WHEN I FIRST met Leonard Goldsmith, he was decked out in a blue science officer's uniform of the type Spock used to wear on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
This, of course, would hardly be noteworthy if Goldsmith actually was a Vulcan science officer on the Enterprise.
But in actuality, he's a dentist in Dundalk, with an office off Merritt Boulevard that offers a sweeping view of ... well, not of distant planets or approaching Romulan warships, but the parking lot near the Giant.
The reason for my visit to his office was this: Goldsmith, a trim, cheerful 52-year-old, is the only dentist I know of whose treatment room is a shrine to the old Star Trek TV series.
Captivated by the show since its debut in 1966, Goldsmith, a bona fide Trekkie, decided three months ago it was time to share his accumulated memorabilia with his patients.
The result was ... well, when I say you gotta see this place, I mean you gotta see this place.
In the hallway leading to the treatment room are life-sized cardboard cut-outs of Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock, as well as a picture of Goldsmith and his wife Anita - who, by the way, thinks he's nuts with this Star Trek fixation - being "beamed up" in the Enterprise's transporter room.
From the dental chair itself, patients look out on walls adorned with all sorts of phasers and tricorders, Star Trek posters and pictures, alien swords, a display case of all the insignias worn on the show, a Star Trek throw rug, even a Tribble, which was some kind of hairy little alien pet or something.
Goldsmith even has the last picture that actor DeForest Kelley (who played the perpetually harried Dr. "Bones" McCoy) signed before he beamed up to the great beyond.
And he has a photo display of the first joint appearance at a Star Trek convention of William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban, which, to Trekkies, is the equivalent of Moses and Muhammad appearing on the same stage.
Displaying the memorabilia, Goldsmith thought, might help put his patients at ease and provide them with a visual distraction while he poked and prodded inside their mouths.
"It's bad enough you gotta come to the dentist," says Goldsmith. "Let's make it fun."
If you want to see Leonard Goldsmith turn a nifty shade of red, though, all you have to do is ask how much he paid for certain items in his collection.
The tricorder, for instance, set him back a cool $2,200.
The Starfleet Phaser I cost him 900 bucks.
Both were bought when Goldsmith and his wife Anita went to Las Vegas and took in the Starship Experience, a sprawling interactive exhibit that has attained must-see status with Trekkies.
Goldsmith says that although Anita wanted to leave after 20 minutes, she was nice enough to hang out for five hours. "I was in heaven," he said, smiling.
Also, since Goldsmith had won five grand playing craps in the casinos, plunking down three grand for a couple of Star Trek toys did not become the, um, marital issue it could have become.
Then there is the personal slide collection of the show's creator, the legendary Gene Roddenberry, which Goldsmith bought not long ago on eBay.
Not even if you tortured him, it seems, would Goldsmith tell how much he spent for the collection, which also included a cool bonus: Roddenberry's credit card imprint and signature.
But to hear his longtime assistant, Lynn Posey, tell it, what Goldsmith paid for the slides was hefty. It makes what he paid for the tricorder and phaser look like pocket change.
"I could send my son to Curley for what he paid for that," said Posey, referring to Archbishop Curley High School, not far away.(At this point, we should probably clear up one thing. The good doctor does not actually treat patients in that science officer get-up I was telling you about. He was wearing that strictly for my benefit.(And let me say this: When you walk into a dentist's office first thing in the morning and are greeted by someone dressed as a science officer on the starship Enterprise, it does tend to jolt you awake. It's better than a big cup of joe from 7-Eleven, I'll tell you that.)
Browsing through the memorabilia in Goldsmith's treatment room, it seems like only yesterday that Star Trek was on the air, although the show was actually canceled way back in 1968, after just 78 episodes.
"I was horrified when they took it off," Goldsmith says. So horrified that when Sony came out with its first crude version of the Betamax recorders in the '70s, Goldsmith bought one and taped all 78 episodes of the show, then appearing as reruns.
And get this: He says he still watches them - at least once a day! This obsession also spurred him to attend some of those ubiquitous Star Trek conventions, which began sprouting up not long after the show's demise.
"The first convention I went to was at the Hilton downtown," Goldsmith recalled. "Anita didn't want me to go. I was all dressed up" - yes, as a science officer - "and she thought I'd be stupid."
But the experience, said Goldsmith, was liberating.
"I felt connected," he said. "Here's all these people, and they're just like me - obsessed."
Thus far, Goldsmith says, his Star Trek treatment room has been a big hit with his patients.
Any negative reaction at all? I ask.
"Well, one negative reaction: my wife," says Goldsmith, chuckling. After a pause, he added: "And my mother-in-law."
Anita Goldsmith, in fact, came in for a checkup not long ago.
Gazing around at all the Star Trek stuff adorning the treatment room, the mother of Leonard Goldsmith's three children said simply: "Kids, there's your car."
Everyone agreed it was a great line.
Maybe even great enough to keep Goldsmith off eBay for a while.
Know someone with an interesting story to tell? Other than your Uncle Floyd who plays "Camptown Races" with spoons? Call me at 410-332-6009. Or e-mail email@example.com.