Luck Be A Lady
June, 2001, LOS ANGELES - What an undreamed of invitation -- the Kentucky Derby! I had been to Kentucky many times before. My niece, Akemi Takei, the broadcast journalist in the family, had worked at a television station in Lexington. So I had visited her when she was there. And, of course, there had been many Star Trek conventions in Kentucky. I like the lush and gracious landscape and the warm hospitality of the people of Kentucky. But I'd never expected to actually be at the legendary Kentucky Derby at fabled Churchill Downs. This was fantastic!
Before departing L.A., on my way to the airport, I swung around to Twentieth Century Fox studios. I was squeezing in a quick voice-dubbing gig on another episode of "The Simpsons." It didn't take much time. I was off to the airport and Louisville, Kentucky, in about an hour.
On the flight, seated in the row just behind me, I recognized actor Bill Brochtrup from "NYPD Blue." In conversation with him, we discovered that we were guests of the same host, Michael Berry of the Kentucky Derby Festival. We would both be riding in the Kentucky Derby Festival's Pegasus Parade and going to the same Derby festivities. This was going to be great fun.
Immediately upon arrival, we were swept up into a whirlwind of activities - lunches, dinners, parties galore, and, on the Thursday before the Derby, the Pegasus Parade. The parade's Grand Marshal was none other than the second man to walk on the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I had met Buzz and his lovely wife Lois before -- at a charity fund-raising event at Paramount Studios. Our paths seem to have a way of crossing in the most interesting ways, in fiction as well as in fact.
In the parade, our vehicles were, unlike the futuristic crafts with which Buzz and I are associated, handsome treasures from the past. Buzz's car was an elegantly restored antique that I couldn't identify and mine was a classic red Corvette. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic and I shouted myself hoarse. That night, we recovered over dinner at Jicama Grill, a trendy restaurant that serves delectably exotic Latin American cuisine.
Kentucky Derby day was sunny and hot. But the dress, we were told, was sports coat and tie. As we boarded the air-conditioned luxury bus that was to transport us to Churchill Downs, I couldn't help but be taken by the elegantly dressed women who, almost without exception, wore enormous confections of feathers, flowers, silk or gossamer on their heads. The practicality of a large hat on a sun-scorched day was contradicted by the preposterous creations that almost covered their faces like some fantastical umbrella balanced over their heads. But as the bus approached Churchill Downs, I noticed that the mass of people surging toward the grandstand carrying their picnic baskets and aluminum lawn chairs, wore tank tops, halters and practical wide brimmed straw hats. There was clearly a two-tier dress code.
Indeed, when the bus parked, we were escorted directly to a bank of elevators that swiftly lifted us up to the sixth-floor clubhouse. It was air-conditioned, well provisioned with a beautiful buffet and a panoramic glass window that provided a spectacular view of the sun drenched racetrack below. In this cool and luxuriously coddled setting, the colossal hats seemed even more wacky. Friends greeting the behatted women couldn't reach them under those massive canopies - all they could do was blow friendly air kisses toward the faces hidden under the huge hats.
They told me that you have to have a strategy in the betting process. I had never bet on horses before. I knew nothing about racehorses. What was I to do? The Kentucky Derby itself was the eighth race of the afternoon. I decided to prepare by observing the betting process during the first race. People were talking about the lineage of each horse, their track records, how they looked in their warm up runs the morning before. They might as well have been speaking in Swahili. I knew then that I was on my own. I would have to depend on sheer luck. Nevertheless, I would try to craft a strategy.
I decided to dive in on the second race. I studied the list of horses on my program. The third horse on the list was named Lake Pontchartrain. It reminded me of the delicious Blackened Red Fish from Lake Pontchartrain that I enjoyed when I was in New Orleans. Aha! I had a connection with that horse. This strategy should be as good as any. I bet $2 on Lake Pontchartrain to win. The race began and the horses were off and running. They were all bunched together. I couldn't make out which horse was Lake Pontchartrain. A batch of horses came thundering in with one nosing out all the others. I couldn't tell which one that was. We all waited for the scoreboard to show the final result. At last, the board lit up with the name of the winner. It said Lake Pontchartrain! I had won on my first try! Astoundingly, my $2 bet won me $32!!! Lady Luck was definitely with this beginner horseplayer.
But she is a fickle lady. She left me for others for the next five races. My $32 was reduced to $22. Now the big one was on us - the Kentucky Derby. I studied my program. There it was - the twelfth horse - seductively beckoning out to me. Startac! This was such an obviously clear message. Could anything be closer to Star Trek? But there also was another horse with the word star in its name -- Balto Star. Not as close as Startac, but it still had the word star in it. And if you dropped the B from Balto, you would have alto, which in Spanish means "high." Star Trek soars high. This too could be telling me something a bit more subtly. I decided to bet $10 on both Startac and Balto Star.
The gates opened and horses were off and running. The announcer's booming voice narrated the race. "Balto Star is second," he intoned. The crowd and I cheered. "Come on Balto Star," I shouted. Thank goodness I covered my bet with two horses, I thought. But after the second bend, Balto Star began to fall behind. "Come on Balto Star! You can do it!" I urged. But that horse continued to fall back. Then the booming voice announced, "Startac is passing Balto Star." My gosh, I still have a chance! "Go Startac," I yelled. But Startac wouldn't move ahead. It continued to maintain its place in the pack. "Go Startac. Go," I pleaded. Suddenly, out from nowhere - literally from the back of the pack - came an incredible horse. It galloped past every one of the others and was thundering toward the finish all by itself. "Monarchos is ahead by four lengths," the announcer's voice bellowed excitedly. It was an awesome sight to see. A magnificent animal moving with powerful grace dashed across the finish line. "Monarchos has won the Kentucky Derby," the ecstatic voice announced. It was later declared that Monarchos' time, 1:59.97 minutes, was the second fastest in the Kentucky Derby's 127-year history. The fastest was Secretariat with l:59.4 minutes in 1973. This was an awe-inspiring experience - but I was poorer by $20. Startac came in tenth and Balto Star was fourteenth. My $32 winning from the second race was reduced now to $2 - the very amount I first bet on Lake Pontchartrain. At least I broke even. Thank you Michael Berry and all the wonderful people of Kentucky for an unforgettable - and not too costly - experience.
Two days after returning to Los Angeles, I dove into another major event - this one, a binational conference called the Japan-United States Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange at the Japanese American National Museum. As well as serving as the Chairman of the Board of the Museum, I am a member of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, a non-governmental federal agency. So I was doubly invested in this conference. It turned out a great success. Our panelists from throughout the U.S and senior officials from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, distinguished leaders from academia, business and culture were in accord that this conference in Los Angeles was one of the best ever held in its forty-year history.
I had another quick voiceover gig before flying off again. This one was the popular "Jackie Chan" Saturday morning animated series. I was the voice of a wise and benign Buddhist priest. Jackie Chan was voiced by a versatile young actor named James Tse. Then, I was off to Atlanta, Georgia, for Vulcon, another Star Trek convention.
The lucky bonus with this trip was that my good friend, gifted writer Peter David, was getting married to his love, Kathleen, a stage manager, puppeteer, editor and all around renaissance woman, in Atlanta on the same weekend as the convention. What blessed serendipity! I arranged with Joe Motes, the organizer of the convention, so that I could manage both the wedding and the convention. He was most cooperative.
Peter and Kathleen were married in a charming chapel on the picturesque campus of Emory University. It was a lovely ceremony. But it was the reception that really captured the spirit of the couple. The venue was a converted former warehouse now called the Shakespeare Tavern. It is a theater patterned after the old Globe Theater of Elizabethan London. So eminently appropriate. Both Peter and Kathleen are theatrical people - she literally and Peter in every sense of the word. His personality, if anything, is colorfully theatrical. His bountiful talent is of the theater as well as literature. Indeed, he even looks like he could play Shakespeare's Falstaff. To top off the theatricality of the reception, the best man at the wedding also became the master of the revels of the reception. He was none other than literary lion, incendiary raconteur and volcanically outspoken convention speaker - Harlan Ellison. He was touching in his fondness of the couple; he was hilarious with anecdotes about their relationship; he was ribald with his jokes; he was inexhaustible and never-ending. Finally, Peter broke in. Peter too is an expert raconteur. The afternoon became a bountiful banquet table of words, words, words as well as good food. Among the guests was Bill Mumy, who you might remember as young Will Robinson in the television series, "Lost In Space." We laughed, we ate and we drank - much too much. It was a fantastical wedding reception - as it should be for Peter and Kathleen. May this marriage live long and prosper.
One would think we're in a place in time where all conversations should be easy.
But that is not the case.
So much is still too "taboo" to be truthful about.
It is so frustrating.
There is so much to discuss.
Being shy is understandable, but it's something that we can all get over.
Redditor No_One_Special34 wanted to breakdown some barriers with a few simple conversations, so they asked:
"What is a taboo subject that should be talked about more?"
"Child/infant death. When my daughter died a bunch of people just... stopped talking to me altogether."
"I'm sorry to hear about your child."
"A 7-year-old was hit by a truck last week near my son's kg. I've never met the boy but I have had nightmares about it. I can't imagine what the parents are going thru right now. I can't imagine what you are going through."
"This happened to my mom when my brother died. Nobody knew what to say so few people said anything, and then it was treated like it didn’t happen."
The Aging Process
"We are a disgustingly ageist society. No wonder people pay BILLIONS for plastic surgery, hair color, and fitness, etc to stay relevant and not be thought of as useless or 'other.' It’s so very hateful. I think our society fears old age and death. It’s a f**king pathos."
"THANK YOU! I'm a 20-year paramedic. One of the things that I really hoped COVID would shed a light on is the absolutely abhorrent treatment of our elderly and infirmed. The 'treatment' in far too many nursing homes is negligent to a criminal level."
"Household budgets and finance - how much your parents make, how much is the mortgage, car insurance, car payment, and so on."
"That's easy. House, two cars, three kids, stay-at-home wife, pets, college tuition for everyone in the bank, a summer cottage home by the lake, and a hobby like golf should all do if you're a hardworking drug dealer nowadays."
"Agreed! We have gone into detail about our finances with our kids. We have them pick jobs on LinkedIn and a home on Zillow and budget so expenses and have them watch as they realize they can't afford expensive stuff on a crap salary. It's been really great."
Look for the Signs...
"Many people tend to assume that abusive people look creepy/scary and behave badly in general, but they don't seem to get that anyone can be abusive, regardless of appearance or demeanor. An abusive person can easily be charming, attractive, funny, witty, etc."
"Just because you think someone has a few positive qualities does not mean they're incapable of abuse."
"If someone's child 'seems' happy and well behaved, it does not mean that they are automatically OK or safe. There are many signs of abuse, and I wish that more people educated themselves on this issue. We can literally save lives by doing so."
The Girl Truth
"Girls need to know everything there is to know about menstruation before they experience it. At my school we were only given a quick 'every month you will bleed out your vagina, you can use pads or tampons to absorb it.' Nothing about any of the other mental or physical effects, nothing about how to deal with them, and nothing else reassuring."
Why are girls not taught more sooner?
Like what year are we living in?
"Number one for me, especially out-of-order deaths (young deaths). My husband died when I was 33 and he was 38. It's been almost 3 years and people still struggle with how to talk to me. We need to talk about death more as a society."
Only Legal One
"Alcoholism, especially in older generations."
"The biggest drug in the world, the most dangerous, only legal one. Alcohol has been disguised to make society believe it isn't even a drug. Now we're all hooked and can't go a week without a drink, funny because the cravings come back within a week."
"I quit drinking 18 months ago and it kinda sucks because if you want to go meet new ppl or go on a date it usually involves alcohol."
"Comprehensive sex ed. My mother never had sex ed and was convinced that vaginal discharge wasn't normal and that your crotch didn't sweat."
"My mother had a condition that requires her to use a catheter. She was shocked to learn that she doesn't urinate from her vagina, and that the opening to her urethra is actually slightly above it. She's 75. I'm a dude, and I've known that since I was 14."
"She was raised Catholic, and her mother taught her nothing. Not even what her period was. She was convinced she was dying."
Follow the Money
"Financial debt. In my line of work, I see people's bank accounts and credit reports every day and it is very rare that someone has zero debt. Excluding mortgages (which is a given) the vast majority have car finance, personal loans, and credit card balances. Mostly it's manageable, credit is mostly a convenience for which a person pays interest."
"But debt can also destroy a person. It can keep you up at night feeling like you're literally suffocating. It can lead to suicide. I know because I was close at one point. I don't know if I would have actually gone through with it but I had planned it to the point of measuring rope from the timbers in my attic to my neck and to ensure my feet wouldn't touch the ground."
"If you are in debt you are not alone, you're in the majority. If it's a struggle, notify the lenders/creditors; they're legally obligated to offer options to help you. It might reduce your credit score a bit but please don't ever reduce your life instead."
"Life is precious and money isn't. If you're struggling financially please speak to someone. There is no shame in it, pretty much everyone is struggling financially so someone will understand but please don't let a credit card balance be the reason your life ends."
"Pooping and poop problems. Colon cancer is so common and relatively treatable, but like all cancers, it's so much better to catch it early - yet so many people are too embarrassed to talk about poop problems, and they don't bring it up with their doctor until it's too late."
"I have ulcerative colitis and make sure all my friends know I'm totally comfortable talking about poop if they ever have any questions about whether something happening to them is normal or concerning."
Speak more. Speak louder. We've all been quiet too long.
The Thing People Would Look For First If Given A Box Of Everything They Ever Lost
As much as we might try to take care of our things, there are going to be instances where we lose things that we love.
Ironically, those lost things might be some of the most meaningful things we have in our lives.
Redditor baba_yaga_777 asked:
"If someone offered you a box of everything you ever lost, what would you look for first?"
A Mother's Brooch
"The brooch I bought for my mom's birthday when I was five years old (60 years ago)."
"I took all my money out of my bank and walked to the local Hallmark store. The nice lady took my money (probably less than $2) and wrapped up the gift."
"When my mom opened her gift, we walked back to the store 'to thank the lady for wrapping it so nicely.' It was actually so my mom could offer to pay the rest of the cost of that beautiful brooch. The lady wouldn't accept any more money, though."
"And here we are, 60 years later, and I still remember the incredible kindness of that lady."
"I don't have the brooch or my mom, but I do have this memory."
"When we left Yemen during the civil war in 1994, it was rushed and we lost a handbag that had all family photos from 15 to 20 years prior. It sucks not to have pictures of me when I was younger."
The Perfect Fit
"My swim trunks for this summer. I just got them last year and they fit me perfectly, and now I can't find them for the life of me. It p**ses me off thinking about it."
All Progress Saved
"The 'Pokémon Crystal' game that I had leveled all of my favorite characters up to Level 80. The housecleaner swiped it and my parents wouldn’t believe me. F**k you, Julie."
Lost Loved Ones
"My daughter. She was gone way too quick."
A Beloved Baby Blanket
"My childhood blankie. I have no idea what happened to it!"
"I somehow managed not to lose or destroy mine and gave it to my firstborn child. He still keeps it in his bed and turns seven soon. I think I’d ask for that too if it was lost."
Former Best Friends
"My best friend from my formative years."
"Oof, same. She was like a sister to me. She lives on the other side of the country now and, even though we grew apart, I miss how I felt when I spent time with her."
"The stuffed platypus I had when I was in elementary. Every time my mom mentions finding stuff in my grandpa's house, I ask about it."
In Exchange for Toxic Relationships
"The self-esteem that I allowed others to destroy during a phase of illness."
"High school sketchbook full of emo edgy drawings."
The Family Ring
"My mum's ring she'd been given by her Grandma that I pawned (my mum agreed at the time but always regretted it afterwards)."
"I got way, way less than its worth, since the guy took advantage of my age and desperation. The worst thing is, I can't even remember the design so can't ever have it replicated and can't ask my mum because she passed away earlier this year."
"Sure, I still love holidays but… as a kid, it was like, 'Holy mother of everliving f**k, Halloween is in THREE WEEKS? That is entirely too long. I will never be able to wait. Holy d**n.' And when it finally arrived, I'd have the night of my life."
"Now it’s like, 'Oh no. Halloween is in two days. Uh... Oh well...'"
The Sea of Lost Picks
"As a guitarist, all of my f**king picks."
Junk Drawers and Boxes
"The box I lost that had everything in it."
Quite the Conundrum
"The issue is that I can't recall what I've lost."
We've all lost things in our lives, some more important than others.
It's especially telling that at least most of us know exactly what we would seek first, before anything else that might possibly be in that box.
People Share What Their Reaction Would Be To Meeting A Naked Hiker On The Trail
There are several things that are appealing to hikers.
Being out in nature and taking in some fresh air is a huge motivation for people to get out of the house.
Getting exercise is also a factor to maintain a healthy heart.
But there could be one unexpected element to a hike that can happen hypothetically, and it's sure to raise your heartbeat.
Specifically, seeing something shocking along the hiking trail, like, say, a naked person could make for an exciting–or disturbing–hiking outing. It certainly doesn't get any more au natural than that.
Curious to hear from strangers, Redditor spenf asked:
"What would be your reaction if you encountered a nude hiker?"
These Redditors assessed the situation and saw no harm.
"I have passed two nude hikers in my 35 years of hiking. One male, one female, years and thousands of miles apart. Both said 'hello'. I said 'hello.' One mentioned the trail was washed out ahead but a second trail has been cut. I thanked them for the heads-up. Some people like the wind and sun on their skin. Both had on hiking boots. To each their own."
Sign Of Good Character
"I have. Three times! I'm an avid backpacker and you can usually find me in Yosemite, SeKi, Emigrant or Carson-Iceberg in California on any random summer weekend."
"My standard line: 'Afternoon, I didn't realize it was so cold out today!'"
"One of them didn't get the joke. The other two laughed their nude a**es off."
"Here's my reasoning. If you're naked and can laugh at a joke, you're probably not a threat."
"Depends. A hiker with hiking boots/shoes and a backpack, but otherwise nude, or a completely nude person on a hiking trail?"
"Scenario 1: I give a friendly wave and hike on."
"Scenario 2: I give a more tentative wave and hike on, maintaining a heightened awareness of my surroundings."
"I met one once. A middle aged man in ok shape. Had nice hiking boots, thick wool socks, fancy framed backpack, two walking poles, hat, sunglasses, and nothing else on."
"I said hi in a neutral voice, he replied hi in an equally neutral voice. We passed, I did not look back."
Some hikers are suspect.
"While backpacking out of Rocky Mountain National Park we encountered a dude wearing nothing but shoes and some very small shorts. He was off trail about 100' at the edge of a meadow, walking and swinging a machete. I...did not approach. He was probably a mile in from the trail head. I'm guessing drugs."
Beware Of Black Magic
"Ha! There are a lot of superstitious rumors/stories circulating around scenario 2 in India. Apparently, people who practice black magic with the sole intent of harming someone are often seen walking naked in places you don't expect people, carrying weird items."
"Either you interrupt them by disturbing them (no clue what happens next) or you run in the opposite direction."
You may want to take note.
"I live in the Bay Area and naked hikers are not uncommon."
"Good naked hiker: has appropriate shoes, a backpack or fanny pack, is hiking with intention and looks tanned and fit and like he does this regularly. Good naked hikers will give you room so you don't have to interact unless you really want to."
"Bad naked hiker: shoeless, visible sores, scrapes, or burns, moving erratically (i.e. really slow or in a zig-zag). Might be a drugged out person. Out-of-shape or pale are indications this is not normal for them and they may not have intended for this to happen."
"Exhibitionist: makes a point to make eye contact, smile at you, wave, try to involve you. Good naked hikers are usually on long, deep trails where they're less likely to encounter others, and they tend to give clothed hikers a wide breath out of a sense of respect and consent. Exhibitionists get chummy; it excites them to be seen naked."
"Also depends on the area. A deep woods area with long trails is ideal for naked hiking. Shorter and more accessible trails are less okay because there's a higher likelihood of encountering families with children."
"Also depends on if they're with friends or not. A group of naked hikers is less concerning than an individual."
"All this boils down to:"
"If you see a naked hiker, mind your own business. A good naked hiker isn't trying to bother you. A bad naked hiker is potentially dangerous. An exhibitionist wants attention so any attention paid to them will fuel them. Best thing to do is nod as you pass and carry on like you haven't even noticed."
"Edit: There are actually areas in the Bay Area where it's permitted to hike naked. Regionally, some places allow nudity. Also some places allow women to be topless so a topless female hiker might just be evening out her tan. It's best not to assume and to know the local laws before passing judgement on a person getting their nature on."
Guilty as charged.
The Name Is A Dead Giveaway
"No reaction at all, since I would be nude myself."
"Stare in disbelief. That's just very strange and coincidental for two nude hikers to run into each other."
"I guess make sure they have sunscreen also."
To each their own, but if hiking in the nude is your thing, you do you.
And just a heads up: If you're walking around in the buff and happen to be wielding a machete, you're going to make people very jittery. So maybe drop the prop.
Also, wear plenty of sunscreen.
The Absolute Hardest Parts Of Dating After Age 30
30 is the new 20.
At least, that's what a lot of people tell themselves after they pass that milestone birthday.
Even so, while age is merely a number, people still find certain things grow increasingly more challenging with each passing year.
Including, or even particularly, dating.
Those still on the hunt for love after turning 30 might grow increasingly insecure, worry that their moment has passed, or be unable to ignore the ticking of their biological clock reminding them that time might be running out to start a family.
Not to mention, playing a losing game over and over can become completely and utterly exhausting after a while.
"What is the hardest part of dating after 30?"
Not Everyone Wants A Package Deal
"Realizing that the number of single parents is larger than you’d expect."- dhabo1030
"Some people have kids or want them soon."
"And emotional baggage."- Psyblade0_0
"Kids, whether you have them or not, is something to talk and consider immediately before starting anything."- Crisb89
"For me, it was finding someone who didn't have kids, and didn't want them."
"At that point in my life, I was (and still am) 100% sure I don't want kids."
"Finding a long-term partner who wants the same was pretty tough."- Toiletpaperplane
"Everyone has kids."- TopScruffyPlaying Happy Children GIF by MOODMANGiphy
Everyone's In A Hurry
"'Dating after 30 is like catching a city bus after midnight'."
"'There aren't as many, but they're faster'."- civex
How Long Have You Got?
"Online dating sucks and all my friends are married or dead or single fathers."
"So I am on my own for the most part."- somedude-83
"It's not all fun and games anymore."
"People feel late or behind."
"First dates often: are we compatible, do you want kids, are you OK with my kids, are you ready for a serious relationship, do you make enough money, do you own a home, politics?"
"I don't have time to mess with you if we aren't a match because I'm in my 30s and supposed to be married and having kids."
"The days of just light fun dating are less common."- ZLVe96Kill Me Now Season 1 GIF by FriendsGiphy
Emotional And/Or Excess Baggage
"You sometimes pay for what their ex did to them."- JJJAAABBB123
Rising Standards And Expectations
"You have your preferences narrowed down a LOT more than you did in your 20s, thus finding a compatible partner is more difficult."
"Especially if you dislike kids."- Clintman
"Many people want 'high value' partners while having no value."- Zetterburger40Sassy Red Wine GIF by Married At First SightGiphy
Solo routines Can Be Hard To Shake...
"I've learned I prefer my own company."- PrinceEnternalStench
"The summoning rituals you have to go through."- AdCareful5654
Wait Till Your 40s...
"Wait until they’re over 45."
"Most are divorced and have been alone for a while."
"It‘s a reset of dating and they’re open to try something new."
"That person who was out of your league is now squarely in your court."
"Go for it!"- macgivSee Ya Goodbye GIF by MaxGiphy
Good Luck Getting A Good Night's Sleep...
"CPAP Machines."- Reddit
As long as you are single, finding love is one of the many things you think you might never achieve with each passing year.
However, when you do finally find that one true love, no matter when or how old you are, you will realize in no time at all it was definitely worth the wait.