It never made sense to me: Why should play a character that I didn’t want to be?
The year was 1967. I had moved into the neighborhood the prior year. Clarencedale Avenue was all things to a little boy – a wide, tree-lined street, expansive yards and lots of trees to climb. The block was built on the site of an apple orchard. Everyone had an old apple tree or three in their yard.
Clarencedale had lots of boys near my age. John, Teddy, Scott, Randy, Mike, Tony, Sam, Rich, Kevin, Mark and Richard. We played baseball on the corner lot on Southern Boulevard and football in the yard next to our house. It was a plethora of small-town ambiance mixed into a mill-town existence.
Star Trek had begun playing on TV. My friends and I were mesmerized. We started to play-act the show. Teddy would be Scotty and John played Doctor McCoy. I wanted to be Captain Kirk. Our friend Scott Speirs thought otherwise.
Scott was one of those pugnacious kids, everything he had or was involved in was the best, and he’d let you know it. He had a Schwinn Sting Ray, he’d tell me it was better than my Western Flyer. His Dad’s Chevrolet Caprice convertible was “higher-class” than Mom’s AMC Gremlin. His Hot Wheels collection was awesome, he had the Red Baron car. He had the GI Joe Arctic Soldier ensemble, with the miniature snow-white M-14 rifle and matching snow suit.
Scott couldn’t ride a bike to save his life. He never talked about his absentee Dad who was an abusive alcoholic. Scott never took his Hot Wheels cars out of their display case to play with. Same with the GI Joe stuff. Scott was all talk and no action.
Scott always insisted on playing Captain Kirk. Scott told me I was Spock because I was smart like Spock. I resented that for two reasons.
First, I associated Spock’s Vulcan ears with my Cleft Palette. I hated that association because I wanted to be normal like all my other friends. I just wanted to fit in.
Secondly, I was the fastest, most athletic. I was the best baseball player. No one could tackle me in our backyard football games. No one schemed as well against our up-street adversaries, in countless raids against a numerically superior gang we usually won. I was the leader of our gang. That made me, as Spock would say, the logical choice for Kirk.
Scott never agreed I played a better Captain Kirk. I regret I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to a bully like Scott. I watch Douglas play with his friends and how he’s emerging in the mold of a Captain Kirk. That makes me smile.