Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Spaceship lands in gated community instead of usual trailer park

John Kelso, commentary

Staff Writer
Austin 360
How do John Borek's neighbors feel about his flying saucer? 'Some probably like it,' he says. 'Some of 'em don't say much.'

John Borek built a spaceship to put in his front yard especially for Halloween. The shiny flying saucer looks as if it has crashed into the lawn and is surrounded by yellow "caution: radiation area" tape.

Borek figures it took 80 to 100 hours of labor to put together his out-of-this-world contraption. Although it's made mostly of aluminum, the rounded top is a salad bowl. The saucer plays the theme from "The X-Files" and blows smoke.

"I put a fog machine in it. Every year I've added stuff, so now it has smoke coming out of it." said Borek, 47, general manager at Autocraft Bodywerks off South Congress Avenue. So he's handy when it comes to working on wrecked vehicles. "I could have put a crashed car in the yard, but that probably wouldn't have been a good Halloween prop."

The saucer, 8 feet in diameter, is in its second year as a Halloween special. Borek figures he spent $2,000 to put this year's version together.

Austin has a rich history in the colorful arena of yard art. There's the Cathedral of Junk in South Austin, that tower of abandoned objects that reaches toward the sky like a vertical garage sale. There was Beth Thom in Central Austin, who killed her grass so she could paint her yard in about 250 colorful polka dots. There are tours of homes in the city where the occupants keep chickens in in fancy backyard poultry digs.

But what makes this spaceship special is that yard art wanders into new territory here — a gated community.

The saucer has landed at Borek's swank home in the Preserve at Barton Creek, off Texas 71 out past the "Y" in Oak Hill, where you can find real estate listings ranging from $650,000 to $950,000.

No wonder the aliens always return to their planet. They can't afford to stay here.

No moon rock has been left unturned in the crafting of this objet d'art. Though it doesn't pick up the locals and fly them off for experimentation, the faux flying machine does have a red light that blinks on and off — for, uh, authenticity.

"If you do research on the Internet, they all say there was a glowing red light coming from the center of the thing. So I tried to reproduce that," Borek explained, without saying who "they" are.

Here's a surprise: Borek says his saucer design plans came from Hitler. Who knew? Borek found the design information online. He brought out the plans and showed them to me. "You'll notice they're in German," he said. "Hitler was intrigued with flying saucers, apparently, years ago, so he had his scientists or whatever — they designed some flying saucers."

So do the neighbors like this "Star Wars" piece? "Some probably like it. Some of em don't say much," Borek said. But he figures, what the heck, the neighbors have their Halloween decorations. So why shouldn't he?

"They've got goblins, and that guy's got a guy hanging (in a tree) over there, so why can't I have a spaceship?" he asked. Indeed.

I should mention that the middle section of the spaceship consists of about 2½ gallons of Bondo. Of course it does; Borek runs a body shop.

Then there's the rubber alien with large eyes and scaly body, perched on a garden rock wall in the yard.

"I ordered it online," Borek said. "That thing was about 200 bucks. He's about 3 feet tall. I actually had him a couple years ago. We named him Alex. I used to put him in the car around Halloween and drive around with him. I put the seat belt on him, and people at red lights would look."

Some wise guy snuck up onto Borek's yard and put a Texas Rangers hat on him, along with a yellow LiveStrong wristband.

The two warning signs posted by the yellow crash scene tape are the same as those you'd find at Area 51, Borek said, speaking of the top-secret stretch of Nevada land where true believers are sure the U.S. government is involved in intergalactic monkey business. "While on this property all personnel are subject to search," the signs say.

"Believe it or not, I got them from a guy who said he worked in flying saucers for the government in the 1980s," Borek said. "He now owns an electronics company."

So does Borek believe in flying saucers? Kinda sorta.

"But the only people who really know what a flying saucer looks like are Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in ‘Men in Black,' " he added.

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays. Contact him at jkelso@statesman.com or 445-3606.