Category Archives: Short Essays
It was the kind of afternoon that makes flashing police lights glimmer in the summer sunset. It was the kind of afternoon you remember for the rest of your life, no matter how hard you try to desperately forget it. And she was the kind of lady who makes Godzilla look like a house iguana.
Three hours earlier I had picked my Grandma up from her house on South Yakima Avenue in the Hilltop neighborhood. It wasn’t the best of neighborhoods. It’s the kind of neighborhood where you don’t leave your car parked on the street because you’ll come back and the wheels and tires will be gone and it will be up on blocks. And the windows will be busted out and your radio and speakers and steering wheel and sun visors and glove box and seats and carpet will all be torn out of your car and gone. So I usually just pull up to my Grandma’s house and honk the horn and then wait until she walks out to the car. You only have your car vandalized five or six times on Yakima Avenue before you wise up.
Now the 18 foot walk from her door to the car was always a sore spot with my Grandma. Grandma used to pull telephone wire for Pacific Northwest Bell back in the ’40s. Some days she would climb 70 or 80 telephones poles in a day. And as she tells it climbing telephone poles all day is harder on your knees than being a Lincoln hooker. I know, I had the same question. A Lincoln hooker is a, uh, a woman of means who trades certain indiscretions for a five dollar bill. President Lincoln’s face graces the five dollar note. Hence, a Lincoln hooker. Anyway, point is Grandma doesn’t get around so well. And she let’s you know how that 18 feet from her front door to my car door seems like 18 miles to her.
When I pick Grandma up on the first Friday of the month, she has just gotten her Social Security check. And the first thing we always do is go to the Key Bank branch at 11th and Pacific. Grandma makes me wait in the car while she goes in and deposits her check. Then, she walks out of the bank, lights a Pall Mall cigarette, smokes the entire cigarette in one long drag, throws the butt into the flower planter right outside the bank door, then shuffles back to the car, gets in, and demands we go eat at Denny’s.
There are three Denny’s restaurants that’s are closer than the one we have to drive to. The first one is over on 6th Avenue. But we can’t go to that one because their rating was a C because they never cleaned their coffee makers. The second one is off Pacific Highway in Fife. But we can’t go to that one because that’s where all the, and these are Grandma’s words, not mine, “white hoodlums” hang out.
The third Denny’s we actually pass to get to the Denny’s we go to. That Denny’s is just off the I-5 on Hosmer Street. But we can’t go to that one because Grandma got into a scuffle with some girls from the Oregon Episcopal School cross country team. They were on some road trip and some of them ended up sitting at Grandma’s table. So when we came in that day, Grandma went right to her table and saw the group of OES Aardvarks sitting there and flipped the whole table over. Needless to say, we were kindly asked not to come back. A bunch of crying high school girls win over a really good Social Security check tip any day of the week.
So since we can’t go to any of those Denny’s, we have to drive all the way to the Denny’s on 100th Street in crappy Lakewood, which, I shit you not, is home to a one-dollar Chinese buffet. Seriously, it’s called Wok Inn-Wok Out. I’m pretty sure it’s a front for something because I’ve never met anyone who has ever admitted to eating there. But oddly enough, it has a lot of five-star reviews on Yelp. So who the hell knows.
When we arrived at Denny’s, Grandma shuffled in and went right to Table 25, sat down, and waited for Bernadine, her regular waitress, to come over to the table and bring her coffee, black, two sugars. But Bernadine didn’t arrive, and she didn’t bring her coffee, black, two sugars. Unbeknownst to us, Bernadine was on vacation in Atlantic City blowing her tax refund check on mimosas and craps.
The fill-in waitress Beth had no idea what she was getting into when she picked up Bernadine’s Friday shift. No poor, sweet, innocent, 16-year-old, high-school-cheerleader Beth was completely unaware of the Grandm-onster that lay in wait like a sleeping dragon at Table 25.
Beth bounced over to the table with a couple of menus, and without coffee, black, two sugars. That was strike one, and Grandma let Beth know by saying, “And just who the hell are you?”
Beth was unfazed at this point and happily responded, “I’m Beth. I’ll be your waitress today.”
Grandma was not impressed with Beth’s, as she put it, “smug attitude,” but we placed our order and Beth headed back toward the kitchen.
Beth quickly brought back our drinks, and, while we waited for our food, Grandma enthralled me with the minutiae of her afternoon soap operas while I wondered how much extra cash I had on me because I knew Grandma wasn’t going to leave Beth a tip at this point.
Beth returned with an arm full of plates and sat them down on the table. Then she made the fatal mistake of asking, “Does everything look okay?”
Grandma glared at the plate of plain pancakes in front of her, glared at Beth, and responded, “There ain’t no whip cream on these damn pancakes.”
Beth immediately noticed the error and said, “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” and picked up the plate and ran back to the kitchen.
She returned to the table and before the plate of pancakes with a generous helping of whipped cream hit the table, Grandma lit in, “This ain’t right, little missy! Where the hell is the cinnamon? I ordered cinnamon pancakes!”
Beth, clearly used to the sort of clientele the Lakewood Denny’s had to offer, started to explain, “The cinnamon is baked into the pan-”
Grandma stopped her cold, “The cinnamon goes on top of the whipped cream. Now, if this plate doesn’t come back with cinnamon on it, then I’m going to pop off your little blond head and play your skull like an ocarina.”
A look of confusion crossed Beth’s face. “What’s an ocarina?”
I chimed in, “It’s kinda like a flute.”
Grandma shot me a look, “Shut your damn mouth. Didn’t nobody ask you to help with your college education.”
I felt at this point it wasn’t necessary to correct Grandma that my familiarity of the ocarina came from hours spent playing The Legend of Zelda and not from my time spent in and around institutions of higher learning. I also felt it was in my best interest to remain silent as Grandma went on to explain the finer points of the history of Denny’s food preparation. As Beth’s tried to hold back sniffling sobs, a passing manager caught wind of Grandma’s lengthy and tactless history lesson and intercepted the conversation.
The police report noted that things escalated from that point and to make a long police report short, Grandma and I are no longer allowed at the Denny’s at 6112 100th Street, SW, in Tacoma, Washington.
Now we have to drive all the way to the Denny’s in Puyallup.
Now most people will list my greatest quality as my hair. But a close second would have to be my modesty. And being modest means I have to admit that any job I would take I would be great at. However, there are some jobs I think I’d be really great at. What are the jobs that I would be really great at? Well, I’m glad you freakin’ asked!
Mall Kiosk Attendant – Being my own boss is at the top of my list of job requirements right after great pay, benefits, dental, vision, a great snack room, free coffee, and an eleven-hour work week. And I’ve also always said that if you want anything done right, you might as well do it yourself. So being a mall kiosk attendant is the best of both worlds. I’m my own boss and my own employee, which also means I’m simultaneously my favorite boss and employee, so that’s a bonus win-win. I get to keep up with my own inventory. I get to interact with people at my leisure. And there are always a lot of hot girls with little-to-no supervision at the mall, which, in the pickup artist biz, is what they call a “target rich environment.” So I’d have that going for me.
Toll Booth Operator – Being a toll booth operator shares a lot of the same advantages that being a mall kiosk attendant has. And I do like working in quaint and close quarters (the school I used to work at literally set my office up in a utility closet. No joke, the height of my office was greater than the sum of its length and width. It was like working in an elevator shaft). The shorter the interaction with people I have, the better I like it, so taking money or making change to someone who doesn’t even want to stop at my booth to begin with means I’ll be great at moving people along. I should also mention I’m wicked efficient at repetitive tasks.
Tour Guide – I know a lot of stuff about a lot of places. And I love to tell people about that stuff. Not to mention I’m one hell of a leader. And I look good in a variety of period style hats. I think tour guide is a slam dunk. Not to mention that it would get me out of the house. Historic residence, classic car garage, Civil War battle site, house of wax, Smithsonian, origami museum, I could pretty much handle anything that a tour could throw at me. And if I happen to end up as some sort of jungle tour guide, I’m well prepared. I’ve seen Romancing the Stone probably 30 times and I’ve seen Jewel of the Nile twice. Like I said, slam dunk.
Beauty Pageant Judge – One of the many talents (along with modesty) that I was gifted with is the fervent desire to look at beautiful women and judge them based on a series of competitions focused primarily on superficial criteria. This is also why I apathetically excel at judging costume contests. It’s also the reason why Doctor Who never wins a costume contest that I judge. It’s mostly because I don’t understand Doctor Who and how can I, in good conscience, choose something that I don’t understand? It’s a rhetorical question, Doctor Who fans. Don’t try to explain it to me. And granted, I don’t understand what goes on in Utah, but I can sure tell if a girl from Utah is prettier and answers questions better than 49 other girls. Actually, now that I think about it, a sexy girl Doctor Who would probably stand a good chance in a costume contest that I’m judging. Food for thought, Whovians.
Starship Captain – I’m not sure if this is a real job yet, but as soon as it becomes one, I should be on the list of first people to captain a starship. If there should be anyone responsible for 600,000 metric tons of metal cruising through space exploring planets and romancing beautiful alien women, it should be me. I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek twice now. And as long as Netflix keeps them up and I have any shred of free time, I’ll will have seen them all three times by the time this becomes a real job (unless it already is, in which case two times is gonna have to cut it). I’ve also seen Starship Troopers, Star Wars, and Galaxy Quest, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got Starship Captainry down. Not to mention that I’m well-liked and I have great hair (and don’t forget my modesty).
Lounge Singer – I’m not that great of a singer, but no one can argue that I’m a very passionate singer. That makes me perfect for singing in a lounge with drunk people who don’t particularly care about quality so much as they do showmanship. Not to mention, I look great in a suit. I will have to find someone who plays a piano because I don’t play the piano
very well that great at all.
State Representative – How hard can this job be? Seriously, I watch a fair amount of C-SPAN and it seems like all you need to be a state representative is a decent suit and the desire to sit in a fancy room and listen to other people talk about stuff only they care about. I do that all the time now, and my suits are far better than decent. So I might as well get paid well and get great benefits for all my trouble.
That’s just a start. I’m sure there are thousands more jobs I’d be really well-suited for. But my modesty will only permit me to list so many at a time.
I had the best time Trick-or-Treating last night. Yeah, it was the best time ever! Seriously! Who did I go with? You’ll never believe it if I told you! Jesus Christ! No joke! I’m serious as a heart attack. That’s right, the Lord and Eternal Savior himself. He just showed up at my door around six o’clock last night and said, “Hey, wanna go Trick-or-Treating?” I told him I didn’t have a costume and he said, just throw on a bathrobe and you can be St. Peter. So that’s what I did. I don’t guess St. Peter ever wore a cool Thundercats bathrobe. Or who knows, maybe he did. I wasn’t around then and Jesus didn’t seem to care. He actually said I looked a lot like Peter from far away if you squinted your eyes real hard. But, hey, whatever, I got to hang out with Jesus.
What? Oh, I have no clue why he picked me. I know, right? I don’t even go to church. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been in a church since I was dating Becky Muldrew. Yeah, she was into the whole Christian thing pretty hard but I really wanted to get in her pants. Yeah, it ended up not working out. Why not? Well, Becky was in church almost as much as she got around. Yeah, Todd the A/V guy at the church told me all about it. Dodged a bullet there. Oh, I don’t know where she is now. That was like 3 years ago. Last I heard from Todd was she had like three babies with four different guys or something like that. Right, anyway, back to Jesus. No clue why he picked me. Probably because I really know how to party! Yeah, you’re right. I’m surprised I said that with a straight face too.
What did we do? Well, we started off by going to houses Trick-or-Treating. But instead of getting candy at the houses, we gave the houses candy. It was a little weird at first, sort of like a reverse Trick-or-Treating. But then after the first few houses, we really got our rhythm down. Then after we went through a couple neighborhoods, we went back and hit up just the rich houses where they were giving out free full size candy bars. So we ended up with a Snickers, a Crunch Bar, a Kit-Kat, a Zagnut, and a Mounds bar. I know right? Who gives away Mounds Bars?! Yeah, someone who drives a Prius and a diesel BMW, that’s who. Talk about conflicting interest. Anyway, we just threw the Mounds bar away. Then Jesus was like, “Hey, check this out!” He threw the candy bars into his Trick-or-Treat bag and shook it around and said abracadabra, which I don’t know what it means but I assume it’s Hebrew, and the bag was full of candy bars! And he did this like six more times! We stood in front of that house where those people were giving out Mounds bars and warned the other Trick-or-Treaters and he gave every one of them a full-size candy bar out of that bag. And he gave out candy bars to a ton of people! Yeah, we started with five candy bars and freakin’ gave away like five thousand. It was insane.
Then Jesus said we had to go swing by this girl’s house so he could holla at her. No, I don’t think they’re dating. Apparently he met her on OK Cupid, and they have been texting back and forth a lot in the last couple weeks. So we stopped by there and her parents said she was working at Big Lots until nine. So we cruised on over there and hung out for like 30 minutes until the manager told us we had to buy something and leave. So I bought me and Big J two big jugs of Hawaiian Punch, and we got the hell out of there. Yeah, she said something about meeting up with us later and bringing her friend and introducing me to her friend. But her parents called her and she had to come straight home. But it’s cool. We are all supposed to meet at Denny’s tomorrow night after she gets off work at seven.
And we finished off the evening by T-P-ing and egging Jacob Goldstein’s house. Apparently Jesus is still holding a pretty hard grudge toward the Jews on that whole crucifixion thing.
I’m not going to tell you that being on the radio was all glitz and glamor. It wasn’t. There was a lot of bullshit that went along with the job. The stupid meetings to tell you what new stupid thing the radio station was trying to do to round up new listeners that month. And God help the on-air staff any time a ratings book came out. If we weren’t number one, it was the end of the world. This was the ’00s. Radio wasn’t king any more. To listen to the corporate higher-ups, radio was scraping by. Of course, looking at the stockholder numbers, radio was raking in the cash like it was printing its own money.
And dealing with the man is never fun in any job. But the high…the high of cracking open the mic and broadcasting to thousands…millions of people…that’s what being on the radio was all about. That was the drug. That was what kept us coming back for more. Not to mention all the fringe benefits: comped meals, free drinks, t-shirts and other station swag. And the ladies. They were all over the place. There’s something about being on the radio that women love. I guess it’s the fame and power that goes along with it. Or, honestly, it’s probably the fact that all those women think you make a lot of money. And some weeks at the radio station, they were right.
“I’m Viva Doc Vegas, and until tomorrow night at midnight, the show’s over!” The words no sooner left my lips than the show close started to play. The off button for the mic lit up a bright yellow as I pressed it, replacing the bright red glow of the on button. I reached up and slowly took my headphones off and put them on the counter beside me. The room was buzzing with people, producers, interns, some strippers we had picked up earlier. I tried to focus, but it all seemed like a buzzing sound to me. My producer, Billy Trumen, was scurrying around picking up papers and beer cans, cleaning up the studio for the morning show. The poor morning show, they were lightweights, Bible-salesmen compared to the depraved things we did during the overnights.
We were all exhausted. One of the interns called a cab and showed the strippers out the door and on their way. Brittany Bee, co-host and web mistress, had her head down on the table, drifting off to sleep. Billy slowly kept cleaning the studio. I shook my head and looked at the computer screen, trying to get my eyes to focus. I got the next few things set up so things would run smoothly into the beginning of the morning show. I scooped up my headphones and notes and gently patted Brittany on the shoulders as I passed by. She jerked back into consciousness and got up out of her chair and followed me and Billy out of the radio studio. We headed out into the dark, cool summer morning. The sun wouldn’t come up for another 45 minutes to an hour. We all said our goodbyes as we headed toward our cars. I walked over and opened the back door of the limo and crawled in. Dionjilo was sleeping in the front seat. As I stumbled through the car to wake Dionjilo, I tripped over another stripper who was asleep across the limo’s rear-facing seats. She was a cute little blonde. She jostled a little bit, turned over and went right back to sleep. I shook Dionjilo’s shoulder and he opened his eyes and looked at me in the rear-view mirror.
“Where to, boss?”
“Let’s head on home, D. I’m beat.”
He looked over the back seat and saw the girl fast asleep. “What about the girl, boss?”
“We’ll deal with her when she wakes up. The cab’s already gone with the other two.”
Dionjilo turned the key and the old Buick roared to life. As he dropped the car down into drive, the car lurched forward, the inertia gently pressing me into the midnight blue plush back seat. I leaned my head against the side of the car and looked over at the softly slumbering stripper in the other seat. I closed my eyes and dozed off as the car turned out onto the highway and headed home.
I awoke as the limo turned into the driveway. The nap was refreshing but not nearly enough sleep. Dionjilo pulled the limo up to the front stoop. As I opened the car door to get out, Dionjilo looked back at me, “What about the skirt?”
I looked down at the stripper still asleep in the back of the car and then back to Dionjilo, “Right, the skirt. I’ll take her.” I scooped her up like a rag doll and exited the vehicle. I threw her over my shoulder and walked up to the passenger side window of the limo as Dionjilo rolled it down. “See you at seven, D.”
“Sure thing, boss.” Dionjilo rolled up the window as the limo crept around the driveway and off into the distance. I turned and headed up the steps toward the front door and fumbled with the keys to open it. It was far more difficult than normal to unlock a door with a girl tossed over your shoulder. I opened the door and as I walked through it, the young girl’s shirt caught on the door. The shirt pulled against her and the door as I struggled to keep my balance and not drop her. By the time I got things sorted out, the door had her shirt and I had a topless stripper over my shoulder.
Now a topless stripper over your shoulder is typically thought of as a good thing. But I was about to find out in this particular case that it was not. I dislodged the shirt from the door and turned back around. I had lost track of my surroundings in the tug-o-war and as I turned back around, the girl’s head connected with the inside of the door frame with a thud. It sounded much worse than it actually was. It was, however, enough of a jolt to bring the young girl out of her deep sleep and back to full and immediate consciousness.
I can only imagine how disconcerting it must have been, thrown over some stranger’s shoulder, topless, being taken into some unknown house and unaware of how you got into such a situation. That would be disconcerting for anybody. And her over the top response was mostly expected. I would rather have had her woken up on the couch on her own, but that wasn’t going to happen now. She started flailing around, one of her arms beating against my head relentlessly while the other arm grabbed for any item within reach. She knocked over lamps and pictures and all manner of things. She continued bludgeoning my head with her elbow and other arm until I finally threw her clear of me. She landed on a plush arm chair and her and the chair toppled over backwards. I saw her scurry topless into the kitchen.
I shook my head and looked around to assess the damage caused. I still had her bright, neon blue, spaghetti strap top in my hand. As I turned to head toward the kitchen, I ducked hard to my left as something whizzed by my head. I heard a sharp thud and turned to see a kitchen knife firmly planted in the sheet rock wall. The next knife from the kitchen wasn’t anywhere close to hitting me but rather shattered the glass and lodged itself in my autographed Fleetwood Mac Tango in the Night album poster.
“Hey!” I yelled, “That was autographed!”
I heard a squeaky voice yell back from the kitchen, “I don’t giva shit! I’m not gonna be kilt and raped in your dungeons! I seen Silence of the Lambs!”
The twang in her voice wasn’t surprising from strip club fair in the south, but she had seen Silence of the Lambs, so that was at least some semblance of class.
“I’m not a murderer. I’m a DJ!”
“Bull crap you are! No strip club DJ lives in a house this nice!”
I’m not sure if she had a valid point or not and hearing glass starting to break in the kitchen I didn’t have time to ponder it further. As I walked cautiously toward the kitchen, I saw all manner of glassware being thrown near the kitchen door. I peeked around the corner as a wine glass shattered on the floor. I didn’t even know I had wine glasses. Another wine glass shattered as I looked up and made eye contact with the still topless girl.
“What in the hell are you doing?” I asked in a calm voice.
“Settin’ up one uh those traps like in Home Alone. You’re not gonna be walkin’ in this kitchen with all this glass on the floor!”
Home Alone…perhaps I judged too soon on the Silence of the Lambs. I looked down at her feet and saw that she didn’t have any shoes on. So breaking glasses was sound logic from her perspective. She wouldn’t be able to leave the kitchen. I looked from her bare feet down to my own feet.
“But I’m wearing shoes,” I said as I took a crackling step onto the field of shattered glass at the entrance to the kitchen. A look of defeat crossed her face. She set the highball glasses she had in both her hands down on the counter. Her arms fell to her side and she looked down at her own bare feet.
“Well, go on an’ do whatever you gonna do to me.”
With her shirt missing, it was hard not to notice her breasts. They were small and perky, a perfect size to the rest of her frame. Not too big and not too small. Just right. I tossed her neon blue shirt to her. “I’m not going to do anything to you except tell you the broom is beside the fridge. Hand it to me if you will. I don’t need you cutting your feet all up and tracking blood all through my house. You’ve done enough damage as it is.”
She tossed her shirt on the counter and turned to the fridge and grabbed the broom. “Here ya go, mister.”
I took the broom from her and set the dustpan on the counter and started to sweep. “You can put your shirt back on if you like.”
“Oh, right. I walk around the club wit’ it off so much sometimes I don’t notice.”
I started sweeping up the glass on the hardwood floor, “You sure seemed to notice when you woke up.”
Her voice was a little muffled as she pulled her shirt back over her head, “Oh, yeah, sorry about all that, mister. I been in some bad situations.”
“I can imagine so with that reaction. My name is Doc by the way.” The shards of glass scritched against each other as I swept them into a neat little pile.
She grabbed the dustpan and squatted down to the pile of glass. She set the dustpan on the floor and I edged the neat little pile up onto the plastic tray.
“Doc, like, ‘What’s up, Doc!’ Like that cartoon! That’s a funny name. My name ain’t nearly so funny. It’s Serenity.”
“Like the ship from Firefly.”
“I reckon so. Don’t know nuffin’ ’bout that.” I finished sweeping the glass, and she stood up and walked over to dump it into the trash can. “Guess I’ll get outta your hair now, mister.”
“Where are you gonna go? You rode here in the limo.”
“I rode in a limo! Well hot damn! I sure as hell all don’t remember that! Reckon I ought not ta drink so much for I go a’ wanderin’ off wit’ strangers, huh, mister?”
I took the dustpan from her and attached it back to the broom handle and put the broom back beside the refrigerator. “I suppose you shouldn’t. Anyway, you rode here in the limo, so where are you gonna go?”
“I guess I’ll just walk on home, mister.” She walked passed me and out of the kitchen toward the front door.
“Where do you live, sweetheart?”
“Over near the strip club.”
“That’s nowhere near here.”
“Well guess I got me a long walk then, huh, mister? Unless that fancy limo of yours can drive me there.”
“Doc. My name is Doc. And Dionjilo has the day off.”
“D on j-who has the what?”
“Dionjilo. He’s the limo driver. He has the day off. Won’t be back until seven tonight.”
“Looks like I’ma walkin’ then. Glad I ain’t workin’ at the club today.” She picked her bright pink purse up off the floor and rustled through it to make sure she had everything.
“Nonsense. If you don’t have anything to do today, stay here. Crash on the couch. I’m going to sleep for a few hours and then we can go get something to eat for lunch.”
She turned to me. It looked as if there was almost a tear welling up in her eye. A big smile slowly crept across her face. “Do you mean it, mister?”
“Of course I mean it, Serenity. And my name is Doc.”
She dropped her purse and ran over and jumped onto me hugging me. “Thank you so much, mister! I’m real sorry about all your glasses and your wall and your Big Mac poster.”
“I’m gonna work real hard and buy back all those fancy glasses I broke and I’ll get you another poster and go to the Lowe’s and get some stuff to fix your wall up real good. My daddy taught me how to fix walls when I was little. I’ll patch it up just like bran’ new.”
She was still hugging me tight. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I patted her on the shoulders. She let go and went over and collapsed on the couch.
“This couch is pro’ly the softest couch I ever been on.”
I walked over to the storage bench by the front door and got out a blue fleece blanket. I walked over to the couch, unfolded the blanket, and spread it out over her.
She looked up at me and smiled, “Thanks a lot for not killin’ and rapin’ me, mister.”
I rolled my eyes and cracked a smile. Her accent was so endearing. “Any time. And my name is Doc.”
She pulled the blanket up close to her neck and face. “Gotcha! Thanks for the blanket too! Sleep tight, Docy-wocy.”
I headed toward my bedroom. As I closed the door to the room, the first morning light was just creeping in. But my room was a cave; the windows were blacked out. It was like a vault. I closed the door and receded into the darkness. I kicked my shoes off and laid down on the bed. My head hit the pillow and I was out.
Dear Captain Janeway,
Well, when you got us stranded out here in the Delta Quadrant four years, nineteen days, eleven hours, and 38 minutes ago (not that I’m counting, Lt. Tuvok just happened to be passing by and he keeps up with stuff like that), I didn’t have a lot of faith in you. In fact, there were a lot of people on the ship who thought you were crazy for destroying the alien array that brought us here. And
most a lot of us still view that move as one of your worst ideas. But hey, you’re trained in Starfleet Captainry or whatever they call it, so I figured you knew what you were doing.
Now you did a great job of incorporating the Maquis into the fold here on the ship. I mean, those guys were like super pissed at you. And aside from the ones that didn’t get killed by space aliens or by our own security personnel for trying to overthrow the ship, the ones who jumped on the Voyager bandwagon have turned out pretty good. So that is certainly a point in the black for you. But I’ve been talking with
95% most a lot some of the crew, and we have some demands suggestions for the rest of our voyage home.
Now I know you’re all on this Starfleet Federation kick of let’s explore while we are out here. But seriously, isn’t most of space pretty much the same. Couldn’t we maybe just drop off some solar powered recording probes and give them a push and let them find their way back to Earth? Sort of like a reverse NASA space probe. And hey, they even had a couple probes called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. I’ve talked to Neelix and he thinks this would be a great morale booster for the crew. He suggested that we have a big christening and launch ceremony. Voyager would live on for thousands of years as the probes make it back to Earth one by one. And then we could make better time instead of stopping off at every planet along the way to investigate.
And since we are talking about it, what’s say we quit wandering off to investigate every new race that’s out there. Sure they may have some sort of better, faster way home, but if they did, don’t you think they would have made it to the Alpha Quadrant and we’d already know about them and their faster-than-warp travel? I mean, I asked Tuvok and he said that was “sound logic.” And besides, Seven of Nine is working on Borgifying some stuff to get us home faster, so I don’t see why we have to make friends with everyone along the way. It seems kinda like we are butting our noses in. And besides, since those big alien hornets and that species that was kicking the Borg’s ass, everyone we’ve met has looked just like humans except they have weird ears or jacked up foreheads. I think we can pass on by a lot of these civilized worlds and not lose a whole lot of anything. Let’s face it, most of them are either at war with some other race, or they end up being jerks and trying to kill us like those dinosaur dudes when we told them they were dinosaurs. And if they aren’t trying to kill us or someone else, they are just plain boring and are doing stuff like buttering their bread with rocks or collecting space trash to hock at some intergalactic flea market (no offense, Neelix).
Now this is probably the biggest ongoing issue. There’s no real way to sugar-coat this one. Kathy, you put this ship in danger a lot. I mean A LOT! Maybe we could ease up off of that. There have been dozens of times we’ve had to repair this ship after sticking our phasers somewhere they didn’t belong. I think it’s high time we just minded our own business. Let’s continue this mission as if traveling through the Delta Quadrant is like driving through a really bad neighborhood at night (because if we are being honest here, that’s really what it has been like). Let’s keep our heads down, keep our warp nacelles below the radar, and scurry on through as fast and inconspicuously as we can.
Those are just some suggestions. If you’d like to talk about it, that’s cool. I’m not really doing anything since I was confined to quarters after getting repeatedly caught spray painting human anatomy and smiley faces on the bulkheads.
Most cordially yours,
Fleet Admiral (really Acting Ensign but I dream big) BatDoc
So my blood pressure is just fine but my cholesterol is a little high? Don’t those balance each other out? Oh, they don’t? Look, I’m not a doctor like you. I don’t know these things. Is this something I should be worried about? No? Then why are you even telling me? Just so I’ll know. Gotcha. Well, thank you for letting me know about it. What? One more question. Sure. Ask away, doc. Oh, where did I get all my scars? That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked. And, yeah, I suppose they are all pretty obvious when I’m sitting here naked. Speaking of which, can I tell you about them while I’m getting dressed? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good meat freezer, but you guys are overdoing it a little here. Seriously, your air-conditioning bill must be stupid expensive. But then again, I guess you probably never turn on the heat in the winter so it all balances out. Oh, right, my scars. Sure. Well, let’s see.
I guess let’s start with the most obviously ones on my forehead. The one on the left side of my forehead was when I stopped myself with the edge of a street sign while riding my bike down a steep grade. I know it sounds terrible, but you should’ve seen the street sign. That thing was bent all to hell. And bloody! Man, was it bloody. Your forehead bleeds A LOT! What am I saying, you’re a doctor. You probably already knew that. Bet they taught you that at John Hopscotch University or wherever you went to doctor school. It’s John what? Whatever.
Anyway, this other forehead scar I got from headbutting a Stormtrooper. Yeah, a Stormtrooper. Have you ever seen Star Wars? Yeah, you know those white guys? No, the guys with the laser swords are the Jedi. And they’re called lightsabers. Yeah, they do look like they’re dressed in bath robes. But the guys in the white armor, you remember them? Yeah, those guys are Stormtroopers. How did I meet them? No, I didn’t work on the movie. I was at this comic book convention and there were a bunch of people dressed up as Stormtroopers. Yeah, it’s apparently a big thing. They have this whole 700 Club they are in. So I said to one of them, “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” which is a line from the movie. Well, she didn’t think it was funny. Yeah, she. Yeah, girls dress up as guys all the time at comic book conventions. I don’t judge. Anyway, she sucker punched me in the side and I headbutted her as a natural reaction. Those plastic helmet crack pretty easily from a solid headbutt, but, interestingly enough, cracked plastic is apparently really sharp. And again, foreheads bleed a lot. Yeah, the helmet protected her pretty well, but I got this forehead scar and broke my nose. Broken noses bleed a lot too. But again, you’re a doctor, so you probably already knew that. No, she didn’t get in trouble. I got kicked out of the comic book convention for causing a ruckus. She felt bad about it. We ended up dating for a while until she got into Attack on Titan cosplay and posting on Reddit. Some people are into that kind of thing, but it was just too weird for me.
This scar on my elbow is probably my favorite. I was visiting New York City and I was riding the subway. I know, you have to ride the subway if you visit New York City. Anyway, as I was getting off the subway I got pushed down by Kevin Meaney. I landed on my elbow and broke it and ended up getting a compound fracture. The bone popped right out of my arm. It was totally gross. And Kevin kept right on going. Who’s Kevin Meaney? The guy who would always say “That’s not right!” Yeah, that guy! Oh, I don’t know what he’s doing now, but a few years ago he was pushing people around the subways near Tribeca.
This scar on my index finger is from when I dropped my lucky marble down the garbage disposal. This scar near my ankle is from a deer attack. The one across my lower back is from a dessert bar fight. This one on my left side is where I got shot with an arrow at Ren Faire. The one on the back of my left knee is from a patio furniture fire. The one on my chest is from a board game night accident. I’ve got one on the top of my head where I got hit with an inflatable raft. And the one on the side of my neck is from when I got my head stuck in a hay baler.
This scar here on my upper thigh is from one of my ex-wives. The scar just above my shoulder blade is from the same ex-wife. And so is this one on my left forearm. She was clearly a stabber. I eventually had to get a gun safe for all the knives in the house. And these three small scars near my shoulder, that’s where she stabbed me with a salad fork at The Cheesecake Factory. What? Oh, yeah, it didn’t work out. We got divorced. She’s actually went to prison for lunging at the judge and stabbing a deputy with a Bic Clic Stic pen during our divorce hearing. I think she got five years. But I got a letter from the court that she’s out on good behavior, which I seriously doubt. She probably slept her way out of prison. I don’t know. I guess it’s a thing. You can sleep your way up the corporate ladder, makes sense you could sleep your way out of prison too.
You’re right, doc, I probably am lucky to be alive. Makes that high cholesterol not seem so bad. What? Oh, yeah, my pinky toe. I lost that in a snow shoveling competition.
This debate has gone on long enough. Which is better? Who would win if they got into a fight? Star Trek or Star Wars? Well, like the great cases of Brown v. The Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of my hero William Rehnquist and give a fair and balanced look to end the debate once and for all of which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars.
In order to properly evaluate this, I’m breaking this down into several categories. Whoever wins the category will get a point and whoever has the most points at the end wins. So I guess this actually kind of follows in the footsteps of one of my other heroes, Peter Sagal, which makes this even more awesome.
Let’s start with manpower. And let’s look at who the big players are in the manpower area. In the Star Trek world, there’s the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Dominion, even the Maquis. Basically a lot of warrior races. In Star Wars, the biggest kid on the block is the Empire. Everyone else in the Star Wars universe is small potatoes. “But Doc, what about the Rebels?” What about the Rebels? Let’s be honest, the Rebels were more lucky than they were good at their job. And Star Trek folks, don’t even mention the Federation. They shouldn’t even bother showing up to this fight. They can sit bench with the Rebels unless we need someone to hit a two-meter target or go back in time, grab a pair of humpback whales, bring them forward in time and hope the hell they tell a probe what to go do with itself.
So if we take this in the direction of an every-race-for-themselves open space battle, then I’m pretty sure the Borg win this one hands down. They assimilate. That’s it. And they add technological and cultural distinctiveness to their own. So if they assimilate clones, yeah, it’s not looking too good. Or even worse, if they assimilated a Jedi or a Sith Lord! Can you imagine that?! Sure, I know what Star Wars fans are saying, “But, Doc, the Jedi and Sith derive their powers from a rooted belief system, not from technology or cultural cues.” That’s great, but when we are talking about assimilating technology, they only have to assimilate one Jedi or Sith and now you’ve got a bunch of Borg drones wandering around with lightsabers. If that doesn’t scare the ever-living crap out of you then you didn’t fully understood that last statement.
So while the Federation and the Rebels are warming the bench, let’s address the cute and fuzzy races as well. Tribbles or Ewoks? Sure the Ewoks have rudimentary weapons that can take down mildly-armored tanks on chicken legs.
Okay, hold on, I have to vent on something real quick. Seriously, did no one in the Empire learn anything from the battle on Hoth? Armored things precariously balanced on wobbly metal legs can clearly be easily tripped up. Anyone who’s seen Robocop defeat ED-209 knows that. If putting tanks on metal legs was a good idea, don’t you think some army in history would have done it by now? I mean, the Nazis built all kinds of ill-manner of super weapons and no one was crazy enough to even put a tank on legs into production. Seriously, Empire, take some notes from the Jawas and put all that armored assault technology on some tank tracks already!
Okay, venting over. Thanks. I needed that. Now where was I? Oh, yes, that’s right, Tribbles or Ewoks. Let’s break this down. The Ewoks live on Endor, a forest moon. From what we learn in Original Star Trek Episode #44: The Trouble with Tribbles, Dr. McCoy explains how the Tribbles eat too much and reproduce way too fast. They are “basically born pregnant” as Dr. McCoy describes it. We also learned from Mr. Scott in the episode that the Tribbles worked their way into closed compartments and started eating parts of the ships systems. That means dropping just one Tribble onto a forest moon would be like dropping a match into a barrel of gasoline-soaked dynamite. Also according to the episode, Spock points out that Tribbles produce a new generation every 12 hours. That means in just 3 days there would be a over 1.7 million Tribbles running around. Now you’ve got the Ewoks that survive off of the forest, right? That means these hungry Tribbles would eat them out of house and home in no time. The Ewoks would literally starve to death or just be buried in Tribbles. Sure, 1.7 million Tribbles on one planet doesn’t seem like a lot. But imagine this, in just 6 days, there would be over 34.5 trillion (yes, trillion with a T) Tribbles on Endor. To give you an idea of how many that is, New York City has about 8.5 million people in the Five Boroughs. That means that every single person in New York City would get over 4 million 58 thousand Tribbles. Shanghi, China, which is the most populated city on Earth with just over 24 million people, each person would get over 1.4 million Tribbles. The popular of the planet Earth is just over 7 billion, so that means everyone on Earth would get almost 5 thousand Tribbles each after just 6 days. So yeah, good freakin’ luck, Ewoks.
Manpower: Star Trek – 1, Star Wars – 0
Now a military power is only as strong as the fleet they command. And before we go any further, the difference between phaser and lasers and photon and proton torpedoes is nothing (Well, a little thing called worry-over-copyright-infringement if you want to get technical). So when it comes down to weapons and defenses, all the big players who are in the starting line-up are on a pretty level playing field. That means when we talk about fleets and military combat, the real discussion comes down to mobilization of forces.
The Empire wins this one hands down against anyone except the Borg (which we’ll get to in a minute). The Empire is comparable to the American and Japanese Fleets in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Nothing in the Star Trek universe even remotely resembles an aircraft carrier. Star Destroyers are exactly that. They are big space aircraft carriers with tons of TIE Fighters and Bombers and Interceptors and whatever other TIE things they have. Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Ferengi, Andorian, Tholian, Cardassian, even the Dominion, none of them have anything close to being able to compete with that kind of firepower and maneuverability. Even the Federation’s run-n-gun ship, the Defiant, couldn’t deal with so many targets at once. And no one has any kind of massive fleet to deal with that kind of Imperial onslaught. Any Star Trek fleet that would show up would get carved up by the death of a thousand TIE fighter lasers.
I know what you’re saying Star Trek folks, and I hear you loud and clear. And you are right, the Rebels did pull a Billy Mitchell (if you don’t know who he is, look it up). The Defiant might get lucky, but that’s about it. And there’s still a lot of targets to deal with on a Star Destroyer with a full compliment of TIE whatevers.
Really the only race in Star Trek that can compete ship-to-ship is the Borg. The Borg cubes at Wolf 359 were reported to measure about 3 kilometers across. Star Destroyers measure 1600 meters, or right at a mile. So one Borg cube is over twice as long as a single Star Destroyer. In the Battle of Wolf 359, a single Borg cube destroyed 39 of the 40 Federation ships at the battle. In the Star Trek: Voyager Episode Endgame, Seven of Nine tells Janeway that the transwarp hub nebula contained 47 Borg vessels. And in the Star Trek: Voyager Episode Hope and Fear, the dude from Species 116 talks about hundreds of Borg cubes surrounding his homeworld before its destruction. Not to mention the fact that Commander Shelby pointed out that a Borg cube could remain operative even if 78% of the cube was inoperable. Then there are transporters, so not only would the Empire be trying to attack this Cube while they are getting carved up, but there are Borg beaming onto the ship and assimilating people too! Actually, a Borg Cube going up against a couple of Star Destroyers would be a battle I’d love to see.
“But, Doc, what about the Death Star?” Oh, you mean that big planet-sized space station that literally moves at the speed of a planet. Borg got warp and transwarp. The Death Star is boned. All summed up, the Empire has the advantage over anyone except the Borg. The Borg are here to party. So since the Empire is the winner except with the Borg, I’m going to give both sides a point.
Strength of Fleet: Star Trek – 1, Star Wars – 1
Leadership is important in any space campaign. And there are lots of great leaders on both sides. But what makes a leader really great is not how nice or fair that leader is, but it’s about achieving results. The Emperor, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin…Star Wars is full of people who get things done. Sure they choke kill a lot of people along the way, but you gotta break some necks to make an omelet. That makes the Empires efficiency rating just as high as its on-the-job fatality rating. And then there are good leaders on the Rebel side as well. And then you’ve got the Jedi as leaders too. Star Wars has a pretty fair lineup in the leadership department.
Star Trek does pretty good as well, without as much ruthlessness. Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer…they all get things done by following the rules when they need to and forgetting the rules when necessary. And it says a lot more about your leadership style if you are efficient and well-liked.
So I think leadership is a draw. We could get into the particulars of each leader, but really each individual style has its good and bad qualities, so everyone gets a point here.
Leadership: Star Trek – 1, Star Wars – 1
Any science fiction series is only as good as the hot babes it has in it. And I know Princess Leia in that metal bikini that they stole from Valerian and Laureline (don’t believe me, just type “Valerian and Laureline Metal Bikini” into Google images and let the George Lucas thievery begin) was the mainstay for a lot of young boys in their formative years of puberty. But aside from Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, and Jabba’s three dancers (looking at you, fiery redhead), then you’ve got to go to the cartoons and extended universe to find other women. Sure there is Ahsoka Tano (if you’re into jailbait), Mara Jade (if you’re into middle-aged girls), Aurra Sing (if you’re into criminals), Shaak Ti (if you’re into weird hair), and Asajj Ventress (if you’re into Sinead O’Conner). But that’s not a lot of options.
Star Trek on the other hand is ripe with beautiful women who are ready to get down and party. There’s Seven of Nine, Jadzia Dax (and Ezri too), Tonia Barrows, Robin Lefler, Tasha Yar (and her sister Ishara), Dr. Helen Noel, Marta, Droxine, Kelinda, Kara, Ro Laren, B’elanna Torres, Kes, Beverly Crusher, Deanna Troi, Lt. Saavik, Android Andrea, Edith Keeler, Kamala, Lt. Valeris, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, Leeta, Vash, Dr. Carol Marcus, Gannett Brooks, Bronwyn Gail Robinson, Amanda Cole, Martha Landon, Teresa Ross, Dr. Leah Brahms, Neras, Drusilla, Brenna Odell, Nona, Maras, Dr. Selar (Suzie Plakson), Tarah (also Suzie Plakson), K’Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson again), The Female Q (just any character of Suzie Plakson’s), Janice Rand, Shahna, Tora Ziyal, Eris, D’Nesh, Seska, Sela, Vina, Gilora Rejal, Deirdre Watley, Natima Lang, Grilka, Gul Ocett, Kilana, Uhura’s Orion Starfleet Academy roommate Gaila, and that three-boobed cat woman from Star Trek V. And that’s just to name a few off the top of my head. There’s tons more. Literally every episode has a hot babe in it somewhere. Star Trek seriously mops the floor with Star Wars in the female category.
Female to Male Ratio: Star Trek – 57+, Star Wars – 8.
Well, that puts Star Trek at 60+ and Star Wars at 10. Looks like we’re pretty much done here. I think William Rehnquist and Peter Sagal would be proud.
People love attention. And people love being the center of attention. I know first hand. I used to have a slightly better than moderately rated overnight radio show. And being the center of attention can be a wonderful thing. That’s why shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent and America’s Funniest Videos do so well. It’s literally the reason Tom Bergeron still has a job. But for all you attention hogs out there (you know who you are), there are times when being the center of attention is not the thing you want at all. In fact, it is those times that being the center of attention is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. Let me give you some examples.
• Court – That’s right. Unless you are getting paid to be there, court is not a place where you want to be the center of attention. The judge, the bailiff, the prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, members of the jury, head juror, courtroom artist, stenographer, even the person who wins the case, you know what all those people have in common? That’s right! They’re all getting paid to be there. And if you’re the center of attention in a courtroom and you’re not drawing some kind of paycheck, then I can guarantee that’s bad news for you.
• Anything involving the cops – Let’s say you’re selling “merchandise” out of the back of your van in a “shady” neighborhood. And let’s say you’re “meeting your sales goals for the month.” You’re the center of attention with your particular brand of “clientele.” And you’re stackin’ smackers like a brick layer, so that’s the right kind of attention. But then the Five-0 rolls up on you and “da man” gets all up in your grill and starts damaging your cool. Your “clientele” all “run away like they done stole somethin’,” so you’re not making any money anymore. So now the “law-enforcement authorities” are on the scene and you’re the center of attention because of some misunderstanding about “fencing” goods. So this quickly turns into another situation where if you’re not on the clock, then you do not want to be the center of attention.
• Explosions – There’s no questions about it, explosions are awesome. Michael Bay and any eight-year-old kid can tell you that. Whether you are blowing up Barbie dolls or G.I. Joes (if you’re an eight-year-old kid) or cars, trucks, trains, ships, buildings, aliens, robots, alien robots, pyramids, tanks, battleships, small villages, large cities, space stations, and everything else that will and won’t blow up (if you’re Michael Bay), the point here is when that fiery concussion wave of rich, black smoke and smoldering debris erupts in that split-second of destructive heavenly bliss, if you’re not getting paid to make that explosion happen, you do not want to be the center of attention. So aside from building demolition crews, fireworks display coordinators, pyrotechnicians, military bombardiers, and certain chemists, being the center of attention after any kind of explosion is not going to fair well in your favor.
• Weddings – Unless you’re the bride, being the center of attention at a wedding is going to end up as a fist fight in a church parking lot or getting shived by the bride in a crowded reception hall. Trust me, I know about both of these. So unless you are getting paid to be at that wedding, say as the minister or the DJ, or the bride (let’s face it, having someone pay for your ridiculously expensive wedding is just like printing money), then you do not want to be the center of attention. And often, the bride shiving you is only the tip of that iceberg of trouble. Wait until her brother who was in the Marines finds out and demonstrates how he can break your car windshield with his bare fist and proves he can shove you into a trash can. And then her father who is an active member of the NRA shows you his impressive bullet collection by displaying them in the side of your powder blue Kia Sorento with the already busted windshield. When they say a wedding is a bride’s day, let her have that day and, for your own well being (and the well-being of your powder blue Kia Sorento), let her be the center of attention.
I could really go on and on with scenarios, instances, and times where you don’t want to be the center of attention, but what this really boils down to is, unless you are getting paid or compensated in some way, being the center of attention is bad news. So when you find yourself in a situation where you want to be the center of attention, just ask what you are getting out of it first, and if that answer is fame or fortune (or at the very least hourly minimum wage), then, by all means, be the center of attention like a boss.
♠ The title for this essay is courtesy of Brandon Echols. If you have an essay title you’d like to suggest, email it to BatDocBlog@gmail.com. You might see your essay title in one of my books, and I’ll be sure to thank you in the book for it!