S&B Features Article


BYBROCKWEBBture birthplace of Captain James Tiberius Kirk,who commands Star Trek’s U.S.S. Enterprise-A. During one Star Trek film, in the midst of time-traveling on Earth to find a whale who can communicate with a creature in the fu-ture, Kirk utters the immortal line, “I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.” In 1985,the Riverside City Council met and voted unani-mously to declare their home Kirk’s (future) hometown. I do not know what convinced this group of elderly Iowa civic servants to unani-mously place themselves at the epicenter of Nerd-dom. It probably has something to do with the precipitous decline of small farm ag-riculture and the ensuing desperate rural econ-omies. But it also probably has to do with that,to a bunch of 1980s 60-somethings, Captain Kirk was a total stud.Setting out on Stardate 23175698.1 (last Saturday), I roped three of my nerd friends into driving to Riverside with me. It wasn’thard to convince them. The Riverside council members chose the right fan base to exploit for tourist dollars – Star “Trekkies” think nothing of ditching reasonable lives and driving hours to glimpse a blatantly fabricated piece of fu-ture fiction. On the drive there, on highways through cornfields, my friends and I first ar-gued about stardates, then settled down to making jokes about warp drives and “nuclear wessels.”The first artifact we sighted of the town’snoble, fictional future was a model of the U.S.S. Riverside -- a Constitution class star-ship, constructed on the back of an old trail-er standing in a snowy park along the major highway through Riverside. This giant model was a cost-effective alternative the town chose

after they learned that Paramount wanted to charge them over $40,000 to put up a bronze bust of James Kirk.We parked the car on the side of the road,in front of the quaint downtown area and got out, ready to take pictures, see the sights, and meet the people whose loins would ultimately create the man who would begin it all.Notable among the run-down buildings, empty store-fronts, and closed souvenir stores was Senior Dining, an eatery sporting a sign proclaiming that all visitors should “Come in and eat with the ancestors.” Twenty feet down the street,we found the object of our quest. There above us, William Shatner stood happily on a sign,smiling but managing to look serious,an arrow pointing to an alley between a beauty salon and a used-clothing store. Presumably, sometime in the next 200 years, these will be knocked down to build the Kirk farmhouse.  Reverently, we stepped through the snow and saw before us a concrete monument to a man whose good deeds are known,but will not be committed or realized until the distant future. Its stony surface rose from the snow, the black and red letters carved into its surface as titillating as they were matter-of-fact. It was nearly holy experience. I posed with the mon-ument. My friends Christine McCormick ’09 and Anna Werner ’09 joined me in performing a historical pre-enactment of the scene that would occur on the very spot 221 years in the future. Anna sat in the snow, her legs spread while Christine pretended to be that oh-so-famous Kirk child and I held her,obviously the father and the OBGYN. I think it is impor-tant to note that, though the monument says “March 22, 2228”, the Star Trek website lists Kirk’s birth year as 2233.My wonderment of the birthplace faded quickly. We walked back out toward the car,but stepping out into the sunlight at the end of the alley, were distracted by the used-cloth-ing store, Vintage Ville. The owner greeted us at the door and we slowly wove our way about the store, trying on some alarmingly inexpensive wigs. The only two pieces of Star Trek memorabilia available for purchase werea CD with bloopers of the original series and a set of “Shat Hats” (green, yellow and red felt berets pioneered during an ill-fated real-ity show staring William Shatner).These were tempting, but ultimately we passed them by and instead purchased a Ninja Turtles cake pan. I felt a twinge of guilt, forgoing Star Trek fanaticism in favor of a cake pan, but it was shaped like Michelangelo and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to wear something called a “Shat”on my head.StarTrek fans will be saddened to learn that Riverside has a distinct lack of replicators,forcing us to purchase food at Murphy’s, the local bar and tavern. After much discussion and prodding, Anna asked the bartender a question. “Excuse me, but we remember hear-ing about some sort of…plaque…commemo-rating James Kirk’s point of conception.” She laughed and told us that it was in the bar. In earlier years, the plaque had been beneath the pool table,causing quite a ruckus when a tour-ist wanted to take a picture of it; now, it was mounted on the wall beside the pool table.After photographing the plaque (and doing a tango that culminated in a dip which we nerds decided was as close to a historical pre-enact-ment of the conception as we would venture),we ate our food and pondered the future of the megaverse. Then we put in Running with Scissors and sang along to Weird Al. As wepulled onto Highway 218, we couldn’t help turning back and saying to the small Iowan town, in the immortal words of Dr. Spock,“Live long and prosper."