Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gabriel Shines

In 1995 I was just beginning my friendship with David. He is, and most-likely always will be my best friend. He was a gigantic geek, and I did not know this, but I was a gigantic geek in the making. I know today after seeing the success of George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates that super geekdom is nothing to be ashamed of, but back then I thought it was.

David was a ‘Trekkee’, sorry, ‘Trekker’ and pretty hard core. Enterprise model on his bookshelf, Romulan Warbird hanging from the ceiling as you enter his room, and countless books and posters. I was already a huge Star Wars fan, but I never got into Star Trek because it did not have enough blasters and lighsabers to keep me interested. Plus it is really hard to get involved in something when you are way behind in information. How can you argue with your friends about which series is the best when you haven’t seen all of the seasons several times and have them on tape with no commercials?

I was scared… Scared of true geekdom, additional alienation in school, of the work it would take to become a true fan, and most of all I was afraid that someday in the heat of the moment I might cuss at someone in Klingon instead of good old American profanity. Needless to say all of my fears washed away when David sat me down with 7 VHS tapes filled to the brim with Star Trek DS9. Cisco, Kiera, Otto, Quark, Jake, Chief O’Brian, Kai Winn, Gul Dukot, Changelings and other Dominion types soon became good friends of mine.

I was happy, but trouble was on the horizon. Unbenonced to me Dave was a true card carrying ‘Trekker’, literally, he was a member of the Bakersfield chapter of the Star Trek club, and due to the upcoming series Star Trek Voyager I would soon become a member too.

If you have never seen a group of 20 plus Trekkers together in one place, it is truly a sight to behold. A generally reclusive bunch, Trekkers really come out of their shells when they have numbers on their side. The gathering for the first episode of the new series was a gamers’ paradise. Role playing, card games, and three level chess were all in effect when we walked in the door. David split off immediately to show off his skills in the Star Trek card game. He was always good at anything that was strategy based.

I was introduced to the leader of the group, an older lady with short almost white hair, a firm handshake, and a black belt in Judo, in full Star Trek garb. I met a lot of people that day, but the one that later truly blew my mind was Gabriel. This guy was off the charts in geekery. That day at the meeting he was presented with a full Star Trek uniform and his eyes lit up like an imploding sun. He ran off immediately to change in the bathroom. When he emerged he withdrew his tri-corder and ran a quick sweep of the Toastido chips to make sure everything was in order. He was just one year younger than Dave and me so it made sense that we would all become friends. Just to make the final point about what a sold out Trekker he was, he was actually in the documentary film “Trekkies’ http://www.trekdoc.com/synopsis.htm .

As the weeks went on David and I spent more and more time together, in my high school years I practically lived at his house. After the meeting I attended Gabriel started coming over on a regular basis too. To be honest, I was a little jealous because Gabriel and David had way more in common. They were both computer junkies, and the current obsession for David was 3D graphic creation and rendering. It turns out that Gabriel, who was home schooled, was almost an expert. At the age of 12 while I was playing guns in the front yard with my friends, arguing over who shot who first, Gabriel was creating short films using graphics he created from scratch. This was before Pixar and as far as we were concerned it was almost cutting edge.

As the weeks went on I realized how much I did not like this guy. I know now that I was just afraid he was going to steal Dave from me. They had way more in common, and let’s face it… I was a computer retard, while they were essentially computer gods. Dave seemed to be spending more and more time in his room with Gabriel plugging away at creating some computer graphics. The norm was for David to be at my side, or as an adversary across the huge role playing and multi purpose table we had built. Being surrounded by all of my other friends was not enough! I wanted Dave’s attention. All of these feelings came to a head in a situation that pretty much changed me forever, and also solidified Dave, in my mind, as one of the best and true hearted people I would ever have the privilege to know in my life.

One of the many days the whole role playing gang was at David’s house, hold up in the garage, rolling away handfuls of six sided die trying to determine the fate of our characters, Gabriel interrupted David and I to show us something.

Note: For those of you who know me… To understand the rest of this story you must know that at that time in my life I was not the startling vision of kind hearted speech that I am today. For those of you who do not know me, I was then, still am today, and will forever more be a huge jerkoff.

David and I followed Gabriel through the maze of David’s house to the dungeon (Dave’s Room). Gabriel hit a few keys on the computer, jiggled the mouse and one of the most amazing things I had ever seen in my life appeared. I had heard a lot of talk out of Gabriel about his movies and 3D creations, but I had some idea in my head that it was a bunch of stick figure drawings. I could not have been more wrong! Before me was an original creation of Gabriel’s, a 5 minute story of two starships, full of amazing colors and affects that completely took me by surprise. Expectations change your view of things. Since I was expecting something fairly simple this movie was beyond comprehension to me. Gabriel was truly someone with a lot of talent.

After the movie ended with the two ships flying off into the light of a star, one of them swaying to and fro, I turned to Gabriel, and in classic Richard fashion proceeded to make a huge fool of myself. I said, “Gabe… I do not like you… But that was amazing!” In my mind this was a very high compliment. When your enemies have to bow down and pay homage to your superhuman skills you know you are truly being complimented. I thought adding the part about not liking him would actually increase the value of the sincere compliment I was trying to pay him.

Gabriel was not well socialized and was very used to dealing with jokes at his expense and general adversity from people his age. There was a silence for about 25 seconds then Gabriel graciously said thank you, and extended his hand to shake the one I offered after the extremely insulting compliment. I was still oblivious to the fact that I was making a colossal fool of myself. I left the room and David found me in the kitchen a few minutes later. He did not look happy.

“Why did you say that?” David questioned in as harsh a tone as I had ever heard from him. I could tell he was mad and that there was something wrong, but I could not understand what. “What?” I said, “I really liked it!” Then why did you have to say you didn’t like him.” I looked blankly at David for a moment and then it hit me… There in David’s kitchen with a piece of bread in my hand, taquitos in the microwave humming away, a chameleon staring at me from its cage, and Dave looking as stern as ever I realized for the first time in my near adult life one fact that I still commonly have to refer to in many situations….

I don’t have to say everything I think of! When a word or a thought is rolling around in my head I actually have a choice whether or not I want to let it out.

Gabriel and I never really became friends but we did hang out a lot, and I respected him., I never told him again how I felt about him unless it was good. From what I hear he has gone on to do great things in graphics and animation, and was trying to do a Star Trek movie. Dave is still one of my best friends despite my complete inability to exhibit tact or understand nonverbal cues from others. I never became a full blown Trekker but till this day I try to watch reruns of NG and DS9 at least a couple days a week. .

1 comment:

David Koontz said...

Hey man, I like the new blog. It's a great idea to have a place to just dump interesting stories when they happen or occur to you.

This one though, wow, blast from the past there. Did Gabriel really hang out at my house that often? Geez, that time of my life is so fuzzy. It's always been a bit disturbing to me that I don't remember it with more clarity. I do remember on a different occasion arguing with Gabriel that my Pentium 90 was actually faster than his 486 DX4 100Mhz. Ahh, geek pissing contests.

Dave