At 0830 hours Captain Lee, Candidate Zaia, and Engineer Joe (me) piled into the runabout USS Wappinger Creek, with Communications Officer Denes at the helm. Spirits were high! For two of us this would be our first Star Trek convention ever- in fact, our first convention of any kind. For Denes, it would be his second- and his first one as an adult, if memory serves. Captain Lee- well, she’s not captain of the USS Henry Hudson by accident. Even though she’s been to as many conventions as one would expect of a Starfleet Captain, she seemed just as excited as the rest of us.
We picked up Thomas and Heather on the way, and before long we were at the hotel- or were we? The parking lot seemed barren compared to all the convention stories and photos I had seen. Just when we were about to warp on down the road, we spotted the iconic Zhang Heng- the personal shuttlecraft of Science Officer Willy. Then we knew we had the right place.
At the airlock, security officer Alison accused me of impersonating a veteran. Apparently, though a veteran herself, she was unaware that my American Legion ID card is proof of service as well as her Veterans Affairs ID card. Fortunately another security officer was more informed, and handled the situation. I would like to express my appreciation to station captain Jerry for going out of his way to honor veterans. I am very thankful for individuals and organizations which show support those of us who have served.
Once on board, we were off to wonderland. This was not the kind of wonderland I expected, but something far more subtle and wonderful. Missing were the oceans of merchandise booths, food vendors, and cosplayers from all the internet convention reports- but in their place was a patron-to-star ratio of about 18:1. I think it is safe to say that every attendee at this convention enjoyed a personal conversation with at least one or two stars by the end of the night.
After a quick peek at the dozen-and-a-half tables set up on the main floor, we headed up just in time for the first cast panel, starring Aron Eisenberg and J.G. Hertzler. This was a treat! Aron is five feet tall, has a wit as quick as a whip, and can finish a sentence faster than many people can finish a word. J.G. is six feet tall, wields a gruff sarcasm, and pauses his rumbling voice long and often when he speaks. Each time he paused Aron would inject a sentence or two at J.G.’s expense. This was a source of laughter throughout the hour. On occasion, however, J.G. would slam-dunk him with a comeback. If you missed the show, imagine feeding a bag of coffee beans to a squirrel and tossing him at a hibernating bear.
On the way out we ran into the stars, and a couple of us stopped to say hello. I introduced myself to Aron while J.G. exchanged greetings with someone closer to his own height. It was only a moment, because they both had to rush off to whatever their next thing was. At this point the crew of the Hudson broke for lunch.
We returned in time for the Deep Space Nine panel. For me this was the highlight of the convention. Like the first panel, there were maybe a hundred people in the audience. I think everyone who raised a hand got to ask a question, including myself. Chase Masterson and Nana Visitor both said kind things to me in response to my question, which was very sweet. Before anyone actually answered though, J.G. started a long rant about something else. Eventually Aron suggested the group should respond to my question before J.G. forgets what it was. They did, and I appreciate Aron’s attention to detail for that.
Next up was the Voyager panel with Robert Picardo and Garret Wang, featuring behind the scenes stories with a sprinkling of locker room talk about Seven of Nine’s costume by Robert. His timing was not excellent, considering the next panel was Women of Trek. Chase called him out for ungentlemanly conduct, and rightly so I think.
Between the panels we got to browse the tables of Hollywood stars. First we stopped to greet Robert Picardo, but he waxed political. Unable to change the subject and unwilling to argue, I was trapped by social etiquette to listen for several uncomfortable minutes. His booth guy saw my plight and shouted “Also, Bob is a great actor!” I took the opportunity to shake hands and escape. Nice save, Booth Guy- and thanks for that.
We got to Chase’s table, and there was only one person in front of us. When she moved on, Chase asked for a moment to look at a menu, because she needed to eat. We stepped away and chatted among ourselves to give her space and privacy. I figured once she had placed her order, we could talk for a bit while she waits for food- but this was not to be. A young lady wearing a Staples uniform identified herself as an undercover security officer, and asked us to move along- despite the fact we already had done so. I agreed with her principle, hoping that she would realize we were in compliance and continue on her patrol, but she kept insisting that we not stand there, and it was easier to walk away than explain how illogical her assertions were. Before we turned the corner, Chase’s table got swarmed by a group of people who definitely WERE disturbing her attempt to order food. Staples Girl ignored them, and continued on her way incognito.
Of course Nana Visitor’s table was busy the first couple of times I passed it, but eventually I did manage to have a nice conversation first with Chase, and later with Nana. I found both of them to be warm, bright, and approachable. Unfortunately I barely got close to Aron and J.G.’s tables. I seemed to keep getting there just after a crowd had gathered.
We also had the opportunity to stop and talk with ship designer Rick Sternbach, and author Michael Jan Friedman. I cannot emphasize how much more enjoyable it was for me to have actual substantive conversations with so many of Star Trek’s personalities than it would have been to wander through an ocean of people and merchandise. I really don’t see how a Trek convention could be better than this one was.
After the excitement of the panels and the thrill of the conversations, the away team beamed over to a Japanese steakhouse to exchange stories of our adventures over hot noodles and seasoned rice.
Back at Deep Space Radison we discovered there was only one show left, so we went upstairs to check it out. Ten minutes after start-time in a smallish presentation room full of empty chairs, a man was setting up his equipment. “Oh, hello! I am going to give a lecture on a topic unrelated to Star Trek, which probably doesn’t interest any of you. We’ll start in a few minutes, and it will only take an hour.” As he returned to his equipment, we glanced at each other and slowly backed away.
Aron Eisenberg was on his way out to an after party, and spotted us. “See you guys tomorrow!”
“Oh, we’re heading home tonight- I’m afraid we won’t be back tomorrow.”
Aron stopped to shake my hand. “It was Joe, right? It was great to meet you, I’m so glad you guys came! Safe travels, and have a good night!”