Dude, the year was 2006 and both my grandparents were dead. This paved the way for my Dad and his sister, Nancy, to sell the house they grew up in in Santa Monica.
My grandfather, George, died in March of 2005 when my Dad and Aunt moved him up north. I saw him the day before the move and I said goodbye and that I loved him. He was 89, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and only sort of knew who I was. He was moving out of the house he had lived in since 1949. I thought either the change of scenery would inspire him to live on, or it could go the other direction.
Within 48 hours, I received a call saying he was dead. My Dad and Aunt moved him to Ferndale, showed him his new residence and then left when he seemed comfortable. Hours later, he lost consciousness and was hospitalized. My Dad, my Aunt Nancy and my cousin Robb gathered in his hospital room and waited. He never regained consciousness, and passed away two hours later.
Six months later, my cousin Robb was found dead, at the age of 29, from a heroin overdose. He had gotten pure heroin and was unaware of it. When he shot up, it hit his bloodstream FAST. I heard that the look of his face said it all. He had just enough time to realize what happened, but zero time to do anything about it. Robb was born three weeks after me.
Six months after that, my grandmother, Lavina, died. She died almost one year to the day as my grandfather.
This left the house in Santa Monica empty. My Dad had his own house, as did his sister.
Did I mention that the house was 3.2 miles from the beach? And other houses in the neighborhood were going for close to a million bucks?
My family sold the house and I didn’t think anything of it.
I was busy trying to figure out how to finance a very independent film. I’d written a script called “Ruby Clocks” and had read a manual about how to make a movie for almost nothing. I was a fan of Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez, who made a career out of making a first movie for almost nothing.
I figured I needed about $10,000.
And then my grandparents died. The house sold. My Dad gave me a check for $5,000. According to my ex-wife, Allison, he had said something about giving me five grand now and another five grand out of the blue. The second installment never came.
The first one did.
I bought iPods for me and Allison, something I had wanted for a long time.
And then I heard the announcement: Paramount was going to empty out their five warehouses of STAR TREK props, costumes and sets over a public auction. It was “40 Years of Star Trek” and I was very, very curious.
I got the catalog and started to dream. I’d been a STAR TREK fan for over twenty years and owning a piece of it had always been a dream.
I was startled at all the items up for grabs. There were starship models, fabrics used on TOS (The Original Series) and props up the butt. It was rad and I had to be part of it.
Flipping through the catalog, I found the piece that I knew I was destined to own: Picard’s Ressikan flute from “The Inner Light”. The catalog listed a value range of $800-1200.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I had never been involved in an auction. Well, unless eBay counts. I had no idea how large the gulf was between the value range and the price people were willing to pay for it. I also didn’t anticipate how many other Trekkers would want this item.
Now, I had $3800 and a wide streak of naiveté. I actually thought, “If I can get this for the low end, around $800, I could buy another lot or two.” I was so excited I thought I would burst.
Sometime before the auction, I drove to Beverly Hills and checked out the 100 items that were on display. The flute was part of it. As well as Spock’s headband from TREK IV, a first season Captain Picard uniform and Captain Archer’s water polo ball. I spent an obnoxious amount of time staring at the flute, just in case I couldn’t get it.
I started to dream about what kind of things I might be able to get. I flipped through the catalog and found a few items that I’d keep in mind after I scored the flute for $800.
Oh, how naïve I was.
The auction was a three day event, broadcast over the internet. I sat in front of my computer and watched it. I was ready to bid at the drop of a hat.
I believe it was on Day 2 that the Ressikan flute came up. The Auctioneer said something to the effect of, “There has been a great deal of interest in this item. Bidding will begin at $10,000.”
I started laughing at this moment. It was too far out for me to comprehend. A non-playing musical instrument, going for an obscene amount of money. Like I said, I was naïve. I watched to the end of the day and I started to re-evaluate what I might be able to get.
I was determined to own a piece of STAR TREK, come hell or high water. I craved to touch just a single object that was screen-used on my favorite show.
I found Lot 805. It was called Enterprise Insignia Evolution. It was a set of five of the famous TREK arrowhead insignias. They had been screen used. They were valued between $300-500. They were not used in a single episode, but all over the place. There wasn’t as great a sentimental attachment as there was with “The Inner Light”. I believed I stood a chance to get this set.
I looked at the items carefully.
It contained a patch from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. That went back to 1979, meaning that this particular patch was almost thirty years old.
Next up, a Classic Era patch used in DEEP SPACE NINE’s “Trials and Tribble-ation”. What a great episode, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of TREK.
And a TNG era comm badge. That was the symbol of the entire TNG series. How icon is that?
And then a VOYAGER comm badge.
Finally, a futuristic comm badge used in DS9s “The Visitor”. That was my favorite DS9. In fact, I always thought that “The Visitor” was DS9’s version of “The Inner Light”.
If I had given this thought, I might have picked these same items to create a set. I believe I have Mike and Denise Okuda to thank for their thoughtfulness on this matter.
It was perfectly designed just for me. It even bore my birthdate. I was born August 5, this was Lot 805. Perfect, perfect, perfect. This was obviously destined to me mine.
Day 3 of the auction, Lot 805 was up.
Allison, my wife, was there. I hovered over the mouse, knowing I would be bidding. I didn’t get the first bid, but I got my say. It went all the way up to $3800. I was not the high bidder. So, I bid. I big $4200.
“Going once,” the Auctioneer said, “Going twice. Sold for $4200.”
I was the winner.
Allison said, “You must have really wanted that.”
I breathed. “I did.”
Allison said, “Forty-two hundred isn‘t too bad.” She knew we had all but four hundred of that.
Now, she didn’t know how the auction worked and, in my moment of victory, I didn’t want to explain that we were more than four hundred short. But, applying the Band-Aid principle, I decided to lay it all out. I had won, there were no take-backs.
“Well,” I started. “We’re not four hundred dollars short.” I said.
“And Christie’s gets a premium.”
“What’s that?” She asked.
“It’s Christie’s fee for selling it, it’s their cut.”
“How much is that?”
“And there’s also the cost of shipping. It’ll have to be insured.”
“Wait,” Allison said. “What about the premium thing?”
“It’s like, twenty percent.”
I have never seen another person reach for a calculator so fast. She did the calculations and glared at me. I think her head started to spin, because her eyes glazed over and she looked at me very distantly.
I did my best to smile as charmingly as possible.
With everything added together, it would cost around $5600 to get what she dubbed as “patches”.
At the time I thought, Totally worth it.
Eleven years after the fact, I think, Totally worth it.
Now, here’s how fate works and how I didn’t owe anything. This is how my “patches” were basically free. We took out a loan against the condo we owned for about $2000. My Dad had given me money and I still had a majority of it left. That $3800 my Dad gave me came in and went back out. The loan money wasn’t out of my pocket either.
Less than a year later, Allison left me. No, this was not what prompted that. She had other issues.
At the end of everything, I signed over the condo to her for a sum of money. She became responsible for paying that loan back, not me. I feel like I paid nothing for something I still consider to be very special.
Now, shipping cost $115. I don’t know what I was expecting for that price, but I received a Fed-Ex envelope with my “patches” in it. I was at work when they arrived and all I wanted to do was drive home. I smiled all the way back to the condo, so excited I was going to bust.
And there it was, on my kitchen table. These were things that had been on STAR TREK. My hands must have been shaking when I opened the envelope. Inside was a large plastic bag, folded over itself, over and over. When I unraveled it, I found all five of the “patches”, my bill of lading and the Christie’s display card used during the auction.
I took out my prizes. I started with the TNG comm badge. There was Velcro on the back. There were imperfections in the painting that no one could ever see. The patch from THE MOTION PICTURE was in great condition, having been removed from the uniform. I spent a lot of time holding these things, turning them over, studying them in every detail. It wasn’t long before I bought a shadowbox and mounted them with the display card.
It is only on rare occasions that I even think about taking them out.
The box sits on the wall in front of where I write. There are times I sit and stare and I dream those dreams I had as a child and young man.
And really, what is money compared to capturing your fondest dream?
NEXT TIME: My First Time