Take Cover – Rant Incoming!

To my left-leaning readers, this might be a bit of preaching to the choir. To my more right-leaning readers, well, you might want to sit this one out. So strap in, this one’s gonna get rough.

Unless you just beamed down to the planet in the last few minutes (and I know you didn’t, I checked the transporter logs), you know what happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I want to address a couple of points surrounding the reporting of this tragedy.

First off, some news outlets are trying to make this all about an assault on Christian values and Christian religion. Pardon my French, but I gotta call a big “Bullshit” on this one. The nutjob shooter looked at his victims and specifically stated he was shooting them because they were black/African-American. This was NOT about what religion the victims practised, it was PURELY about the colour of their skin. Anyone saying anything else is either grotesquely ignorant, or just plain messed up in the head. This was a race hate crime, domestic terrorism against the African-American community. Period.

Second, there has been a great deal of commentary about the “evil” embodied by the shooter. I have a BIG problem when real-world events are framed in such nebulous terminology.  “Good” and “evil” are concepts, and extremely polar ones at that. God (or your name for your favourite monotheistic deity) is good, Satan (or whoever) is evil. To try to apply such grandiose concepts to this event, and to the perpetrator, virtually guarantees society won’t deal with it. After all, we’re just little people, how can we deal in such spiritual grandiosity as good and evil? The fact is. the shooter wasn’t “evil”. He did a bad thing, an illegal thing, an immoral thing (or a moral thing using a set of truly messed-up morals), but he is a person. We can fight the stupidity, ignorance, and uninformed opinions of people – and that is what we MUST do in the wake of this tragedy. But let’s not raise the act to the level of the abstract – let’s keep it right here where we can all address it.

I won’t dive into the gun control thing – most of you know my feelings on that, and I think trying to answer that debate overshadows the real problem at the root of all this, the prevalent racism that still haunts us from over 150 years ago. But I do want to reflect on a point made by, among others, Jon Stewart. We have expended billions of dollars and thousands of American soldiers’ lives in two foreign wars to make us all feel safe here at home. Yet the number of souls lost in the twin towers on 9/11 pales in comparison to the ongoing slaughter caused by individuals, with various levels of mental problems, easily obtaining handguns and using social media outlets to either justify their warped worldviews, or to receive encouragement for said worldviews. A “war on guns” might help some, but when a rental agent threatens me with moving in “a couple niggers” (his exact words) into the house cross the drive to intimidate me, that’s not a problem with guns, that’s a problem with what’s between peoples’ ears. Until we address the lingering problems in our culture (like South Carolina flying the Confederate flag at full-staff despite lowering the national and state flag), and until we realise we are NOT in a post-racial society, but are fully stuck in a national quagmire where people are still judged by the colour of their skin and not the content of their character (to quasi-quote MLK), things like this – and the rampant police shootings of unarmed black men – will continue unabated. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for great overarching concepts like “good” and “evil”, we need to look at each other and see a person and DEAL with that person – not as white or black, man or woman, young or old, or in any other stereotypical format, but as a person, just like us, and deal with them the way we would like them to deal with us. It might be hard to love another person at first sight, but it should be natural and automatic to RESPECT that person, and treat them with the respect they deserve. It can be done – I came from a somewhat bigoted family, yet I came within a single fork in my life’s road to marrying an African-American lady. It might be hard, but we have to try. The only other alternative is too heart-wrenching to even contemplate.

Okay, that’s enough outta me for tonight. To each and every one of you, whatever the colour of your skin or the brand of your politics, I thank you for your patience. And a special goodnight to the people of Charleston, SC. May the horrors of the last few days give us all the courage to make sure this never happens again. Take care, and God bless.

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I just read that Sir Christopher Lee has died. From playing Dracula in the Hammer House of Horror films, to Scaramanga in the Bond film “Man With The Golden Gun”, to Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lord Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, and all the numerous other roles he has portrayed, his talents and abilities can be summed up in one word – as can the depth of loss we have suffered at his passing.


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A Trip One-Way To The FAA.

I wish I could sweat. I’m too scared to sweat. Heck, I gotta keep reminding myself to breathe. What the heck are they gonna do to me? And is that dang clock going BACKWARDS?!?

“They’re ready fer ya!” Good God, he woulda scared my crapless if I wasn’t already at Pucker Factor 10. He’s 6-foot-5 tall, and just as wide at the shoulders. How the heck did he fit through the doorway? Well, I guess this is it….

The room is dark. I get the sense of several people, but all I can see is a single metal chair, under a spotlight. “Park it!” from the big guy. I barely reach the chair. my knees are jelly. What are they gonna do to me?

A disembodied voice speaks. “Mr. Erickson, you have been brought before this body to face severe charges, the most severe charges we can level. The facts have proven beyond doubt that you are guilty, and there is no – I repeat, NO – chance for mercy or parole. We have reviewed your case, and the only outcome is the following. You will be taken from this place, and delivered to your fate immediately. You have been found …..”

Oh crap, this is it. Somebody’s yelling “NO!” at the top of his lungs. It takes me some time to realise it’s me…

“GUILTY of all ten charges, and will heretofore bear the charge of “Crazy Cat Guy”. This concludes this meeting of Feline Adopters Anonymous. Remove him!”

The big guy drags me from the room, screaming and kicking the whole way…..

– – – – – – – – – –

Yes, from the above, you can conclude we’re up to 10 cats. Yep, a kitten literally ran INTO our house a couple months back, and decided to stay. He’s housebroken, but he wasn’t too well behaved, so that’s been entertaining me for the past weeks. That, and the gradual recovery of gigs – yes, GIGABYTES – of Email that got shipped to a different server without my being told. Fun. That’s also been consuming large amounts of my time, as well as putting away the winter climate control stuff and getting the summer stuff running. Ain’t no way this house could EVER be automatic (we don’t even have a thermostat), so the climate control computer is yours truly. REAL fun.

So I hope to see y’all soon on YOUR blogs. And maybe get back to you on mine. After all, now I HAVE to validate my credentials from the FAA… :D

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My Cruise To Heaven, or How I Found Grace.

Warning! This is going to be one of my recollections, prone to sidetracks and tangents. Please use the facilities, or get something to drink, or just make sure you’re settled in comfortably. (Hums a few bars of the “Star Trek” theme.) Okay, ready? Let’s go!

First, though, a bit of background. I am a second-tier Trekkie, falling in love with the show when it was in reruns in the 1970s. This also coincided with my beginning to notice that girls were really kinda neat, and one of the REALLY neat ones was Yeoman Janice Rand on Trek, played by a lady named Grace Lee Whitney. Little did I know what lay in my future, more than a decade later….

The time: September 1987. I was at that joyous time when I had far more money than sense (as opposed to now, when I have neither), and I had booked myself on a cruise. But not just any cruise – this was Trek Cruise, a 3+ day cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada (Mexico) and back on a boat loaded with various Star Trek celebrities and a bunch of rabid, slathering Trekkies. I had just stepped on board, waiting to check in to get my cabin key and convention registration, when a lady I knew came running up to me. She was an organiser of sci-fi cons including the cruise, and when she started in about needing a favour, I began to worry that my trip was about to go down the tubes. But then came the magic request. “John, I really need your help. One of our guest escorts hasn’t shown up. Would you be willing to escort Grace Lee Whitney around during the cruise?”

Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope poop in the woods? HELL YEAH!!!!!!

So there I was, the go-to guy for a lady I already had a crush on. A lot of the weekend is a blur these days, thanks to the various drugs pumped into me to try curing my migraines, but I have a number of scenes I’ll never forget. Sitting in the ship’s music hall, as Grace sang to me while checking audio levels with the sound man. (The room was rather cool, and by coincidence, I had bought a crew jacket from the third movie in the dealer’s room earlier. I loaned it to her, and have exclusive photos of her singing wearing that jacket. It hangs in a plastic bag in my upstairs closet, untouched since that day.) Standing next to her while lesser mortals came up begging autographs, and escorting her away through throngs of fans when the autograph time was closed. Sitting on the ship’s fantail with her over lunch, chatting about a thousand different things. To be honest, I can’t remember my cabin, nor the cabin mate I was randomly matched with. But one event stands out in particular.

There was a seaside bazaar in Ensenada, strung out along a gentle slope up to a scenic outlook point. which Grace wanted to browse through. So off we went, accompanied by James Doohan’s wife (Doohan was Scotty the engineer). One of the vendors carried a variety of wicker furniture creations, including one odd, hemisperical lump about 2.5 feet long, with a circular hole cut in the front. Both Jimmy’s wife and I were confused as to what it was, when Grace proclaimed “Oh, it’s a cathouse!”. Jimmy’s wife, bless her soul, had a mind that went right to the naughty meaning of the word, just as mine did – cathouse being old-time slang for a brothel – and we both busted out laughing. Poor Grace looked so confused, until she realised just what she said, whereupon she turned the most lovely shade of crimson with embarrassment! She tried to apologise, which didn’t work so well, because firstly, neither Jimmy’s wife nor I had taken any offence at her language, and secondly, because we now had her laughing just as hard as we were!

That was, as the old phrase goes, the start of a beautiful friendship. I followed Grace around the country, meeting up with her at conventions in Georgia, Florida, and Texas. Matter of fact, Grace was the reason I was in Texas when I met my wife-to-be, Tamy, so I owe Grace for that. I also learned of the personal Hell Grace went through with alcohol addiction, and how she worked her way back to health and sobriety with help from Leonard Nimoy, another wonderful soul from the Trek universe who has left us recently, and far too soon.

But I still have a little reminder of my lovely lady, besides the jacket. We bought a parts car for me to take apart and use the pieces to make my beloved 1987 Cavalier run again. The car came to us, sight unseen, from North Carolina, on the flatbed of a truck we had hired from one of the local furniture haulers for the Amish. The driver was going to push it by hand down the ramps, with my help and with Tamy steering, when Tamy suggested we try to start the car. She got the keys, climbed in, and started the car on the first try. That struck me as amazing, and since my best memories of Gracie picture her in a lovely white outfit, the same shade as the parts car, for the first time I named a car I owned. To this very day, over 10 years after we got her, Grace is still our prime running vehicle. Amazing Grace, indeed.

Thank you for allowing me to share this little bit of my past. For more than two decades, Grace Lee Whitney was a major force in my life. From adolescent crush, to admired celebrity, to companion and friend and even, indirectly, to matchmaker, when I look back in my past, I always see what wonderful effect she had on me. She was truly one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, strong of spirit, always positive in outlook, friendly and comforting – it’s no wonder that non-Trekkies will struggle to picture “the gruff old doctor” or “the Russian navigator”, but always, Always, remember “the gorgeous blonde in the beehive hairdo”. We’ve lost another great spirit from that little TV show that was cancelled after only 3 seasons, but went on to be seen round the world. And the world has lost a truly amazing lady. Godspeed and God bless, Grace. We’re all much richer having known you, and for my part, eternally grateful to have spent those few special moments with you. You truly were, and will always remain, my amazing Grace.

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Grace Has Fallen From Me.

I’ll write a more complete entry tomorrow,. but it is my heart-wrenching duty to inform you of the passing of Grace Lee Whitney, Yeoman Janice Rand in the original Star Trek, and my personal dream girl. She has died at age 83, and the world has lost one of the most pure, kind, and caring souls I have ever encountered in all my travels. A stunning beauty regardless of age, a singer with a voice like a heavenly choir, and  delightfully funny lady, I was truly blessed to call her “friend” for many years, and nary a day has passed I haven’t thought of her. I’d recommend you go rent a copy of “Some Like It Hot” with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe – though Grace has a only a small part, she can outshine even the stellar Ms. Monroe.

I’ll sign off for tonight – I’m so choked up, it’s hard to write. Rest assured, though, that if you look up into the night sky, it will look quite a bit brighter tonight, for a dazzling soul has joined the firmament, and even the stars themselves will seem a bit pale as Grace Lee Whitney, a truly amazing Grace, joins her fellow Star Trek actors in Eternity.

Good Night, Gracie. We’ll always have Ensenada.

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The Passing Of The One Saddens The Many.

How do you eulogise someone who you’ve only met very briefly in passing, yet was a key past of your life for decades? How do you pay proper respect to someone who touched so many lives, in many ways beyond that for which he was known? How can mere words give proper tribute to someone who literally became part of the world’s consciousness, and conscience?

Leonard Nimoy was many things, and did so much more than portray the beloved Mr. Spock from Star Trek. A writer, director, author, musician, and a guest star on dozens of TV shows and movies across five decades, he should be lionised as a man for all times and tastes. Yet it was that brief span on a failed NBC sci-fi series that brought him first to the American psyche, then to the world over. A little cult TV show, written by a true genius (the great Gene Roddenberry), gave us an insight to a truly utopian future. War, poverty, disease, and so many other human foibles had been conquered or marginalised, and our window to that wonderful future was through the eyes of a great yin and yang. While Captain Kirk plowed through each and every challenge with his heart on his sleeve, it was the cool, calm, logical Mr. Spock that attracted such a loyal following. To this day, Spock’s death scene in “The Wrath Of Khan” is some of Hollywood’s most poignant footage, and the groundswell of protest at his seeming end powered the original series to four more movies, not to mention several TV spinoffs and a host of films – not to mention, being the catalyst that brought my wife and myself together over25 years ago.

Leonard Nimoy was so much to so many. To sum his life up in a few words seems so meagre, so insufficient. Perhaps the best tribute to him is to measure how many lives he touched, over so many years, across so much of this planet. And in that measure, he will truly stand for the ages, a monument to how large an impact one person can have. In summation, I can only quote the words of Captain Kirk, and say of him, “Of all the souls I have met in my journeys, his was the most …. human.” It was, indeed, we, who have lived long and prospered so much from knowing him.

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Just Checking In, And A Brief Mention of Leonard.

I’ll post a proper send-off to Leonard Nimoy sometime tomorrow. Today has been a twin pain in the butt. First, we get rid of the neighbor couple who have been harassing us non-stop for the post several months, including filing false reports with the dog warden (which got them in trouble with the police – dumb-ass rednecks) and the police, and trying repeatedly to catch me when I’m outside so the husband could attack and try to beat me up – hence my silence since before Christmas, despite finally getting most of my PC problems fixed. Then some guy shows up this afternoon after they left, passing himself off as a real-estate rep, and proceeds to first accuse me of trying to break into the now-empty house across the drive, then telling me we have NO right to the driveway (yes, THAT problem again), then threatening to come over and beat me up! I’m really starting to think I need some live rounds for some of my WW2 toys….

Not to mention a bad 3-week spate of headaches. PLEASE don’t mention them! A real round of skull-crackers, rendering my mental capacities to the level of half-set Jello. Just the thing to go along with crazy neighbors.

Until we meet again, as our sadly recently-passed Mr. Nimoy was famous for saying, may you all Live Long and Prosper.

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