Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Notes from a Star Trek Virgin

George Takei and Walter Koenig, aka Sulu and Chekov,
take the stage in Vegas
Much to my husband's chagrin, science fiction and I have never gotten along.  I love to read, but somehow the trappings of outer space/robots/<insert sci-fi cliché here> render the genre inaccessible to me.  I am in fact a much less imaginative reader than the average sci-fi fan; I like my writing served straight-up, preferably in memoir form by a woman who has a lot in common with me.  It's the same when it comes to television.  I vaguely remember watching Battle Star Galactica - the 1978 version - with my dad, but that's about it.

My husband, on the other hand, considers the crew of the Starship Enterprise family, or, more precisely, supplemental parents.  The two parents he was originally allocated were a little absent for various and assorted -isms and -nias, leaving Star Trek to teach him the big life lessons about ethics, tolerance, and humanism.  It's no surprise William Shatner is his hero, which is why I felt so bad when, earlier this year, I came down with food poisoning and scuppered our plans to see his one man show.  My guilt over that incident is why I agreed to accompany my husband to Las Vegas earlier this month for Shatner's supposed last ever appearance at a Star Trek convention.  It turns out I had something to learn from Trek (and Trekkies) too.

Lessons from Las Vegas

1. Books matter.
Technically this falls into the category of things I already knew, but I loved the story I heard at the convention about where (series creator) Gene Roddenberry's ideas about tolerance and inclusiveness came from.  It turns out it wasn't from his parents -- his mother was a prim and proper and mildly racist southern belle, while his father was an overtly racist Irish cop -- but rather from all the time he spent reading when he was bedridden with childhood polio.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
I found out Gene Roddenberry was influenced by reading because my husband stood up and asked the question during a session with Roddenberry's longtime assistant, Richard Arnold.  I've always been a little self-conscious about doing that kind of thing in front of lots of people.  Then I saw a woman with cerebral palsy ask a question at the mike.  It took a lot of effort and time, and yet my husband informed me she had asked an awesome question at every session.  (I admit it, I was getting a pedicure and lounging poolside for some of the sessions.)

3. Trekkies are geeks and they don't care what you think.
They are too busy having geeky, dress-up, karaoke fun (see 2. above re self-consciousness).  The best moment of the weekend was seeing aliens sipping martinis interspersed among the overweight, middle-America families during lunchtime at the casino grill.  Trekkies in full regalia were everywhere except, noticeably, at the casino tables, which I took as more evidence of what well-adjusted human beings they are.

4. Trekkies are a diverse lot.
I'll be honest, I was expecting this convention to be dominated by chubby pale men of a certain age.  Instead I found young, old, Asian, black, white, female, male, gay, straight, transvestite, prepster, hipster, obese enough to need a motorized trolley, and thin enough to look hot in a Nurse Chapel costume (see transvestite).  And now for my duh moment: they all love Star Trek because from the beginning it showed someone like them.  Or if it didn't, at least it seemed like the kind of place where someone like them (which de facto means you and me) would fit in.

5. Don't be stingy.
My husband hasn't earned his nickname, Dusty Wallet, by being generous.  True to form, on Sunday morning in the casino diner he asked our server if he could have extra toast in lieu of the preserves listed on the menu, which were foil packets of Smuckers already on the table. I was so mortified it was all I could to do to keep from shouting we"ll just pay that extra $1 for some more toast.  But by Sunday afternoon his wallet had opened into a chasm in which $100 photo ops with Shatner and $70 Starfleet insignia cuff links were tossed with abandon.

6. It's never to late to say you're sorry.
For years William Shatner ridiculed Trekkies (see 3. above re geeks) until another Star Trek captain, Patrick Stewart, helped him see what a privilege it is that he was part of such a legendary body of work.  Now Shatner shows up at conventions.  Admittedly his opening gambit was to alienate all the women in the room by suggesting a woman should have never been captain, but at least the guy has a sense of humor.

7. How to grow old gracefully.
William Shatner is now eighty-one years old.  In the last year he has written a book, performed a one man show, and starred in a documentary (and those are only the projects I happened to note).  For this lesson it's best to see Shatner yourself, and luckily, starting in January 2013, he's reviving his one-man show.  I already have my tickets.

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