Category Archives: write you fool

Star Trek is bigger than any single one of us, and it has the power to change the world.

Over on my Tumblr thingy, someone asked me if I have ever met any of the original Star Trek cast. I said

Not only have I met them, I am privileged to call many of them my friends. George has been a mentor to me since 1987, and he only found out (because I told him) last year that I’ve been modeling my choices and interaction with fans after what I saw him do for so many years.

You probably know that my father is an abusive, bullying, piece of shit who terrorized me my entire childhood before going out of his way to be cruel to me when I was really struggling with all the attention I got as a teenager. So it was in that environment that I first met George and Walter and Nichelle, and they all treated me with love and kindness that I had never gotten from any of the adults in my life (save my Aunt Val). They made sure I knew that I was part of a family, now, if I wanted to be, and that they accepted me just the way I was.

I had never experienced that before. Attention, approval, even basic affection were all conditional and never freely given in my home. I lived in a house with four other people, but I didn’t have a family because my father wouldn’t let me into the family he made with my brother and sister; I was a thing my mom used to chase her dreams of fame, and — worst of all — they are emotionally immature narcissists who hated each other so much, I got put on her “team” without my knowledge or consent, and my dad treated me accordingly.

It was just an awful, painful, lonely existence that was only made better at all by my Star Trek family, who made me feel loved and valued for 10 hours a day. And that didn’t just start and end on my set; it was handed down to us from the original series cast (well, most of them, anyway) and I do my best now, as a 51 year-old Legacy Trek Cast Member, to be for the new cast members who George and Frakes were and are for me.

I’ve always known, but didn’t grok until recently, that when we are part of Star Trek, we are given the tremendous privilege to carry something precious that deeply matters to millions of people across generations. What we do with it, and the privilege of carrying it, is up to us; there is no wrong way to do it (some folks just do the job and move on, that’s fine). The way I choose to carry it and share it with all the people I interview on Ready Room is inspired by George and Frakes: Star Trek is bigger than any single one of us, and it has the power to change the world. That is an awesome responsibility and privilege, for those of us who choose to accept it. I still want to make them proud, I probably will for the rest of my life.

may your garden always thrive

I wrote this on Tumblr when someone asked me if I had any hobbies. In the chain of reblogs, I came across this beautiful parable, from which I took this post’s title.

I have a garden that I love to work in every day. It’s one of my very few hobbies that are mostly private, that I keep for myself. I freely and enthusiastically share my love for classic arcade gaming, Tabletop and RPG games, and all my super nerd shit, so I like that I have this one thing that’s just for me, no expectations, no risk of getting dragged into The Discourse. It’s just for me and I love it.

During the lockdowns, I learned the difference between having a garden, and tending a garden. It turns out that I just love to tend my garden. I love to walk in it, smell all the smells, prune it and tie it up where it needs it, keep the soil healthy, and leave it alone when I’ve done enough. I love to listen to the birds, watch the bees and the butterflies, talk to the corvids, feed them the occasional grub or unwelcome insect. Watering is so lovely, carrying the can around and giving everything as close to just what it needs as I can. My coffee tastes better out there, too. It’s science.

In a lot of ways, I use my gardening time as a metaphor. One that was particularly meaningful to me lately came when I was pruning this feral tomato that showed up in one of my beds late last year. As a general rule, when I get any volunteers, I leave them alone, except to keep them away from things I’ve planted myself, as long as they aren’t invasive. I have more wildflowers around the yard than I can keep track of because of this policy, and I get a tomato or potato every other season or so in their respective beds. But in this case, this plant was growing so fast and getting so out of control, I had to rein it in a bit, with some pruning and gentle redirection of the parts which were tied to the trellis. If you can imagine Sideshow Bob’s hair as a tomato plant, you can sort of get the idea.

While I was tending it, I started thinking about the individual stalks as parts of my life experience: here’s one that doesn’t have anything growing on it, but if I follow it all the way to this point, I can see that it’s providing support and nutrients to this huge, thriving, massively flowering hunk of the plant over here. It turns out that that part may look like it isn’t doing anything, but without it, this other part that’s gorgeous wouldn’t exist.

I could have just looked at it and seen a stalk that wasn’t doing anything. I could have easily pruned it right then and there, because it was ugly, and only afterwards would I have discovered this lush, thriving, beautiful part of the plant that can’t exist without this other part. I was so grateful that I took the time to look at the whole thing, to see that bare stem in context, to appreciate it.

I don’t know if this particular metaphor lands on you, but it landed real hard on me. It inspired a wonderful moment of reflection and gratitude, and I also got excited for the … I mean, it’s at least a dozen, but maybe more … little cherry tomatoes I’m going to get when they finish ripening on this little bit of the vine. This plant is threatening to deliver pounds of fruit this season, and I just hope I can get there before the squirrels do.

Another thing about tending my garden is that it is, by design and necessity, slow. It rewards patience. It is entirely about the journey, even if the destination is pretty great on its own. I have recently noticed that, as long as I can remember, I have felt like I can’t slow down, like I can’t take time for myself, that I should always be working or trying to work. I’ve been working on healing as much of my CPTSD as I can, and part of that includes doing my best to give myself permission to slow down, to take entire days or even weeks off, because I was put to work when I was seven, and I have earned it. It’s such a struggle for me to give myself that grace.

And that’s where my garden is a metaphor again: it may not be full of blooming flowers or tons of vegetables right now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing. Maybe it needs to be watered and fed today, and tomorrow, I can just walk through it, listen to the birds, watch the bees, notice new buds and leaves, choose to be grateful for the entire experience.

Your garden can be a metaphor, too, if you want.

Or not. I’m not the boss of you.

wild child

I have a small part in the 1987 television movie (failed pilot) version of The Man Who Fell To Earth. Lewis Smith played the titular character. Beverly D’Angelo played my mom, his love interest. (Fun Star Trek connection: Bob Picardo is also in it).

My character was a Troubled Youth, which I gotta tell you was not a stretch for me at all. I was deeply, deeply hurting at the time we made it. I was struggling not to suffocate on all the emotional and financial burdens my mom put on my shoulders, and fully aware of just how much my dad hated and resented me. You need a kid who doesn’t want to be an actor, whose eyes can’t hide the pain? I’m your guy.

Anyway, one of the scenes I was in took place in a record store, where Troubled Youth steals some albums, before he is chased by the cops and The Man Who Fell To Earth, uses a glowing crystal to save his life from … some scratches on his face.

We filmed the interior of the record store at Sunset and La Brea, in what I think was a Warehouse Records and Tapes, and at the end of the day, I was allowed to buy some records at a modest discount.

I was deep into my metal years, on my way from my punk years to my New Wave years, so I only bought metal albums. I know I bought more than I needed or could carry (I was making a point that I was allowed to spend my own money, mom), but the only ones I can clearly remember are:

Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

Judas Priest – Turbo and Defenders of the Faith

W.A.S.P – The Last Command

Of those, Piece of Mind is the only one I never really stopped listening to, even through all the different it’s-not-a-phase phases. I still listen to it, today.

Ever since I became an Adult with a Fancy Adult Record Player And All That Bullshit, I have kept my records in two places: stuff I want right now, and stuff I keep in the library because of Reasons.

Generally, records move in one direction toward the library, even if it takes years to happen. I just don’t accumulate albums like I once did, because I’m Old and set in my ways, and every album in the library was something I loved listening to at some point in my life, even if I’ve mostly forgotten them.

Earlier today, I decided that I wanted to listen to an album while I cleaned up the kitchen, and because I wanted to make my life more interesting, I opened the library cabinet for the first time in at least five years. I reached in, and pulled out the first album I touched.

It was the very same W.A.S.P album from that day in March, 1987. I don’t have any of the others — I looked — but The Last Command was right there. I looked at it, curiously. Why do I still have this?

Before I fully knew what I was doing, I put it on the Fancy Adult Record Player and dropped the needle.

I watched four decades of dust build up with a satisfying crackle, and there was something magical and beautiful about hearing all the skips and the scratches, realizing I remembered them from before.

The first track, Wild Child, was just as great as I remembered. It struck all the same chords in me that it did in the late nineteen hundreds. The rest of the first side was … um. It just didn’t connect with me, and during the few moments I spent trying to find a connection, I realized that I don’t think it ever really did. I would remember.

What I did remember how much I loved making those mix tapes, and what a big part of them that song was. I did remember how empowering it felt to not just spend my own money that I earned doing work I didn’t want to do, but to spend it on music my parents hated, right under their noses. I did remember how impressed Robby Lee was, when I showed him my extensive heavy metal album collection, and he gave me a cassette with Screaming for Vengeance on one side, and Metal Health on the other, on one of those iconic Memorex tapes.

Remembering all of that, in one of those cinematic flashes of rapid cut visuals and sped up sounds, told me why I kept this record, while I gradually sold or replaced the other records I bought that day with CDs, then mp3s, then lossless digital files, before finally coming all the way back to records, where I started. This record lives in the library for reasons that have nothing to do with the music.

I didn’t listen to the second side. I didn’t need to. I took it off the Fancy Adult Record Player, and put it back into the library, next to the George Carlin records.

have your fondest wish, my friend

In TNG’s first … we will generously say “uneven” season, Q gives Riker his powers, with … unexpected … consequences. He goes on this “wish granting” spree in the fourth act, which includes a moment with Wesley that’s memorable for maybe not the reasons the writers intended. (Here I am, talking about it on Memories of the Futurecast)

This episode and its moment set the stage for this, from Star Trek Wholesome Posting on Facebook.

Some number of you are laughing at this because you recognize the references. But I have noticed that this is the first time a lot of people are seeing The Infamous Clown Sweater, so this is how I answered what became a FAQ:

“I did this fundraiser for EFF in San Francisco in … 2001? 2002? Something like that. It was at DNA Lounge, and after we were done, this person came up to me with this horrific sweater (jumper, for you non-Americans). They told me it was part of The Infamous Clown Sweater Project. What’s that, I asked. They told me they are getting as many people as possible to wear it and pose for a photo, which they would then upload to their webpage — not website, webpage, because it was 2001 or so — for all to see.

“Of course I was down for it, and that face I’m making in the first photo is my very real reaction to the awful stank that was just infused in the acrylic fibers.

“The second picture is from a con about … 2014? Something like that, based on how I look. Someone actually made their own version of that horrible sweater for me. One arm is too long, on purpose, the neck is all stretched out, on purpose, and it fits poorly, on purpose. It’s so damn funny to me, and it came along at a moment when we were doing this “then and now” thing on Twitter (before the fascists took over).

“I still have the second sweater. I have no idea what happened to the original. Last time I checked, the website that hosted all those pictures — so old it was manually coded in html, predating even Flickr — was lost to the sands of time.

“But it never fails to make me smile when this picture comes back around. It reminds me of a specific time, when there was just so much hope for the online future we were all building.”

I’ve done a LOT of things involving The Infamous Clown Sweater over the years. It’s never not funny to me, it’s moment has long come and gone, but when it shows up (which is does, about once a year), I always enjoy it.

And for those of you who are too young to know what Riker giving Wesley his “fondest wish” is, well …

Wesley wanted to grow up to be a blue-eyed blonde who I’m pretty sure the costume designer wanted to fuck?

GEORDI! GROSS! You’re not helping!

Look. I love you, Commander Riker, but … you’re gonna want to try again. Wesley’s fondest wish rhymes with “marathon betazoid orgy on risa”.

precious and fragile things

I remember in the eighties our local ABC station did a summer promotion thing where they broadcast a different 1950s 3D movie every weekend for a month. I feel like we bought the glasses at 7-11; maybe they came with a Slurpee or something like that.

However we got them, I remember watching local weather guy Johnnie Mountain host a movie called Gorilla At Large. He shot the host segments wearing a striped suit and straw hat at Magic Mountain (and my memory insists that it had not yet been bought by Six Flags, but the timeline just as stridently disproves that, so we’re going with the data-driven argument while we stare real hard at people who ignore the data-driven argument because they don’t like the way it feels.)

I’m realizing as I type this that I just described Lyle Langley, so maybe my memory on that specific point is also unreliable. But, you know, print the legend I guess.

Gorilla At Large is the only movie I remember. I feel like there was one other gorilla-focused film, but I can’t say for sure. What I do recall about Gorilla At Large is that it was a lot of a guy in a suit who found reasons to lunge toward the camera, the 3D was cool, but not as immersive as I hoped it would be, Johnnie Mountain’s host segments were SO CORNY, and that I loved every second of it. I watched it on the floor in the den, with my brother and sister, on a huge pile of blankets and pillows we built, with all the lights turned out so there were no reflections on the TV. Mom made us Jiffy-Pop (we did the kind of helping where you watch), and dad must have been at work because I don’t remember him being there.

I just remember staying up past our bedtimes, watching a bad movie that was still fun, feeling the way I imagined families were meant to feel.

Wow. I’d forgotten all of that, but now I can see it as clearly as if the blue blanket was wrapped around me right now. Jeremy is wearing one of his hats, and Amy is still really little, so she falls asleep before the second or third commercial.

This must be from a time I call Before. It’s the most precious time in my life, before my mom sold me and my sister to The Curse, before I knew how my dad felt about me, before he decided to be my bully. Before sadness, loneliness, confusion, and fear filled up all this space in my life that I am still cleaning up today.

I don’t have a lot of clear and happy memories from my childhood, and when I saw this picture on Tumblr earlier, and thought it would be fun to write about watching a 3D movie on TV, I had no idea it would unlock this particular one, literally seconds ago.

But it’s like I’m looking at one of the pictures I don’t have because my mother still refuses to let me have any of my childhood. I can see it all so clearly, how much fun it was, how I felt like the big brother I always wanted to be, even if it was just for that one evening in the eighties.

I’m grateful for that. It’s nice to experience one of these memories, instead of the usual, for a change.