Monday, February 2, 2009

Star Trek alla Italiana

Star Trek alla Italiana

(Published by Fra Noi, Chicago IL, March 2009)

Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the traveler Terri S. Maxfield. Her five day mission, to explore strange new environments. To seek out new life and new perspectives. To boldly go where she has never gone before...

Maxfield’s Log, Stardate 62435.2: The day begins very early. I cannot sleep for the excitement. The eagerly anticipated day has finally arrived. I know not what to expect, though I feel in my bones that this is no ordinary mission. It is almost as if catharsis is tangible, mixed in on the breeze that plays with my hair as I wait at the train station, leaving there a sweet, intoxicating scent. Something wonderful is about to happen, I can feel it. I am on my way to my first Star Trek convention.

The great event is to take place in the town of Riccione, on the eastern coast of Italy. I had always been a fan of Star Trek when I lived in the United States, but never went so far as to attend an official gathering. My passion for Star Trek has recently been revived by my having rediscovered the series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” via the internet. And I must admit that had it not been for my falling somewhat in love with the profoundly intriguing character of Weyoun from that series (delightfully played by actor Jeffrey Combs), I don’t know if I would be making the journey I am today. I know Weyoun has his faults, every once in a while wanting to exterminate the population of the planet Earth, and so on…but nobody’s perfect. He’s just a little misunderstood, that’s all.

After an almost uneventful journey, I arrive at the hotel and proceed to my assigned quarters. The festivities are not to officially start until tomorrow, so I decide to seek out familiar territory to pass the time this evening. I head for the bar.

It is here that other Trek-loving humanoids begin to converge. I was alone when I arrived, but by the end of the evening, I am now surrounded by the most interesting collection of people I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They are a fascinating species, so kind, fun and open, traits that I have noticed almost consistently in the Italian population in general, but then adjoin to that the special added bonus of being a Trekkie, and you’ve got yourself one hell of spectacular individual. And I enjoy the company of these wondrous creatures until the sun is threatening to rise again.

Maxfield’s Log, supplemental: The next few days are a surrealistic blur of Starfleet uniforms, video presentations, costume contests, incredible meals, and of course the coup de grace, the Guests of Honor. This year’s guests are actors Renè Auberjonois who played shapeshifting Constable Odo on Deep Space Nine, and Alice Krige who portrayed the evil Borg Queen in the film “First Contact” and on the series Star Trek Voyager. Each give two separate presentations, Auberjonois is animated and amusing, Krige enchanting and elegant.

One evening during dinner, Mr. Auberjonois went around the room to each table for a quick hello to everyone, something I thought quite nice indeed. When he came to our table, he asked if anyone spoke English. My dining companions all pointed to me, and I shyly raised my hand. He smiled and said slowly, “Do you speak English?”, to which I replied, “Well, actually I speak American.” He stood bolt upright and gleefully said, “You certainly do!” Then a thought struck him, he leaned forward, and looking me deep in the eyes asked in his gravelly Odo voice, “ARE you American?” Now, I am not one that is often made nervous in the presence of celebrity, but having Chief Constable Odo’s bright blue eyes staring into me, I felt my cheeks begin to warm and I realized that I was losing the power of speech. I answered all his questions to the best of my ability, that being a series of one word answers and a lot of giggling. Even my beloved Weyoun, who considered Odo to be a god, was able to remain composed and eloquent in his presence, but I, to my embarrassment, could not. It was…glorious.

There was someone else that shared the stage with both our honored guests. His name is Paolo Attivissimo, and he is nothing less than amazing. There were many things that left deep impressions on me during this excursion, but Paolo Attivissimo’s performance left me spellbound. Aside from being a radio host, author, blogger, journalist, and all-around information technology genius, he is also a devout Star Trek aficionado. Paolo served as interpreter for each actor during their scheduled appearances. Watching him work was one of the highpoints of this adventure. I was astounded at how precise and perfect his translations were! His memory was mind-blowing. The actors would tell a story that could last up to several minutes, and Paolo’s translation was always spot-on, never missing even the slightest detail. (I suspect he is the product of some genetic enhancement program. Julian Bashir ain’t got nothin’ on this boy…).

Maxfield’s Log, Stardate 62364.7: Departure. This is a sad day. Even the sky is crying. After four days of unusual sun and moderate temperatures, it has turned grey, cold and is now raining. We are all very tired, you can see it in our droopy posture, in the puffiness around our eyes. We have all eked out every last drop of this experience. We have all started our days early, and gone to sleep very, very late.

I am sitting at the bar, ordering the first coffee of the day, when I notice Alice Krige standing next to me, searching for something in her purse. I think exhaustion has set in, I’m too tired to be nervous, too weary to even think twice before speaking to the Queen of the Borg. I simply say to her, “Did you enjoy yourself as much as it appeared you did?” She looks up at me with eyes alight, and breathes more than says, “Oh, yes!” We talk for a few minutes, about her fascinating film project “String Caesar” (filmed in large part at Pollsmoor prison in South Africa, using inmates as actors), about Star Trek conventions, and about Italy. I ask her if conventions in Italy differ from those in other countries. She thoughtfully says that every country brings its own flavor to the conventions, and the Star Trek events here do certainly reflect the cultural flavor of Italy. She noted especially the relaxed atmosphere, the respect of the fans, and how mealtime is not just a time to eat, but time to share with this adopted-extended family.

It strikes me then, that this is the feeling I’ve been trying to name since my arrival. There is a feeling of family amongst these people. When a large group of like-minded humanoids get together peacefully, and all share the same positive philosophical passion, there is a familial bond that forms. And where else is family more important than in the Italian culture? There is an energy of love here, and I find it wonderfully addictive. The people I met here, are now more than just friends. I now feel heartbroken at the reality of having to leave this place, to leave this my new family.

I find comfort, however, in the fact that there is another, even larger convention in May. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu! It’s not that far away…

End Log

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