A Father, A Life, A Legacy

I carefully aimed the remote control as though it were a hand phaser and I were Captain Kirk preparing to stun a hostile alien.  I pressed the power button and watched the image disappear from the screen as the TV flickered and went off.  Having just finished watching the lovingly crafted documentary Trek Nation, I was struck by two thoughts: I hope I have formed close enough bonds with my children that, when I’m gone, they don’t feel like we never got to know each other … and… if my legacy, whatever that happens to be, includes touching peoples’ lives for the better as Gene Roddenberry did, I will have been a success.  Of course, I’d like to think the lives upon which I will have the greatest positive effect are those of my family.  If that’s the case, I will not only have greatly differentiated myself from Mr. Roddenberry, but my achievements as a man will have reached a pinnacle and any good I do afterward will be just a bonus.

The documentary followed Roddenberry’s only son on a poignant journey of discovery as he familiarized himself with his father’s greatest work – Star Trek and, by extension, came to better know the man with whom he’d had a mostly uneasy father/son relationship.  The elder Roddenberry passed away before they could enjoy the closeness that many adult sons eventually find with their fathers.  In any case, the film was appealing largely for the same reasons that Star Trek episodes are.  Its focus was decidedly on the human emotional components of the story to which we can all relate.  The fact that it relied heavily on input from the producers, writers, performers, and fans of Trek just made it that much more interesting.

For rabid fans of Star Trek, there wasn’t a lot of new information revealed.  I think we all knew that Gene Roddenberry was just as flawed as any other human being.  Nevertheless, his son provided a very tasteful treatment of the subject matter which allowed me to come away with a new appreciation for the man while, at the same time, leaving my previous image of him relatively untarnished.  The interviews helped to cement the idea that, through Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry became known as a  visionary and  had a profound impact on a very large number of the shows’ fans – ultimately causing many of them to better themselves through life altering choices.  At the same. there was a good deal of emphasis on Roddenberry’s roles as a husband and father and his seeming inability to model his private behavior on the visionary philosophies he espoused through his TV shows.

Seeing and processing just how human the man really was didn’t make me appreciate his work any less.  It did, however, make me realize the importance of giving loving attention to those closest to you.  I believe it is in that way – by giving fully of yourself where your family is concerned and teaching your children the values of Star Trek by example –  that we will affect human evolution to the point where our society will one day resemble the kind Gene envisioned.  That is the legacy I hope to leave behind.

Do Unto Others…

For over four decades I have been a rabid Star Trek fan.  Some fans of my ilk are referred to as “Trekkies”.  Others prefer the moniker “Trekkers”.  I like to think of myself as a “Trekologist”; a person who has devoted considerable energy to the study of all things Trek.

When I have asked myself the question, “What is it about Star Trek that appeals to me so much?” I have come up with numerous answers.  Moreover, the answers change from time to time, depending upon my state of mind, which Trek incarnation I happen to be watching, and any number of other factors.  There is, however, one reason for my unbridled affection for Star Trek which never changes.  I am continually impressed by the positive outlook for humankind’s future which is depicted in all the Star Trek television shows and movies.

Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, was convinced that we have the potential to overcome our petty differences and, one day, become united in a way never before witnessed on Earth.  He believed, as do I, that we are capable of sufficient intelligence, kindness, understanding, patience, and tolerance to survive our relative infancy as a race, to figure out how not to destroy ourselves, and to learn to live in harmony with each other and with our planet.  It stands to reason that, when that happens, atrocities like poverty, disease, war, hatred, and prejudice will become things of the past.  The day that comes to pass is a day I look forward to with great anticipation.

In order to reach such a lofty goal, however, we will each be required to make a contribution.  To that end, I have often tried to determine how best to do my part.  There is no single correct answer.  The one that carries the most weight with me though is this:

Do unto others as you’d have done to you.

The Golden Rule.  That little tidbit of wisdom that we all have heard since childhood and, yet, often forget to enact.  The implementation of this simple tenet is really rather easy most of time if one makes a conscious effort.  That is not to say it’s always easy, or even possible.  We are human and we have so many negative aspects to our nature that it is sometimes difficult to master and put into practice such a basic philosophy.  But we must try.  Always.  Sometimes, the biggest benefit is in the attempt rather than in the result.  The more attempts we make, the more likely we are to eventually get it right.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I only know how I feel when someone else is quick to judge, quick to criticize, or quick to deride me.  I try to remember that feeling whenever I’m presented with the opportunity to interact with another person.  Doing so helps me in so many ways.  It helps me to be polite.  It helps me to be considerate.  It helps to me to praise, to admire, to assist, and commit random acts of kindness.  So what does all of this have to do with Star Trek?

One way in which I stay immersed in my Star Trek fandom is by participating in an online bulletin board devoted to Trek.  It doesn’t matter which one – what matters is that it’s the virtual version of social interaction with like-minded folks.  Yet, my mind is constantly boggled by the intolerance and derision heaped upon others by folks on this BBS; folks who supposedly consider themselves fans of Roddenberry’s universe.  Just today, I found myself posting an explanation of why I was willing to help a newcomer who was apparently there only to glean information about selling a collectible.   Several other users got on this newcomer’s case and then decided to ridicule me for my willingness to assist him.  It was at that point I felt the need to write today’s blog entry.

It has taken me many years to figure this out but I am proud to be the person who offers assistance with no thought of reward.  I like the fact that I can trust one person regardless of negative experiences I may have had with another.  If someone has given me no reason to distrust him, I won’t do so unless or until I am given reason.  Furthermore, I’ll go out of my way to be kind, generous, and helpful rather than standoffish, difficult, and selfish.

If everyone could take it upon himself to approach others with this same attitude, the world would not only be a better place but the dream that it might evolve into the one Gene Roddenberry envisioned would be realized within our lifetime.

Star Trek Uniform Horror Stories – The Final Phase

To complete my series on mishaps and difficulties with Trek uniform costuming attempts, I am going to start out with what would appear to be a horror story.  The great part is that, although the uniform itself and the circumstances surrounding its aborted creation may have been horrific, the ending is a very happy one IMHO.

Stardate: 1986.6 – By the age of 19 I had already done several things that a geek like me wouldn’t have been expected to, at least according to Bill Shatner’s “evil Captain Kirk” from Saturday Night Live.  I had most definitely kissed a girl and I had already moved out of my parents’ basement and gotten my own apartment (with the lovely girl I had kissed, I might add).

I really was incredibly lucky to have fallen in love with someone so intelligent and beautiful but, to my added good fortune, she was also almost as much the Star trek fan that I was. We had purchased our first VCR (a BetaMax – LOL, I’m old!!) and the first pre-recorded movie we acquired was, of course, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  The TOS episodes weren’t readily available on Beta yet so we got a bunch of blank tapes and started recording them from TV.  This way we’d have a monster collection of Trek shows to watch whenever we wanted.  We also worked diligently on collecting every paperback in the PocketBooks Star Trek series and read them all many times over.  We had just made tentative plans to attend a Star Trek convention – it would have been our first together – when this particular horror story began to unfold.

We thought it would be pretty cool to participate in the costume parade at the con and we each had a favorite uniform from the TV series that we planned to wear.  Mine was to be Kirk’s alternate command tunic – the green wraparound.  My lovely girl would have donned Uhura’s revealing mirror universe uniform.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew the first thing about constructing a homemade Trek uniform costume.  Although, at least my girlfriend knew how to sew and had made some garments in the past.  If memory serves, we didn’t have any patterns either and there certainly was no World Wide Web as we now know it through which to order them or do any research.   We did have some reference books to work from (The Making of Star Trek, The Starfleet Technical Manual, and Bjo Trimble’s excellent Star Trek Concordance) but otherwise we were on our own. By far our biggest impediment though was that we were almost always broke, so we didn’t have a lot of money to put into these costumes to begin with.

We picked up some cheap (and dreadfully wrong) material and tried to get underway.  My girl’s fabric was a bright red double-knit … definitely on the right track but too bright and too thin, almost like a crepe.  Mine was very dark green, way too dark really, and was similar to the material from which bedsheets are made…so it had no flex/stretch capability whatsoever.  Undaunted we began our project anyway.  I think my girlfriend drew out something akin to a pattern for my shirt and she then cut the individual sections accordingly.  I don’t remember if she had cut out all the pieces and was assembling the final garment or if she had just done a few basic pieces to put together a mock-up.  Either way, before long I had a front and back connected to a right sleeve.  The fit was awkward and the material didn’t lay well on my torso.  Nevertheless, it was coming together.  But given everything I’ve just described, it was questionable whether this costume would be usable at all – and therein lies the first horror story.   The second, and much bigger, horror story is that we left that green shirt half finished – that was as far as we ever got on it.  The sexy red mirror universe uniform never even got started.

For a multitude of reasons that probably have no place being published in a Star Trek blog, we broke up at the beginning of that summer, having never attended the convention or even finished the costumes.  Although I initially thought there was hope of getting back together, I blinked my eyes and months had gone by.  Suddenly it was a year – then two. We each ended up marrying and starting our own families, neither seeing nor speaking to each other as two years became five and so on.

What makes this such a terrific story is the happy ending I alluded to earlier.  We two geeks each knew that we were meant to be together.  In a way it was almost like one of those great Star Trek stories in which destiny is fulfilled even if there is sadness along the way.  More than ten years after we had originally begun dating and nearly eight years since we had last spoken, we met at our tenth high school reunion and picked up where we left off.  Now we are rapidly approaching our fifteenth wedding anniversary and our Trek fandom hasn’t waned.  In fact, our thirteen year old son and I will soon be attending Creation Star Trek 2011 in Las Vegas – and we will be doing so in full uniforms created by none other than my lovely girl.

I will be blogging from the con and undoubtedly posting photos of my new and improved green Kirk wraparound tunic.  But no photos or blog posts can accurately convey the most important facet of this tale – even though the blog topic is “Horror Stories”, my time with the incredible woman described herein has been the antithesis of a horror story!  She completes me and I her.  And our shared love of all things Star Trek is one example among many of how our fate was “in the stars”!