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 Well Trained
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10 Sept 2016

It was 4 a.m. before I went to sleep last night.  I made the mistake of channel surfing after watching an old movie and I saw there was a Star Trek 50 Years tribute.  I checked on whether it was being rerun because I had missed about 20 minutes of the 2-hour show, but it was not.  I set it to record, but started watching it.  I was still enthralled when it ended at 4 a.m.

Star Trek came into our lives back in the 70s when the original series was being shown in reruns, consecutively each night. We'd missed all the hoopla when it first came out. We weren't part of the write-in campaign that kept it on the air for a third season, but now we were having a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

The kids were little. We were living in Oakland. Each night we'd sit in front of the TV and get hooked on Star Trek. We had our favorite episodes--there was the one we called "The Giant Cornflake," (Kirk's brother is killed and everyone is attacked by things that looked like giant flying placentas). There was Harcort Fenton Mudd, his "women" and his wife. There was Joan Collins being noble in the 1920s, falling beneath the wheels of a speeding car. There were Kirk & Spock dressed as gangsters, playing a game of Fisbin. There was dear Raina, the android, torn between her creator whom she liked and Kirk, whom she loved, her heart literally breaking because of her inability to choose between love and "the familiar." There was Mr. Atoz, the librarian. And of course there was everybody's favorite--The Trouble with Tribbles.

The kids played Star Trek all the time. Ned was Spock, Jeri was Janice, Tom was Sulu, David was Kirk and Paul was McCoy. They would run around shouting each other's names and I'd hear stern commands of "ready to beam up." I remember Tom asking me, "Some humans have real ears, right'" (Spock ears were big around here)

Star Trek gave them the opportunity to exercise their imaginations. I loved that about it. No electronic games. In 1975, I wrote:

Ned and Matt are really into playing Star Trek. I've been listening to the sounds this morning--the boys shouting "red alert" and making siren noises, then someone else yelling "warp 8!" Last week they took the very tall box that the gym set had come in and they made a whole control panel, which takes up one half of the room. They drew in as many things as they could think of (including an "off" button--Walt said he always wondered how you stopped a starship)..."red elert," "fazers," etc. Then knowing that all electronic things are connected with wires, they took some old piano wires and stuck them into the back of the box so it appears to have a very complex circuitry.

Ned even learned how to do a pretty good Scottish burr and loved to say "I'm sorry, Captain, but the engines are damaged." The Vulcan salute was real big around here, as was the Vulcan death grip.

We broke down and took them to a Star Trek festival once. Paul didn't know what an autograph was when we left home, but after listening to Jeri and Ned talking about getting autogrpahs, he was just as anxious to get signatures from the guest celebrities by the time we arrived. The kids stood in line for about 15 minutes waiting to meet Sulu, who was Mr. Personality and chatted with each of them. (He must have thought Paul was a girl because he asked him, "Hi, sweetheart, what's your name'")

By the time the interview portion of the program was over, the kids were really into the spirit of things, yelling with the audience and flashing the Vulcan peace sign at appropriate moments. The whole thing was a little surreal for us, and it was the last festival we ever attended--but it was one of things that it's always good to say you've done once.

Star Trek was a part of our everyday life. Ned was once so obnoxious at Jeri's ballet recital that I said something I never dreamed I'd ever say to a child, "sit up and act like a gentleman!" Ned finally leaned over and said, "I can't help it. I'm a Vulcan. I don't know what ballet is."

For Tom's birthday during this period, we had a Star Trek birthday party. I don't remember all the activities, but I do remember we played "Pin the ears on Spock," and of course I made a tribble cake. Oblong shaped cupcakes, frosted in different types of frosting and sprinkled with various things to give them a "fuzzy look."  Paul's 8th birthday was a Star Trek party, with invitations I made featuring Spock.

The impact of Star Trek in our lives diminished a bit when Star Wars came out, but still we've always had a fond spot in our heart for Star Trek, so it was really a big surprise when I discovered that I'd been corresponding with David Gerrold, who wrote The Trouble with Tribbles, for a couple of years. David and I were both part of a discussion forum on CompuServe, he under a pseudonym. We had developed a nice friendship and enjoyed trading quips, and especially puns. Apparently his real identity was one of the worst kept secrets on this particular forum, but I was late to figure it out.

It was difficult to decide how to treat someone whose books I'd read and whose TV work I'd admired and who was suddenly someone I knew quite well. Very odd feeling. But I adjusted. We met finally when I was in Southern California and got along well. I enjoyed meeting his son, then about 12, who became a good friend of ours.  (Said son is about to get married in December!)

When David started his David Gerrold Forum on CompuServe, he asked me to be in charge of it. I tried to tell him I had no background in sci fi or in computer hardware, but he insisted I would be perfect for Wizop. I have to admit...I was. The forum evolved into what it should have been--sci fi talk and tech talk, I was kind of the hostess, making people feel at home, starting funny subjects, making sure every single message had a response. We built up a nice community of crazies and I really enjoyed the two years I gave to it.  It's another big loss with the loss of CompuServe the way it used to be.  Some of the regulars went on to Facebook and we are still "friends," and a few others have died.

And during that time David and I got to be better friends. He gave us our dog, Benjy. He became part of our family, joining us for family picnics and helping me through the grief following Dave's death in 1996. He gave Paul pointers to improve his last monologue show and then, when Paul died, David came here for the funeral and conducted the graveside services, which were so much more meaningful than the services performed by our family friend, a priest, for Dave.

With our long standing history with Star Trek I was delighted to get some Star Trek stamps this week.

I have not seen the new Star Trek movies and, given that we almost never go to the movies, I probaby won't, but it's nice to know that the little experiment Gene Roddenberry started is still going strong 50 years later.



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