From the Vault: Still Cool

This is excerpted from something that was written eight years ago, almost to the day. In addition to being a story that still makes me smile, it provides context and back story for Friday's post that newer readers may not have.

Even though I'm a much stronger and more confident writer now than I was then, I've resisted the urge to rewrite this, because something would definitely be lost in the translation… 

In the summer of 1988, I turned 16 years old, and, just like the Corey's, I got a License to Drive!

It's well documented within the Star Trek community that Patrick Stewart and I bought almost the same car, a 1989 Honda Prelude…the, uh, only problem is, I bought a model that was just slightly cooler than his. (He got the si, and I got the si4WS, baby.) Patrick has really had fun over the years, teasing me about how, since then, he's always had cooler cars than I do, to which I reply something about his driver.

What's not well documented, however, is this thing that happened, in the summer of 1988, in the parking garage at Paramount, where we all parked our cars.

We were all working late one night, probably shooting blue screen on the bridge, so we were all wrapped at the same time (a rarity). I excitedly walked to the parking garage with Jonathan Frakes, who I was already looking up to.

So we're walking back to our cars, and we're talking about something, I can't quite remember what, and I really feel like Jonathan is treating me like an equal. He's not treating me like I'm a kid. It really makes me feel good, and I say to him, "You know, Jonathan, I can tell, just from talking to you, that when you were younger? You used to be cool."

He laughs, and I think to myself that I've cemented my position with him as cool contemporary, rather than lame ass kid.

Then he says, "What do you mean, used to be?!"

I realized what I'd said, and how it didn't match up with what was in my head, which was, "Gee, man. You are so cool now, as an adult, I bet that you were a really cool guy, who I'd like to hang out with, when you were my age."

He knew what I meant, I could tell, and he really tortured me about that, for years. Every time I see him nowadays, he turns to a person nearby, and he says, "You know, Wheaton here told me that I used to be cool." We laugh about it, and I make the appropriate apologies, and explanations, while Jonathan makes faces and gestures indicating that I am full of shit.

You can probably see why I wanted to rewrite that when I looked at it this morning. I almost did, but I just couldn't bring myself to apply my own Red Pen of Doom to it. It's very rough, but the 2002 version of me used his words and developing storytelling skills the very best he could. If he thought that the 2010 version of me would look look back at this story, cringe, and rewrite it, he wouldn't have had the nerve to tell the story in the first place.

So, 2002 version of me, if you build a time machine and read this: Someday we're going to look back on this and want to rewrite it, but then we'll remember how we felt when we sat down at our Linux box on the desk in the living room and told this story for the first time on our lame blog. So you just go ahead and enjoy telling it, and know that I'm going to leave it alone when I get hold of it IN THE WORLD OF TOMORROW!!

42 thoughts on “From the Vault: Still Cool”

  1. First post! Woo!
    What’s really cool about this is that you and Frakes will always have a “in” joke between you two. It’s always nice to have something you can point to and have a nice smile between friends.

  2. I know how you feel, I look back at some of the things that I’ve written years ago and I cringe and shake my head at what I thought was amazing writing. Thanks for sharing this story for your newer readers, it does clear up last Friday’s post. It’s so cool that you actually keep this blog, thanks!

  3. I agree with both comments. I love looking back on something that I wrote in the past. It like looking back on memories. It never gets old and it always brightens my day. Great post! Even for a new reader like me.

  4. I seriously love this story. My wife and I love watching the talented Mr. Frakes when he hosted “Beyond Belief, Fact or Fiction.” On an unrelated note; however, is there any word on whether or not you’ll be able to make it to PAX East? I know that you like to stick to the West Coast, but I’m hoping there might be an exception, since it’s PAX.

  5. True, it’s certainly rougher than what you’ve written more recently, and, there, are, many, commas, but it was still fun to read. It does give us the missing background for the “text and phone call” post, making it even more enjoyable.

  6. I’m glad you didn’t rewrite it. It shows how you’ve grown as a writer, and that’s an important thing. Since you grow a little each day, it can be really hard to see that growth, but it’s there.

  7. This is one of my favorite anecdotal stories that you have written. Everybody – teen and adult – has said something like that which came out badly. I think it’s really funny – I hope someday to use it in casual conversation with someone who will recognize it… Still, I’ve laughed about it a lot on the inside. :)

  8. The thing is, I know Frakes couldn’t have been cool. Oh, sure, he might have had potential, but it all went down the drain the minute he picked up that trombone. See, as a fellow trombone player, I know that we trombonists are hawesome, but we were band geeks even to the other band geeks.
    I’m still a little pissed at the band teacher who, when I told him I wanted to play trumpet, said my teeth were too big and I should play trombone instead. Little did I know that it eliminated any chance I’d have to snag a date with a hot flute player. (For a while anyway. Ended up marrying a hot flute player.)
    So no, I don’t believe you when you say he used to be cool. Except to the kindergarteners, who could never figure out how we swallowed all that tubing. To them, we were gods.

  9. I don’t write but it’s the same with my photography. When I look back at photos in my portfolio from five years ago, I sometimes want to drag them into Lightroom and change the crop or other features but then I think if I leave them as they are people see my progression when they compare my work from five years ago with my current output.

  10. As others and yourself have said, you’ve improved significantly as a writer. Still, despite the punctuation tease, this is a good story which I’m glad to have read in its original form.
    One down side is that it motivated me to read some of my old LJ entries… Wow, I’m so glad I’ve switched them all to “private”; I only wish it was because they were too risqué, but in reality I was (and am) a dreadful bore who can’t write his way out of a very thin paper bag.

  11. OMG, Yes!! Why are we at the bottom of the coolness barrel? Not only was I trombone player but I was the only girl trombone player. I spent a lot of time with my fellow trombone players and as cool as they could have actually been, they were always cast aside. So he could have been cool, just that no one knew it ;)
    Unfortunately, I chose to learn the trombone despite the teacher recommending the clarinet. I was 9 and totally in love with Jonathan Frakes.

  12. I like this story. I started reading your blog in late 2004, so this was a treat to see. Those were actually really nice cars, expensive too. There are goofy things I have said/done that 15+ years later, my friends will NOT let me forget. It just makes getting together that more fun.
    Hey, do you still own your VW Passat, or was it a Golf? Isn’t VW like the must have Geek Mobile?? Growing up, we always had a VW something. Just wondering.
    I love these look back post of yours. You might have improved your writing skills, but even then, you had a gift. Still trying to improve myself. Take care:)

  13. LOL – I just came from reading the original in the archives to find you’ve reposted it. I love the 2002 version – it’s heartfelt and real (even if you are geting paid by the comma!)
    Your desire to slash with the red pen brings to mind something Will Smith says about talent vs. skill. He says (and I agree) that talent is inate. Skill is honed by practice and study and more practice…
    Talent without skill stumbles – skill without talent is lifeless. It’s clear how talented (and skilled as well) you were in 2002. You’re just much more skilled now…

  14. I look back at some of the stuff I wrote in 2002 and I actually like it. Not because it’s brilliant, but because it’s an honest representation of who I was then. Writing is the most wonderful time capsule of ourselves.

  15. I love the story Wil, and I completely know what it’s like to look at old work and cringe (doing comic books, I can’t look back more than 6 months without wanting to kick myself). On that note, since you voiced Blue Beetle in Brave and the Bold I’ve had this image stuck in my head, finally got time this weekend to lay it down. Thought you might dig: http://jakeekiss.blogspot.com/2010/01/blue-and-gold.html
    Based on some reference of you and NPH. I think the two of you would KILL as Booster and Beetle. My sides would buckle from laughter.

  16. Gotta love those ‘Did I just say that?’ moments :D
    Try saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got a bald spot.’ to a guy with major burns over half his head, and hence no hair there. I don’t think I ever turned as red as I did then. I was, of course, referring to a spot on the half of his head that did have hair. Either way, I kept apologizing the rest of the day but he just laughed it off thankfully.
    Even though I personally knew this story already (either blog or audiobook), I really appreciate the fact that you reposted it for those that might not. It’s thoughtfulness like that, that really shows you do care about your readers (among other things you keep doing :D). Thanks.

  17. Also we, as Wheaton followers, (wait… that doesn’t sound cultish does it?) can now tell Frakes that “We’ve read on the internets, that he used to be cool” when we see him at cons. :D

  18. Thanks for today’s post – I am one of those new readers and I appreciate the backgound information – it makes everything fall into place.

  19. Thanks for the back story.
    I am trying to be a “cool” adult by not giving too much grief to kids that say dumb things. A little grief; just not too much.
    Of course, I say all the dumb things I can. I’m an adult. I can take the grief of a teenager.

  20. So, givne the events of the New Year, when you next talk to Patrick Stewart will you threaten to taunt him a second time? Does his father now smell of elderberries?

  21. It’s absolutely eerie reading that, given that as I listen my way through ‘Just A Geek’ as an audio book, what you pulled from the past is what I listened to last night. That exact piece. And the recall to reprise Wesley Crusher in ‘Nemesis’. A very touching tale and one that clearly aided in your recovery from self-doubt and ‘prove to everyone’. I’m all too keen now to get hold of your subsequent books.

  22. Kevin Anderson beat me to the Star Wars reference, but that’s really what came to mind for me as well. But, you could do it as I think you would want the SW situation to be: go ahead and edit it, but leave a copy of the original version, as is, also accessible so that folks can choose which one to enjoy at a particular time. Sometimes, they might prefer the original; others, the update. What a concept. :-)

  23. Wil – I can’t remember if I read this story in Dancing Barefoot, or Just a Geek, but I loved it then, and still do. My mom had a serious crush on Frakes, but I only had eyes for you at the time. I’ve got this thing for geeks. But that’s not what I came here to say! (And I’m not trying to hit on you, I swear.)
    Reading about your struggles, and how you’ve found your passion for writing has inspired me. I’m pursuing a career in writing and the courage I’ve found to do so has come partially from reading your work.
    Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.

  24. Wil- I bought two of your books last month (JaG and Barefoot) from amazon. I’m reading Just a Geek, it’s a great book man.
    As a result of that, I found this site. This is really good stuff.
    Keep it up.
    Q: Do you still do public appearances of any type, and if so, will you be up in Seattle again soon?

  25. I’m pretty sure that you missed this Twitter exchange that went down earlier, so I’m just going to copy/paste it for you (This would be right after you said to @levarburton that the people at concon can probably just tell by listening to him, that Jonathan Frakes used to be cool):
    **disasterpiece73 But he don’t have to take your word for it! RT @levarburton @wilw no, I don’t. JF has always been cool in my book.**
    As corny as it came out, I just couldn’t resist saying it! It just demanded that “Reading Rainbow” reference, dammit! And I’m in complete agreement with 2010 Wil about leaving 2002 Wil’s story just the way it is. It’s always been a favorite of mine, and I would give anything in the world to have seen the look on Jonathan’s face when you said that to him! And then the look on your face once you realized how badly you fucked it up…

  26. I don’t play the trombone, but I think that the two of you are being awfully unfair to both yourselves and other trombone players. Some of my best friends in High School were “band geeks” and one of them just happened to play the trombone. One of the coolest guys I ever knew, and in fact, was crushed on quite a bit by a number of the girls in my school outside the confines of band class. He wasn’t a bad looking kid, but at the same time wasn’t gorgeous, either, but he was funny as hell, so I think that may have canceled out this trombone player stigma of which you speak. Now the kid that played the tuba? I’m not even going to go there.

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