Monday, June 30, 2008
To Boldly Go Where No One Should Have Gone to Begin With...
I would have taken pictures, but there was really no point. Some time I’ll take you all to the Saturday Super Flea back home, you can imagine everyone there is wearing crimson with little triangular buttons and you’ll get the idea.
So as I’m writing this, I’m DJing the closing dance for the regional Starfleet Conference. Which is apparently like a Star Trek convention only not as freewheelin’. I think if we had done show of hands, at least sixty percent of these folks would either be card-carrying NRA members or at least highly sympathetic. Median age: 43 (to be fair, Helen throws off the curve a bit, this statistical outlier is certainly joining us from not just before the United Federation of Planets but a good decade before the United Nations). Median weight: deuce and a quarter and I’m being generous. Median facial hair: goatee. Lots of them and a fair count of mustaches.
When I arrived at the Ramada (seriously , how the fuck do I allow myself to be talked into these things?), I was greeted by the fairly ancient manager, who kindly waited til I had loaded in everything but a handful of XLR cables before asking if he could lend a hand. I snuck my gear in during the dinner, noting to my utter horror the lack of beer bottles and wine glasses on the dinner tables. A couple folks were sipping some sort of blue concoction, but for the most part this looked like a dry event. A dry dance party. I swear, I am never going to try DJing in Salt Lake City. You need social lubricant, people! Especially if you’re as socially…creaky as some of these ladies and gents.
Once I was set up, I snuck over to the McDonalds for dinner, where the young man at the counter sans front teeth reminded me that no matter how this week ended, I should count it in the plus column since I’m still wearing my whole face despite last Friday’s accident. A moment of relative peace before heading back. You know the view from up by the mall is actually…nonexistent.
Back to the Ramada, I excused myself to get passed a young lady managing to block the doorway all on her own. This is actually my first glimpse of the blue beverages, which I think Esteban jokingly mentioned to me as “synthahol” earlier in the afternoon. I think he was joking. The first emcee—
Time out. Two things have just happened. First, I noticed that everyone in the room was at the opposite end of the banquet hall, staring at me like the Blues Brothers in the country bar scene. Secondly, the very nice older dude with the hell of white mustache came over and requested some slow songs. His reasoning:
“A lot of us guys during this conference, we’ve got our ladies with us and we don’t get to spend much time with them. So this is our chance to make it up to them. So if we don’t have a couple slow dances, we’re screwed. Actually, we’re not getting screwed, which is the problem.”
Anyway, I put on “You Were Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson followed by “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. And you know what? “Unchained Melody” kind of choked me up. No joke. I mean, that’s a whole lot of fucking song.
—the first emcee was giving out awards for Best Officer, Best Enlisted Man—
Time out again. Three Icelandic brothers, statistical outliers far to the left on the weight chart. All sporting hammer pendants. Hammer of Thor, they inform me. You’re thor? I’m tho thor I can’t thtand it. They don’t like me. No one here likes me.
—and so on. Did I mention that the Starfleet is divided into ships? Yep, it’s divided into ships. They’ve all got the name of their ship on their lanyards, along with their ranks, like, “Lt. Ed of the USS Syracuse. Why is it the Star Trek ships are all designated USS? Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of United Federation of Planets or is this just reinforcing US cultural/military hegemony? Hey, you know the Beatles version of “Twist and Shout” actually rocks pretty hard. And this whole endeavor is making me dumber by the minute. Also, not to be racist, but these people seem to only like music by white people. Stevie Wonder=death. Oh, and they all love KISS. And schmaltz! Any song I thought was far too sappy to be played went over like…I don’t know, what goes over well? Is that woman wearing fringed chaps?
Following the awards (which begin the trend of injokes I don’t at all grasp) is the auction of goods that would be passed over at your average flea market. Star Trek trading cards. Action figures on which the number imprinted on the foot must be checked before bidding can begin. Next time I go back to Buffalo, I’m totally digging out my old Star Wars toys and checking the tiny numbers on their feet. A picture of Patrick Stewart playing Captain Picard dressed as some kind of private eye, signed by Patrick Stewart. A set of commemorative coins that go for (no joke) a thousand dollars. More jokes I don’t get that slay the crowd.
And now it’s my big moment. I lead off with Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom”. Which I thought, you know, science fiction related. Involves counting. German. Can’t lose! The main organizer (decked out in what tuxedos will look like in the future) digs it, but he’s pretty much alone on that. At about this point, the first request for Faith Hill comes in and I started scanning the table around me for sharp objects. Requests that followed included: “Can you play some eighties?” during “In a Big Country”. House music. At least three separate requests for “Time Warp”. At least two separate requests for Journey. And I fucking hate Journey! Everyone knows that. I took out that ad in the Ithaca Times. At one point this eight year old kid starts requesting album tracks by Depeche Mode, waving away “Just Can’t Get Enough” in favor of “real Depeche Mode”. He’s thrilled I’ve got “Black Celebration” and for a moment I think there’s hope. Then his dad dragged him upstairs to their room and I’m left with the rest of them.
So the rest of them got me thinking a bit, as I warded off requests for really just the worst songs you can imagine. Now I am very much a geek in any number of ways. I can bend your ear on comic books, Star Wars, X-Files, you name it. I've never gone in for Dr. Who, but I own all of The Prisoner. But the Star Trek stuff has always left me pretty cold. I always thought it was because you had to keep track of a lot of stuff and I like my sci-fi pretty simple ("There's this Force. It has a Dark Side and...well, a side that isn't so dark.") But now I’m realizing the actual reason. Take Star Wars, for just a minute: a plucky band of rebels plots to destroy the oppressive empire. X-Files: a plucky pair of FBI agents attempts to decrypt a vast conspiracy by a shadowy and oppressive government. Star Trek: everyone dresses the same, has a military rank and everything’s pretty okay. It’s the ultimate dream of a police state, free will subjugated to a vaguely defined “common good”. The state is no longer the enemy: the state is ubiquitous. No wonder its fans seem to be, for the most part, conservative and fairly passive. They're supposed to be geeks, but geekism, I always thought, involves a basically inquisitive and acquisitional nature. There's nothing to acquire/inquire about the world of Star Trek that I can discern. Everything is in it's right place, Roddenberry's in his heaven and all is right with the world. All watched over by military-industrial complexes of loving grace.
And I realized I actually wished these people harm. I wanted bad things to happen to them. I wanted them to be eaten by Klingons or anally raped by Romulans or something unpleasant and thematically appropriate. But I couldn’t help trying to please them, struggling to make them like me, please for the love of god LIKE ME!
It didn’t work. They paid me, but they didn’t like me. And I’m out hopefully in time to see some of the Hubcap show. Those guys like me.
Posted by No Radio at 2:36 PM