This post is a little all over the place. I apologize in advance. (Folks - this is why I don't write eulogies.)
A little over three weeks ago, I received one of the most difficult phone calls of my life, informing me that AJ (aka Aharon Julian Klum) my best friend of over twenty years, was gone.
|At Art Institute of Chicago, August 2012.|
|Some stills (and re-purposed Robocop footage) from one of his student films Random Violence.|
Obviously, it was a shock to any/all who knew him, not just me, but we'd texted only the night before about Natural Born Killers, which he'd just re-watched ("all these years later... NBK is still the real deal" - now permanently locked in pole position in my inbox) and earlier in the week about Community, which he was making his way through.
Most of our correspondence, text or otherwise, was about movies or media. If I had to represent it in a pie chart, it'd be 80% movies and media, 10% women we thought were attractive - we did meet as adolescents, after all, and never got out of that habit. Hell, the last email he sent me was a random Victoria's Secret advertisement with the text "Good God..." - and 10% real-world stuff.
A good chunk of that 80%, though, was about Star Trek.
|And a good chunk of that chunk was exclusively quotes from "The Cloud Minders," sent back and forth to one another with undiminished enthusiasm since the late 90s.|
|I can't tell you accurately how many times one of us said "I SAID DIG!" to one another, but it had to be in the hundreds of thousands.|
|Just a couple of examples.|
|I don't know, honestly, if I'll be ever be able to watch this particular scene again.|
Which it needs to - at least for me. It's been three weeks of trying to write this, and I know I'll spend the rest of my life trying if I don't get it done today. The thing is, I don't know if it's going to make sense to anyone else. I feel bad about that. Klum had a thousand friends, and we're all looking for closure/ some recognition of what he meant to us in one another's words and experiences. But when I sit down to write - what comes out?
I sat down a dozen times to write something differently, something more traditional, and I just keep hearing Nimoy's hoarsely whispering I have been and always shall be your friend, and Shatner's agonized No... from the screencaps above, and then a gazillion other less-on-the-nose quotes (particularly this one, of Sulu's, one Klum - who just thought the way Takei said it was amusing - once yelled to me from across a crowded bar:)
I would never be able to do something like the Captain's Blog now, or going forward - simply not possible. There's no aspect of my media library that doesn't bear some trace element of Klum, but our mutual relationship with Trek was so overriding that I don't know if I'll ever be able to engage with it without a sense of loss so profound that my brain just shuts down.
For that reason, man - I'm glad I did it, as imperfect as it is, while he was around to read it and engage with it. Glad isn't even the right word. It feels somewhat mystical to me, like we were wrapping it up / saying goodbye / closing the Trek door before we knew why we were doing it.
So, a Trek-requiem of sorts for the occasion seems an appropriate, if hard to explain, end to the Captain's Blog.
|AWAY MISSIONS. At the Chicago Brauhaus, 2012.|
|At The Bean, Millennium Park, 2012.|
|Dawn and Klum, Narragansett, RI, 2009. (He didn't get to meet Dawn's and my little girls, but at least he got to meet Dawn a few times.)|
When I sent him the first of my TOS blogs, ("Return of the Archons") he responded:
"This episode is really 'the one to beat'. I was thinking to myself about my favorite Trek episodes - I opened my email on my phone before I took the dog for a walk so I knew this was going to be part of my morning routine/reading. Right off the top of my head...it's gotta be this one. For the two main reasons, for me, that I love Trek when it's really cooking on all cylinders, and Trek-watching/laughing/quoting with you. Therefore this one in particular has it all!!"
I include that because it's that last bit - how our experience of Trek was filtered through having experienced it with one another, and re-enforced over many years with endless quoting and laughing and memories of when-we-watched-"Archons"-that-one-time or remember-when-we-kept-yelling-LANDRU-at-that-party, etc. - that is why I'm here today.
He wasn't a big fan of anything but TOS. He had my list of favorite TNG episodes and was looking forward to those - as I was looking forward to reading his reactions/ sharing in that with him. If he had, he might understand why I include this particular sequence here and what it means to me to do so:
I even used "Picard and Dathon... at El-Adrel" as a means of trying to communicate what I was feeling to one of our mutual friends. His response - "Dude, I'm not THAT much of a Trekkie" cracked me up. Klum, like I say, wouldn't have recognized it either. But, I'm absolutely positive he'd have loved it, because he possessed the ability to love things the way I loved them through osmosis. No one else has had that sort of easy empathy with me. It's not something I even know how to think about losing. Much less write about.
Mainly, I remember the thousand-and-one personal jokes that had accumulated re: Trek over the years. He and I had millions, probably, of personal jokes, and we we kept them in active circulation between us. (An out-of-left-field text or email referencing one or many of them was an almost daily experience for many years running.) But some of the Trek ones that have helped me sort through this over the past few weeks:
- We had a few different rap tunes that are too ridiculous to type out, but they had to do with "Day of the Dove" and "The Changeling," mainly. "The Changeling" one had a physical-comedy component, where we'd pantomime Sulu karate-chopping Nomad and then the reverberation traveling up his arm and making his head shake and teeth chatter. See? Sounds stupid, typed out. In person? We'd be laughing until we coughed up a lung.
- Speaking of Sulu, when we lived in Dayton in the late 90s, we made an effort to get TOS on laser disc. The guy at the shop didn't want to break up the set, but we assured him we'd be back, week after week, to pick up a new one until we got them all. We almost made it, but not quite.
|Sorry, laser disc shop guy.|
Anyway, we'd get a 15-pack of Strohs from the Kroger and set up our lounge and poppa-san chairs with a paper bag between us for empties and every now and again, one of us would slowly turn our heads back at the couch like this
and crack the other one up.
- Also related to those laser discs, the "Star Trek: Next Voyage" previews were constantly referenced between us. They were clumsily edited and just so much fun. The one for "Turnabout Intruder" in particular. This was a throwback to when the only Trek we had between us were three VHS tapes, and there'd be the same previews at the end of those.
- Kirk's double-shoulder grabs and weird pronunciations were a source of ongoing hilarity over the years. I don't think a month went by between us since 1996 without one of us thrusting our arms out and saying Kirk-from-"Gamesters of Triskelion"-style
|WHAT'S HAPPENING TO LIEUTENANT YOU-HRRR-YUH!?|
|Or Wheel of Cenobites.|
If this was a eulogy, I can only picture the embarrassed coughs and awkward head-turns that would have accompanied it by now. And while I'm somewhat amused - and I find it somewhat well-suited to the memory of our friendship, given our rather warped sense of humor and affection for the inappropriate - at the idea of delivering a 45 minute power-point eulogy consisting of little but Trek screencaps and personal jokes, I'd best wrap it up.
I don't know if I could ever hope to choose just one Trek quote that comes close to expressing anything I've been feeling the last few weeks. The Gilgamesh bit from "Darmok" comes close, Kirk's TWOK eulogy for Spock maybe even closer, particularly because Klum did such a spot-on impersonation of it. (And also because the words are very fitting.) The one that resonates the most accurately with me the most right now ("Let's get the hell out of here" from City on the Edge of Forever) isn't it, either.
So rather than fumble for one, let me close with this image put together by his wife, with a message in his own handwriting.
|"It's not what you think, it's better!"|
Godspeed, AJ. You were the best, and I love you.
Klum did some blogging of his own. You can check it out here. Not sure how long they keep these things up, but let's hope forever.