Tag Archives: Star Trek

In the Company of Astronauts

17 Feb

It was still early but already a small crowd was gathering in the gallery on Main Street. Lovely photographs on canvas adorned all 4 walls; pictures in vivid colors of a snow fence in a field in summer & a second of the same fence on a snowy winter day; a church steeple & many pictures taken from the vantage point of the space shuttle or the International Space Station.

A man stood by holding a picture of himself with 2 other people. One was a woman who had previously autographed the photo & the other was the man the gathering crowd was waiting to see & hear when the program began at 5:30. I assumed that the man with the photo was hoping to get the other side of the picture autographed before the evening ended.

We stood at the front of the crowd. We’d gotten there first & I wasn’t about to lose that front row seat … well, stand, since there was no seating at the event.

I’ve been a part of science fiction for many years; starting a local club 33 years ago that is still going strong & having been to conventions & conferences in numbers too great to remember over the years. My husband & I have even seen & met at least 2 astronauts but tonight was different & so was the astronaut we were about to see.

52-year-old NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin was showing a collection of his photography at the gallery & speaking about his life as part of Black History Month. It was an event that was quietly publicized, which led to fewer than 100 people attending, but that was good.  There was no push of the crowd to get closer so we were comfortable, even though standing, & the event took on a more personal feeling.

Melvin came into the gallery right on time. He was tall & smiling & seemed like someone we’d known for at least a decade.

He began by telling us about his life … growing up & some of the hardships he faced as a young black man. He told us about playing football for the local high school & his career as an athlete (he is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space). He showed us pictures, including the cover for his new book that will be released in May; Chasing Space. He charmed us with tales of how he became an astronaut & the many joys of that part of his life. He said he would volunteer in a heartbeat to be part of a Mars mission.

Melvin was serious & nostalgic & he was funny. The hour passed much too quickly.

I had an opportunity to tell him that our science fiction club, through an inordinate amount of fundraising, has sent 9 local middle school kids to Space Camp. This year we will be sending student number 10. He seemed very excited about that, as we are, & said Space Camp is a great beginning for young people who may eventually become the astronauts of tomorrow.

What sets Leland Melvin apart from all the other NASA astronauts that are & have been part of our nation’s space program is that Melvin was born & raised right here at home. He played football at our local high school & went to the same movie theaters, skating rinks & restaurants that we did. He isn’t just a visiting celebrity passing through town, showing his photography at a local gallery & speaking during Black History Month. He is home folks. He is US. And that’s what made this night at the gallery so very special.

After Melvin’s presentation ended, I did see the man with the picture approach Melvin & I saw him autograph it. The picture was of Melvin standing on the left side of the man & on the right side stood a woman who had already autographed the picture. She holds a very special place in our nation’s space history as a recruiter of minorities. Years ago she recruited Sally Ride.

For me it was especially exciting seeing the picture & seeing it to completion. I’d met that special woman on several occasions & understood how important it was to the man to have Leland Melvin complete the picture with his autograph added to that of Nichelle Nichols – Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura. It somehow made the evening more than special.  It made it MAGICAL.

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, dog  nichelle

The Secret Life of Pets

6 Nov

Our club just spent two days doing a promotional thing at a new theater that opened locally & held its Grand Opening this weekend. One of the movies showing there was the latest Star Trek film, Star Trek: BEYOND. We appeared in Star Trek costumes, had an eye-catching display & signed up 14 people who were very interested in us & want to receive our newsletter. It was a productive weekend.

On Friday we were at the theater from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Our members worked in shifts for the 4 Star Trek movie showings during the Grand Opening day. Being the club president & vice president has its perks but also has its pitfalls, one of which was staying with the display the full 8 hours we were at the theater. My husband, Willy is our Second Officer & stayed the course with us because of his position but also because of being married to the club president. He said, “I’m married to you so I am here by default.” Regardless, I’m pretty sure he had a good time.

Most of us enjoy interacting with the public; telling them about our good works within the community & attempting to interest them in membership with our club. It’s one of the things we do best but I have to admit that 8 straight hours of that on Friday wore us out, plus returning on Saturday to pick up where we left off.

Sometime during that first day there was a popcorn machine malfunction, the air filled with smoke & we all came home smelling like burnt popcorn.  It was in our clothes, in our hair & in the items we had on display. We may NEVER eat popcorn again.

But it was all just part of those 2 days this weekend.

So at the end of Saturday … Day 2 … one of our friends suggested that those of us who were there go see a movie. After we beamed the last wave of Star Trek fans into the dark recesses of Theater 3, we took down our display, bought our tickets & … believe it or not … popcorn, & we went to see our movie.

You might expect that we went to see Star Trek: BEYOND. Someone actually commented, as we were beaming into our own dark theater, that we must be going to see the Star Trek movie. Our friend, Glenda replied, “Nope. We’ve seen it.” And of course we had … several times.

The movie we unanimously decided to see after many hours working in the lobby of the theater promoting our club, the movie & the theater ( my vice president commented that the past 2 days had seemed more like a JOB) was The Secret Life of Pets. It just seemed appropriate somehow. Among the 6 of us we collectively share our lives with 8 cats & 1 very loveable boxer. It mattered not a whit that it was a children’s animated film & that we were way taller … & more mature … than the general population of the audience entering the theater with us.

I sort of rationalize our movie choice this way … we’re all animal lovers. We all share our lives with pets. We have spent WAY too much time recently being bombarded with politics … & not just tedious election year politics but some VERY STRANGE election year politics. We’ve grown weary of it. We needed a fairly drastic change & an animated children’s movie about pets just seemed to be what would fill that need. A SPECIAL “thank you” to Beth for suggesting it.

Sometimes you just need to get away; to step out of whatever zone we revolve in & take a less strenuous swing at life. So we did.

The 6 of us, loaded down with popcorn, drinks & tacos took up almost an entire theater row. We watched the “Previews of Coming Attractions,” which were all animated children’s movies, under the watchful & curious eyes of the parents who were there with their children. Perhaps they found us, well, unusual if not downright suspicious; 6 adults loaded down with food, attending a children’s movie while wearing Star Trek costumes. I believe I saw several parents pull their toddlers closer to them as we sat down.

The Secret Life of Pets was a relaxing 90 minute romp into the world of fantasy & a glimpse of what our own pets just MIGHT be doing while left alone in our homes many hours during the day.

Mainly, the movie was funny. We laughed & laughed; deep belly laughs that go along with enjoying something fun with very special friends; an unspoken appreciation & acknowledgement of the moment.

The thing about our laughing that soon became apparent was that WE were the ONLY people in the theater doing that as loud & with so much gusto. Several times our row of 6 was the ONLY row laughing at all … & that was very special to us but may have seemed peculiar to the parents sharing the theater with us.  Kenny said later that he didn’t care & Beth said that made it even MORE fun … regardless of those frequently more suspicious looks coming from parents seated with their kids very close around us.

The end of the movie was touching. I love a movie that ends right & apparently so does Glenda who was seated to my right. Wiping away a few tears I heard her sniffling & said to her, “Are you CRYING?”  She sniffled again & replied, Of course not. Are YOU?”

We stayed in our seats as everyone else was leaving because we just didn’t want the movie to end. We were glad we did because as the credits were rolling there was an extra funny little snippet that added even more delight to the film we’d just seen.

We left together feeling a special camaraderie & the enhanced sense of friendship you feel when you’ve shared something special with special people. We felt not only relaxed & entertained, we felt REFRESHED & there’s a lot to be said for that. Maybe, just maybe it will help us deal with our current real world of disharmony & politics.

While I’m sitting here writing all this down I can’t help wondering if somewhere there’s a mom or dad who was at The Secret Life of Pets tonight who went home, called, emailed, texted or tweeted friends & relatives about the strange group of people (were they actually adults?) they encountered at the movie when they took their kids tonight. I can’t help but think that one of them, at least, is sharing his or her concern about the fact that those same people (adults?) were wearing Star Trek clothes. Because of our age, our clothes & our BEHAVIOR (it may have seemed a bit erratic), I hope that SOMEONE is wondering, but not daring to voice that concern to anyone (texting OR tweeting) that maybe, just MAYBE those people were aliens.

If someone IS having those thoughts then our evening has had a PERFECT twist & a perfect ending. Not only did going to see The Secret Life of Pets relax, refresh & rejuvenate US, I hope our unexpected presence in Theater 6 had the very same effect on someone else. If it did, our weekend is complete …

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Boldly Going … (for a little while)

14 Sep

I’m a multitasker & am so use to burning my candle at both ends that I mostly don’t pay much attention to doing that anymore. It’s a way of life. So this summer, when my candle …  flaming at both ends … ignited in the middle, I really didn’t notice at first. It was a slow middle ignition that seemed insignificant until the flame took off, literally at WARP Speed.

I’m president of a science fiction club. We do a lot of fun stuff like dressing up in Star Trek costumes, doing promos at businesses, movies & comic shops & just having fun. We also are a helping force within our community & over the past several years have become recognized in our area as a credible helping influence. We have the best of all worlds … or the galaxy if you’d prefer to look at it that way, which we do.

When we started putting together an Annual Public Charity Auction 11 years ago we abandoned our little training cruise & took on a bigger mission. We use proceeds from that event to sponsor 10 local charities at Christmas AND send a local middle school student to Space Camp annually. We lowered our shields, our cloaking device was disabled & we became locally visible. We became CREDIBLE.

Our club’s Annual Charity Auction is a huge undertaking. We begin canvassing local businesses, restaurants & state attractions for donations in March, but as the coordinator of the event, my job starts earlier & doesn’t drop back out of WARP until the event is over & becomes history.

I don’t just coordinate, though. I canvass for donations just like the rest of our club members because I won’t ask someone to do something I won’t do myself, which just seems logical to me.  So in March, we ALL start canvassing & by the third Saturday in August when our auction becomes a reality, we usually have amassed a total of close to or more than 300 auction donations.  We’ve gotten this thing down to a fine system. This isn’t fantasy … it’s reality & we love the way we’re able to pull this off year after year.

2016 has been a big year for Star Trek &, in turn, has been a big year for our club.

A new feature film, Star Trek: Beyond came out in July & we attempted to be a presence at the opening, but our one & only local theater would not allow it, even though we have been a presence in the theaters at the opening of Star Trek films for the past 30 years.

So as Jean Luc suggested, “Seize the time. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again” we contacted a collectibles shop located right across from the theater & did a promotion there all day long on opening day of Star Trek: Beyond. We signed up over a page of people who were interested in receiving our newsletter & recruited a new member.

At 7 p.m. we all met, still wearing our Star Trek costumes & went to the movie together.  At the movie people stopped us, asked who we were & took our pictures.  We had a wonderful time. As Mr. Spock would have told us that night, “Change is the essential process of all existence,” & mostly to the theaters dismay, we handled that just fine. We’d beaten the Kobyashi Maru!

In May the Executive Director of a local Artspace & personal friend contacted me about partnering with our club in September to present a 50th. Star Trek Anniversary Celebration & Movie Marathon in recognition of the 50th. anniversary of the airing of Star Trek originally on television on September 8, 1966. I discussed the proposal with our club members & all agreed that we should do it. They told me to, “Make it so,” so I did, even though we knew we couldn’t work on it until after the auction. That gave us just 2 weeks to pull together a large 50 Years of Star Trek exhibit, line up volunteers to be at the Movie Marathon for 10 nights in a row & to make an impressive showing … which we DID, but it was work & all of our candles began burning at both ends … AND in the middle.

The thing about the 50 Year Anniversary event was that we would be sharing the proceeds from movie ticket sales with the Artspace & our part of the money would go towards our Space Camp Program, ensuring that we could send a local middle school student to Space Camp for an additional year. It would have been highly illogical to say “NO” to that.

The week before the auction in August we were contacted by Hull’s Drive-in Theater in Lexington, VA asking us to do a promotional appearance at the drive-in the night they were showing Star Trek: Beyond … which just happened to be the night before our Annual Charity Auction.  We were pleased to have been asked, even though the timing was difficult.

Hull’s is one of only 7 remaining drive-ins in the state of Virginia & the ONLY non-profit one & we wanted to help. So, although we were (already) givin’ her all we had, Captain, we struck out to Lexington in Star Trek costumes & did the promo at Hull’s. Even though it was a thrash to get home & get everything ready for the auction the following morning, we DID it … & we had fun at Hull’s, realizing that where making our club more visible is concerned & being a helping force, our resistance is futile.

The auction came off without a hitch & we made the most money that we ever have at an auction. Most of us pushed ourselves, no matter how tired we were becoming, because we knew that the success of our auctions means providing Christmas gifts for children & the elderly, & food for those who would otherwise have none during the holidays. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.

The week following the auction, the Artspace Director & I did a total of 2 television interviews, 5 early morning radio interviews, 2 newspaper interviews & 1 college newsletter interview the week before the 50th. Star Trek Celebration & Movie Marathon began. We did most of the interviews together & a couple each, alone. It was exhausting & fun … & exhausting

“There’s an old saying, fortune favors the bold. Well, I guess we’re about to find out.”

In the end, all that media coverage gave our club & the Artspace a tremendous amount of exposure & added to the success of the more than week-long event.  

The week following the auction our club began work on our 50 Years of Star Trek Exhibit. Because we were strapped for time, only 4 of us provided items, collectibles & memorabilia for the exhibit, which was more than enough. 3 of us spent 7 hours the day before it opened setting up the exhibit that included costumes from the Star Trek TV series & movies, rare collectibles, memorabilia, & original Star Trek artwork that made a small, yet distinct art show as part of the exhibit. Our exhibit was, in a word, Fascinating; bringing in over 100 people in two & a half hours on opening night. The exhibit was so amazing that everyone who saw it will surely Remember …

For 10 days we provided the Artspace with the Star Trek feature films & our club members in costume. The Artspace personnel sold tickets & concessions & showed the films in a comfortable theater. People came, watched the Star Trek films, enjoyed the nostalgia, signed up to get our newsletter & we added 2 new members.

Our club members worked the event & got to see the movies every night. It was fun & never seemed like work at all. What a treat to watch the movies again … together … back-to-back while raising money for a very special cause.

We boldly went where our club had never gone before & learned that, even though it was a HUGE undertaking & we were very tired, we did it & can do it again if the occasion arises.

After 10 days, now that it’s over we will miss it.

It took each of our participating club members to make the auction, the drive-in promotion & the 50th. Star Trek Celebration & Movie Marathon a success because of what we brought to the events as individuals as well as a clubeach according to our gifts.

“In this galaxy there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us.” – Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy, Star Trek.

For just a little while we so enjoyed working together, learning what we can do if we try & Boldly Going …

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Floating an Idea

7 Jan

Since 1991, with the exception of several years of bad weather, my club, Heimdal Science Fiction has built & entered a float in the local Christmas Parade. In 2006 our chapter actually won the trophy for Best Depiction of the Parade Theme.

In September of 2015 our club began kicking around ideas & plans for our float entry in the parade on December 4.

The parade theme was Oh, What a Miracle! At the September Heimdal meeting a member mentioned that he should be a float all by himself for having survived open heart surgery as an infant, which was truly a miracle. Someone picked that up & everybody ran with it, pointing out the members of our club who have survived not only major illnesses, but life-altering events as well. And the theme of our float was born … Survivors, Oh What a Miracle!

A member offered his Star Trek adapted, Galileo-styled shuttle van to pull the float, his trailer FOR the float & his huge shed & yard to build the float. And we were off again & running … or floating.

We had a sign professionally made that stated our theme; Survivors: Oh, What a Miracle! Members volunteered to be on the float holding signs that told of their survivorship; for example – breast cancer, uterine cancer, bi-polar disorder, workplace violence, congenital heart defect, diabetes, stroke; 10 members in all.

I got together with 2 other artistically inclined members at my home & we made signs for each survivor to hold on the float. The signs depicted Christmas gifts with the name of what the person survived written on the package. The bows on each package were the actual Awareness Ribbons that signify the disorder & were the color of those Awareness Ribbons. It took the 3 of us all day long, with a pleasant stop for lunch at a local restaurant, to make most of the signs. I finished up what we didn’t get done several days later.

The last weekend in November, a number of our members met at the Davis home & constructed the float; covering parts & hand rails with cedar & lights. A Christmas tree was set up at one end of the float, decorated & later, on parade evening at the parade site, each package being held by a survivor was connected to the well-lit Christmas tree by a ribbon the color of the individual Awareness Ribbons. All survivors on the float wore Star Trek: Next Generation uniforms because part of our float message was to point out that there are “survivors” in every group of people, every organization & area of life. Truly a miracle.

17 of us came out on parade night & helped with our float. 2 people walked ahead of the float carrying the banner for our parent organization, Starfleet, followed by 3 members carrying our recently acquired Heimdal banner. All our members walking & carrying banners wore Santa hats, which was cool & added a bit of humor to our presentation. One of our members was dressed as an elf & walked beside the float handing out candy canes to those watching the parade along the parade route. Carl drove his van that pulled the float & the 10 of us on the float holding our significant Christmas packages.

All along the parade route people cheered when we went by & called out, “Star Trek.”  Many gave us the Vulcan salute & one woman walked closer to the float, looked up at me holding the Breast Cancer “package” & said to me, “Keep on fighting …” I almost cried. It became obvious at that moment that people not only understood that we were the local science fiction club, but most of them actually “got” the message we were attempting to convey with our float. And somehow, that was HUGE.

It was 34 degrees the night of the Christmas Parade & our folks were so cold at the end of the parade route that most of us could no longer feel our toes.  That’s pretty cold. But everyone was very proud that we had made an excellent original contribution to the parade, especially after seeing the reaction of those lining the parade route. We realized that we were there for a multitude of reasons.

Did our float win any trophies? Not this year. It’s difficult to compete in a county parade with churches, kids & animals, but often, winning is not the most important thing. What we decided is that as a club we ARE winners. Our float theme was significant & made a statement that is timeless & putting the float together was an excellent example of team work & what you can do if you work together & try. And it was just plain fun being in the parade, carrying Starfleet & Heimdal banners, waving to the crowd that recognized & obviously LIKED us & sharing an evening with friends.

Will we do another Christmas Parade float? Some of our members are already kicking around float ideas for THIS year’s Christmas parade, even though it’s a long way off.

In the end, though, enthusiasm & friendship are what drives the float …

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“THE FORCE” is Wide Awake

22 Dec

Author’s note – NO “SPOILERS” in this post:

If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” it’s safe to read this blog entry. You will get no “spoilers” from me.

Our friend, a woman in her early 50s has been so upset because her 20-something son saw the movie before she had a chance to & told her all about it. He thought telling her was funny; not realizing the significance of her connection with Star Wars that spans 38 years, which is a deep & special one. So you won’t get that from me. This entry is simply my take on the movie in general WITHOUT giving anything away. I share our friend’s “investment ….”

 

In a recent interview, Bill Nye: The Science Guy said that Star Trek is REAL while Star Wars is FANTASY. His reasoning was that Star Trek was based on the science of technology; much of which has come to fruition since the first show aired in September 1966. He said that Star Wars is just good fun, with movies filled with an abundance of aliens on every corner … & in every galactic bar … & a far-fetched premise. Being a die-hard Star Trek fan, I wholeheartedly agreed with Mr. Nye. BUT that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying Star Wars & appreciating the characters & their appeal. After all, I was around for the birth of Star Wars 38 years ago. Being a science fiction devotee, I’ve enjoyed the series, although I never saw the last two films. That is the attitude with which I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I frequently write about or mention our friends, Beth & Peter. We do stuff with them & have shared some of life’s similar struggles. I think that fosters a closeness you don’t often have & seldom expect. So this year as a Christmas gift they gave us tickets to the new Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens. They also kicked in a gift card for “movie munchies.” What a wonderful gift! Additionally, our gift to them was a gift card to Regal Cinemas. Fine minds often run in a similar groove.

The Force Awakens opened on Friday & our tickets were for Sunday. We met Beth & Peter & another couple who are also good friends, almost an hour before the barrier was removed & the masses were admitted to the theater. We were early & near the front of the line & thankfully had our tickets, but the line was pretty amazing when we looked behind us 10 minutes after arriving. Willy stuck his phone in the air & took a photo of the impressive line for posterity.

Being there early ensured that we would get 6 seats together.

Loaded down with probably a ton & a half of popcorn among the 6 of us, candy & 16 gallons of beverage, we found wonderful seats. We enjoyed multiple trailers for “Upcoming Attractions” & then the movie began.

And so did the nostalgia …

The Star Wars theme began abruptly with force & bravado.  Again arranged by John Williams & performed by his orchestra, it instantly gave me chills. It threatened to toss me back to 1977 faster than Marty McFly’s DeLorean.

Immediately we were brought up to speed about what was happening in the galaxy by text slowly departing into the recesses of a starfield … reminiscent of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

And the movie began ….

In a very fast-paced beginning we were introduced to not only a new threat in the universe, but to new characters as well. We liked them, which is a huge credit to director, J.J. Abrams who has taken a lot of criticism for his handling of the new Star Trek universe. I thought he handled Star Trek just fine.

While there was a lot of “new” (I instantly fell in love with a new droid), there was also a lot of “familiar;” the area, the aliens, the bad guys. At one point it occurred to me that the audience was being manipulated into the film with all that was familiar, but that thought was followed by realizing I simply didn’t care. It just felt right in a fantasy kind of way.

And then …

THERE was the Millennium Falcon!  When I saw it I got chills & I clapped & laughed … & I almost cried. What an unexpected emotional reaction to the nostalgia! That same reaction would present itself time & again during the nearly three hours of the film.

So caught up in what was happening on the screen, I was totally surprised when Han Solo & Chewbacca made their first appearance. Again I got that combination of chills, laughter & tears & this time it was shared by the audience. EVERYONE cheered & clapped & cheered some more. For me … & for the rest of that cheering crowd,  I’m guessing, … it was like coming home; slipping into a pair of well-worn jeans that have gone soft & shapeless but wrap around you with a kind of comfort that is hard to describe. And from that first toothy grin I realized that I was still in love …. NOT with Han Solo, but with Chewbacca, who hadn’t aged a bit.

It was good seeing the old cast blending comfortably with the energy of the new. I didn’t mind seeing that they had aged, except for Chewy, because in the last 38 years I’ve been aging, too. It seemed like a natural continuum for us all & I found myself embracing OUR maturity.

There is still “The Dark Side” & there is still the “Vader presence.” The Vader of our youth & my memory, though, seemed a bit more sinister & larger than life. But that may be BECAUSE of my youth in 1977. No doubt the Vader of this latest installment is equally as sinister & huge to the youth of today’s audience. When they are interviewed in 38 years, it will be interesting to see how “today’s Vader” affected them.

I think the Vader message today is that there will always be evil in the galaxy. The positive “take away” from this film is that there will always be good to counteract it.

Bottom line is that I LOVED this 7th. installment in the Star Wars series. To quote a Methodist minister who is a close friend of ours & also a science fiction fan, “I’ve got to see it again.”

We didn’t seem to notice that the film was almost three hours long. When it ended we didn’t want it to & wanted to see more. We sat through the credits because we didn’t want it to end & so we could listen to that wonderful John Williams theme one more time.

As expected, the special effects were, well, special & will surely be nominated for many future awards. The costumes were cool & the music was spectacular. It was good solid entertainment that felt like being back home with family we hadn’t seen in a while … maybe like a family reunion today but a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

If I can find anything negative to say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens it is that it was very loud from time to time & I found myself actually sticking my fingers in my ears. But maybe that’s why God invented fingers … for ear-sticking during loud Star Wars scenes.

This movie is good on so many levels & for so many reasons; both from the entertainment standpoint & personally. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it & were able to see it with the early crowd who were untainted by “spoilers,” who shared our enthusiasm & cheered at all the right moments. I’m also glad to have shared it with friends we truly care about.

Who knows what elements actually “click” to make something … some special experience … a success? Whatever … it was a wonderful & memorable evening at the movies.

In the end, though, it was all about “family …”

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My Next Gen Uniform and Starship Walmart

5 Aug

Backstory:

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since 1966 when I saw my first episode & fell instantly in love with Mr. Spock.

My mother said, “That’s the strangest show I’ve ever seen.”

In spite of her opinion, when we got a color television my excitement was totally geared towards watching Star Trek & finding out, once & for all, if Mr. Spock was really green.

Star Trek went into syndication about the time I went into nurses training. I’d stumble back to the dorm at the end of a day of classes or a day in the hospital learning how to give injections & irrigate colostomies, flop in front of the TV in the dorm lounge & go to sleep. Since it came on every day at 5:00 p.m., I’d always have Star Trek on the television & while I was sleeping I’d absorb, through osmosis, what was happening on TV. I’m sure that’s how I am able (to this day) to quote the complete dialogue of most of the original series Trek episodes. Those “sleep training” audio thingees really DO work.

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out I was disappointed. It was good to see the characters but the movie wasn’t at all what I expected. Then Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hit the theaters. I drug my mom with me to see it & was shocked. They killed Mr. Spock & I felt that loss as deeply as though it had been a family member. I grieved, mourned & started buying magazines that reviewed the film & had comments from people just like me who were also grieving.

I found an advertisement for a club called Starfleet, joined & so began an adventure that has become a huge part of my life. It influenced me in a million positive ways & gave me the opportunity to eventually meet the entire original series Star Trek cast, with the exception of William Shatner. I was weekend host for many of them at RoVaCon Science Fiction conventions as vice president of the convention committee.

In 1984 I started a local Starfleet chapter. I found a number of people who shared my love of Star Trek & our chapter grew. We became a presence in the community & I became Regional Coordinator for an 8-state Starfleet region.

Our local chapter, Heimdal Science Fiction matured & as our members got older our focus changed a bit from just Star Trek. We became science fiction fans in the broader sense & developed a huge sense of community responsibility. We began adopting charities, which we supported through car washes & bake sales.

The club has been one that welcomes interested people & most of them stay with us for years. We’ve become a family. And as a family we’ve mostly grown older together & are not nearly as comfortable, physically, doing car washes these days. So in 2006 we began doing only one fundraiser a year – a huge Annual Public Charity Auction.

We canvas local restaurants & businesses for donations, have the auction in August & have been able, through the success of the auctions, to sponsor 10 charities at Christmas AND send a local middle school student to NASA’s Space Camp for a week each summer. We’ve become a credible, helping influence within the community.

After 31 years I’m still the club president. I don’t believe anyone really wants the position since we’ve become more business minded … as a 501 (c)(3) organization that files an annual tax return . I sort of thrive on the challenges so everything continues to be right in the universe (& beyond).

This is another one of those “long way around the galaxy to get to the starship” blog entries but I needed to give you some background.

We’ve been working on this year’s Annual Charity Auction for the past nine months. As the event is looming closer, we’ve begun our publicity campaign to get the word out about the event. We’ve recently done a public appearance in costume at a local library & our Public Relations Officer is sending out announcements to all the area newspapers. Having 260 fabulous auction items won’t do much good unless we can get the public to come to our event, so publicity is key.

Over the years I’ve been an occasional guest on the local TV talk show, Living in the Heart of Virginia for a number of reasons but especially to advertise our Annual Public Charity Auction. I’ve recently been on the show again advertising this year’s auction event.

I know Emily Robinson, host of Living in the Heart of Virginia. This year she had one stipulation for my being on the show. She wanted me to wear my Star Trek: Next Generation costume for the interview. While I enjoy wearing it, I prefer not to wear it when I’m discussing a serious subject, such as the auction. I’m always afraid my credibility might be compromised. But this year Emily said she would also wear a Next Generation costume & my husband generously loaned Emily his Vulcan ears to wear on the show & complete the illusion. It sounded like fun.

I met Emily & her videographer in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Downtown Lynchburg where we will be holding the auction & where Emily wanted to shoot the interview. I was wearing my Next Gen costume. True to her word, Emily was also wearing her Next Gen shirt & she immediately put on Willy’s pointy ears. Apparently we were fairly impressive because hotel employees came running with cell phone cameras to take our picture … a number of times… & even though it delayed the interview a little, it was a lot of fun.

The interview went off without a hitch. Working with Emily is a delight & we had a lot of fun taping the segment. I was sorry when it was over.

After I left the Holiday Inn & my LHOV interview, I stopped by Walmart. I needed cereal & a toilet seat (I know … that’s a strange combination).

Knowing how people generally show up at Walmart, I didn’t give much thought to being there in my costume; I figured I’d fit right in. If you’ve seen those “People of Walmart” pictures & videos you know exactly what I’m referring to & understand why I didn’t think a Star Trek costume would garner any particular interest or attention. I also took my auction advertising flyers into the store. At auction time, taking them with me is as second nature as carrying my purse. I want to get the word out to as many people as possible, hoping to increase the chance of a well-attended event.

WELLLLLL … the minute I walked through the door the greeter handed me a cart & said she knew I was from Star Trek because she recognized the uniform. I told her why I had it on & gave her an auction flyer, which she promised to put in the Walmart break room. Then she took several more because she has “friends who might want to go to a good auction.”

While all this was taking place a small crowd had been gathering. There were, by then, about 5 or 6 women of various ages standing around watching. Several asked for flyers & I gave them an explanation about the auction.

One woman asked, “What are you here for?”

“A commode seat,” I told her.

As she walked away shaking her head I heard her mutter, “It better be a turbo space seat …”

 I suddenly thought GOING where no one has GONE before … ” & laughed out loud, probably adding to the growing possibility that I was one of those “People of Walmart.”

 Throughout the store I got lots of stares & a woman with 3 kids … 2 in a shopping cart … followed me all the way to toilet seats & then lost interest.

After all the press Walmart gets about crazily dressed customers, I guess my Next Gen space suit was simply a flash in the pan; a lot of interest initially but a fairly rapid burn-out …………….

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Spock is Gone (and we’re not kids anymore)

7 Mar

The first episode of Star Trek I ever saw was in October 1966; a month after the first show aired on NBC in September. I watched it with my mom & sister-in-law. After the hour-long episode ended, my mom looked at me & said, “That was the strangest show I’ve ever seen.”

 It’s interesting how we, as individuals, interpret the same experiences differently. That night I had seen Mr. Spock for the first time & I was in love. Several months after seeing that episode we got our first-ever color television & my excitement at the purchase was focused entirely on finding out if Mr. Spock was really green.

Over the years, & with maturity, I gained a tremendous respect for Leonard Nimoy, the actor who breathed life into the Spock character, for his diversity of talent as an actor, director, author, poet, photographer, champion of women’s causes & humanitarian. To this day, though, & especially with the passing of Mr. Nimoy on February 27, 2015, I realize there continues to be a secret chamber in my heart where my love for Mr. Spock will continue to overflow until I begin my own journey to the Undiscovered Country.

Next year Star Trek will celebrate the 50th. Anniversary of the release of the first show. It is something that has been intertwined with the greater part of my life in one way or another.

I’d love to say that watching Star Trek & loving Mr. Spock were the reasons for my 38 year career choice as an Operating Room Registered Nurse, but they are not. How Star Trek connects to my long career in medicine is the excitement of seeing “fantasy medical equipment” from the show turn into real medical equipment during the span of my career. Pulse oximeters that are routinely used in hospitals around the world began as a far-fetched idea in the brain of Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, as did the “Med Bed,” power delivery systems for medications & other medical innovations too numerous to mention. It’s been exciting to see the transformation from “space toys & props” to real & genuine life-saving medical equipment.

But my love for Mr. Spock & Star Trek … for the ideals of a 1960s television show … did change my life. In 1983 I joined an international Star Trek organization that has lived long (40 years) & continues to prosper, currently boasting an international membership of 4600 members. I started a local chapter of the parent organization & 31 years later the adventure of THAT organization continues. We have a membership of 48 people, most of whom have been Star Trek fans for the greater duration of their lives & a few who don’t know didly about Star Trek or science fiction but enjoy being a part of the charity work we do within our community.

In the beginning we simply enjoyed the fact that we could share our enthusiasm for a TV show & its characters with others, through its many mutations. Later we also became a group that sponsors 10 charities & sends a local student to Space Camp annually. We have morphed into a credible helping presence in our community & I believe that is because we are different is some way.

After all these years we still embrace the helping, peaceful attitude we found so prevalent in the bridge crew of the starship Enterprise. Our members are of all ethnicities & our ages range from 10 to 87; each of us appreciated for our diversity & individual gifts. We learned that lesson from Star Trek & we remain hopeful that eventually the world … & perhaps the universe will open collective eyes & learn to coexist in the same way.

I never intended to do more than run our local chapter / club but eventually I became Regional Coordinator for Starfleet’s largest region consisting of 8 states & 68 chapters. I held that position for ten & a half years & I loved it. Through that experience I learned organizational skills, communication skills, problem solving skills & people skills. I found out how much I REALLY loved people.

The regional position & the skills I learned there eventually became responsible for my being able to enter into a second career as a television talk show host after taking an early retirement from nursing. I certainly don’t mean to sound like a stuck record (does anyone remember what a record was?) but my love for Star Trek & Mr. Spock are directly responsible for all that & for a second career that I’ve enjoyed every minute of. For that I will be forever grateful.

In the late 1980s I became Vice President of a science fiction organization in Roanoke, VA & not only had the opportunity to meet all of the original Star Trek cast, with the exception of William Shatner, but many of the supporting cast as well & acted as weekend host for a number of them. The greatest joy was actually meeting Leonard Nimoy. I’ve seen him 3 times & actually met him on two of those occasions, which ranks very high on my list of wonderful things that are part of my life … right up there with marrying my husband whom I met at a Star Trek meeting.

My mom had suffered through many years with my love of Star Trek & well understood the undying love I felt for Mr. Spock. In 1987 I took her with me to Washington, DC to see Leonard Nimoy give a presentation there. The house lights dimmed, a man came on stage & introduced Mr. Nimoy & momentarily the theater went totally quiet with anticipation. My mom chose that moment to grab my arm & say in a loud voice, I feel like I’m about to see God …”

On the morning of February 27 we learned of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. That afternoon my husband, Willy & I were at the Mysticon Science Fiction Convention in Roanoke. The mood of the sold out crowd of convention attendees was sad but not morose.

Having done a TV show on location at the convention the past four years I had worked closely with the convention promoters. One of them called our room & told me Channel 7 News was there wanting to interview someone about the death of Leonard Nimoy & asked if I would do it … & of course I did.

The interview lasted about 10 minutes & the spot aired on the News at 11 p.m. The part of the clip they aired was me answering the question the news person asked about the general feeling at the convention about Leonard Nimoy’s passing. I responded,  “I think those of us who are science fiction fans & members of science fiction clubs feel his passing more deeply because, to us, he was family.”  And he was ……..

I was very pleased & honored to speak on behalf of the convention to the Channel 7 News.

While there was a lot of discussion at Mysticon about the loss of Mr. Nimoy / Mr. Spock & a lot of profound statements were made, the general feeling among the many people I spoke with was that Leonard Nimoy had a full & wonderful career. He was able to enjoy the many avenues of that career because of his unique & diverse talent. He was loved by an unbelievable number of people. His body of work was a positive example to young people making career choices. He lived well, long & prosperously in the truest sense.

While everyone was in agreement that his loss was difficult for those of us who truly felt he was “family,” talking to each other about him & our love for him was a celebration of a joyous life well lived.

As with all science fiction conventions, Willy & I ran into so many people we’ve known for many, many years. We shared two meals with Tom & Michael. Our discussions began with the passing of Mr. Nimoy but continued to include laughter-filled remembrances of our years of friendship, the goofy things we’ve done throughout those years & circled back to the discussion of where we were at this particular moment in time … still friends & still sharing parts of our lives.

In my mind’s eye … that place where good memories nudge out the bad, where laughter permeates all the memories & where we are unchanged by the passage of time … I still think of Tom & Michael as the young men they are in my memory. So I was surprised to suddenly notice that Michael’s hair & beard were filled with gray & Tom often bowed to his serious side. I realized, in those moments of sharing our memories of the past 30 years, we all were suddenly aware that we’re not kids anymore ……..

Tom said, “In April I will have been in the Starfleet organization for 30 years. That’s 2/3 of my life & I’m not sure what to make of that …….”

Considering the life of Mr. Nimoy & the impact his portrayal of the Vulcan alien, Mr. Spock has had on me most of my life, I believe if we reach the end of our lives & can reflect back about our accomplishments, how we have positively touched so many & have been loved by countless numbers of people, we will make our own transition into the Undiscovered Country with hearts full to bursting.

I was fortunate to have met Mr. Nimoy three times. They were three of the most special moments of my life.

Leonard Nimoy, to all of my friends, anyway, was bigger than life. Following his passing we are reminded of a line from Star Trek II:He isn’t dead as long as we remember him ………………”

 The Mr. Spock character, however, will live on forever. Because I loved him, there is great comfort in that.

Nimoy Spock