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Kate Mulgrew on the right, apparently, me on the left.
When we arrived at Dublin airport at around 4 am in the morning, we had just been sleeping on the bus for two hours that felt like three minutes. Crawling out of the bus that had picked us up in "weepy" Galway at 1:45 am and brought us to Ireland’s capital, I didn’t even notice that something was not completely right. It was 30 minutes later when I just sipped on my first cappuccino for the day, that I realized that something was missing: my tablet. I had put it in my backback along with a book that had freshly been signed by Kate Mulgrew, my wallet, a power bank and a cable for my phone and the ticket that had granted me access to Kate Mulgrew’s reading the last evening. I re-packed both my hand luggage and my backback, but no, it was now here to be found. My rather new than old tablet had gone missing somewhere between Galway Coach station and Dublin airport and by now I was so tired and exhausted from sitting for three hours at this station waiting for the bus, sleeping for two hours in the bus and now trying to stay awake by inhaling coffee, that I couldn't even remember where I might have lost it. My friend Magda, who was with me, called the Galway Coach station, but no, nobody had turned anything in, nothing had been found. It took me three minutes until the news really hit my system. And then: nothing. I wasn't upset, I wasn't angry, I wasn't sad. I just didn't care. "It's just a thing", I said to my friend while I started to lock the "thing" down on Apple and my phone provider and changed several passwords on apps I had been using with it. Then I drank my coffee and returned to do what I had been doing since Sunday evening, 6 pm: I smiled. Meeting Kate Mulgrew after many years of waiting to meet her had set free enough of endorphines, adrenaline and other nice hormones that made me so happy that I didn’t bother a second about that tablet. Things, I thought, they can be spared easily. Meeting your favorite writer can't. So I smiled, drank my cappuccino and waited for my flight back home at the exact place I had arrived only 46 hours earlier.
When I heard that Kate Mulgrew was about to come to Ireland to read from her latest book "How to forget" and perhaps to sign it after the reading, it didn't take long for me to decide to buy a ticket for this, checking for flights, accommodation, bus and everything else that had to be considered. When her first book "Born with teeth" had been released, she had toured the United States, which was, sadly, far too far away for me, residing in Germany. And I swore to myself and the world, that when her second book was out, I would definitely go, wherever that would be. Sadly, again, when the dates for New York City and New Jersey had been released, it was a back and forth considering my financial situation, and eventually I had to decline.
Ireland was set, though. So, I arrived in a chilly Dublin on Saturday morning, met my friend Magda, we hit the bus and drove off to Galway, an even chillier and surprisingly "weepy" place. My friend had gone to New York City months before and brought me a signed copy of "How to forget", so my plan was to take the signed book, go to Kate and tell her that I am here. Because in the book she had written to me "see you in Ireland".
Finally, Sunday arrived, heavily crying and weeping, it rained cats and dogs. We made our way to the venue by taking a taxi, because nobody should be bothered to walk in such a weather for longer than five seconds. A bit later, at the venue, Kate arrived with her entourage, and I caught a short glimpse of the woman I adore so deeply for her writing. And yes, that's it. Of course I got to know her as Captain Janeway, of course, as a European, this was the first time I ever had heard from her, or seen her. And yes, as a woman who has a very soft spot for fierce female characters on television, I fell in love with the character they had created for that beautiful Star Trek show. Yet, I didn't know that back then. I had been a passionate Trek fan in my teenage years, and I recall that I visited a Star Trek convention once, back in 1998, in Bonn. I had been coming for Gates McFadden, who had to cancel only days earlier, and I found myself sitting in Kate Mulgrew’s panel instead, not being a fan, but watching Voyager at that point. It was interesting, entertaining and funny. But she wasn't Gates McFadden. So I forgot about this, I forgot about Star Trek, too, when I got older, and had turned to the real life and different fan love when I rediscovered my favorite band: Roxette. And yes, I do think that either you have this fan gene or not. Being a fan is an easy love, it's forgiving, it's harmless, it can't hurt you much, because you can never be disappointed. Maybe that's what people is drawing towards admiring famous people, bands, TV shows, franchises. For me it has worked that way every time, at least. Years went by, and I rewatched Voyager, falling in love again with Janeway first and then, taking away all the layers above that, Mulgrew’s incredible acting skills. She could talk without words, she could own a scene just with a look. At the same time, her first book came out and I must be honest here, I didn't expect much. Yet, I was curious and I had to see what that was about. I expected a bit of Voyager behind the scenes talk, of course. A look behind the scenes of her life.
What I didn’t expect was a book so strong that it made me cry while reading. A wording so carefully that it made me shiver, situations described so lovingly, so detailed and yet so raw that it made me cry here and there. I remember reading the part where Kate visited her sister Tessie for the last time before she died and tore me apart. Being a writer myself, even if only as a journalist, I couldn't believe what I held in my hands here. This was a masterpiece. What witty, eloquent, deep writing, a love for words to be found on every page. I indulged in reading this book so much that I was done reading sooner than I was emotionally ready for. How could it be that an actress could write that good? It was a question that kept me awake for some nights and I started to dig in the author herself. I watched interviews, convention panels and read articles and finally understood what a smart woman she was. I guess that was the time when I became a fan of the woman Kate Mulgrew, not her as an actress, not her for being the "Captain", but of her being Kate.
So with that back story I sat in the audience that Sunday evening with approximately 399 other people and listened to the woman speaking, reading, explaining. I had waited for this moment so long - like five years - that I enjoyed every single moment of it. It says a lot when I can't focus on my phone when I tried to record a tiny part. I was so mesmerized, buried and gone that I lost touch with the real world for a while. I couldn't stop looking at this strong, wise and fierce woman who had just delivered her second book, that honestly was even better written than the first one. I haven't even finished reading it, because I just don't want it to end. I couldn't, and I still have around 80 pages to go. I don’t dare to read more than three pages a day, because this would mean that the waiting for her follow-up, apparently a novel, would be even longer.
After a few minutes listening to her I understood that Kate is indeed a very grounded, down to Earth person who is self-assured enough to share painful truths. "You can't have it all", she said at one point, meaning that you have to make sacrifices in life. A wisdom you might not have at the age of 30. And behind this wisdom still lays this tiny bit of sadness that she couldn't make it right for her sons when she shot 16-18 hours each day, that she couldn't make it right for all of her siblings when she wrote that painfully honest second book that deals with the illnesses of her parents. But above that: acceptance of what life can do to you. It is what it is.
I was totally surprised how funny she is on stage and I caught myself saying to my friend that Kate could easily do an hour stand-up program and capture every single person in the audience. She has enough stories to tell for sure and always knows how to turn them into an entertaining, funny one that makes you crack before she hits the punch line.
I loved the way she read from her book, because it wasn't reading. It was telling a story. I saw myself sitting in front of a fire, a drink in my hand, outside silently the snow would fall and Kate would tell me this or that story about her parents, about her childhood or her job. So I did. I closed my eyes when she read from her book and felt a closeness to what she said that I could almost see myself in the exact situation she described. And for me this is the essence of good writing. Take your readers with you on a journey, drag them along if you have to, but never let them out of your sight and watch closely what they are looking at, too. And how. Shift your focus if possible and find the important details in that story. This is what Kate Mulgrew is doing in her books and this night in Galway confirmed what I had suspected all along.
I was a bit anxious if any Star Trek questions would be coming up in the "Ask me" part of the vent, because I think that this evening should be about her writing and her writing only, but I also know that I am bit too harsh on that, too. The questions I had in mind had been asked by the host all along, so I was left with an empty head and wasn't even sure anymore what to say to Kate later at the signing. After all, she didn’t know me, she didn’t know who I was, what her writing did to me, what her books did to me, what feelings and thoughts about her were in my head. And I was so sure that she probably had heard every compliment there is anyway, which would make my words totally meaningless.
We lined up and waited. I made a plan, I dismissed it again, I made another plan, I dismissed that one, too. I hoped she would recognize Magda from New York City, who was in front of me. She didn't. After signing like 350 books and talking to every other person, she must have been tired by the time it was our turn. When I realized that she signed the signed book another time, even though I didn’t want another signature, I realized that I didn’t have much time left until someone would shove me away from the table. So I knelt down and told her my only truth: "The only reason I haven't finished it is that I don't want it to end." She looked up at me, stopped what she was doing and said "Oh, that's." so sweet ”. I remember that I added something like "I really can't wait for your next one" and she thanked me for that. I always feel a bit weird speaking my German accent English in front of people I adore and I admire, but it worked. And when I left the table, I realized that I hadn't said that - I adore you, Kate Mulgrew, for who you are, and I admire you for what you do, how you do it and how tread through life, carefully but decided.
I felt the endorphines kicking in when we left the venue and I knew this state of happiness wouldn't pass so soon. It stayed while we had pizza, it stayed while we sat for more than three hours in very uncomfortable metal chairs on Galway Coach station, it stayed when I passed out in the bus and slept for two hours that had felt like three minutes, and it stayed when I realized that I had lost my very new, not that cheap tablet. Nothing could break me.
And when we went back to the bus to ask the driver if we by any chance had forgotten a tablet on his bus. I didn't care if we had or not. He had just left the bus after a short nap and approached us with two empty bottles in his left hand. He nodded and said, totally unimpressed: “Yes, you have indeed. Let me refill my bottles and I am back soon. “I looked at my friend and shrugged. "Okay, well, why not."
Thank you, Kate Mulgrew, for reminding me, once more, what life is about. And it's certainly not tablets.
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