My first job: Submarine Captain
An old resume includes:
Captain in the worldâ€™s 13th largest submarine fleet. Led â€œvoyage of exploration through liquid space,â€ including a course beneath the polar icecap. Demonstrated conspicuous bravery and sound judgment in rescuing 32 civilians from surface storms, the Graveyard of Lost Ships, and attacks by giant squid. Spearheaded underwater archaeological expedition; located the legendary lost continent of Atlantis.
For Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary
I grew up watching Star Trek with my parents, and it played a particular role in bonding with my father. A 10th-grade dropout, a mechanic, a contractor and engineer with little regard for standards, measurements, or straight lines–nonetheless, my father was fascinated by the ideas in the show. Long after we’d watch a rerun of the original series, he’d want to talk about the Big Ideas coded into the adventure of the week. Working under a car, he’d muse how unlikely it was that we were alone in the universe, or urge that humanity needed to get out there, if only so we spread out and increased our chance of survival. The show made a philosopher out of a high school dropout who never read a book in his adult life.
This is Captain Christopher Pike, confined to a wheelchair after being horribly burned by radiation. He’s only able to communicate by beeping: once for ‘yes’, twice for ‘no’. (I know–oddly retarded technology for 300 years in the future, but whatever).
My father and I watched Pike, in theÂ first-season episodeÂ The Menagerie, reduced to cryptic yes/no signals. Beep. Beeeep Beeeeeeep.
I clearly remember my father turning to me and saying, “If I ever get like that, if I can’t live without being plugged into a bunch of machines, pull the plug. Don’t hesitate. Pull the plug.”
Thirty years later, a doctor called to tell me they’d tried everything they could think of, but my father wasn’t coming out of the coma they’d induced. Ever. It should have been routine, like waking from sleep, I was told. Which is why I’d left his side. Which is why I was three thousand miles away when things went inexplicably and permanently bad.
The doctor wanted instructions. In the background, I heard the life support machines. Beep. Beeeep Beeeeeeep. I didn’t hesitate. The doctor was kind enough to put the phone to my father’s ear, and I spoke to him while the tones of the machinery lengthened, became steady, then were shut off.
Sometimes Star Trek gets things wrong. There *are* no-win scenarios. But because of the show and its ability to fire imagination, I knew exactly what to do, and was equipped with the resolve needed in that moment. I couldn’t turn death into a fighting chance to live, but I could honor a final request and do it without flinching.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Nerd
Rank on Tron machine at Comic-Con: 1
Drew a small crowd at the recreation of Flynn’s Arcade from the movie. In 1982 I was world champion atÂ TronÂ for about 2 weeks…name printed in Electronic Games magazine, etc. My score still ranksÂ #15 or #16 in history.
Later, this image appeared on CNN in an article about “Top 10 things we saw at Comic-Con this year.” The back of my head is famous.
Nothing made me feel so awesome as people spotting me in the ‘Ambush’ costume, calling out ‘Rob! I heard you were coming back!’ and running up to hug me.
I didn’t know how much I missed this community–until I was welcomed back. Also, there’s a dragon.