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Kate, There’s Klingon Following Us

July 23, 2006

Throughout my travels over the next year, I imagine I’ll see some strange sights. Fortunately, all of them will at least take place on Earth.

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of the longest-running Star Trek conventions with the Greenbergers. I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, spending most of my childhood in love with the newer version of Star Trek, my adolesence in X-Files, and recently, all the fun and sometimes brillant sci-fi that seems to have begun a renaissance of TV Sci-fi. (Rolling Stone wasn’t kidding when they called Galactica the best show on television). And so, in a very, very epic story(and by this, I mean length), my weekend at Shore Leave 2006, after the “More” jump.


Dramatis Personae
Me (geek since 1990, aka that TNG episode watched with my parents)
Kate (fellow geek and friend since 2004, when we bonded over mutual admiration for Neil Gaiman during a class about Classical Islamic Texts. Cairo-bound.)
Mr. G (Kate’s dad)
Mrs. G (Kate’s mom)
The Boogie Knights (singing group extraordinaire)
Connor Trineer (late-era Trekactor, sometimes Wraith)
Carmen Argenziano (Stargate actor, sometimes Tok’ra)
Corin Nemec (sometimes Stargate actor, full-time Scientologist)
Amanda Tapping (Stargate actress, sometimes sex-symbol)
Teenage Klingon

Friday
I left early on Friday to stop by the National Portrait Gallery on my way to Hunt Valley, MD. The National Portrait Gallery, recently opened, is huge. I was there for 2 hours, and I only saw the first floor. Afterwards I made my way to Union Station, and I’ll save the multiple-mode of public transportation trip story for later. I got to Hunt Valley at 8 P.M. and after a comical cell phone conversation with Kate, got to the hotel.

Hunt Valley Marriott is a maze of a hotel, and Kate had already handed me my con badge (with a pretty “Guest” ribbon attached. I felt very special.) so I followed her down a complicated series of hallways and we dropped off our stuff. Immediately we went to see Peter David about Kate’s part in Mystery Trekkie Theater, the chorus on a song called “Rotten Ol’ Q”, sung to the tune of “Cotton Eye Joe” all about “Encounter at Farpoint”. God I love Next Generation. That’s how I got into this whole mess.

But Kate was sick, so our next order of business was to find her some tea. On our way we ended up talking to Mrs. G and several Boogie Knights. It was during this conversation that I realized I was least-geekiest person there, a feat never before achieved by my surroundings.

Then I saw it. Out of the corner my eye, but it was unmistakable to even the novice geek. Long brown curly hair, ridged forehead, Bat’leth sword (you know… Bat’leth swords) A Klingon, full-dress, full makeup walked by us. I tapped Mrs. G on the shoulder and asked what time it was. 9:30, my first Klingon sighting. It was like I was watching Trekkies all over again. Mrs. G smiled and said “Just wait. There’s going to be a lot more of that.” I nodded, but I had no idea.

Unable to locate tea, or a replicator, Kate and I went to Luna-C, which was a comedy show about all things sci-fi. I got 100 percent of the jokes (even the Babylon 5 ones). Unfortunately, only 25 percent of it was funny. The older man in front of me was wearing Spock ears. I suddenly realized that I had left the real world behind.

Back on the tea warpath, we decided to try one of the hotel restaurants. We walk in, looking for light fare, and instead, we find ourselves in the middle of the Klingon Feast. My previous glee of spotting my first Klingon is overtaken by the fact that I’m standing in the middle of a 50’s diner style restaurant, watching Klingons playing poker and singing disco songs. There is no tea.

“One of the Top Ten Weirdest Moments of my Life” I tell Kate. I had no idea.

Dejected from the idea of tea, we wander through the main hallway, looking for water. It’s also the middle of the “Meet the Pros”, which is a series of tables set up for pro writers to sign books and discuss upcoming projects. We hover around Mr. G’s table for a while, and I am introduced to a woman author who has a dead-on replica of an Atlantis jacket, patches and all. In a moment of geek covetousness, I forget her name.

After finding water and watching perhaps the worst rendition of “My Humps” EVER in the karaoke room, Kate and I head back to the room to pass out. Too many Klingons.

Saturday
Somebody’s phone/alarm goes off. It is 9:00 a.m. and time for breakfast. Words cannot describe my groggyness, but I have been promised coffee and a muffin from Panera for breakfast, so I push myself out of bed. Finding my way around the maze is not too difficult and I use the backstage entrance to the ballroom to find the Greenbergers.

“Fooood.” I zombie-request.

Happily fortified with caffeine and carbohydrates, I look on as Mr. G gives his presentation, which consists a bit of what he’s been doing recently and a bunch of new movie trailers.

Right after is the Boogie Knights first appearance. Kate sings soprano for the Knights, who are a singing group with a decidedly medieval/renaissance/geek bent.

Knowing about the Boogie Knights through Kate stories is not the same as listening to them. I am very impressed and suddenly a lot of Kate’s away messages suddenly make sense. More on the Boogie Knights later.

The plan is to meet for lunch at 12:30, so I’ve got a little time to explore. I walk up and down the main hallway, with my camera out, feeling a lot like a photojournalist at her own family reunion. I’ve drank a lot of coffee though, so I head towards the bathroom. In line, someone strikes up a conversation with a very tall, very tan woman in front of me. I find out that she’s Spice Williams, one of the con guests, here because she played a Klingon in a Star Trek movie. Spice looks like she could crush you with her pinky finger. Her facial features are suspiciously Klingon-esque. Somebody didn’t need too many prosthetics to play to role.

Back out in the hallway, the fan-made Stargate (instead of taking you to a different planet or galaxy, you’ll simply run into a brick wall) is coming along well. By the end of the day, a ramp will be installed. I take all kinds of pictures, with various degrees of success. Two R2-D2s (including a girl one) whirl and beep outside in the courtyard.

I meet Kate and family backstage so Mr. G can introduce the morning’s first actor guest, Corin Nemec. I guess the con organizers have asked him to introduce because he’s a long-time guest, but the Greenbergers are not a Stargate watching family, so the following ensues:

Mr. G: Who’s this guy again?
Me: Connor Trinneer. Was on Star Trek: Enterprise, did a guest shot on Atlantis… wait no, whoa. This is Corin Nemec. Stargate, one season, not on the show anymore.

This is why I need to wear my glasses more often.

Corin Nemec is wearing a plaid shirt and the coolest shoes I’ve ever seen a guy wear. I am having a fangirl crisis. There is somebody from Stargate, for god’s sake, two feet away from me. Kate notices my fidgetness and not knowing who the hell he is, asks to take a picture with me, for me.

There’s still a couple minutes before Corin goes on, and I’m still sitting there. Feeling like I’ve gone into fangirl stalker extraordinaire land, I strike up a conversation with him about how many cons he’s been to (not many) and where (in Europe, mostly). Somewhere, the 12-year-old version of myself is cannot believe I have the courage to talk to someone who’s been on TV. 20-year-old me thinks it’s ridiculously easy. But then 20-year old me knocks her head on the Boogie’s chimes and swears a lot.

Carmen Argenziano (also on Stargate) walks through the door at the same time Kate asks me a question about a hustle move from ballroom. We start going over the move and Carmen asks if we should go on stage instead of him and Corin.

After the introduction, Corin and Carmen go out to meet their adoring public and we go to Chipotle (mmm, Chipotle).

Three delicious veggie tacos later, Mr. G’s been roped into Intro duty again, and this time it’s Connor Trinneer for real. It’s a bit awkward, as Enterprise, the latest of the Trek incarnations is really not met with all that enthusiasm (so what do you say for an intro?). I want to know what Joe Flanigan and David Hewlett are like, but that’s just obnoxious, so I chill backstage, drinking some water (which I will later come to regret), and trying to seem like I have a purpose there. Connor has a cold, which has inexplicably given him a Texan accent and a bit of a lower body temperature. He gets a suit jacket from somebody and waits for Amanda Tapping to be released from what must be her ten-thousandth “What about Sam’s relationship with Jack” question barrage. I share this thought with Mr. G and some woman in the audience overhears me, and gives me knowing smile.

Connor gets introduced and I’m backstage when Amanda Tapping leaves the stage. This is weirder than Corin Nemec. It’s Amanda Tapping, for real, right next to me. She kind of dresses like my mom. (Yes, mom, that’s a compliment.) There, I have the painfully obvious realization that people on TV are well…people. And really not that special. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding like a real dumbass, but it’s more of a real-life counterpart to point I recognized academically about 12 years ago. I mean, you know that actors are actors and that’s its all just fiction, but it’s kind of like finding out that Jay Gatsby was just really somebody’s weird uncle.

Anyway, Amanda is a bit rushed so I don’t get to talk to her. Instead I sit and watch Connor’s talk long enough for someone to ask about Atlantis. He mentions he has caught a cold at the Goddard Space Center and suddenly I realize that I may have drank water out of glass that he previously used by accident.

I have sudden need for orange juice and Sudafed. Then some older guy asks him about real U.S. space exploration and then goes off on a rant about how it should be America, not China on the moon. Connor, and majority of people in the audience are really confused, and wonder what this has to do with Star Trek. For his part, Connor answers diplomatically. I would have asked the guy whether he thought the Vulcans should be part of NATO.

Bored with the Enterprise questions that dominate the conversation, I go back to the room to dump the pictures and videos I have so far onto my laptop and try to see if I can get free wireless in the hotel. Not so much.

Now it’s the Chipotle soda going through me and I make another trip to the bathroom. As I’m washing my hands, a very small blonde woman coughs and spits a loogie in the sink next to me. “Oh, I’m so sorry”, she says in an Australian accent, and instantly, I realize why she looks familiar. It’s Gigi Edgley, who played Chiana on Farscape. “Don’t worry about it.” I say. Another lady in line makes a comment about better-here-than-on-stage. I make a note to direct all future bathroom trips to the bathroom in the main hallway.

It’s the 40-year anniversary of Star Trek, and there’s a panel of writers for the occasion which has been neither well planned nor well advertised. Mr. G, along with his fellow writers friends talk about the future of Star Trek novels and stories. I walk in and find myself a seat. It’s a fun conversation, but it’s overshadowed by some guy bagering them about the complete list of Star Trek novels in the back of the books. But he’s the only one with questions, so there they were, and eventually it turned to favorite Original Series stories.

Soon, I’m headed towards dinner with the Greenbergers and their friends. The dinner is delicious and we head back to the hotel in time for Masquerade.

The Boogies are doing half-time for Masquerade (Masquerade, put simply, is a costume/performance contest), so Kate goes off to get ready and we sit in on the last minutes of Jamie Bamber’s Q&A session. He has come straight from Vancouver after filming Galactica and still looks like God’s Gift to Fangirls. His British accent is overwhelmingly hot. I can’t stop taking pictures.

We saw another of his Q&A sessions Sunday afternoon, and the two kind of meld together, over the course of both days he: went on about how awesome West Wing was, and how he was looking forward to Studio 60; did the most hilarious Edward James Olmos impression EVER, which I failed to get on video twice; described the original Apollo’s relationship with original Starbuck as “wildly homoerotic” (“I thought it would be in an interesting choice to play him straight.”); not-so-diplomatically answered a “new Galactica is TOO DARK” question, made a George Bush zinger (“George Bush doesn’t care about Cylons”, I thought); and talked about Cylon cannibalism (thus again proving the maxim: all conversations eventually turn to cannibalism).

So yeah, Jamie Bamber went way up in my book.

Masquerade was both exciting and awkward. Some of the costumes were amazing, others funny, others just strange (too many vague elf-maidens for my taste).

While the judges went off to deliberate (and to flee from Spice Williams), the Boogie Knights started their show with a number sung to “the Circle of Life”. It was a great intro that involved dragons, mugatos, horses, and professional headset microphones. The concert was amazing, and by the end, when they played Arthurian Pie (sung, of course, to “American Pie”) cell phones, lighters, and light sabers came out waving and the whole crowd was singing along. They won several categories in the Masquerade, even though they hadn’t technically entered. I now also have to worry about getting through customs in Egypt with a wall poster of all the Enterprises.

Kate gets changed, there’s a short practice for Mystery Trekkie Theater, and then we head to Ten Forward, which is like every band trip dance I’ve ever been to, only eight times as geeky (yet another feat). The music is decent, and Kate and I break out some ballroom moves. When the DJ tells us that it’s time to slow things down and everybody clears the floor, we decide its time to walk around a bit. We go up to see if the 50’s diner has food. This time, instead of a Klingon feast, the place is deserted except for two people dressed as pirates making out. Time to go. We walk around a bit more and I notice that there’s a teenage Klingon who was in Masquerade walking wherever we walk. “Kate, there’s a Klingon following us.” I say. I’m not sure she hears me.

Still waiting for the music to stop sucking, we sit on the ramp that leads up to the fan-created Gate. I consider taking a picture but I’m too tired to look for my camera. The teenage Klingon is hovering. He walks in and out of the ballroom and finally approaches Kate and I. I enter a state of placid-on-the-surface-panic-underneath, looking for the nearest exit (which was coincidentally, the Gate). The Klingon asks Kate to dance. And because she is a better person than I, and because the song is almost half-over, she says yes. I send them off by saying “I’ll be right by the gate if anybody needs me. You know, chillin. I’ll try not to end up in other galaxies while I’m waiting.” I’m only child, I’ve learned to crack myself up.

After a little more dancing and little more conversation with the Boogies, I’m back in bed, fast asleep.

Sunday

We wake later and find out we’re going to church. It’s a lovely building and the priest is a credit to Catholicism, but in the middle of his homily, he uses the metaphor of the “Vulcan shield”. Kate, Robbie, Mrs. G and I all give each other a shocked look. What are the chances? Then we realize that we, the people from the Star Trek convention, have no idea what the hell he’s talking about. Is it a regular shield? Is he mixing up shield technology with the mind meld? Preoccupied with these questions, I miss the point of the homily entirely.

Back at the hotel, we walk around the dealer’s room for a bit. I consider buying Galactica patches and silly buttons, and a re-creation of the Angel puppet from Smile Time (a hilarious episode in an otherwise very dark show). After another Jamie Bamber Q&A session, we watch the final game of the World Cup in the hotel bar. I swear I see the teenage Klingon without the makeup sitting across the room. Perhaps it was the baseball jersey that said “Klingon” across it.

For someone who has grownup with sci-fi as constant background to life, having it pushed to the forefront was an amazing and somewhat overwhelming experience. Imagine you have a slight fever and you stay home all day, watching reruns of your favorite shows. And then imagine you fall asleep. This was the fever dream that I would have had. How quickly it becomes normal to see everyone dressed up as a character, to see a Wraith casually perusing a magazine rack, a Jedi lady talking with a Vulcan. To be, for a weekend, in a self-sustaining world outside of what we call “real life”.

And before I know it I’m on the Maryland Light Rail, back into reality. Sadly, there’s no Klingons here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2006 5:31 pm

    I was said “teenage Klingon.” You may tell Kate that I can’t thank her enough for dancing with me. You see, I’m usually a chicken and asking Kate to dance with me has made me the happiest KAG in the world.

    Sincerelly,
    Joey

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