About Me

My photo

I write about people that are much much smarter than me. See the links on my shiny blog? I wrote those. And some other stuff. Below is the kind of thing you would find about me in the back of a book or anthology.

"Kelly Hale lives in the magical city called Stumptown where the streets are paved with espresso beans and the garbage recycles itself. She is the author of several science fiction-y type stories in scattered anthologies, co-author of a Doctor Who TV tie-in novel Grimm Reality, and also won an award for an early version of Erasing Sherlock – there was a giant novelty check involved.  She is mother of geeks and stand-up comedians. When she isn’t writing she enjoys grinding bones to make artisan breads, creating her own skin care products from locally sourced virgins blood, and knitting with razor wire. She’s been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since age 11. Characters from the original Star Trek represent archetypes in her dreams."

I am a devout secular humanist.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A bit of creative non-fiction. "Never Marry a Cartwright"




Never Marry a Cartwright
(things television taught me about life, love, and flying)
By Kelly Hale


 A truth every kid who grew up on 1960’s and 70’s television understood: There was no escaping Gilligan’s Island. We could accept that, my brothers and I, because otherwise what would we watch on Monday nights?  What we couldn’t accept was the Professor telling Gilligan he couldn’t fly. Gilligan flew just fine until the Professor told him it was impossible. It was that word – impossible – the Professor's ultimate betrayal, the terribly grown-up denial of the evidence of his own two eyes. Lack of belief was like the flu, we thought. If you caught it, you crashed. My brother Scott tested this theory by jumping off our roof with wings he’d made from a broken umbrella and old sheets. We shouted our belief at him, "You're gonna fly! We know you can!" But our belief wasn’t strong enough to keep him from breaking his arm.

Another thing learned from television was that marrying one of the Cartwright's was a death sentence. Worse, the next week it would be as if the bride had never existed. Sometimes, the next episode would even be a comedy! It was jarring. Not just emotionally, but from a character standpoint. What kind of a man would be in a comedy situation just one week after the love of his life died tragically taking a bullet meant for him?  I used to write odes to the dead, motherless girls (they never had mothers either), because Adam and Little Joe certainly weren’t going to get around to it. 
 
There was another show called Here Come the Brides, set in Seattle. The whole point of this show was getting rugged men married. On Here Come the Brides, three brothers named Jason, Joshua, and Jeremy Bolt, owned a mountain and ran a logging camp on that mountain. (I think they may also be the reason so many boys were named Jason, Joshua, or Jeremy in years following.) Jason Bolt makes a deal with the owner of the lumber mill, Aaron Stempel that if Stempel puts up the money to bring marriageable young ladies to Seattle, they will all be wed within the year. If not, then Stempel gets the Bolt’s mountain and logging operation. Aaron plots against the good brothers at every turn, of course. He’s the villain of the piece. I had a tiny crush on him as well because he just wanted to be loved and he didn’t know how to get that except with money and power.  

The theme song, about the bluest skies being in Seattle, was sung by the guy who played Jeremy, the youngest brother of three. Weirdly, his real name escapes me though his face was all over the pages of Tiger Beat and Teen Beat and 16 Magazine (along with his opinions about how much makeup girls should wear, etc.), but on the show his name was Jeremy. Anyway, his real name doesn’t matter because I am never in love with the actors, only the characters they play. (I remember someone telling me many years later that Patrick Stewart was gay and me saying, I don’t want to marry Patrick Stewart, I want to marry Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I wanted to marry Mighty Mouse when I was 6. I had a type.) 

Jeremy Bolt was the one all my friends loved best. We were supposed to. He was designed for us to love. But I did not. I fancied Jason, the handsome eldest of the Bolt siblings. My love for him was the same sort I felt for Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek. Not for me the Beatles’ bewigged Ensign Chekov. I wasn’t even a Spock girl at the time. True, Spock gave hope to geeks and nerds everywhere that genius could be both heroic and sexy (even if actual sex only happened every seven years), but I liked a sure thing. I wanted someone who didn’t take so much work, a man with experience, who knew what was what and how to get the job done through pure force of will and gumption and some ineffable quality, possibly optimism. 
 
Kirk could cure, help, and change world views of entire planets by having sex with a single member of an alien race.  But more significantly, to the young me at least, was that he could love them and they (usually) didn’t have to die for it. They’d be changed by the encounter, but mostly went on with their lives. That time he had to sacrifice his love in Depression era New York in order to save the future of humankind, you could tell it affected him deeply by the way the censors let him say “Let’s get the hell out of here,” even though nobody was allowed to say curse words on broadcast television. And the very next week he loses his brother to a horrible mind-sucking parasite at Colony Alpha and almost loses Spock as well so I could cut him some slack for not appearing to be mourning the woman he loved enough to say “hell.” I probably wrote poetry about it though. (I also wrote poetry about the death of Miramanee, his pregnant Native American princess. I know. Shut up.)

I don’t remember a lot of the stories on Here Come the Brides the way I remember every episode of the original Star Trek, but I’m pretty sure Jason Bolt was a lot like Kirk – fighting for what’s right and sexing up the ladies. Also, the actor who played him was once on an episode of Star Trek. Come to think of it, so was the actor who played the middle brother Joshua. He had a small part as a native with a puff of white hair and coppery make-up. All the natives of the planet were copper colored and wore sarongs and served the great computer god Vaal. As per usual Kirk destroys paradise, and in the end sexual reproduction is reintroduced and everyone has a good laugh.  

(Nineteen years later I hosted a party “Welcome to Vaal-hollow!" We dressed in sarongs and had tiki torches in the back yard, playing the natives of that sorry planet who were forced to run a themed resort with coconut bras and gambling because we didn't have a computer god providing for our needs, thanks a lot Captain Kirk.)
 
My best friends through junior high and high school were Connie and her sisters, Lisa and Nancy. Connie and I used to spend hours on the phone talking about Star Trek and Here Come the Brides and Alias Smith and Jones and other shows with handsome men who didn’t live in the current era. We wrote stories about these shows in dedicated spiral notebooks secreted under piles of homework in desk drawers. We shared snippets at lunch and read aloud to each other during sleepovers. I spent a lot of time at their house, weekends and sometimes whole weeks in the summer. We’d watch reruns of Star Trek every afternoon. By the time I was sixteen I’d seen all 72 episodes four or five times. 

Connie’s mother was originally from Biloxi, Mississippi. We used to live across the street from each other, that’s how we became best friends, but she’d made them move to a new neighborhood when the Bustamante family bought the house next door. They were Mexican and she was deeply, embarrassingly, racist. Her daughters were often mortified by the stuff that came out of her mouth. It didn’t come out often because she carefully avoided all sources of her racist discomfort. This included TV shows with black people as lawyers, police detectives, spies, nurses, or teachers played by Diahann Carroll, for example. So whenever the famous “first interracial kiss on television” episode of Star Trek was on we’d stage it so that Nancy, the youngest, would cry for assistance and Mommy would come running down the basement stairs just in time to see Kirk and Uhura kissing. She’d get red in the face and say, “Oh you girls! I swear!” and march back up to the kitchen, seething. And we’d laugh and laugh. She fell for it every time. She thought we were rude, mean girls. She may even have thought it was my idea, but I don’t remember it being my idea the first time we did it. I think it was Nancy’s. She was a Captain Kirk girl like me.

Sometime in high school I switched allegiances. I was more mature. I saw Brewster McCloud at an art house cinema downtown. I read Stranger in a Strange Land, and Dune and tried to read Gravity’s Rainbow because I thought I should. Kung Fu with David Carradine was on television and suddenly, sensitive guys who could kick ass made me tingle. Kwai Chang Caine and Spock were thrillingly calm under pressure. They had mastery over their emotions. This seemed really important what with my parents divorcing, all my friends staging sit-ins for counterculture-y reasons, and me trying to get my Catholic boyfriend to go all the way in the front seat of his Plymouth Roadrunner. (Not the back seat. He was saving himself for marriage.)

In college a bunch of people met every afternoon in the student lounge to watch Star Trek reruns with a hip new perspective. My friend Chris used to flip his wallet open and ask Scotty to beam him up some cash. I had an Iranian boyfriend, Saiid, whose father was the Shah’s veterinarian. Saiid cried at the episode where Spock falls in love with the woman in the cave and then has to leave her because she’ll die if she tries to go back through the time portal. My boyfriend could not go back to Iran. His father did not survive the revolution.
  
One day I’m driving to work when I see a guy with a guitar case and his thumb out.  He’s got this Peter Frampton hair thing going on, sky blue bellbottoms, and a fringed jacket.  Normally I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker on account of psychopathic murderer potential, and especially one who looked like Peter Frampton (I was never a fan of the masturbatory guitar solo). But he smiled and I swear the sun sparked off his teeth and blinded me to any danger. I pulled over, he got in, we talked for two hours, moved in together two weeks later and were married the following year.
 
After he left me on my birthday with a two-month old baby to care for alone (because, as he said “You can get on welfare and I’ll have nothing, so I’m actually doing you a favor.”), I’m wandering around Powell’s Books with ten dollars left of my birthday money and I spot a new Star Trek novel called Ishmael.  It shows Mr. Spock seated at a poker table with another vaguely familiar looking man, both in old-timey clothes. I realize the other man is either Spock’s father, Sarek, or Aaron Stempel from Here Come the Brides (both played by the same actor). It’s the ultimate crossover!  I’m very embarrassed to be seen buying it but that doesn’t stop me. 

I have carried this book around with me for decades now. I think it saved my life at the time, pulled me out of a very dark place. Within its pages I rediscovered all my favorite beau ideals. I realized that good men of good character would not exist in books or onscreen without existing somewhere out there in the real world. I had a son. He didn’t have to be a Cartwright. He could be a Kwai Chang 
Caine, a Jean-Luc Picard. 

He grew up to be none of those, thank god. He grew up to be an excellent human being in his own right. And our world looks very different today, a perpetual cross-over of genres and media platforms. People like me have raised people like him, who celebrate and even enjoy humanity’s cultural differences, who champion equal rights for all humans, who can gather support for these causes in seconds, who make television shows where if a girl dies no one has forgotten her by the next episode.


1 comment: