Grand Slam 2006 – Day Three

Riley woke me up at 6 on Sunday morning. Then Ferris re-woke me up at 7:30. I finally gave in and got out of bed at 8. On a Sunday. So very, very wrong.

I moved in ultimate slow motion and didn’t get to the convention until just before noon. I set my stuff up on my little table, sat down, and thirty seconds later discovered that I really didn’t want to be there. It was cold, I was tired, the crowd was very, very small, and the people on stage were too interesting to miss.

So I packed up my stuff, trucked it back to my car, grabbed my camera and iRiver, and did something I haven’t done for years: I walked around the Grand Slam convention as a fan.

I listened to astronauts talk about doing for real what I used to do for fakes, which was nothing new for me (I’ve had the great fortune to meet and talk with several different astronauts over the years) but is also something I will never, ever, take for granted. These guys have been telling the same stories for nearly forty years, but whenever they talk about blasting off, or looking back at Earth from orbit, they could have just stepped out of the capsule after landing. Their enthusiasm for science and their ability to infect their audience with the same is something everyone should get a chance to experience at least once. I’m thrilled that Creation is bringing astronauts to their shows, and I hope they do more in the future.

After their talks, I wandered over to the dealer’s room, and took a few pictures. I’m happy to say that I only spent $15 before I left, on the coolest bit of geek ephemera I’ve seen in a long time (I purchased the d20 keychain) before heading back over to the main auditorium to listen to Ron Moore speak.

I knew Ron was coming to the show, because I’d read it in his blog late Saturday night, and I hoped that I’d get a chance to talk with him one-on-one, but I didn’t expect that I’d run right into him backstage before he went on.

He lit up when he saw me for the first time in over fifteen years, and my prepared speech about how I didn’t know if he remembered me flew out of my head. In one of those "hand on the car" moments, a series of images flashed through my mind in an instant, as I recalled some of the things he did for my character: Yesterday’s Enterprise, the first time I got to do something really different on the bridge; The First Duty, the first (and only) time we saw Wesley interact with his peers, act his age, and witness his angst-ridden humanity; and Journey’s End, the first (and only) time we saw Wesley as an adult, willing to take a principled stand against his father figure, Captain Picard. I felt a surge of emotion well up in my chest, and before I knew the words were coming out of my mouth, I said, "When we worked together on TNG, I was too young, and too immature to appreciate what you gave me as an actor, and what you did for my character. I know it’s fifteen years late, but I wanted to say thank you."

He smiled warmly. "Thank you," he said. "It really means a lot to me to hear that."

I wanted so badly to tell him how I’d do anything in the world to be on his show, but I couldn’t think of a way to say that without spoiling the moment, or coming off like a schmuck, so I just congratulated him on the success of the show, and asked him if he had as much creative control as he wanted.

"I do," he said. "I’m very lucky to work with great people, and the network is very supportive of what we want to do. Of course, we battle, but they are always good battles that make the show better."

He was called onto the stage before we could talk any longer, and as he stepped through the curtain to absolutely deafening applause, I felt happy. I’ve discovered that all I want to do as an artist (whether it’s acting, writing, or whatever) is make something that matters to people; and I know that to be true for all the artists I know, particularly the writers. Ron, like Joss Whedon, has done that, and I felt happy for him in that weird i-was-just-talking-to-you way when the crowd went nuts for him.

I recorded some of what he said on my iRiver; it’ll be on a future episode of RFB.

When Ron was done, I wandered around the con some more, talked to a lot of people, and managed to completely miss BIlly West’s talk, where I hear he announced that there will be new episodes of Futurama on FOX either later this year or early next year. I spoke with Billy after he was done, and he gave me enough industry-specific details to assure me that this is for real, so get ready for hawesomeness.

By this time, my lungs were gasping for air and —

Sorry. Nerdy MST3K reference that 5% of you will understand. I should also point out that nobody will be admitted during the exciting rock climbing portion of the film.

By this time, I was really hungry, so I grabbed Rod Roddenberry and his girlfriend Heidi, and we went across the street to the Yardhouse for pizza and beer and sashimi and beer and grilled chicken sandwiches and beer. When we were younger, Rod and I goofed off on the set whenever we got the chance, and as we’ve grown older, we’ve spent a lot of time sharing stories about his dad. Rod is an amazing person, and in ways that we both understand but can’t vocalize to anyone but each other, we’re like long-lost half-brothers. It’s always fantastic to spend time with him, and my only real regret for the whole weekend is that we didn’t have more time to catch up and goof off.

After we ate, it was nearly 5:30, and I had to pick the kids up at 6, so I made my way back through the convention hall to say some goodbyes. On my way in, someone said to me, "Frakes was talking smack about you onstage," and I instantly knew that Jonathan told the "you used to be cool" story. I laughed out loud and hoped wished there was some way I could stop time long enough to visit with him.

I found Jonathan backstage, and said, "I can tell, just by looking at you . . . "

"That you used to be cool," he said. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me.

"W," he said, "it is so great to see you."

"You too," I said.

"Are you on your way out, or are you hanging around?" He said.

"I have to go pick up the kids," I said.

"How are they?"

"They’re great. They’re teenagers now, you know."

He chuckled and shook his head. "Man, we are getting so old!" I noticed that the impish glint I loved when we worked together, and always look for when I see him, was still in his eye.

"Are you well?" He said.

"Mostly," I said. "You?"

"I am great, man."

We talked as long as we could, about kids, and houses, and Star Trek and work and wives and all the things that I never could have talked about when I was younger. I just adore Jonathan, and I was genuinely sad when I saw that I had to leave to get the kids.

"I gotta go, Jonny," I said, "and I hope that it won’t be a year again before I get to see you, but i’m pretty sure it will be."

"You look great, W," he said. Then he pointed at the huge screen that made up the back of the stage. "But not as good as Avery."

Avery Brooks did look great. He looked cooler than Shaft, and more stylish than anyone else in the convention hall.

"He’s really fucking up the cool curve for us, isn’t he?" I said.

"Ah, don’t worry, W," he said with a grin. "I can tell just by looking at you that you used to be cool."

"You too," I said.

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