Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dream A Little Dream

“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you...”
(from Walt Disney’s Pinocchio)

Well, maybe.

In fact, some things your heart desires will come to you, and some won’t. 

Many of my dreams have come true. I’ve been lucky in life. But I started thinking last night about how the time comes when the more practical-minded of us start facing the fact that there are some dreams we have that will never come true. 

I remember well the heady feeling of being 20, 21, 22, and knowing that very few doors were closed to me. 

If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong 
I am invincible
I am woman!
(Helen Reddy, I Am Woman)

Even then that was a bit of an exaggeration, though not all that far from the truth, really. But then, as life choices are made, and as bodies age, one starts to hear the soft click of closing doors more and more often. Sometimes one can force those doors back open; sometimes it’s better to just walk away down the hall.

Here are a dozen dreams I have let go recently:
  1. I will never grow up in the UK. I always wanted to be a little British child and grow up breathing British air, hearing British accents all around, calling my favorite island my home. But it’s too late. I grew up in Missouri.

Cotswold village where I didn't grow up

Along the same lines, I will never live the life of the characters in my favorite books. I will never be shipwrecked on an island where I tame a wild stallion, never replay my life over and over with the option of changing it each time, never visit Digitopolis or Dictionopolis, never be sent off-world for a high school final project in survival and get marooned, never fly to the Mushroom Planet.

So many books, so many fantasy lives

Speaking of space, I will never go there. No, I won’t. The opportunity for ‘regular people’ to do it is close, so close, but not quite close enough. When it happens I may still be here, but I will be too old.

No blast off for me

And about that ‘too old’ business, I will never have my youthful body back. Nor my nice reliable memory. I don’t know how or when they started creeping away (if my memory were better, I would), but they are gone. I can’t complain about what I’ve still got, but it isn’t what I used to have, that’s for sure.

Where did that body go? I can't remember...

The body I do still have tells me I’m not going to get to run ever again. I used to love to run - not in races, just for fun, to feel my hair streaming back and the wind whipping at my face. Arthritis says, no more; sorry. Walk. 

Running for those who can't

I might be able to ride a horse again, but I’ll never own one. I always somehow thought I would, that’s one of the dreams I’ve given up most recently. I read so much about them when I was young that I imagined I would know how to take care of one. No, I don’t, and I’m not going to make one my guinea pig. No horses. Just dogs and cats.

Lovely horse in England

I will never become fluent in a foreign language. Not even one of the ones I used to know (though I was never truly fluent in any of them). I keep language-learning material around because I imagine that I’m going to pick it up one day and start spouting Spanish or Welsh or German. But, no.

Three of many languages I will not be mastering

I will never be a good swimmer. I can move from Point A to Point B in the water, under most circumstances; I even snorkeled the Blue Hole off the shores of Belize. But I am not at home in the water. I am very much at home *on* the water, in a ship or a boat. But not in it.

Flailing my way across Crocodile Creek, in Australia

I will never live in Australia. Or Hawaii. Or any number of alluring places that I have visited and would love to go back to permanently. In some cases, I really am too old, they wouldn’t let me in unless I could prove I came with a gazillion dollars so I could support myself until death do I part and never have to depend on them to support me (Australia). Sometimes it’s because outsiders aren’t assimilated easily (Hawaii). Oh, I won’t spend the rest of my life in Missouri. But many places are off the list.

Beautiful Australia
Beach in Hawaii

I will never read everything I want to. I won’t even read every book that is on my shelves in my own house, right now, and I want to read them all badly enough to have bought them. I always want to learn more, and know more, and there is always so much more to learn and know that I will never catch up. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

"Read Me"

I will never see plate tectonics in action. Reading about the amazing ways the continental plates move around the globe makes me want to see it happen. Well, that takes millions of years, unfortunately (fortunately, really; if it happened fast enough for us to see it I don’t think we would be able to survive the effects). Still - what an awesome thing it would be to watch!

Well, it's worth a try

I won’t ever be good at math. I have given myself permission to give up that struggle. So I count on my fingers for the rest of my life. There are worse things.

What little math I knew is fading, fading away...


Now, this is not to say that I have given up all my dreams. Far from it. Here are four dreams I am still holding out hope for:

I would love to become a good photographer. I like to take pictures but I usually wish the final product looked better than it does. I plan to take classes and try to actually achieve that goal.

Posing for the camera

I would like to visit Antarctica. I’ve been to six continents; this is the seventh and last. But ticking the box isn’t the only reason I want to go there. I want to sail the Drake Passage, one of the roughest seas on earth. I want to experience the unearthly sensation of nothing but ice and water and animals stretching from one horizon to the other - under a sun that never really sets. Since I can’t go into space, Antarctica may be the closest thing possible to visiting another world.

photo by Shirley Metz, Zegrahm Expeditions

I would like to write another novel, or another book of some kind. One young adult suspense novel published almost 30 years ago does not make me feel like a successful writer. Even if I just write one every 30 or 35 years, I can point out that there’s a pattern emerging.

It's Book #1, not One Book

I have always wanted to live by the sea. Almost any sea, anywhere, would do, but if I get to choose, it will be a sea that crashes onto cliffs I can walk to from my house, across my own property. I would stand there and soak up the majesty and wonder of the ocean in all conditions and every kind of weather. Now that is a dream I’ll hang onto until the end of my days.

Where my heart is

Monday, March 18, 2013

Yikes! The Guatemala Extension

This post is based on a letter that I wrote in February, 2009, to Barbara, the leader of an expedition to Belize and Guatemala. A group of about 75 people, including me, had just enjoyed a week and a half of snorkeling, swimming, and sight-seeing on the cayes of Belize. That trip was over, and just 11 of us were going on the three-day trip “extension” to Guatemala. The expedition leader was not accompanying us. She asked me to write a report to her afterward and tell her how the extension trip had gone.  Well ...

Rural Guatemalan shop

The extension was, well, quite the experience.  Since writing that sentence I have been sitting here for about five minutes wondering where to begin.  First and very seriously I would say that the tour company needs to be told to never, ever, EVER send a group off on its own again without someone from the company along to keep order and make decisions.  For this particular group, not having an overseer along was a disaster.  I would challenge anyone to look through our ship’s passenger manifest and handpick a less likely eleven-some to travel through Guatemala together.  On the one hand we had the Odd Couple, as they came to be known, who never ceased whining, complaining, asking for extra stops, objecting to plans -- you name it.  At the other end of the spectrum was the Texan, who was normally laid-back and cheerful BUT when crossed (usually by the Odd Couple but not always) became steely, intractable, and as difficult as the OC in his own way.  Then there was the Kiwi (from New Zealand).  Although she was generally on the right side of things, she often made the situations worse by her blunt and shrill approach to everyone else.  Poor Melvin, our hapless guide!  That quiet, knowledgeable, sweet-tempered person received the brunt of everyone's displeasure from causes ranging from choice of food (the OC), to attempts to deviate from the printed itinerary to pacify the angry (the Texan), to attempts to stick to the itinerary (an enraged Kiwi, who told him she would send a bad report in about him if he allowed the rest of the group to "hijack" us from our itinerary!).  Argh!  I did what I could, but since I had no official standing I had to be low-key; not my forte, as you both know by now.  I did pull Melvin aside at one point and tell him that this group was an excellent example of how Americans abroad get a bad name, and to please always remember there were some of us working with - not against - him at every turn.  And that we would back him in whatever decisions he made - although honestly, making decisions for a group where someone is going to be angry no matter what you decide was not in Melvin's skill set.  Even the Mild Couple got into it at one point.  I thought the Texan might end up thrashing the Odd Couple. Two people stormed away from the table to their rooms.  As my mother would say, Big Fun!

Melvin, our luckless guide

Okay; enough about that for the moment and a little more about what we actually did.  We left you at the ship (thanks for that) and got into the van with Melvin and Eddie, our driver. The Odd Couple informed Melvin before we had even driven through the marina gates that we were supposed to stop at a particular film shop in Belize City to get them another camera card on the way out of town.  Fine, except that it was closed.  Great distress from the OC.  Melvin said we would stop at one in a town further on, which somewhat pacified them, although he was asked *many* times whether he had forgotten and we had passed it yet.  When we got to that town, that shop was closed, too.  The OC asked if, in order to make it up to them (!), Melvin would take them back to the market we had passed and let them get some fruit.  (Your no-fruit lecture was well taken, as you can see, Barbara.)  Melvin said okay, but actually stopped at a much closer, well-stocked fruit stand instead.  There were protests but we basically shoved them off the van.  Melvin went with them.  The moment the van doors closed, the Texan turned around and (hear this in his slow Texas drawl) said "Those two are nuts."  Everyone laughed and it appeared we were all united, but that didn't last, unfortunately.  Anyway, the OC took twenty minutes minimum at the stand and brought back at least five bags of fruit - and we were about half an hour from the border crossing!  It was not declared and apparently not discovered in the van.  They ate slurpily most of the ride.  I imagine Eddie, the driver, was quietly freaking out.

So, into Guatemala.  The road was *very* bumpy all the way to the hotel (about two hours’ drive), which caused quite a bit of complaint from people with back issues, of which, surprise!, we had several.  We had understood that the hotel was in a town, but actually it was not within walking distance of anyplace else, which was a bit of a disappointment, even to me I must admit. Getting a feel for the people in a new locale is one of my favorite parts of traveling. But I didn't say anything - somebody had to be the designated "keeps her mouth shut," and I was happy to be that person. We didn't arrive until 3pm and hadn't had lunch. so the hotel people gave us a nice list of choices for a special lunch; of course the OC was not happy with any of them and had many particular requests.  

After lunch - I still can't help but laugh, and I'll never think of this phrase the same way again - Melvin offered to take us on a "nature walk" in the jungle across the road from the hotel.  Okay, I had to actually stop writing and have a laughing fit.  Nature walk!  Many started out; three of us finished.  It was the most strenuous climb I have ever been on.  Even the super-fit were red-faced and dripping with sweat by the end.  We went up and up and up a long wooden staircase that was, and I do not exaggerate, little better than a ladder. At the top, gasping, we saw another one ahead of us, and asked how many there would be. “About three” was the vague and somehow ominous answer.  

Up we go.
Every step was slippery.

Stop thinking, keep climbing.

In fact there were SEVEN. It was revealed when we reached the top that we had climbed an unexcavated Mayan pyramid. We sat on the top and listened to the howler monkeys calling around us. They sounded like lions roaring. It was incredible. However, that pleasant interlude passed and it was time to ... climb down. 

Melvin wishes he had a different job.
Down, down, down.

Going down the other side was just as steep and even more challenging than climbing up had been.  It was also slippery in unexpected places, and I have a priceless photo of a "guard rail" sticking out into the open space over a steep drop.  To be honest I eventually started finding it kind of fun, in a "Survival" kind of way, but holy cow!  The "nature" part of "nature walk" was great - families of monkeys overhead, parrots and toucans flying past, amazing trees, etc., etc.  It's the "walk" part that kills me - just a little stroll up a pyramid and back down, don't you know!

The guardrail, keeping us from a very long steep fall...

This was the first indication that no one had adequately prepared Melvin for the physical condition of the people he was in charge of.  We quickly learned that if he described something as “easy,” it would probably be impossible for some and a bit challenging for the rest of us. The times he described something as “challenging,” we all begged off.  

So the three of us who finished the walk went home and collapsed until dinner.  That's when Melvin told us the plans for the next day, and all hell broke loose.  We were to leave for Tikal at 8:15 and to leave from there between 2-3, with plans to stop by a craft center on the way back.  Cries ranging from "I don't want to shop!" and "That's not the WHOLE day!" (the OC) rang out, followed by the Texan, demanding a private car and driver so that he and his wife could stay there all day (at his expense, to be fair, but it was an order, not a request).  The Kiwi was livid that people were challenging the set itinerary, and others wanted to go to the craft shop.  So there was nasty chaos during which two people stormed off.  The end result was that Melvin arranged for two vans to pick us up from Tikal, one at 2-3 and one at 5:30.  We split 6 & 5 on who left when.  Everyone went to bed fuming, muttering, or in some way unhappy - but all were civil at breakfast and nothing was really unpleasant again (except as regards the OC, of course, whose bizarre requests and whiny fussing continued throughout the trip).  

Our first pyramid at Tikal.

The view from Temple IV.
Tikal was stunning.  Most of us went up Temple IV and saw the incredible view of jungle canopy stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions, with the tops of other temples sticking out here and there.  Breathtaking.  Melvin was an excellent guide, we saw a lot of wildlife, from a wide variety of birds to monkeys with babies to coatimundis, my favorites.  Melvin had a beautiful lunch brought to us in the old Mayan marketplace, very atmospheric, and everyone was bending over backward to be appreciative to Melvin and nice to each other (for a short time - that sort of thing never lasted long).  Then the early group left and had a good time at the craft shop and tea and a pleasant rest afterward.  The group who stayed on at Tikal was very happy to have done so, and all was well that evening.  

Wild coatimundi strolling past
Oscillated turkeys - as beautiful as peacocks.

However, it had started raining, and the next day's outing was supposed to be a river trip.  It was also getting cool.  By morning it was pouring and the river had risen too high for us to be able to take that trip, to everyone's relief (Melvin had described the included hike to a small Mayan site as "a little challenging" -- run away, run away!).  So he proposed an alternative activity, a visit to Yaxha, another nearby Mayan site.  Or, we could stay at the hotel and relax.  After a bit of (civil) discussion, everyone elected to go. 

The meaning of "rain forest" became crystal clear to many for the first time that morning.  It had poured all night and the roads were full of potholes - and you may recall that they weren't exactly up to standard to start with.  I had to remind a number of people that if drivers couldn't manage after one night of rain in this climate, there was no way they would make it through the whole rainy season every year.  Anyway, it was exciting but we made it there, stopping for lunch on the way which was *very* pleasant.  We got to try to some local specialties such as breadnut soup - very good.  Everyone drank alcohol and got mellow and happy - and somewhat warm, which was a good thing in light of what was to follow.  

Lunch and drinks in a local restaurant. A last moment of warmth.

We were almost the only people at Yaxha - we saw a total of five other people during our approximately two hours there.  And it absolutely poured buckets of rain the entire length of our visit. We got drenched, drenched, DRENCHED.  Because this was our last day there was no time for anything to dry afterward, either; I ended up throwing away my sodden tennis shoes and socks when I got home.  The site, though, was incredible.  I told Melvin how much I loved it and he said it was his favorite of all the Mayan sites.  Very little was excavated, and there were so many overgrown temples crowded together that it was like being in a valley full of the most amazing, sharply triangular green hills.  It felt much more secretive and private than Tikal.  It sounds sort of pretentious to say I liked it better, but I think I really did, overall.  The atmosphere was unbeatable. Sadly, I couldn’t take any pictures because it was raining too hard, non-stop. I didn’t dare take my camera out of its waterproof case.

Guatemalan rain forest.

Everyone enjoyed Yaxha, in spite of the wet.  However, our (excellent) driver, Eddie, couldn't seem to figure out how to turn down the air conditioning whilst maintaining the vital defrost feature, so we got seriously cold on the way back to the hotel.  I was *so* cold!  The OC complained so loudly and so much ("I didn't come to the tropics to freeze!") that the Texan hurled his cashmere coat at them - which they immediately huddled into without comment.  By the time we got back to the hotel I was so stiff from the cold I could hardly get out of the van. I felt much better after a hot shower.  

The next morning, we leapt all sparkly-eyed from our beds at 4:30, to be on the road by 5:30.  It would have been at least fifteen minutes earlier, but the OC were displeased with the contents of their breakfast-to-go boxes, and new ones had to be prepared. As I commented to the rest of the group on the bus, we might as well end as we started. It had poured again all night, so driving was very tricky - we passed vehicles upside down in the ditches - but Eddie was terrific, and we got to the Radisson in plenty of time to drop off the six people spending the day in Belize City.  Everyone parted amicably but privately swearing never to travel together again in some cases, I'm sure.  The rest of us were delivered to the airport and walked to our flight areas by Melvin.  He was really great.  Barbara, if you can arrange for the tour company to send him a Purple Heart, he deserves no less.

And we were off, and that was that, although I'm sure some of the group who spent the day in Belize City with the Texan and the OC could add more.  As lively and interesting as the city looked that day, I was so glad I wasn't part of that group!

Someday, though, I would love to go back.

Monday, February 25, 2013

You Really Are More Than the Sum of Your Parts

“And do you floss regularly?”
Once years ago, a different dentist asked me this question and I said “no.” He looked surprised. I added “or do you want me to do what most of your other patients do and say ‘yes’ even though I don’t?”
This time it was a dental technician. But I still said “no.” 
She was ready for that answer. She turned me in my chair toward a small TV screen where I could see the bacteria from my mouth swab, magnified and bustling around, presumably wondering where my mouth had gone. 
“There - look at all the bacteria that came out of your mouth. This helps lots of people understand why it’s so important to floss their teeth.”
I smiled at her. “But which of those are the bacteria that help me break down the food I eat? The good bacteria? If you can point out which are the bad ones I’m supposed to be flossing away, that would be great.”
Now there may be very good reasons to floss one’s teeth. But ridding the mouth of bacteria isn’t one of them.
Most of us know we have colonies of good bacteria living inside our bodies. I learned in school, even way back in the 1970’s, that without our gut bacteria we would not be able to break down what we eat into fuel our body can use. But there are also ‘bad’ bacteria, the ones antibiotics were created to seek and destroy. Unfortunately, dropping antibiotic bombs into our bodies causes the same sort of collateral damage as dropping bombs onto populated areas during wartime. Antibiotics may wipe out a dangerous infection in our bodies, but we also wipe out a lot of good bacteria at the same time. 
But if we take probiotics, even just eat yogurt with live cultures, we are told, we can replace the good bacteria while our antibiotics are wiping out the bad stuff. Job done.
Or so we thought.
Science is now starting to discover that the world of human body bacteria is at least as complex as the world of human beings. And, also like human beings, not all bacteria can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ In fact, science is at such an early stage in the understanding of this complex system that one hesitates to use those black and white words in relation to any bacteria, yet.
Enter the human microbiome, defined as ‘the complement of bacterial passengers carried around by every human being’ (The Economist, ‘Sniffing Out Hypertension,’ 2/16/13). 
In the New Yorker article “Germs Are Us” (10/22/12), author Michael Specter states:

We inherit every one of our genes, but we leave the womb without a single microbe. As we pass through our mother’s birth canal, we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time a child can crawl, he has been blanketed by an enormous, unseen cloud of microorganisms—a hundred trillion or more. They are bacteria, mostly, but also viruses and fungi (including a variety of yeasts), and they come at us from all directions: other people, food, furniture, clothing, cars, buildings, trees, pets, even the air we breathe. They congregate in our digestive systems and our mouths, fill the space between our teeth, cover our skin, and line our throats. We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds—the same as our brain. Together, they are referred to as our microbiome—and they play such a crucial role in our lives that scientists like Blaser have begun to reconsider what it means to be human.
Martin J. Blaser is the chairman of the Department of Medicine and a professor of microbiology at the New York University School of Medicine. The bacterium he studies is Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, which was discovered to cause ulcers and contribute to stomach cancer. A campaign was immediately mounted to eradicate it. But Blaser contends that just because it is capable of doing harm, that does not mean it doesn’t have a vital role to play in healthy bodies.  We have learned that removing predators from ecosystems can cause disastrous results for the system as a whole, often in unexpected ways. Could the same be true when we remove potential predators from our internal ecosystems - our microbiomes?  Blaser’s research is continuing, but already he has discovered positive roles that H. pylori plays in the human bodies it inhabits. In fact, studies are linking the destruction of bacteria within our bodies to such varied illnesses and disorders as obesity, Crohn’s disease, and asthma. Bacteria may be an important factor in the regulation of blood pressure (The Economist, ‘Sniffing Out Hypertension,’ 2/16/13). Twin studies in Malawi are producing strong evidence that having the ‘wrong’ gut bacteria can predispose those individuals to malnutrition, even when they consume the same diet as their twins who carry a different bacterial load. (The Economist, ‘Debugging the Problem,’ 2/2-8/12). 
‘Germs Are Us’ author Specter says about bacteria:
Most reside within the gut, but many also occupy our mouths, and one particular bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, has been recognized as the principal cause of tooth decay. When you eat sugar, S. mutans releases acid that corrodes the teeth. Many researchers who study the microbiome now look upon cavities as an infectious disease, and they are testing a mouthwash that kills S. mutans; if it works, dental cavities could vanish.
There are cases where illnesses and infections in one individual have resisted all conventional medical treatments, then have been cured by the transferral of a particular bacterial colony from a healthy individual into the sick one. In one case, described in ‘Germs Are Us,’ a man with a serious chronic infection in one ear cured himself simply by transferring ear wax - and its bacteria - from his healthy ear into the infected one.
So should we all be taking probiotics, maybe all the time? The current scientific thinking is that we still know so little about the bacterial makeup of our bodies - and that makeup varies from individual to individual - that taking a broad-spectrum probiotic may be almost as unwise for some people as taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Studies on some widely used probiotics have shown that they can cause or increase some health conditions in some individuals. We don’t know enough yet to identify what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’ And it may turn out that our bacteria, like the people on which they colonize, are often shades of grey.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

“Set A Course For Home.”

When “Star Trek: Voyager” came on television, I watched the first couple of seasons eagerly. But then we moved from Seattle to St. Louis, and somehow in the shuffle I never went back to it. And I never watched “Star Trek: Enterprise” when it aired for four years, either.

But I caught up with “Voyager,” and I’m catching up with “Enterprise.” Shane, Jack, and I watched all seven seasons of “Voyager” on DVD last spring. We all really enjoyed it - with the exception of Shane’s relationship with Tuvok, who he thought was the worst tactical and security officer he had ever seen. We started watching “Enterprise” before we went to the convention, and we’re enjoying it as well.  Long live Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future.

Robert Picardo, the holographic doctor from “Voyager,” came onstage Thursday evening and set the entertainment bar far too high for anyone else to reach for the rest of the weekend. He was very much like the Doctor, by the end of Season 7 - articulate, clever and funny. He answered some audience questions, but turned them into interesting stories and anecdotes. He talked about himself and his career in a very engaging manner. He sang - yes, the Doctor really can sing, if not quite as operatically as he did in a few episodes of “Voyager.” He talked about that - how he had suggested to the writers that it might be fun to show the Doctor listening to opera in the infirmary - an interestingly emotion-laden hobby for a holograph. And the next thing he knew, he was handed a script where he was expected to sing opera. Not what he had intended, at all, but it turned out well in the end.

Robert Picardo wound up his presentation by reciting an excellent poem he had written himself, from the perspectives of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I was very impressed. What a smart and well-rounded entertainer.

There was a Voyager cast panel onstage on Saturday. If the Next Generation cast had been wild and funny, the Voyager cast was even more so. The panel consisted of Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Roxanne Dawson (B’Elanna Torres), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim). They all seemed to enjoy each other’s company tremendously. 

When it came time for questions and answers from the audience, the first question was “Excuse me, but wasn’t there a bald man on your show?” It was Robert Picardo! He came up onstage and joined the cast for the rest of the presentation. 

Kate Mulgrew appeared as part of the Four Captains presentation on Sunday. She was energetic, cheerful, and very kind to everyone who asked questions (as well as to Avery Brooks, as mentioned in an earlier blog entry). She said many things of a motivational nature, the most memorable of which was “If you aren’t living your life, then shame on you!” She also did a hilarious impression of what an eleven-year-old girl would be like as captain of Voyager - formidable! The crowd really appreciated her. I was impressed with her, too.

After the Avery Brooks concert chronicled in my previous blog entry, a midnight ‘dessert party’ was held across the hall from the main theater. Tim Russ and his band performed for an hour or so at that event. They were terrific! They were so good, in fact, that I looked up Tim Russ on my phone and discovered that he was a musician first and an actor second. He played guitar and sang, with a backup band. They played rock music. It really made me want to get up and dance - they should have performed where there was a dance floor, some people were dancing by their tables. They got a long ovation when they finished, and many people, including Jack, bought copies of the CD they had with them. We stopped by to tell Tim how much we had enjoyed the concert. He was a bit out of breath from performing, excited and happy and talkative. It was a lot of fun.

On Friday’s main stage, Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) performed a play with Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer -- Malcolm and Trip from “Enterprise.” The name of the play was “Art,” and it was written in 1994 by by French playwright Yasmina Reza. It tells the story of three friends in Paris whose friendship is threatened when one of them buys a very expensive painting that is nothing but a white canvas with a few grey lines on it. It is described as a comedy, and it had a lot of funny moments, but it was dramatic and thoughtful, too. It had nothing to do with Star Trek, science fiction, or any other theme related to the convention (like the Shakespeare presentation).  But we all really enjoyed it, and the three actors did an excellent job with it. 

Connor and Dominic appeared onstage together another time, to talk about their roles in “Enterprise” and answer questions from the audience. They were very funny and clearly good friends. Connor, who has no southern accent whatsoever, was asked about the southern accent of his character, Trip. He said that when he was hired to play Trip, he had recently performed in a play where he had adopted an Oklahoma accent, so he kept that same accent for Trip. Then one day, well into the series, he was handed a script that mentioned that Trip was from Clearwater, Florida. He went to the writers and argued that Trip couldn’t be from Florida, he had an Oklahoma accent. They said it wouldn’t matter, no one would notice; he argued that it certainly would matter to viewers from Oklahoma and Florida! But nothing was changed. He added that some years later, he met a family of fans who actually hailed from Clearwater, Florida, and they complimented him on how well he did their accent. Go figure.

Scott Bakula appeared on Sunday, as part of the Four Captains On Stage. He opened by jumping off the stage and running down an aisle to the back of the huge theater, shouting “hey! I’m at the back!,” and running up another aisle, back onto the stage. It was quite funny, and certainly got everyone’s attention. He then immediately started to take questions. The first one was from a little boy who started out, “My mom is kind of too shy to come up and ask you this -” which got lots of laughs and a round of applause from the audience. The question was, the mother had seen him perform in a musical (I can’t remember which one, something set in the west), and would he sing something from it? Instantly Scott burst into song, though he only made it through a few lines before stopping and saying “never sing right after running all the way around the theater.” 

It was the end of the Star Trek convention. Shane had signed up for an autograph with Scott. So had hundreds of other people. Shane had to stand in line so long that Paul, Jack, and I had to leave him there so we didn’t miss our next event (The Blue Man Group, at the Venetian, which Shane had seen before). When we met up again later that evening, Shane told us that by the time he got close enough to see Scott signing autographs, he saw that Scott was just signing them as fast as they were handed to him, not even looking up at the people in front of him. When Shane reached him, while Scott was signing a picture, Shane said “So, are you still a Cardinals fan?”
Scott instantly looked up. “Oh yes. BIG time.”
I hadn’t even been aware that Scott was from St. Louis. Well done, Shane!

And that is all I have to say about the Star Trek convention. 

Live long, and prosper.