Captain's Blog, Supplemental: Beam Me Up, Mr. Klum

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.
He was found dead in his apartment - no signs of foul play or overdose, just a reaction (it seems; we await the toxicology reports) to the medication he was on. As his wife described it, "the good news is he experienced no fear, no pain, no suffering of any kind." A small - but very real, and appreciated - comfort, that.

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.
And so it is perhaps not surprising that as I process this loss, Trek imagery keeps bubbling up from my unconscious. 

Just a couple of examples.
I don't know, honestly, if I'll be ever be able to watch this particular scene again.
Last year when I did the Captain's Blog series of posts, I looked forward more than anything to Klum's reviews. He never left them as comments here on the blog but always emailed me his favorite lines and reactions and general Trek thoughts. I went through as many of them I could trying to prep for this post, thinking I'd pull some choice quotes from them. I failed utterly, though. Not only was it a sad business - particularly when I re-read something that made me laugh out loud, only to realize even more deeply the unfathomable context of it all - but I was getting lost in there and this post was in danger of not coming together. 

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 picture the reaction - what the f*ck, dude? You stand up to eulogize the man and instead just tell us about the f*cking Star Trek you watched together - and I have no answer/ no defense. He deserves more, undoubtedly, something about the kind of man he was, the adversities he faced and bested and his intensity and dreams and loyalty and humor and warmth. Or even his hang-ups and/or foibles. And what do I do? F*cking Star Trek? I'm as aghast as anyone. But simply put, I can't think of Klum - a topic which has consumed me happily and comprehensively over the years - without thinking of Trek. And vice versa, very much vice versa. Vice versa forever. 

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 mean, who is that going to make sense to? Probably no one. Least of all me.

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.
This was even commemorated by our mutual friend the poet and educator (though he prefers "master and commander") Mike Haeflinger, who referenced "Klum and McMillan finally got the entire Star Trek collection on laser disc" in a poem of yesteryear. One I wish I had a copy of. (If you're reading this, Mike, and you have a copy, please send my way, eh? It was one you recorded at our place circa 1998, on that Mad River mix tape with all our other stuff.)

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 

Oh man. So many others. (Don't get me started on our Law and Order: SVU jokes.)

Or Wheel of Cenobites.
Technically, the joke was "Wheel of Cenobites with your host... FRANK," i.e. Frank Cotton, from Hellraiser. Pinhead was just the announcer. (That's what makes that "...FRANK" thing so funny to me, imagining him saying it.) But it was more visually effective with having Pat Sajak in the picture.

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!"
As his mother wrote upon seeing it: "My beautiful boy ... he is traveling the universe and having one hell of a good time."

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. 


  1. OH wow. What an amazing post to a great friend. We can all only hope to go without fear, or pain. Almost 1/2 years ago I lost a friend. Now his wife and I play Destiny every night as a form of therapy. Hers for being alone and mine for my depression. We play 3 hours almost every night and it feels damn good. Hoping you find something to help you feel good too.

    1. Thanks, Angie, much appreciated.

      I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. That is good, tho, that his widow and you can do that and positively channel the emotions.

    2. We do get on there and have a good time and also be able to talk to someone. I am glad too. After he passed I didn't really hear from her that year. I would email and text her sometimes hearing back and sometimes not. Then in August I texted her and told her that we would be buying Destiny if she wanted to join. And she did! Honestly I am so glad. It's nice to reconnect. I don't fly because of anxiety so I didn't get to go out and help her out right after. Which was a bummer.

  2. The first thing that comes to mind: beautiful.

    The second thing: "He's really not dead . . . as long as we remember him." A bit disingenuous of Bones, but there's no way to overstate the importance of remembrance. And this is a fine one.

    1. Oh, don't start me crying again!

      Thanks, mate, much appreciated.

  3. For a brief while in 1995 and 1996, he and I wandered the frozen desert of Hamilton Hall and surrounding environs, so I can understand, if only to a shadowed extent, the loss you feel. I'll offer this, though I know it's small, if any, consolation: it's rare to have such close friendships that last that long. At least your Enkidu made it a good part of the way through the desert with you, and helped you defeat more than a few bulls.

    1. I remember first hearing your name in a letter Klum wrote me from that period of time. I probably still have it somewhere. I hope I do, anyway - my archivist has occasional lapses.

      When I watch that Darmok clip now and hear Picard say "Enkidu - a WILD MAN!" I chuckle. Klum would have loved that description of himself.

      What you say is by no means a small consolation. It's been the difference between despair and just regular old sadness/loss, the past few weeks. Thanks, Jeff.

  4. McMolo, you kept saying that your writing was off course by your use of Star Trek. To that I say poppycock! Everything I know of Star Trek is from you. All the stories of Star Trek you ever told me, ultimately became reminiscent of Klum. When you would speak of the Star Trek shenanigans, I would feel I was there, and a part of it all. Being the newest member of your crew, this built my bond with Klum and made me feel like one of the guys. I understood because of all those stories surrounded by your moments. I felt your loss of Klum as if he was one of my own, because in essence he was. You and I formed a bond and a friendship over stories on a porch. We got to know each other through places and times we never knew, but they became part of us from the bond the sharing of those stories built. I later came to know Klum from a far, and would consider him a friend. Not like you or the guys, but a friend in the group. This is not off course at all. The times we had and the experiences that you shared with me were not possible without Klum. Star Trek was a big part of that for you guys. I always got it, even if I didn’t get it. So this is not an off course story at all. It is the story of McMolo and Klum with special guest star Star Trek. So I say tell these stories, watch those episodes. We’ll get it, even if we don’t get it. If you cry, cry. If you laugh, laugh. If you want to punch a wall, do it to the West wall in the middle bedroom, it wouldn’t be the first fist hole there. Remember though, as you watch or write or share, it feeds the memories, it plays the story, it is the story of YOUR Klum. It is the embodiment of Klum eternal.

    I love you brother

    P.S. – I want full credit if you ever decide to write something entitled Klum Eternal.

    1. Zibbo! Thanks very much, and you will receive above-the-title credits if Wheel of Cenobites is ever picked up by the studio.

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  6. I don't know what happened to those old Mad River tapes, though I am inclined to think that you have one in a pile of cassettes somewhere, McMolo. The poem itself, if it was ever written down, is likely in a box in my basement among the books my loving wife refers to as "those books we keep moving from house to house that no one ever reads". I may have to go through them and see if I can't find notes towards this line, but the truth is, anything recorded in the living room at 607 E. Flive St. may have been offered up to the gods of improvisation long ago.

    1. If I have that cassette, I'll be very happy; I fear I don't. Why were we / was I so keen on impermanence back in those days? Other people look back on old photos and think "Ick - what was I wearing?" Well, I do that, too, but I also think, good lord, why didn't I save this or that? What was I thinking? Answer: Timmy Leary. YOU SON OF A BITCH, LEARY!

    2. Yeah, thanks for nothing, Buddha.