I am not a Trekkie. Because of this, I cannot nerd out on you and preach the complexity and wisdom of the show.
However, I have been to a Star Trek convention. You heard me correctly, my friends, and it was an experience I will never forget.
With it being so unforgettable, I should remember the year, but I don’t. I can only pinpoint it to my time in New Jersey, which was 2002 – 2006. I can further deduce, based on my haircut and the clothes I wore (yes, I can remember these things, but not the date), it was likely 2004. The weather was hot, and I was stubbornly dressed for autumn, which makes me think it was probably September.
None of that really matters. What matters is that I went to a Star Trek convention in Cherry Hill, NJ with the sole purpose of seeing William Shatner. Up to this point, I thought Shatner was intriguing because everyone seems to ridicule him, yet he seems to also be in on the joke somehow. He appears to be just aware enough to laugh with everyone and not look like a complete tool. Also, I discovered his recording “Has Been”, featuring a song with Henry Rollins, that further proved to me there was something to Shatner besides a huge ego and a bad toupee.
As it happens, there is something more to Shatner – it’s an extra ego because one is not enough for him, as well as a steaming side dish of assholery.
The convention was held in the lobby, hallways, and various ballrooms of some mediocre hotel off of the turnpike. It was weird, to say the least. There were tables and booths full of Star Trek shit, people milling about in costume, men gingerly caressing action figures and plush toys – basically the peculiarity you’d expect at such an event. While waiting for Shatner’s appearance, it was entertaining enough to watch people, which is a favorite pastime annually at the Iowa State Fair. This wasn’t all that different from the fair, actually. Instead of obese Midwesterners eating fried food on a stick and farmers commenting on the testicle size of the blue ribbon boar, there were copious yet differing geeks wearing plastic Spock ears and there was an exciting buzz over Shatner being in the building.
Cue Shatner. In he comes, taking his place behind the podium. He’s funny, he’s charming, and he quickly launches into a story about Riverside, Iowa – the birthplace of his character Captain Kirk. This might not seem unusual for those who are familiar with Kirk’s character. However, I was/am not a Trekkie. I was a somewhat newly transplanted Iowan living in New Jersey. I did not expect to hear Shatner mention my homeland, let alone dedicate his time slot entirely to the small town of Riverside.
It didn’t take long for my surprise to morph into apprehension, then into downright rage. Shatner went into splendid detail of how he punked the entire town and filmed it for national viewing pleasure. In true East Coast fashion, he stood before me, mocking my heritage, my people, my fucking birthright.
I was not amused.
In retrospect, I realize I was being hypersensitive. One thing I quickly learned upon leaving Iowa is that many people really do believe and adhere to stereotypes. Conversely, upon returning to the Midwest a few years ago, I realized my rose-colored view of my aforementioned birthright was 75% bullshit and 25% sentimentality.
In the end, Shatner was an incredible asshole and I was a naive fool. I guess we both fulfilled our own prescribed stereotypes, as expected.