July, 1999

Celebration of Diversity

by George Takei

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- It's hard to believe, but here we are now halfway past the final year of this century. For that matter, the final year of this millennium. It does give me a sense of the momentousness of time.

July began with a singularly 20th century experience that resonated with portents both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial. I did a Star Trek convention in Roswell, New Mexico, the place that claims to have had a visitation from outer space just a bit more than fifty years ago. There couldn't be a more fitting locale for a Star Trek con. My manager, Brad Altman, and I flew into Albuquerque, then he drove me the three-plus hours down to Roswell across the sun-scorched New Mexican landscape. We saw incredibly picturesque billows of dark clouds edged in radiant light. Then, off in the distance, we saw a flash of silent lightning on the horizon. As we drove on, we saw more flashes with increasing frequency. Before we knew it, we were driving through a storm of lightning bolts spearing the ground all around us. Right, left, front and rear. All with no sound, no rain. We drove on through this bizarre storm for about five minutes and suddenly, it was over. As if we had crossed some invisible meteorological border, the soundless lightning flashes stopped. But a few minutes later, like bullets fired at us from the sky, hailstones began falling on our rental car. The pounding got so loud, it seemed like we were being attacked by some fighter craft from above. We could barely see beyond the windshield. Then, as suddenly as it started, the hail assault was over. The sky cleared and we were driving through picture postcard New Mexican scenery again.

An hour later, a Days Inn Motel, looking brand spanking new, appeared on the roadside. We drove past a simple but tidy Travel Lodge, then a 7 Eleven, a Burger King, a Ramada Inn, the signposts to Americana U.S.A. Before long we were driving down Main Street with dress shops, thrift stores, a bookstore, and a Denny's on the corner. Then we came upon a 1930's art deco movie theater that obviously had been converted to more distinctive use. There was a crowd anxious to get in waiting under the sun bleached, jazz era marquee. It read, "U.F.O. Museum." We had arrived in Roswell, New Mexico. It was the very picture of a pleasant, upbeat community but with a singular distinction. The unidentified flying object was not only a local phenomenon and an alleged government conspiracy but a thriving industry as well.

The Chamber of Commerce was one of the sponsors of this Star Trek convention. It began with a ribbon cutting at a specialty store called Alien Zone. Roswell mayor, Bill Owen, was there to greet the public and the press. The local Toyota dealership was providing transportation for the celebrities and dignitaries. The business establishment was solidly behind this Star Trek convention. Chatting with Mayor Owen after the event, I learned that he was a native of Roswell but had been an FBI agent in Washington, D.C. in another life, as had his attractive wife. It occurred to me that an "X Files" convention could do well here as well.

Every convention has something unique about it but I must confess Roswell is the only place where I did my autograph signing sessions in a gallery filled with displays of mock-up alien visitors to Roswell back in 1947. They are depicted as about four feet tall with swelled, bald heads and enormous, dark, haunting eyes. Their spindly, elongated limbs are attached to a thin torso. Why do these alien life forms consistently seem to take on somewhat anthropomorphic shape? Is it that the people who have these encounters cannot see alien life taking forms other than basically our own? Much as Japanese artists who saw white people for the first time with Commodore Matthew Perry's visit to Japan in 1853 drew Caucasians with unambiguous Japanese features distinguished only by strange costumes and odd beards. If we are going to be venturing beyond this planet, it seems to me, we are going to have to have much more open minds and far greater imagination.

The consistent element with these conventions however, is the fans. Wherever we go, they are enthusiastic, dedicated and celebrants of the Star Trek view of pluralism. "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations" was vibrantly on display in Roswell in the combinations of ethnicities, life styles and ideas. May it live long and prosper.

Ethan Philips, that wonderful actor from one of our spin-off shows, "Star Trek: Voyager," was the other guest at this con. What a terrific stand-up comic he is! His performance at the convention dinner was painfully funny. Without any sense of shame or conscience, he told "my wife" jokes with his long-suffering wife right there in the audience in front of him. The crowd roared as she sat impassively in its midst.

I'm writing this on July 14. Tomorrow morning, I'm off to another convention in Raleigh, North Carolina with Walter Koenig, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols. We keep on trekking, boldly going wherever this trek will take us. Next month, I'll be in Chicago on August 5, on the Navy Pier celebrating a summer festival. Stay tuned.



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The Year of Equus

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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
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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

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