Sunday, March 26, 2006

the time i didn't meet leonard nimoy

It was December of 1999, and Mrs. Camino and I were on our way to our honeymoon in the less touristy inland destinations of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. We had flown from Nashville to Cancun with the lady behind us attempting to read the whole damn first Harry Potter book to her young son, and my then employment as the manager of a large chain bookstore had already thinned my patience for all things Harry Potter. I blasted Physical Graffiti into the headphones and peered out the window to watch the Mississippi and Louisiana topographies roll by some forty thousand feet below until we hit the ocean where the brown Mississippi spilled out into the deep blue-green gulf like some third grade watercolor.

I removed the headphones to check on the third grader behind me. His mother was still failing him in regards to his bourgeoning literacy. She wasn’t even doing different voices or having him sound out words that would’ve been new to him, and the whole experience…

Actually, this part of the story really has nothing to do with Leonard Nimoy, and I honestly don’t know why it is here, but it is. You have read it and now you cannot unread it, and it would probably be best for us to simply move on.

The international side of the Cancun airport is virtually unrecognizable from any number of Florida beach destinations. Everything is bright and commercialized and yelling at you in English. People wandering in for their return flights wear Cancun t-shirts over their reddened and formerly pasty white flesh. These t-shirts often boast of the amount of alcohol they have consumed while on holiday, and the wearers often choose to complete the ensemble with a giant novelty foam cowboy hat or something comparable in the world of tourist booty.

The in-country side of the airport is something completely different. It is in another building nearly a mile from the international side, and one immediately notices the difference when he steps from the commuter van and walks in while rummaging through his cargo pants for a cigarette. There were no designated smoking sections, brightly painted advertisements for establishments that will aid in getting sickly inebriated, mechanical parrots hawking the same establishments, Hawaiian shirted Mexican boys collecting tourists for their hotel vans, or any number of other trappings to make it the “Florida away from Florida” we had first encountered. The open room was painted in a hint of seafoam and filled with green plastic cushioned metal benches looking to have been taken from any number of American waiting rooms from the nineteen fifties and sixties, each containing its own ashtray every few seats. Mrs. Camino and I had plenty of time to sit and smoke and people watch before catching the next leg of our journey to Merida.

Everything here was in Spanish, and the people we saw were mostly Mexican business travelers with the occasional European backpacker sitting against the wall and pouring a stream of German or heavily accented English into the payphones. There were no Americans here, and the contrast between the two sides of the airport would’ve made for great entertainment were one to just spend a day going back and forth to people watch and sample airport cuisine. However, we did have a schedule to maintain.

With an hour and a half left before our flight we made it over to the line to check in and stood as the lone Americans in that primarily Mexican sea. The airline employees spoke fluent English, but still we filled our time in line going through the Spanish dictionary and trying to get some value out of the foreign language electives we had to take to achieve those all but lucrative English degrees a year or two before.

It was then that we heard a family in the next line speaking American English. It was a husband and wife and two women who appeared to be their grown daughters. The husband was asking the wife about a friend of theirs who was going through cancer treatment and then asked if she had remembered to pack the alarm clock and a certain shirt that he didn’t remember seeing laid out on the bed. It was typical married-couple-standing-in-line fare, but I immediately recognized the voice as the narrator to the seventies paranormal TV series In Search Of. Then I remembered that the narrator of that series and Leonard Nimoy were one in the same. I quickly alerted Mrs. Camino, and we went back and forth in a whispering debate for a few minutes until Leonard Nimoy turned around to check the departure time for their flight to Guatemala on the sign just behind us, thus ending all debate.

There was a brief but surreal moment when Leonard Nimoy looked at us. We don’t look much like Trekkers, I suppose, so I hoped that the look was something more akin to recognition of other Americans. We probably looked back with the very real expressions of those who unexpectedly happen upon a Nimoy family outing in the last place they expect to find one. I gave him a smile and a nod and refrained from hugging Leonard Nimoy or in any other way making a scene. He cautiously nodded back and then went returned to flipping through a travel brochure with his wife.

After we emerged from the line we still had over an hour to kill and therefore settled into a booth at one of the airport restaurants with a couple of beers. A few minutes later the Nimoy family settled into booth across the small room with a basket of nachos and diet Cokes. They were directly in our field of vision, and we couldn’t help but stare. Leonard would look up from time to time and cautiously glance at us while retrieving a tortilla chip from the basket. Mrs. Camino and I contemplated approaching them, and in retrospect I suppose the anticipation of having strangers come up and tell you that they enjoyed Star Trek (to a healthy degree, mind you), In Search Of, and the Simpsons guest spots was probably more unnerving than having it happen and done with. Disturbing the famous isn’t something that either of us would normally engage in, but the circumstance of being the only other Americans there almost required it in a strange way. After a few beers I really wanted to walk over and tell him something like, “T.J. Hooker kicked ass”, but I didn’t. We never spoke to Leonard Nimoy or his lovely family, and I don’t regret letting the opportunity pass. I have plenty of awkward moments with regular people on a daily basis, and angering Mr. Spock would’ve been a rather sour note on which to begin one’s honeymoon. Also, having a story about the time you didn’t meet Leonard Nimoy sounds more intriguing.

Anyway, the man who has lived too long in the shadow of Shatner turns seventy-five today.
lenny and bill

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My regrets in the form of "Oh why did I say that?" as opposed to those which appear in the form "Oh why DIDN'T I say that?" Are, I suppose even, and
both feelings are equally bad.

Perhaps your reservation, was his relief? Then again, if you're a genuine fan of someone's, and not simply a person looking to get closer to fame, I say it's never wrong to take advantage of an opprotunity.

Personally, I like getting closer to fame, so I would have "angered Mr. Spock," and had another tally mark to ink in under "OH WHY DID I SAY THAT?"

But of all people to nod at, he is a good one. It was subtle, and as modest as what Mr. Spock himself would surely appreciate.

- L. Fitzgerald

8:12 PM  
Blogger newscoma said...

The only time I ever approached a celebrity was Beau Bridges about twenty years ago when I was living In Montreal and he was up there filming "The Hotel New Hampshire."
Being that I had been overserved that night, I approached him (which I never do) and said the first thing that came to mind.
"Your eyebrow hair is huge," I said with the delicacy of a water buffalo.
He was offended, I was drunk and it was pretty much a fiasco.
Your choice of just relishing the moment with Nimoy's participation was probably a good call.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Joseph William Perry said...

What an enjoyable story. Very fetching and bloglike in the most positive sense of the word. I cannot tell what I would have done. Must be hard to be famous in public.
Now for mine. Once on a Saturday afternoon we went to some obscure theatrical sump'n-r-nother meant to make people aware of sump'n-r-nother that we were supposed to be aware of, while we were standing in the foyer waiting for the doors to open, his honor mayor Phil Bredesen and Andrea were also standing looking just as awkward as we were. Really they were more awkward. There were no assistants standing by them or ushers or anyone. I thought about speaking. After all he was my mayor, and we were both originally from NY state, but I had a vaguely negative feeling toward him because of the stadium deal, and so I didn't speak. After a couple minutes of standing by the door they migrated over into the shadows behind an architectural support. I'm sure if the producers of the play knew they were there they would have made special arrangements.
Anyway, in my case I am regretful that I did not speak. It would have been the respectful and brotherly-loving thing to do.
And you, Rex, you know you should have schmoozed with Leonard. If I'd a known I would'a let you borrow Leslie's copy of "The Way I Feel," an amazing album of cover songs that he released in the sixties, for an autograph.
Oh, and by the way, watch this space for an announcement of a chapter in the misadventures of Henry at his workplace, FzInc, entitled "Henry's Hour of Extreme Inward Anxiety".
A synopsis of the story:
Henry couldn't help but feel he was going to be in trouble and he was right, but the kind of trouble he finally got himself in was far different and more unnerving than he ever imagined possible.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

The entire Bridges family was blessed with an abundance of eyebrow hair, newscoma, and they shouldn't be so thin skinned about it by this point. They could trim it, but methinks they strut about with it for the attention.

I look forward to hearing about Henry, Joe (although he sounds all too familiar already).

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don’t look much like Trekkers...

It's Trekkies, you insensitive clod.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Joe Powell said...

I have a few friends whose admiration and memory for the most minor details of the original Star Trek TV show often frightens me.

However, they informed me that several years ago, the consensus among fans was that they PREFERRED the appelation of "Trekkers" as opposed to "Trekkies."

Jes' sayin'.

11:15 AM  
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