Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Strange Enterprise

Two truths and a lie.

Since my last post, I have:

A. Totaled my car.
B. Gone brunette.
C. Purchased 48 Goo Goo Clusters.

Hint: I’m a horrible liar.

Yep, all true. The subject of this post, however, is D -- none of the above. Instead, I’d like to discuss fact and fiction, and the difference between. And “Star Trek.”

(Alright, a quick note on the Goo Goo Clusters. I bought them at Sam’s for Eric and his folks, whom I visited just last week. “Goo” stands for “Grand Ole Opry,” and 48 is the number of lives you’ll need if you intend to subsist on Goo Goo Clusters. They’re not entirely wholesome, but they’re very sweet -- which makes them an acceptable food for bringing home to parents.)

On the return flight from Boston to New Orleans, I sat next to a large, middle-aged guy who fit either Britons’ stereotype of Americans or Americans’ stereotype of Texans. He had a big belt buckle, and he clearly wanted to chat. “If I start snoring, just push me,” he instructed our row during take-off. “That’s what my wife does.” When I smiled politely, he added, “I only got four hours of sleep last night.” The obvious reply would be, “Ah! What kept you up?” But I chose: “Ah! You deserve a rest!” Translation, I hoped, being: “Ah! I won’t bother (i.e. ‘talk to’) you!” Then, I got very interested in my book.

See, I didn’t inherit my mother’s gene for befriending strangers. If you put my mom on an airplane with two seatmates, by the time the drink cart rolls through, they’ll be on each others’ emergency donor lists. That's even if her seatmates don’t speak English.

I’m more inclined toward Anne Lamott’s philosophy of airline travel. In Traveling Mercies, she says, “My idea of everything going smoothly on an airplane is a) that I do not die in a slow-motion fiery crash or get stabbed to death by terrorists and b) that none of the other passengers try to talk to me.” That’s me -- come fly the misanthropic skies!

Tex tilted back his chair, but instead of closing his eyes, he peered at my novel. “Is that science fiction?” I was on my second read of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I hesitated, partly in grim realization that my invisible fencing had been scaled, but also out of literary snobbery. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I rejected Tex’s labeling. Several of my favorite people read, or write, science fiction. And it’s not as if The Time Traveler’s Wife is inspiring graduate English seminars. A banner across the book’s cover proclaims: “One of People’s top ten books of the year!” Paris Hilton says, four stars!

“Sort of,” I offered. My iPod cried from its captivity within my carry-on, wedged obediently and irretrievably beneath the seat in front of me. Cursed FAA regulations.

“We’re sitting here today because of science fiction,” Tex confided. Uh oh. Danger, Captain Kirk. You, sir, may be sitting in 11E because of science fiction. I’m sitting in 11F because my spring break ended, and my boyfriend had to go back to work. If science fiction did this, I’m switching to Harlequins.

Tex continued, “The first oral vaccines were based on ‘Star Trek.’ Dr. McCoy prevented disease without using any needles. Pretty soon we were lining up for smallpox juice.”

I am not making this up.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” I mused. It seemed rude not to add something else, so I searched my mental bank for vaguely Trekky trivia. I remembered my godmother mentioning a crush on Data when I was seven -- something about his “piercing yellow eyes” -- but I couldn’t make it fit. Tex wasn’t offended. “And why do you own a cell phone, you think?” Apparently, “roadside emergencies” wasn’t the clear choice. “I don’t know…” “ ‘Star Trek’! Cell phones were pattered after their communication devices.”

I started to wonder whether I’d secretly been cast in some sort of “Truman Show” reality series. In a few minutes, would Tex announce the upcoming release of a “Star Trek” movie? “And you can get your tickets quickly and easily on Fandango! The web site is…”

In ode to my psychology training, I also considered whether Tex had high-functioning autism. Could he spontaneously recite chunks of “Star Trek” dialogue? List the title and original release date of each episode? “What year did the first ‘Star Trek’ episode air?” I tested.

Tex paused. “Hmmm. I’m not sure. Must have been 1963 or ’64.” Not to be bested by a brown-haired girl in cowboy boots, he laughed: “Why, you weren’t even a glint in your parents’ imagination then!”

That was it. Time to dock Good Ship Small Talk. Mission’s over. Tex hadn’t intended any harm, but his tone suggested Yoda tickling a baby Ewok. I know I look young, but I’m no first-year Hufflepuff. Also, um, despite the fact I’m in my mid-twenties, I get creeped out by references to my conception. My parents shook hands and presto, okay?

Suddenly, I felt very tired.

“I need a little nap,” I smiled. And faster than you can say, “Beam me up,” I was asleep.

Just now, I fact-checked Tex by Googling “Star Trek technology.” Nobody lies on the Internet, right? According to this San Francisco Chronicle article, my seatmate wasn’t sailing too far from Earth. “Star Trek” may not have inspired all of modern medicine, but it predicted a good bit: MRIs, non-invasive scanning for disease, and, yes, needle-free vaccinations. As of 2004, the article’s publication date, “many of the high-tech instruments simulated on the ‘Star Trek’ set are a reality, used to treat patients in hospitals and clinics around the world.”

Sorry I scoffed at you, Tex. Please don’t vaporize me.

Freud and Annie Lennox claimed there’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe the division between solid ground and celestial fluff isn’t so well-defined, either.

How fortunate that certain 20th century scientists watched more “Star Trek” than “Dukes of Hazzard.”

Though I’m 95% certain we’d have Goo Goo Clusters in either case.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ode To DST

Have you seen my little lost hour?
Somehow she’s wandered away.
I dined with her yesterday evening,
But woke up without her today.
It could be she’s knitting a sweater,
Or writing a short piece of verse.
She’ll slip from your grasp, if you let her -
Her discipline’s rather the worse.
She’s often spied watching “Top Model,”
Or playing around on the ‘net
It’s her inclination to dawdle,
But she’s really a valuable pet.
In a pinch, she can bake a lasagna,
Scrub the bathroom with nary a rest.
Unsuspecting, she’ll sneak up upon ya
My inbox is her favorite nest.
If you find her, please tell her I’m sorry -
My word choice was careless, I see.
When I mentioned, “I’ve been known to kill time,”
I never considered she’d flee.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ode to Creme Brulee A Deux

It takes four eggs for crème brulee
Four Es, the whole dessert to say.
Four tines required to taste this treat
One fork, that is, alone to eat.
But I prefer brulee for two -
The double E; the single “u.”
True, the “i” is quick to miss
That’s why dessert ends with a kiss!