July, 2004

Dense Enrichment

by George Takei

LOS ANGELES - My travel schedule in July had me covering about a quarter of this planet from Tokyo, Japan, to the east coast cities of Washington DC, New York, and Boston and finishing up the month at a Star Trek convention in a blazingly hot Las Vegas, Nevada.

The most personally affecting journey, however, was my first trip of the month during the Fourth of July weekend. On that holiday weekend when we Americans celebrate our liberty and freedom, I joined a pilgrimage to a former U.S. internment camp where my family and I, together with 18,000 other Japanese Americans, were imprisoned during World War II. The camp is in northern California, almost at the Oregon border. It has an almost mockingly poetic name, Camp Tule Lake. It was there in a barbed wire camp built on a wind-swept dry lake bed that I spent two and a half years of my boyhood after a year and a half in another internment camp in Arkansas.

The pilgrimage was made up of bus caravans that came from Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley, California. We, from Los Angeles, joined the one from Sacramento. On the buses were survivors of the internment, most of them elderly now, young Japanese Americans intent on understanding the experience of their grandparents and parents, scholars of the internment, both white and Asian, a few filmmakers and one or two African Americans. It was a good spectrum of the nation on a journey back to a dark chapter of American history. This was my second pilgrimage to Tule Lake. Eight years ago, in 1996, I made my first journey back since our family was released from that camp exactly fifty years before. That pilgrimage was also on a Fourth of July weekend. The symbolism was irresistible.

The tar paper barracks that we lived in are all gone now - long removed or destroyed by time. With the guidance of an authority, I retraced a dirt road to an area where our barrack once must have been. I recognized the view of Abalone Mountain and Castle Rock from that barren site. This must have been where my home was, so long ago. The mountains were the only landmark I was able to remember. One of the few remaining structures from the camp was the concrete stockade, a jail within an internment camp. These pilgrimages back to a little remembered time in our history help enlarge my appreciation of the preciousness of our American liberty and my awareness of its fragility. They also deepen my understanding of the painful human price paid by such failures of our democracy.

The most poignant part of the pilgrimage was the memorial service held at the old cemetery site for those who died during their incarceration. Tribute was paid to those who passed in all 10 internment camps with candles lit by representatives from each of the camps. I was honored to represent Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, where my family and I were held before being brought to Camp Tule Lake. As we paid our respects to those who passed in these camps during World War II, my thoughts were also with those Arab Americans today who are being detained without the due process to which we are all entitled. I resolved as an American to work to ensure that the fundamental ideals of this nation shall prevail over today's challenges of terrorism.

The most joyous part of the pilgrimage was a cultural program held in the newly restored Art Deco movie theater in the nearby town of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The performers were former internees and their descendants. The audience was made up of those on the pilgrimage and the people of the town of Klamath Falls. I served as the master of ceremony as well as a reader of a poem written by a former internee/poet. There were musical acts, dramatic readings, and dance performances. About a thousand people - former internees and those on the pilgrimage shared a happy evening of cultural performances with the town folks of a rural southern Oregon community. The applause after each act was loud and appreciative. It was, to me, the sweet sound of a healed nation and the true spirit of America.

The trip to Tokyo was to promote the fall release in Japan of the DVD version of the original Star Trek television series. The promotional campaign involved back-to-back series of print, television, and radio interviews culminating in a massive public event in a chamber hall of the central Tokyo Railway Station. Fans from throughout Japan gathered, many in Starfleet uniforms, others in USS Excelsior T-shirts, to celebrate a unique Star Trek event. The master of ceremonies was a hyper-animated Japanese comedian in Starfleet uniform accompanied by a bevy of lovely young girls dressed as Starfleet yeomen. The applause when I was introduced was thunderous. It was an extraordinary sensation to be talking in Japanese about a television series on which I had worked almost forty years ago in Hollywood to young fans in Japan, many of whom had not yet been born at the time. The enthusiasm, the devotion, and the love I felt from them were as real and as palpable as that from fans in North America, South America or Europe. What made this so special was the fact that this event was in the country from which my grandparents came to America about one hundred years ago. Never in their wildest imagination could they have dreamed that their grandson would be so affectionately received as an actor in this, my ancestral land. What an amazing world we live in! And what an astonishing global phenomenon Star Trek has become.

The trips to the East Coast cities were a combination of business and pleasure. Washington DC was for a meeting of a task force on which I have been asked to serve. New York is always my destination for great theater and excitement as well as the nerve center of work and business. After the business part of my mission was completed, it was theater every evening. The most impressive drama I caught was Arthur Miller's "After The Fall" starring Peter Krause from the television series, "Six Feet Under." Krause was fine but the most striking performance in the play was that of Carla Gugino in the role inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Her characterization of an insecure woman, initially charming and poignantly eager to please, who, with power, grows into a terrifying monster, was commanding.

The most stirring musical was award winning playwright, Tony Kushner's "Caroline, or Change." I'm amazed by this artist who blew me away with "Angels in America" and now transported me musically to his native Louisiana in the 50's with a heartrending story of the relationship of a black housekeeper and a young Jewish boy, the son of her employer. Tonya Pinkins' performance as Caroline was soulfully moving. Other shows I caught were "Wonderful Town," "Sly Fox" with Richard Dreyfus and gifted Rene' Auberjonois in a hilariously delightful characterization, and "Frogs," starring Nathan Lane. I always leave New York feeling so enriched.

Changing to my political hat, I flew to Boston for the Democratic National Convention. I was not a delegate this year, but I served as the master of ceremony for one of the after parties. I thought it was a terrific convention. The speeches were stirring, former President Bill Clinton was masterful, and Senator John Kerry gave the best speech I had heard him make. We need a strong leader who can truly lead in a complex and diverse world; one who can address the historic deficit that this nation has been plunged into and create genuine jobs for working Americans. As you might guess, I am a Democrat and I have great feelings in my bones that we will elect a new president in November - President John Kerry.

The final trip of the month was to Las Vegas and a Star Trek convention. How comfortable these conventions have become! After all the hurly burly of the many trips, even with a slight jet-lag fog, I can still function easily surrounded by understanding and loving fans. I can get the names of familiar faces mixed up and still get a forgiving hug. I can growl out that old coal miners' song, "Sixteen Tons" and still get standing ovations. What terrific people fans are! I love the fans and I love these conventions that are like massive family reunions. July was a full, hectic and enriching month and how wonderful it is to recover and relax with fans at a Star Trek convention.





George Takei Statement on Proposition 8

Andrew Koenig

Majel Barrett Roddenberry

George Takei Statement on William Shatner

Marriage Equality Comes to California

You Gotta Have Friends

George Takei on Casting of John Cho as Sulu

Second Wind

George's Statement on the Star Trek Feature Daily Variety Story

The Forty-Year Trek

Why Howard Stern?

January, 2006
The Year of Equus

Tribute to Pat Morita

November, 2005
Equality and Justice For All

Tribute to Jimmy

May, 2005
Catfish, Scholars, and a Geisha Party

April, 2005
Two Surprising Gifts

March, 2005
Measuring TV Viewers

February, 2005
Oscars: the Luckiest of the Best

January, 2005
New York, New York

December, 2004
Tsunami of Compassion

November, 2004
An Emperor, Abe Lincoln, and Four Presidents

October, 2004
Fund-raising with fun raising

September, 2004
Life Interrupted

August, 2004
Celebrating Three Legends

July, 2004
Dense Enrichment

June, 2004
Seattle: The Crucible of Imagination

May, 2004
High Times Down Under

April, 2004
Trekkin' in Japan

March, 2004
An Actor's New York

February, 2004
They Call Her Osama

January, 2004
Caribbean Seatrek

December, 2003
My Arkansas Roots

November, 2003
A Month of Glory and Fury

October, 2003
Jet Lag Reminiscences

September, 2003
Supporters and Whoopee!

August, 2003
Beaming Back in Time

July, 2003
Hawaii, Chicago, Tulsa and Kiribati

June, 2003
A Salute to Liberty

May, 2003
Renewal and Nurturing

April, 2003
The Human Spirit

March, 2003
An Anglophile Angeleno

February, 2003
NASA Must Rise Again

January, 2003
A Shiny Double Bow

December, 2002
Holiday Reflections

November, 2002
"Omiyage" Gifts from Japan

October, 2002
Historic Travels

September, 2002
Oscar-Winning Movies

August, 2002
Summer Visitors

July, 2002
Mama's "Pacific Overtures"

June, 2002
Fumiko Emily Takei, 1912 - 2002

May, 2002
Flight of Angels

April, 2002
Surviving a Texas Storm

March, 2002
Hooray for Hollywood; Boo on Secession

February, 2002
Sacramento Roots

January, 2002
Bearing Witness

December, 2001
A Hundred Million Miracles

November, 2001
Serendipitous London

October, 2001
The Aftermath

September 11, 2001
A Special Message

September, 2001
Summertime at the Hollywood Bowl

August, 2001
Voice Transporter

July, 2001
Two American Monuments

June, 2001
Luck Be a Lady

May, 2001
A Global Banquet Table

April, 2001
Joy and Disappointment

March, 2001
Two Guys Named David

February, 2001
Wisdom from a Volcano

January, 2001
Millennial London

December, 2000
Japan - From the Past to the Cutting Edge

November, 2000
Counting My Blessings

October, 2000
The Mother of an Actor

September, 2000
Hanover Expo 2000

August, 2000
Rockin' in the Northwest

July, 2000
Global Interchange

June, 2000
Sky High Challenge

May, 2000
A Month of Theater

April, 2000
Excelsior Passion

March, 2000
Alien World Right Below

February, 2000
Hawaii Connections

January, 2000
A New Beginning

December, 1999
Millennium Musings

November, 1999
Power of Ingenuity

October, 1999
Back to a Diverse Future

September, 1999
Our Human Linkage

August, 1999
Equatorial Launch to the Stars

July, 1999
Celebration of Diversity

The Official Website of George Takei is Copyright Hosato Enterprises, Inc. 1999-2015 All Rights Reserved