Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weekend Assignment: The Trip of a Lifetime (if only!)


Some people travel hundreds of miles (in extreme cases, thousands of miles)  to see a concert by a favorite performer, or to meet their favorite writers at a convention, or to attend some other kind of public appearance by someone they especially admire. Other people don't even bother to go downtown to take advantage of such an opportunity. How far would you go to meet one or more of your favorite writers, actors, musicians, comedians or other artists, and to attend a performance by him or her or them?
Extra Credit: What is the farthest you have ever gone in a similar situation?
Let me start to answer this with a quote from a 2005 BBC promo for Doctor Who:
The Doctor: Do you want to come with me? 'Cause if you do then I should warn you, you're gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past; aliens from the future; the day the Earth died in a ball of flame; it won't be quiet, it won't be safe, and it won't be calm. But I'll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime.
Okay, so I'm never going to travel by TARDIS with the Doctor, except through the media of television, books and the imagination. But there's a "trip of a lifetime" opportunity coming up in November. It involves the Doctor, and real life travel. It's very much the sort of trip I used to make back in the early 1990s, but even more adventurous. Unfortunately, it looks as though I can't go. I'm having trouble accepting that.


The cast and crew of Doctor Who are going to be filming part of the 2011 season opener in Utah in mid-November. Utah is just one state away from Arizona. It's a place I've never been, and have wanted to visit since at least 1986. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Alex Kingston are expected to be filming in the Utah desert for about five days, about 600 miles away from me.

My all-time favorite show has never filmed a scene in this hemisphere before, aside from a few Second Unit plate shots in New York City several years ago with no cast present. For them to suddenly be almost in reach of my eyes and my camera is driving me nuts! Heck, fans in parts of Wales get to see them filming fairly often, but for American fans, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It's driving me crazy that I can't do anything about it.

What's the problem? Money, of course. I'm back down to one part-time job, supplemented by the dregs of my unemployment claim from 2008-9 because working for a church that doesn't pay SUI means I don't qualify for a new claim. John is working overtime, sometimes seven days a week, trying to get his work done and make up for my lack of income. He quite reasonably believes that it would be foolish and unfair of me to take off for Utah, spending money we can't really afford on gas and most likely a rental car, even if I promise to sleep in the car and live on peanut butter sandwiches. He's probably right, but John, I really, really, really want to go!

Quantum Leap filming on the Universal lot, 1992.

It wasn't always like this. Back in 1990 through 1993, I used to drive the 500 miles or so to the Los Angeles area a couple times a year, indulging my Quantum Leap and Doctor Who habits. I think there were two years in which the Gallifrey One and Quantum Leap conventions were the same weekend, and my friends and I scrambled to attend both. Other times we drove to Universal Studios and managed to talk to people in the production office, interviewing writers, actors, producers or directors, or some combination thereof. On one of our last Leap trips, my car's transmission died forever north of Palm Springs. I sold the Capri to a junkyard and we flew off to Los Angeles, where we watched filming on the Universal lot, and interviewed Scott Bakula for the first and only time. Oh, and I lost our return airline tickets and hard to borrow money to buy more. It was a heck of a weekend, but absolutely worth it.

on location in Norco, August 1990
The first of our Quantum Leap adventures, August 1990

It's easier to do things like that when you have a full time job to help pay for it, an understanding boss to give you the time off, and a couple of like-minded friends to share the costs. The situation is different now. Back then, I had Teresa and Tracy and D.C. with me, and sometimes John. For a while there on the mid-1990s, John was making enough money from Cornerstone that we used to make his own trips to Los Angeles, mostly to visit Japanese bookstores. John and I also drove out to see Paul McCartney at the Forum, and Ringo's all-star band in Newport Beach. One year we went to a Beatlefest, which was held at the same downtown hotel that served as the backdrop for the Moonlighting series opener.

Nowadays, sad to say, Ringo and Paul could be performing together in Phoenix, with every band I ever liked as opening acts, and I probably wouldn't know about it, much less make the two hour drive up for it. I've already seen most of the rock acts I care about, and don't really want to hear Paul perform again with his voice ruined by age and a lifetime of Twist and Shouting. Even if I did, though, I can't do it. We thought $17.50 or $19 per ticket was outrageous when we sat behind the stage for The Who circa 1982. We certainly don't have hundreds of dollars to spend now on a major concert.

But for Doctor Who, now, that's different. Whenever I can, which is about half the time overall but less often now than in the glory days, I at least try to get to Los Angeles for the Gallifrey One convention, to meet and listen to the people who made or are still making my all-time favorite show.

And I sure wish I were going to Utah.


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