<= 2001.06.29

2001.07.02 =>

u.s.s. riverside

We did it yesterday: we went to Trek Fest. The town of Riverside IA, 15 miles south of here, has the distinction of being the "future birthplace" of the character James T. Kirk, who will be born there in the year 2228, according to the Star Trek mythos. There is of course a heartwarming story:

In March of 1985, Riverside City Council Member and "trekkie" Steve Miller decided Riverside should become the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. The council was looking for a theme for their annual town celebration. Miller seized the opportunity.

"I had read in Stephen Whitefield and Gene Roddenberry's Making of Star Trek that Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. I thought it was an imaginative and original idea and something people might get behind," Miller explained. "So out of the clear blue sky, I just made a motion at the City Council meeting that we designate Riverside as Kirk's future birthplace. I proposed to keep it a small town celebration, but a Star Trek theme. Although they were taken by surprise, the motion passed unanimously.

"A news service called Gene Roddenberry," Miller continued, "and asked him what he felt about the idea and he said: 'Very enterprising idea. As far as I'm concerned, the first volunteer has it.' That was as much as any official word we needed on it. We went from there."

As did we. We missed the morning parade since nobody was up by nine, but we made it for the costume contest. About thirty entrants in two categories—Federation and Klingon/supporting cast—lined up on the outdoor stage as an audience of maybe two hundred watched from the bleachers. A portly middle-aged man, whom I can only describe as looking very Iowa, moved between them and asked them to say a few words about their costume and what they like about Star Trek. The odd thing was that the entrants had trouble keeping their earth and space personas separate, so that a fifteen-year-old girl with Trill spots and a science officer's uniform would say:

I've been a Star Trek fan since I was little, and I'm a Trill science officer who's currently working at a starbase but I'm hoping for a transfer to a starship soon—maybe even the Enterprise, but who knows—and I like the newer series because they let women be captains.

The Most Elaborate Backstory award goes to an older man in a captain's uniform wearing a Klingon blade, who explained:

Well, I'm a captain, and once I saved a Klingon's life. As you know, Klingons speak in a very guttural, low-pitched language and have trouble hearing higher frequencies. And there was a bomb I saw by the Klingon, which he couldn't hear because it was emitting a very high-pitched tone. But I could hear it, and so I threw it out. [Vague gesture to indicate throwing the bomb out.] As you know, when you save a Klingon's life they are honor-bound to give you a gift, and so he gave me this blade. [Draws blade and holds it aloft.] I will treasure it forever!

Other notable entrants were Captain Flood, a Klingon with a German shepherd and a Super Soaker who comes to Riverside every year because he "love[s] to squirt humans!"; the woman who covered her gray cat with two gray wigs, thus transforming it into a Tribble; the six-year-old with mechanical attachments who gave his name as TheCutest [like Locutus, get it?] of Borg; and the kid in a Star Trek T-shirt who explained that his costume hadn't come in on time, then waved his tricorder at the audience and announced that we were all holograms, then got embarrassed and left. A woman dressed as Yeoman Rand (who was basically the secretary-in-space for the '60s show) won first place, and the Klingon-saving captain tied with TheCutest of Borg for second.

Once the costume contest dispersed, Trek Fest became indistinguishable from any Midwest small-town fair, excepting the booths selling sci-fi merchandise and the occasional Klingon wandering through the background. A group of square dancers took over the stage and got Peyton and Elizabeth to join them. The tape of synth background music sounded like the "Country & Western" option in a Casio keyboard's rhythm memory bank. The announcer stood beside the soundboard rigidly, with a microphone in one hand, and called out dance directions. Occasionally he would interject a line suggesting that the song had some sort of plot, e.g.:

Turn to your left and do-si-do
You went and you spent all my money
Turn to your right and grab that corner girl

Turns out there are square dance lessons in Riverside on Monday nights, so you know.

In the afternoon there was a talent show. I missed most of it since I had to jaunt back to Iowa City for a short-story conference with a student, but I made it back for the final cheerleading show, which used for its background music a weird medley of marching band fight songs with the vocal tracks from early '90s techno hits. There were entirely too many nine-year-olds in gold lame making sexually suggestive moves that they couldn't possibly have understood.

We left soon afterward because of the heat, and thus missed the kids' tractor pull and the mud run, whatever those were. But we left happy. Something about this huge dose of Americana was vastly comforting, hokey though it was; the square dancing and pork burgers and funnel cakes were deeply innocent in a way you don't see much these days. An afternoon there made one almost ready to believe, again, that people are inherently good.Of course it's just a throwback to an earlier era which had its own darkness; an extended stay in Riverside might be tough for anyone who isn't white, Lutheran and heterosexual. (Salon asks: where are the gay people on Star Trek?) Before leaving, we took pictures beside the model starship proudly standing beneath the American flag in Riverside's city park. Then we noticed that someone had scrawled "Lick dick" in crayon on one of the warp engines.


<= 2001.06.29

2001.07.02 =>

up (2001.07)