Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hangin' with the Galileo Part 3: Mikey and me

This past summer when I had the amazing opportunity to see the Galileo shuttlecraft up close and personal, I was not alone. One of my oldest friends, Mike Myers, accompanied me. Mike and I go way back to our college days which means we've known each other for more than thirty years. And, while Mike is not a Star Trek collector like me, he is definitely a Star Trek FAN, just like me. We both got the bug when we watched the original broadcasts of The Original Series as kids (very young kids!). The first time I saw his room at home, his walls were covered with things like Mo Udall posters (look it up, youngsters) and (much to my delight) Star Trek posters! Point of interest: I think some were of the "black light" variety (look it up, youngsters). From that moment on, Star Trek would be one of our mutual passions. Mike and I and another friend went and saw Gene Roddenberry speak at the Richfield Coliseum during the summer of 1979 and he and two other friends (hey, Keith and John!) braved a snow storm in December of '79 to see the opening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Yeah, it wasn't great, but it was the only Trek in town! We saw it 2 more times that weekend, i think.

Over the years we wandered in and out of each others' lives, but we always stayed firm Trek fans. Our take on the various shows and movies are almost identical (love "Wrath of Khan" –  "Enterprise", not so much). So it was only fitting that when the Galileo's location became known and was put up for auction, we would both get to see her in all her world-weary glory.

As luck would have it, Mike and I have always lived within 20 minutes of the Galileo's various locations since it came to Ohio. Countless times, both of us passed by the boat storage facility in which it was finally stored, having no idea of the treasures held within. So when the auction was announced, Mike was the first person I called.

For some reason, it was difficult to get permission to see the Galileo. You would have thought that the seller would have welcomed potential buyers (and I certainly was one, if only in my head) but weeks went by after the auction was announced but no permission was forthcoming. Finally a call came from the auctioneers who were doing the sale – a showing was finally arranged for THAT DAY. I put aside whatever trivialities I had on my desk and called Mike to tell him of the news. He anxiously confirmed that he'd be there.

It was a very hot June afternoon (in the 90's!) in Ohio when I pulled into the boat storage facility. I got there before Mike (he is "time-challenged", ie: he'll be late to his own funeral) and found the auctioneer rep who then took me and the Galileo's owner over to the storage barn that held my quarry. Still no Mike, though. As I walked into the warehouse-sized structure, I was instantly in awe of what I saw. Yes, she had seen better days and she was currently stripped of her accoutrements (engines, doors, etc) but there she was – the Galileo that I had seen over and over in Trek reruns. The Galileo that I had built a model of in the 70's (I still have it though it's much the worse for wear – not unlike the actual Galileo, I guess). There she stood set off by herself in an open part of the building and I walked up to her literally in awe. I stood there for a few seconds taking it all in. "Holy crap". I thought – "it's actually the real deal! It's actually the Galileo!" I took a breath and moved closer.

And that's when her condition overwhelmed me – she looked like absolute crap. Yes, she was the Galileo of my dreams, but she was also forty-plus years removed from her glory and she showed it. Over the years I had read everything I could find about the Galileo. About how she had been unceremoniously stored outside in the California sun, seen time at an RV yard, and had been hauled across country to end up in my back yard. I had read about "restorations" and repaints, and of course I had seen the on-line shots of her that had shown her current dilapidated state. But pictures did not prepare me for what I saw in person.

If Galileo had ever been "restored" it showed no sign of it now. I had hoped that what I had seen in the photos was a Galileo that was being prepped for primer and so naturally would have a lot of surface stuff going on. But it could not have been farther from that. The exterior shell was covered in rough, weathered plywood and masonite as well as flaking fiberglass and red bondo. It was a mess, period. But it was still the Galileo, for better or for worse, so my emotions were stretched simultaneously between euphoria and despair.

I went to the door opening and peered inside the shabby ship. She didn't look much better on the inside, though it wasn't the total disaster of the outside. I tentatively climbed aboard to look around when I heard a familiar voice from outside – Mike had finally arrived. I poked my head out to greet him. :He had a huge smile on his face and simply said "This is amazing"!

And he was right. Whatever her condition, it was amazing that this piece of Star Trek history even existed at all, let alone in our neighborhood.

Mike and I then spent the next half hour or so crawling all over the old girl, looking into every nook and cranny, trying to understand how the door mechanism used to work (still haven't figured that out), checking out the roof (replaced), the impulse engine bay (empty), and every surface possible. We were like kids in a candy shop with the Galileo being the ultimate lollipop. We couldn't get enough! I took tons of pictures as we made our inspection, wanting to preserve the experience not just in memory but pixels as well. All too soon, our time was up. We couldn't come up with any more excuses to linger with Galileo any longer. Reluctantly, we thanked the owner and the auction rep and slowly walked away from a legend. I grabbed one last glance at the shabby hero and took one last photo as we reached the exit.

While I can share those photos with the world, the experience itself is more elusive. This is my attempt to share some small part of my adventure with my friend Mike on that excellent, hot afternoon in June. I wish all Trek fans could have the same, in-person experience. Mike and I will remember it for the rest of our lives.

Mikey got it right. It was amazing!



1 comment:

  1. You tried to figure out how the door mechanism worked but coldn't. Did you try to figure out how the transporter worked? Did you have any better luck with that?