I haven’t seen an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in at least two years. I used to watch the show a lot, some during its initial run, but mostly afterward in syndication.
Watching ST:TNG has been a soothing experience. Other than Wesley Crusher and the Ferengi, the characters were not grating on the nerves and the crises in each episode were usually depicted as to not cause undue stress. The show was therefore perfect for whiling away weekend afternoons when I was sidelined by booze-fueled bad decisions from the night before.
Looking back, TNG’s story lines are a little hard to tell apart from episode to episode. There was often some problem that threatened the ship. Data would call it anomaly and Geordie would run a full diagnostic that never revealed dick. Details are hazy, but one thing I do remember clearly is the sound of the Enterprise engines in the background, a gentle reminder that whatever issue is both caused and cured by flawed physics is happening aboard a vessel moving at several times the speed of light.
I do not personally sleep aboard a starship, but we have a fan in the bedroom we leave on at night. When I am lying in bed and unable to sleep, I like to pretend I’m aboard a space vessel and that the sound of the fan is from its engine. It’s at a higher pitch than the sound of the Enterprise engine, but at least it’s a noise. Insomnia in dead silence is not fun.
To be honest, lying in bed listening to a faux warp drive is not a lot of fun either, but it’s not meant to be. It’s supposed to be boring, only holding enough of my attention to keep bad things I’ve done in life from appearing on my mental radar and having me agonize over them. So I lie there and enjoy the space voyage for what it is: uneventful, purposeless, and lacking both origin and destination.
Eventually, sleep comes and with it dreams. I am at work. It’s kind of my current job, but kind of not. I am hiding under my desk because I am not wearing any pants. My pants are on top of the desk. If I reach for them, I run the risk of being found out as someone who is pantsless. It could be worse though. The pants could be in the far end of the building, left at home, or I could be in a world where pants exist for everyone but me.
I take the risk and luck out. Once the pants are on, I’m in a pizza place in my hometown of Santa Barbara. There is no pizza to be found, or any food for that matter, but it is undeniably a pizza place on some abstract level. It is on Cliff Drive across the street from a strip club where I spent a birthday alone many years ago. I don’t remember anything from that night, but I don’t have to. It is the kind of strip club that makes you ashamed you ever went there. And what makes this strip club so bad? I’m not sure. All I know is that it’s decorated with a lot of chrome.
Then I realize that there is no strip club across the street, just an ice-skating rink. Since this awful strip club does not exist, I could not have gone there. I feel comparatively better about myself.
I awaken to Rebecca saying “Goddammit!” and feeling a pillow pushed onto my head. I must have been snoring something awful. I roll over and check the time. It is sometime after three. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to sleep again, but it’s worth a try. I concentrate on the sound of the ship’s engine as I continue my interstellar journey to nowhere at all.