Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Muncie Boyhood-Star Trek & Middle School

Me, just before heading out to the 8th grade dance.
I’ve been following William Shatner on Twitter for a while now, and he is one of those very active “tweeters.”  When he gets on a roll, he just goes and goes and goes.  But, that's cool though, because he’s funny, and it’s fun to read.  Well, I was scrolling through his latest tweet-fest, and it got me thinking about the days when I first became familiar with him.

Middle School.

The fall of 1974 through the spring of 1976.  Star Trek was in syndication, and it was before it became huge with the series of sequels and a big screen phenomenon.  At the time, it was just an old show from the 60’s that was running on an off-time in reruns.  I even remember that when it came on after the evening news, the local Indianapolis station’s news crew would “beam” out as the transition to the show.  And, I fell in love with that quirky, ahead of its time, eclectic show of galactic voyagers…and their “5-year mission to explore new worlds and new civilizations.”

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the crew of the Starship Enterprise got me through the Tribblelation that was my middle school years.

I have to admit, those were a tough couple of years at Wilson Middle School.  Bullies, racial tensions, pimples, puberty, weird haircuts, sports failures, and fat.  Let’s just say that I never had a problem calculating the value of Pi….um, I mean pie.  I had always been a little chubby, but by the end of 8th grade I looked like a giant kickball with feet.

In the midst of those weird, awkward years, my buddy Jerry introduced me to Captain Kirk and crew.  I hadn’t watched it when it was on its original run.  I’d been more into Lassie and Gentle Ben in those days.  But by 1974, I was ready to battle Klingons and Romulans.  It made for a great way to get my mind off of those…those…um…those real things that were so…well,  so hard.

Despite the mess that was my real life, with Jerry’s help, I fell in love with Star Trek.  We role-played.  We made fake phasers and communicators…maybe even a tricorder.  He was Spock…I was a super chubby Kirk.  (Sorry Bill.)  We made up story-lines and battled imaginary aliens.  And, I survived Middle School.

Then, an amazing thing happened in the three months between middle school and my entry into my freshman year at Muncie Southside High School.  It had been an active summer.  Lots of outdoor stuff.  I lost some of my winter chub, and I grew a couple of inches.  Suddenly, I wasn’t a walking watermelon anymore.  I had actually slimmed down.  So much so that one of my friends saw me on the first day of school, and they couldn’t believe it:  “Wow, Mike!  I almost didn’t recognize you!”

Of course, I was oblivious to the change.  I’d been too busy fighting Klingons.  

So, here’s a big thank you to Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, and even Yeoman Rand.  You guys were real heroes back in the day, to at least one chubby little guy from Muncie, Indiana.  Have a glass of Romulan Ale on me!