices found aboard oil riggs and jumbo seafaring ships. Alexander/Ryan Marine & Safety sells these refurbished saucer crafts which we're designed in 1968 by a now defunct safety company called Whittaker, and resemble space technology of the era. Known as Brucker Survival Capsules, these round lifeboats have room for 28 passengers and are typically equipped with life preservers, seatbelts and 7 days worth of sea rations that would make you seasick if you weren't already-- unappetizing carbo cubes labeled "compressed concentrated food" and single-serving water bags.
But not if you're James Bond. Fans of 007 might recognize the Brucker Capsule from the final scene of "The Spy Who Loved Me." James and his handsome companion await sea rescue in a modified Brucker capsule, fur-lined and furnished with champagne and mood music. So much for rations and sea sores. That same lifeboat was later sold and incorporated into an episode of the 70s television program "The Six Million Dollar Man."
If you look in the backyard of Alexander/Ryan, you'll see some more streamlined double-hulled lifeboats. These are the modern crafts that replace the Brucker Capsules. But the space age capsules are still for sale if you're planning to make a low budget sci-fi film or a James Bond-inspired love den.
A topical side note: The main impetus for today's mandatory marine safety equipment--flares, survival suits, radios, rafts-- was an event that occurred back in 1912, the sinking of the Titanic.
Alexander/Ryan Marine & Safety
2000 Wayside Dr. Houston, TX 77261-9363
To get there: Take I-10 East to Wayside. Head south on Wayside about 1/2 mile and Alexander/Ryan will be on the east side of the street at both 1910 and 2000. The 1910 lot says Nova Enterprises, but it's rented by Alexander/Ryan for the storage of their Brucker Survival Capsules.