Dude, in the 80s, my favorite part of school was summer. Yes, three months of being a kid, playing endlessly and dreading September. The end of summer brought school back into my life. Yes, it was a chance to catch up with old friends and hear about the fantastic trips they took on the break. But my family never really had much money and I ended up hanging out with my grandparents.
1984 was one of the few exceptions. We had the money to go on a trip. And trip we did. We drove up and down California and had ourselves a good time. We went to Sacramento, where we went to a train museum. I can recall San Francisco and getting a bottle of 49ers Coke from a 7-11. This was a collector’s bottle and I kept it until 2008, when I gave it to my future wife, a true dyed-in-the-wool Niner’s fan. This family outing also brought us to Yosemite, where we camped and I got a stone keychain to commemorate the event.
No matter if we went somewhere or not, I always loved Summer.
Summer has its own vibe and scent.
It is a time to be a kid. Or to remember what it was like to be a kid as one grows older.
It is a time of play and limitless energy and thinking about the future.
Most importantly, it is a time to stay up late and see what life is truly like for adults.
I think my usual bedtime was around 8:30 or 9 pm. But in the summer, oh dude, I went to bed at Midnight or later.
My Mom disappeared around ten, sometime after my Dad would get home.
My Dad worked for a newspaper and ran what was called a Boy Crew. These were the teenagers who went door to door, gave out that day’s Evening Outlook, and tried to get the homeowners to subscribe to the paper. My Dad was pretty motivational and he was successful at what he did. He recruited kids out of the Culver City projects, mostly Mexicans, Blacks and Egyptians. He had kids with names like Henock, Tamer, Mika and (this was my favorite) Nimrod. Seriously, Nimrod. He also employed one go-getter named David Yashir. David was ambitious and wanted to be the top sales guy. His parents had come to the States in the 70’s or 80s, having to fight to get out of Iran.
The kids from the Projects worked to try and support their family. And, for themselves, to get a pair of top sneakers from Nike or BK.
My Dad would leave for work around three, pick up the kids and they’d canvas various neighborhoods. It was some sort of rotating schedule for areas. My Dad would then drop them back in the Projects after sundown and get his white ass back home. The kids called my Dad: Dan the Van Drivin’ Man. If I have to explain this, someone isn’t paying attention. His name is Dan and, yes, he drove a van.
When my Dad got home to the apartment on Centinela Avenue, it would be ten or later. He’d come home, eat dinner and turn on the TV to unwind.
For years and years, the 11 pm slot on KCOP-13 was STAR TREK. My Dad, being born in 1950, was at the right age to be in the first generation to discover TREK in 1966. He wasn’t one of those crazy fans, like me. He was what was called a “casual watcher”. You know, a person who could watch the show now and then and not get caught up in living the TREK LIFE. Wouldn’t that make a great tattoo across my shoulders: TREK LIFE. I’d get it in Prison Cursive.
So, there we were, father and son, bonding over STAR TREK.
He’d sit on the couch, slumped over the arm rest. He’d usually be in a white undershirt and his boxers. I’d be in my PJs, whatever those were, and on the couch, I’d lay on my stomach and stare up at the 13 inch TV that rested atop my Mom’s vintage Singer sewing machine. Yes, it had antennaes and manual dials and no remote control. It didn’t matter, the signal came in clear and it was a joy to watch.
At times, my Dad would comment on something in the episode, usually at something unbelievable. Or he’d laugh at something funny. I probably took my cues from him.
There would be times, a lot of times, when I’d look his way and see him sleeping.
I’d shake him and say, “Wake up.”
“I wasn’t sleeping.” He’d say. “Just resting my eyes.”
If I woke him too often, he’d get up and stand in front of the room heater… and fall asleep standing up. He’d sway forward and backward, but never fall. He’d stand with his hands behind his back, like he was at ease in the Army. His head would bob, and then he’s startle back awake… just to start dozing again.
When TREK would finish, I’d wake him and say I was going to bed.
He’d usually sit back on the couch. From my bed, I could see him fall asleep all over again.
He was my buddy through “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Once I owned some of the TREK movies, like 2 & 4, he’d come and watch for a few. He only saw THE VOYAGE HOME with me and my Mom in the theatres. And, as years went by, I can only recall seeing two other movies with him in the theatres: “Basic Instinct” in 1992 and “The Simpsons Movie” in 2007.
Now, “Basic Instinct” was not a family movie, and we didn’t know that. There’s nothing like Sharon Stone’s interrogation scene with your parents tight next to you when you’re 15… and it’d Easter Sunday. He is Risen! And, at my biologically insecure age, He wasn’t the only thing risen that Easter. When the movie ended, we all quietly decided never t speak of this moment again. Ever.
When we saw “The Simpsons” in 2007, it was when I was living with him. My wife Allison had asked me to leave so she could find herself. Six weeks later, she asked me out to dinner. I thought we were dating to rekindle the marriage. I had a sandwich and, for dessert, she served me a big helping of divorce.
I had to live with my Dad for over a year during the most painful time of my life. He alternated from being supportive to giving unsolicited advice. I was a raw nerve and miserable most of the time. I started to exercise for the first time, developing a love of running, and losing 60 pounds to become healthy.
It would be an understatement to say that things did not end well. This is a blog about STAR TREK, so I will not get into the specifics of what happened. I was kicked out of his house, and very hurt at the way it was handled. The last time I spoke to my Dad, in 2008, he yelled at me over the phone, made threats and told me I had to go. I went.
I am conflicted about re-starting our relationship. I have reached out, so has he. He wants a phone call. I still remember our last time on the phone and it’s hard for me to want to make this happen.
He is a part of my life, especially my childhood.
No matter how things went for us in the last decade, I still have my memories to hold on to. I have some good times. Not a great deal, but just enough to know that the time we spent together was important to both of us.
I will always smile when I think of those long summer nights watching STAR TREK with Dad. It taught me to spend time with my own kids, even if it’s watching shows I don’t want to see. And my kids humor me when it comes to STAR TREK. They’ll watch from time to time, but they don’t like it. They are more like casual watchers. Maybe these things skip a generation.
NEXT TIME: Capturing a dream.