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RENBISANCE CONVENTION OR STAR TREK FAIRE?
Star Trek Convention

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The present world must suck. In this postmodern era, it's considered 'normal' to lose oneself within the fictional realm of popular culture. Afterwards, most people return to their humdrum lives feeling a little less empty. A growing subculture however, refuses to come back to the crappy reality the rest of us inhabit.

One weekend in March, two of the biggest "alternative reality" events opened their gates to the nerdy public: the annual Grand Slam Star Trek Show, which draws 30,000 rabid Trekkies in one weekend, and the Renaissance Faire, which draws at least as many people during its two month run. Like any good media freak show, scores of reporters, flashing credentials and big, expensive equipment, try to home in on the big 'story'.  What exactly makes these nerds tick?

Now, I don't exactly have credentials or big expensive equipment. I had a notepad, a disposable camera, a fake press pass that was stolen from a movie set, and a raw idea that just might give me the scoop. I would gain the freaks' trust (thereby winning more probing interviews) by becoming "one of them".

Although hastily slapped together, my costume was pretty good. Made from a black wool cape draped over a black dress, and topped with a black plastic, feather-studded helmet I had around the house, I looked like Mordred in a homosexual production of the musical Camelot. No one would suspect I wasn't one of them.

Me and Blacksmith

The Pasadena Convention center seems an unlikely spot for medieval pageantry. Although costumed characters of all shapes and sizes paraded around the outside grounds, I saw no tents, horses, nor glasses of hearty ale for sale. What was going on? A band of costumed females milling around started staring me down. Their actions were aggressive, their costumes were meticulous, and their cleavage was ample. Would these Amazonian goddesses talk to a regular reporter? Never. But I thought I had an advantage.

"What the hell are you supposed to be?" asked a lusty wench as she looked me over. Their suspicions eased as I told them I was a warrior --and a reporter-- who would like to ask them some questions. As they nodded in acceptance, I could smell my future Pulitzer. I first asked if they assembled their own costumes by hand.

"Fool! We do not conquer a hundred worlds to make our own clothing!" one of them barked. I guess they were acting "in character." I tried loosening them up by asking if they were participating in the live-action chess game but was met with blank stares. I was about to ask if they really enjoyed drinking mead, even though it was honey-sweetened vinegar, when my keen reporter senses noticed something weird about them. Furrowing their brows in disapproval, each of them sported an artificial bulbous lumpy forehead. Were they trying to simulate victims of the bubonic plague?

Me and Plague Victim

"Are you some Federation spy?" a lady growled. Another unsheathed a nasty-looking curved blade no regular knight would dare to wield. I guess my black outfit might be mistaken for some kind of Federation of German States spy costume (or was that the Holy Roman Empire?), but I was confused. I quickly complimented them on their excellent blacksmith costumes, and their fine application of burn make-up. My dodge didn't work. They were pissed. Hell, their weapons might really hurt me, even if they were just foam and plywood. Looking down at my trusty pad I fired off a desperate question. Did they believe in magic?

They stopped, looked around, and all answered yes. Breakthrough! It was then that Security approached me and asked for identification. They announced that my press pass was bogus, and I was in trouble. No kidding. Now my prize-winning interview was ruined. Perhaps Star Trek fans would be more amiable. I did what any good undercover reporter should do when confronted by authority figures. I ran away.

Picture
Me and 'Ferrangi'
Me and Alien girl
photos by MJ Jelks
photos by Wendi Hyde

The Star Trek convention was pathetic. Sure, people were dressed up, but I was the only one who looked like any of the crew members. No Spocks, no Datas, no nothing. I even bought one of those beeping communicator pins for fifteen bucks so I could fit in. The only costumed characters I saw were people dressed in weird peasant costumes selling leather bodices from colorful tents. What was going on here? I stopped a sharply dressed man with an enormously frilly collar and asked him if he would mind telling me what this what planet this event was supposed to be on.

"Uhh... Earth?" I asked what planet he was supposed to be from, and big surprise, he claimed he was from Earth as well. No way! Gene Roddenbury's aliens may have dressed oddly, but the people of his Earth seemed to prefer tight-fitting one-piece outfits. I asked if he made that goofy costume himself, or if he ordered it from a catalog. He told me his tailor had made it for him, and it had cost him much gold.

I smelled a rat. Only one race of aliens used gold in Star Trek. I asked him point blank he was supposed to be a Ferrengi.

"I'm supposed to be Italian." With that he huffed off. The only other person I could get to talk with me was a girl selling brownies, and only then if I would buy one. She balked at my inquiry as to whether her shawl was made of Tribble fur, or if she were old enough to drink Romulan Ale legally. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously when I asked her if her favorite episode was when Kirk made a cannon out of bamboo to battle the Gorn. What was wrong? Trekkies love that episode.

"Where do you think you are?" she asked me. I shrugged. "This is the Renaissance Faire, you idiot!" I started to chuckle but then looked her over carefully. I detected no insanity boiling behind her underage visage. But could she really be right? I guess it would explain why everyone was gnawing on turkey legs.

In the end, it didn't really matter where I was. A costume is a costume. Freaks are freaks. Why quibble with swapping one bogus world with another? What mattered more to me was that if I actually paid full price for both events instead of sneaking in I would‚ve been out sixty American dollars. Now, how's that for reality?

MATT PATTERSON spends too much of his time pretending to be EDDIE SCHMIDT

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