Thursday, September 15, 2005
Beam Me Up, Ernie
I should have posted this earlier. James Doohan--Scotty in the original Star Trek--passed away while I was sweatily going up and down the streets of Key West this summer. I'll never forget sitting in front of our brand-new RCA Victor color TV on September 8, 1966 to watch the first episode of a brand-new science fiction show that would make stars of a dashing space ship captain; a pointy-eared first officer; his nemesis, a curmudgeonly doctor; three lieutenants: an Asian, a Russian, and--gasp!--an Afro-American...woman; and a flight engineer who bustled about, shaking his head, grasping at controls, always holding the crew of The Enterprise--and us--in suspended animation as, in his thick brogue, he kept saying, "It can't be done!"
I originally posted this on the Star Trek website. Since I changed servers (and browsers), Starship Command won't let me back on board. For now.
BEAM ME UP, ERNIE: BIRTHDAY REFLECTIONS
Notes on the first round of the Papa Hemingway Look-alike contest, Sloppy Joe’s, Duval Street, Key West, Florida, Thursday, July 21, 2005:
Crammed into a corner of the noisy, sweaty, cramped bar closest to the Front Street entrance, I beheld what I quickly dubbed a political convention. What else could it be, with individual Papa supporters waving banners aloft, chanting, and even handing out “bribes” (such as the baggie stuffed with goodies informing me to “Vote for Hank”)?
Democratic, or Republican, I wondered. More like the 2004 Democratic convention on The West Wing than anything else, I came to the conclusion.
Or, perhaps, given the “uniforms” of the candidates, more like a Star Trek convention?
“Uniforms”? Khaki safari shirts with scalloped double layers on the backs; matching shorts; sockless Sperry Topsiders (or hiking boots, with socks); even cableknit sweaters, on the part of several profusely sweating, hearty, and hardy, Papa wannabes.
Anything to obtain “the look.” All orchestrated to attract attention. How could loud shirts, balloon-infested hats, Mr. Spock-like pointed ears and quizzical looks, and Klingonesque furrowed brows and nasty frowns be any different?
The chanting, the cheering, the banner waving began in earnest when the master of ceremonies mounted the stage and introduced all the former Papas in attendance. They’d be the ultimate judges as to who would join them. Or would they?
It would all boil down to caucuses, just like at political conventions, I quickly figured out. Oh, if it were that simple.
The wildly raucous crowd’s roar grew in intensity. Looking around me, everyone was sporting a “Vote for So and So” button; holding a banner or placard aloft with a catchy slogan on it; bobbing up and down; screaming her or himself silly.
For Papas need Mamas: wives; girlfriends; daughters; aunts; cousins; nieces; mothers; even a grandma or two?
Oh, yes: plenty of just plain chums; hangers-on; and bewildered-looking souls such as myself, drinking it all in.
Drinking: ah, that’s the operative word. I’ve never seen more frazzled, yet happier, bartenders.
Someone offered to buy me a beer. I politely declined.
150 contestants were to approach the microphone, 8 at a time, to claim their 15 seconds of fame to Ernest Hemingway’s physical legacy.
The stifling intensity, the growing smell of stale sweat, and soon to be stale beer, drove me away. I awaited the literary legacy’s more subdued reception while sitting on a welcoming stoop on Simonton, steps from Casa Antigua, Ernest and Pauline’s first residence in Key West.
Jotting down these notes, I thought to myself: Sweat. Beer. Humm…
Under The Sweaty Tent: maybe. Sloppy Joe’s resembled a circus, political, and otherwise.
Ernie Heaven. Why not, with all the Papa judges guarding the gates to Papa heaven, just like Saint Peter?
And then I hit on it. Earlier in the day I’d heard that James Doohan, “Scotty” on the original Star Trek, had passed away the day before.
How about, Beam Me Up, Ernie?
I can just hear Scotty saying, in that wonderful brogue of his full of intense exasperation: “It can’t be done.”
Oh, yes, it can.
In Memory of James Doohan
March 3, 1920-July 20, 2005
Lieutenant Ninina reporting for duty, Captain.