Gwen Ifill was an extraordinary journalist, and someone who I followed for as long as I followed politics. She died too young in 2016 of breast and endometrial cancer. This year she has been honored with a United States Postal Service Forever stamp. You read her author’s page at The PBS Newshour and read some touching memories at Remembering Gwen Ifill. She will always be an inspiration to me.
As I look at my Christmas gifts, and my recent birthday gifts before that, I am struck, but not terribly surprised by how much relates to the variety of fandoms and pop culture things I am involved in. Many of these things have stayed with me since my teen years, to the point that I no longer participate, but they still hold an important place in my heart. The one example that comes to mind was my getting a new messenger bag: ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding. It’s so glorious that I’ll be writing a separate review of it. My son was a little annoyed that I would be getting it – it was a little expensive, but with the thirty percent discount that was offered, it was well worth it. He was still a little annoyed and exclaimed, “You don’t even like Dungeons & Dragons!” I think I may have snorted. I was momentarily speechless.
I don’t like Dungeons & Dragons?! Do you even know me?! I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons since high school. In our school cafeteria, we would use the half-pint milk container as a six-sided die. Every weekend in college, we’d get together in the blue room to play. Dave, our DM (dungeon master) would not let us have any alcohol. We got stupid. We were probably the only group on a Saturday night not drunk. We would play all weekend, talking time only to sleep before the next night’s game.
I met my college roommate in a study hall through a conversation about character sheets.
My oldest son used my original books when he and his friends played Dungeons & Dragons.
Not a fan?! Harumph!
Glancing at The Walking Dead trivia box, the Hufflepuff necklace, the Supernatural zipper bag, the Star Trek 50th anniversary gold ornament with sound, I saw just how many fandom things there are, and I also realized how difficult it was to get some of them.
I grew up in the post office. Sort of. Both of my parents worked for the post office, and I’d visit them often from when I was young, in elementary school right up to college and after.
I knew where the employee only door was to visit my mother, and I’d walk on through even though it said, No Admittance, Employees Only. This was also my way of bypassing the line and I would give my mother my mail and she’d dump it into the sorting tray.
I used to send a lot of letters and cards to friends and pen pals. I didn’t realize that stamps had to be paid for; that thyey cost money. My parents never asked me for money for stamps.I thought they were a benefit of working for the post office.
I’d leave my mail sticking out of the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom at night, and the next morning they’d be gone and on their way to the addressee.
I sat at Gloria’s desk, twirling in her chair, pushing around the cigarette butts in the ashtray with a pencil. I’d use the stampers on blank pieces of routing paper: First Class, Air Mail, Fragile.
On ocassion, I’d sort the mail into the carrier’s trays by zip code.
I would address letters to my grandmother by simply writing Grandma and her address.
I knew the importance of the return address and using a zip code. I rebelled against the zip plus four.
For a long time, I could identify a state by its zip code, and I was one of the only kids in class who knew all the postal abbreviations for all of the states.
Even today, two hundred fifty miles away from those childhood post offices, I still feel at home sending out my letters and packages. I sneak behind the second counter to build my boxes, pack them, address them and tape them closed. This isn’t an official counter where the stamps and money are kept. It is alongside the retail section. It might have had a cash register a long time ago for just the retail items, but it’s just a great space to pack up and get my Christmas presents ready for mailing. I do get asked a lot of questions, though because everyone thinks I work there. I can almost always answer the questions, which makes me feel good too.
As a kid, I knew not to put any mail in the blue neighborhood boxes. I still don’t although the problems that happened in the 70s don’t really happen too much anymore – fireworks in July, eggs at Halloween.I do hand my already stamped mail to the clerk about ninety-nine percent of the time.
Fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous? My clerk knows I know it, and he has to say it anyway, so I just smile and wait patiently to answer him. Usually it’s the first three, especially around the holiday season.
I automatically hand over my credit card, knowing the clerk needs it for the credit transaction.
I’ve asked for tape and markers and staplers.
I almost always use priority mail. I remember when priority mail was guaranteed like express mail is.
The price of stamps almost always goes up right after Mother’s Day, at least it did two or three times in a row.
I remember when computers came into the station, and at my parents’ first station together, we could walk to the pizza place and back. Joe’s Pizza.
As an adult they kind of frown on you spinning the chairs around, but there was not a chair that I didn’t spin when I was a kid.
[All photos of stamps copyrighted to kbwriting and griffinsandgingernaps.wordpress.com]
The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise;
It’s five year mission:
To explore strange new worlds,
To seek out new life and new civilizations,
To boldly go…
Where no man has gone before.
These iconic words from Gene Roddenberry, brought to life by William Shatner have withstood the test of time.
Fifty years ago today, Star Trek began what would be its fifty-year and ongoing mission. Roddenberry’s vision for the future is still some way off, but I just saw a video on the realities of transparent aluminum, most of us use communicators in some fashion or another, and having a Black woman superior to us in the workplace is more common than 1966, although we could do better.
In 1966, it was somewhat controversial to have such a mixed race crew, let alone the actors who played them. While Jim Kirk was born in Iowa, Williams Shatner hails from Canada. He is still a Canadian citizen, and not a naturalized American. He, Leonard Nimoy, and Walter Koenig are all Jewish. Sulu and George Takei are Japanese. Nichelle Nichols was a Black woman. She and Shatner hold the first for an interracial kiss on television. Pavel Checkov’s character was a breakthrough especially during the space race of the 50s and the 60s. The idea of working with the Russians was nearly impossible to imagine then. And of course, Jimmy Doohan’s Scotty gave homage to the many Scotsmen and women who led the industrial revolution and got the engines running.
Even in today’s Kelvin timeline, not reboot (according to Mike and Denise Okuda), there is an homage given to the original cast as well as bringing the story into the 21st century for us moviegoers.
I’ve watched every iteration of Star Trek including reading the comic books, every new series (Deep Space Nine is my favorite after the original series), every movie, every animation. Wasn’t there a Star Trek meets Scooby Doo or am I imagining that? Somewhere in the depths of my basement boxes is a photojournal of Trouble with Tribbles that I had once memorized. I learned Klingon as a young adult, and went to conventions so long ago that there were no charges for photos or autographs.
Reflecting on 50 years of science fiction, watching it intersect with science fact, sitting in the captain’s chair at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and forging our own new worlds through our own inspiration to write and world-build.
Star Trek is many things to many people. I have been a fan my whole life, and will continue to be into the next half century and beyond.
Happy Birthday, Star Trek!
And many more to come.
The stories yet to be told are out there, and I for one, can’t wait.