Friday, October 28, 2011

My Halloween Story, pt. 2 (With apologies to Jean Shepard)

(Hi, if the following entry from "The Tide" appears to not make sense or feels like you've walked into a story right in the middle, you have. This is part two of my attempt to rip of Gene Shepard. Enjoy!)  

Finally darkness fell and after my father checked through the motel window, he proudly proclaimed the “haunting hour had arrived.” Finally! This was the cue to finally don the Barry Cooper brand TM Penguin costume that I was destined to wear this season.
I surveyed myself in the mirror and my young mind had built up this image of Burgess Meredith from the TV show saying his trademark, ”Wak! Wak! Wak!” I figured the purple pin stripes would kind of snap against the fake tux jacket printed on the top. It did have that stupid Penguin logo (See previous post for my frustration). I carefully placed the plastic mask with monocle on my young face.

Instead of seeing one of the Batman’s most formidable foes from his rogue’s gallery, I saw this bright vinyl jumpsuit with this creepy dead face staring back at me. My heart fell. I was not the smooth criminal I had planned to be.
My mother was so prepared she made the boy scouts look like pikers. She must have anticipated this so she had a little surprise for me. A real umbrella! Ohmigod! How could I have missed such an important detail? Everyone knows the umbrella is the go to tool in the Penguin’s arsenal!   As she handed it to me mom whispered in my ear, “It’s not the costume but the attitude behind it.”
          With renewed vigor, I was ready for bear. I prepared to march out of Room 213 and straight into that Harvest Pageant. I truly felt like I was the Penguin and even began to practice my  “Wak!Wak!Wak!”  just like the TV show. Robby, excuse me, The Penguin, was ready for his close up.
          My father opened the motel door in act of over exaggeration like he was my faithful manservant. He bowed deeply as I marched out the door. Silly parent, Penguin doesn’t have a butler. That business is for Bruce Wayne. Penguin is a Super Villain and has henchmen to hold his doors. I honestly felt ten feet tall and bullet proof at that moment.
The Big Guy never fully grasped my vison of what his role was that night...

          I stood on the motel balcony expecting my parents to follow suit. Instead of obedient henchmen, I viewed my parents staring back at me as if they were waiting for me to do something grand. The Big Guy had a smile like he was a secret agent who had just completed his most dangerous mission yet. My mother’s composure was pleasant but I could see some cracks forming as if she was nervous about something. It was like my mom could see five minutes into the future and was contemplating conflict resolution.
          Fear began to creep in, My idiot parents were holding me back from this great Fall Gala Pageant going on downstairs. I should already be in that ballroom with the beautiful people hobnobbing. Also my level of self awareness changed, suddenly, I morphed from smooth criminal to idiot wearing a vinyl pants suit.
          To make matters worse, I began to collect an entourage along the hotel balcony. I was not prepared for this type of audience and my composure began to wither. It’s hard to look the same criminal mastermind who corrupts Gotham City when Ma and Pa Kettle semi-retired from Sarasota, FL are cheering you on.
          My father’s throat clearing  broke the uncomfortable silence that was building. The puzzled look on the Big Guy’s face silently signaled my mother to begin damage control. A sickly feeling began to rise in the pit of  my stomach.
          There was no Fall Festival Gala and Ball for me to attend! My parents, in their guilt, were trying to substitute trick-or-treating the neighborhood by merely knocking on our motel door! Tears were choked back as I slowly realized that the impending  crime spree would be limited to one small haul courtesy of an eager father.

          At that same moment, I suddenly understood why adults curse when they are upset. As much as I wanted to yell this word that I have heard  my grandfather and dad say on numerous occasions, I knew better  so I quietly thought it to myself.
Like the defeated soldier I had become in this conflict of candy, I knew I had to keep my chin up and to accept what happens next or suffer the rage of a spurned father. My future did not hold any candy bars, full size or mini, no old ladies asking me who I was, or a bursting pail of candy that I could spend hours separating into “keepers” or “traders” with my pals. Every piece of candy I’d receive was on the other side of this dingy, gray motel room door. I took a deep breath, let out a little sigh, and knocked with very little heart in it due to overwhelming embarrassment.
My entourage of onlookers clapped as if I’d done something astonishing
 “Geez people, I just knocked on a stupid door.” I said softly to myself.
The Big Guy opened the door with mock astonishment like he
had forgotten that he’d sent his firstborn out on a motel balcony only to gather a crowd of perfect strangers which seems to go against only several parental rules that had been beaten into my head since Mrs. Robert’s kindergarten class.
          “Can I help you, fine sir?”
          My inner dialogue was going a mile a minute.
I began thinking, “OK, I’ll play along but I am not going to give you the “A” level performance that I am worthy of.”
“Trick or Treat.” I almost mumbled.
“Sorry, sir, but I can’t quite make that out. I’m an old man and my hearing just ain’t what it used to be. Can you repeat that but please make sure that I truly understand what you want. Loudly?”
The Big Guy was apparently really getting into the role of Astonished-Trick- or-Treatee #1.  Yeah for me….
I resigned myself to play along and get this over with much like going limp on the playground when Andrea Muller used to chase me to kiss me. Maybe Dad will lose interest just like Andrea. Not bloody likely.
I bellowed out my response with such mock enthusiasm and a smile that I was shocked when I didn’t get corrected. I guess the dead look on the Penguin mask was useful after all.
More applause. Geez, Louise, haven’t these people heard of cable?
Like I had said the secret password, the Big Guy ushered me in and presented with an orange jack-o-lantern that was pretty hefty from the amount of candy.

My Mind raced and I thought, “OK, this was not so bad. “
As if on some sort of cue, my Mom turned on the TV and said, “Isn’t it time for your favorite TV show? “
“Show what show?”  I thought. Like a ton of bricks, it hit me because I was so absorbed in my quest for candy, I had forgotten about what was about to come on ABC. For a brief period, The Six Million Dollar Man was on every Friday night at 9pm until garnered high ratings and was moved to Sundays. How could I had forgotten? A little candy over an episode of Lee Majors thwarting Soviet spies might just save my evening.
Before Star Wars, this was my first pop culture obsession.

As I look back at this night, I can’t even remember one single piece of candy that I ate. Did I eat a Snickers or a Milky Way? No clue. The funny thing that in all my greed to get candy, I only remember one little detail.
As I sat on the edge of the double occupancy bed that I’d be sharing with my faithful sleeping companion, Pluto, the Big Guy joined me. Dreaming in a world where I had my own bionic powers, I barely noticed it when my dad dropped a toy into my lap.
“I forgot this,” said the Big Guy.

I looked down at my own Official Batman’s The Penguin Sky Diving Parachutist—now with realistic floating action. I’d been wanting one of these. I had mentioned this a few times when I saw it at Ryall’s Bakery which Mom and I visited sometimes when we went to pick Dad up from the library where he was the Asst. Director.  The parachute was purple and this really cool umbrella sticking of it. Not too shabby. Maybe this night was not a total loss.
Mom said it was too late for me to throw it tonight but I could get a few practice tries before leaving for Rock City in the morning. I began to think of new and exciting ways the Penguin could enter into his impending crime spree on Chattanooga. Didn’t Rock City have this huge cliff called Lover’s Leap? Ideas began to percolate until the Big Guy put a kibosh on that (though he did admit it’d probably be pretty cool).
All in all, it was a pretty decent trip. In retrospect, I know the Big Guy was just trying to make some family memories for us. I am much older now and can see we are cut from the same cloth. Basically, we are big kids, over eager as adults, trying to share this crazy world with our kids. We both have the gift of tunnel vision in order to create those amazing family memories which are long and vast.
I find myself chuckling at my own actions when I begin to get my feelings hurt because something didn’t go as planned. While I am not that same little guy who went to Tennessee to see some giant rocks, I also find myself sometimes building things up way too much in my head. I refer to it as “doing a Griswold.”
Swear to God, I am trying to not become this guy...

These days I go out of my way to restrain my imagination/expectations which have root in seven year old Robby while trying to balance out my new found Alpha Male role now that I am the “Big Guy”.
I also remind myself that while I have forty plus years of experience, I can still be outsmarted on occasion just like on a those rare occasions when I pulled over  the Big Guy. I am a firm believer in that no one wins them all and on occasions it the ball swings the other way. Here’s why.
Many of these tourist traps were notorious for figuring out ways to get free ad space in a world before the internet. In every parking lot of these tourist destinations, there was always a guy whose job was to place bumper stickers or other advertising paraphernalia on the parked cars while the families were none the wiser.  Rock City was notorious for this and even has a special metal bumper sign that was held in place with some special screws. Of course, there was a way around this. The park visitor merely had to place their visor in the down position as if to say,”Thanks, but no thanks. “
It goes without saying which camp my father came from. He felt that between parking and admission prices that there was no way in hell, he’d be a part of advertising those rip off artists for free. The whole trip up he kept going on about reminding him to pull the visor down.  I thought it’d be kind of cool like a badge of honor displaying the scenic vista the Richardsons had visited. Once again, little Robby’s opinion was taken under advisement but not followed.
After pulling down the Gran Torino’s front visor, the Richardsons were ready to experience Rock City with all its greatness. As we made our way to the gates, I realized I had forgotten my gum. Gum to a seven year old boy is a necessary component of survival. Mom gave me the keys once I promised to double check that I’d lock up. The Big Guy interjected that we didn’t need” to get robbed. “
My young mind wanted to retort with what an amazing haul those bandits would receive. Their loot would consist of a worn out eight track of Glen Campbell and a snack bag filled with mealy apples and red hots. Banner day for the criminal world. I opted to keep my mouth shut and go get my gum.
This was crack to me as a kid. It squirts when you bite it!

After shoving two pieces of spearmint Freshen Up in my mouth I somehow got transfixed on the windshield.  A devious thought crept into my mind. I know the Big Guy tried to make up for last night but somehow I still felt slighted and I still wanted justice. My conscience was torn but I knew what I had to do.
After spending a full day shoving through the Fatman’s Squeeze, crossing rope bridges, and the Fairy Tale Village which was way creepier than it should have been, we returned to find the Gran Torino had received the full family value treatment: Two bumper stickers on the rear bumper and the dreaded metal sign on the front. It appeared the Rock City Parking Lot Attendant was a few steps ahead of the Big Guy. Score!
The Richardson wagon train home was uneventful and not that painfully drawn out. The hardest part was stifling the huge laugh I had as the Big Guy ranted from Tennessee well into the Milledgeville city limits. I also learned some new words that I couldn’t wait to drop on the playground well out of the teacher’s ear shot.
My return to Northside Elementary was quietly as my friends filled me in their Halloween evening. It was OK but apparently I did not miss anything grand. I even got cool points with my new Penguin parachute toy and for a while was the leader of the pack. At least I was until Keith Wray went back to the 7-11 and bought more Six Million Dollar Man trading cards.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Halloween Story, part one

Yesterday, I spoke of my love of Halloween and how I am getting into the idea of it all again through the love of my new family. The following is a one of my Halloween stories that I relayed to Kim while cooking our Sunday morning pancakes and she couldn’t stop laughing. Frankly, I never realized how humorous it was until I looked back at this with 43 year old eyes. I have to admit that some parts still frustrate me from my youth.
          To open like a Simpsons flashback, the year was 1976 and was all jamming to Elton John back when we thought he was just a straight man with flashy clothes and dreaming about the American Bicentennial. I was a bright eyed, precocious seven year old that was getting excited about Halloween coming up with all my second grade buddies.
How could have not known? Really?

See earlier in the week, Chuck Carey had talked about how the Woolworth’s had been putting out the Halloween costumes and we should all get some that matched. Well, we loved watching Superfriends so we decided on a meta-hero theme. 
          Sweet, I was all set because I had my old Superman costume from last year and I could recycle that one. Bonus! Dad won’t complain about spending money because “back in my day we made our costumes and our fun. Why can’t you just go as a ghost or a hobo?” 
          The other bonus was that Superman was the informal head of the Justice league therefore, leader of the Superfriends. It looked like I’d get my first taste of real power.  This was primed to be the best Halloween ever.
Yep, that was going to me in the center.

          Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. It began when our little group was on the playground and attempting to delegate their assigned roles for the upcoming trick-or-treat-fest. I was prepared to step and be the strong leader this group needed but was somehow outflanked by Keith Wray who had sneakily, planned ahead and brought Six Million Dollar Man trading cards as “gifts” to those who’d support his quest for power.  Keith was our Superman.

          Somehow I the roles were assigned and I still made out pretty good. Chuck Carey was Green Arrow, David Carnish would be the Flash, and I got Batman. It wasn’t Supes but it is still top tier. Now the issue was to convince Mom and Dad to get a new costume.
          A few tears and an impassioned speech about honoring a commitments and I was in the gran torino headed to Woolworth’s at Hatcher Square Mall in beautiful downtown Milledgeville. There was only problem. By the time, we got to the store, they were all out of the Ben Cooper made Batman costume. It was thin pickings at this point. I started to suggest going to another store but my mom had that look that all moms get when they are debating if they’d still have their looks once their sentence was served for the mysterious death of their persnickety child who couldn’t decide on an item purchase. You know what I speak of.
          I went with the Penguin from Batman. At last I was still in the DC meta hero realm. Besides, every hero needs a foil so I’d be heading up the Legion of Doom or maybe the Society of Injustice. I could make this work.
          Enter conflict number two. A bout a week later, we were eating dinner when my father makes an exciting announcement. We are going on a trip!
“Sweet”, I thought to myself. “I enjoy visiting new places and collecting postcards.”
My father grinned because he was so proud of himself, the old man could hardly contain himself. “Next weekend, your mother and I are taking to you to visit one of America’s greatest land marks, Rock City.”
“I can’t next weekend. It’s Halloween and we are trick or treating together as the Superfriends. “I said thinking this would easily resolve the matter. I had not learned my father’s tenacity at sharing great American landmarks as of yet.
Say it with me, you know what comes next. My father replied they endgame to every parent conversation regarding friends versus family events.
“You can hang out with your friends anytime. This is time we need to spend together as a family.”
“But it’s Halloween!” I pleaded.
“Son, we haven’t forgotten. We have made special arrangements for that.” My father countered.
Special arrangements, I thought. Ok, maybe this could work out. Maybe we are going to a special haunted house or there is some sort of catered event occurring where we’re staying that makes sure all kids stuck with their crummy parents will get Halloween candy. The good stuff too. It will be all candy bars and popcorn balls plus none of that black and orange candy that has no real taste except sweet.
I knew I had no real chance of debating my point. When the big guy laid out cash for something, we always “had to honor those commitments. “  Off to Chattanooga, Tennessee we went.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Rock City is truly one of America’s landmark but only in the back roads of America sense. Basically, it’s a giant rock garden advertised by a series of barns proclaiming, “See Rock City.”

Black light makes history come alive!

The place was created by the same guy who created mini golf and made a mint selling franchises until the bottom fell out in ’29 with the rise of the great Depression. Using a piece of string, his wife had mapped out a rock garden on a strip of unused property and decorated with lawn gnomes/fairy tale characters. Poof! You’ve got a tourist trap, people. Combine that with some Civil War battlefields, and some museums and you’ve got the makings for a traditional Richardson family vacation.
Gnomes and moonshine make for a fun family getaway.....
Elves, bowling & moonshine. What the hell was my father thinking?

I don’t know why the big guy decided to pick that weekend of all the weekends to go on a family road trip. He never worked weekends. I asked my mom about this and she shrugged her shoulders and just said that my dad was famous getting a bug in his bonnet to go do something spontaneous. Hmm, can’ relate to that one. I guess my dad loved history so much that he really wanted to impart on my what an interesting are of the world we resided in. Whatever, it worked. I teach High School history and force my adopted family to stop and read those same signs in an attempt to impart that same love.
Halloween fell on a Friday that year and it was the longest day in school ever. It was even worse that the day before summer vacation. Eventually, the Richardsons began their trek in their’69 Gran Torino to the beautiful state of Tennessee. I was disappointed that I was not getting to be part of the SuperFriends but I never let on to Keith Wray and that crowd. I even went so far as to make a big deal about this special Halloween event my family was invited to up in the mountains so it was with a heavy heart that I’d to decline the Superfriends cordial invitation for admission.
The whole ride up made me a bundle of nerves. The Big Guy, in his academic brilliance, decided to map out our trek to Chattanooga via the same trial as General Sherman’s March to the Sea but only in reverse. This had to be such a major conflict of interests because, in addition to loving any chance to impart about history (which for the record, he was very good at); the Big Guy loved to make good time. I tried to use this as a point of order to hurry up and get to this Fall Fest. It fell on deaf ears as my mother pointed out to me that both of those possible routes were indeed almost the same. I clicked on my seatbelt and knew we were in for a long drive.
I remember stopping at this one. It's near Macon.
Many mile markers and a few rest stops later, the Richardsons pulled in to the Days Inn just down the road fro Lookout Mountain, TN. I excitedly surveyed the scene for any sign of a Halloween party or Fall Festival. No orange or black crepe paper decorated the scene. The office did have scarecrow on the window. Maybe everything was in the hotel’s convention room just like I had seen on TV.
I imagined myself casually strolling into the party dressed with a regal swagger as the Penguin. Hey, he wore tops and tails, shouldn’t I act the part and be the smooth criminal that deep down I knew I was?
The other kids dressed like ghosts and hobos would turn their hands and move aside as I marched up with a casual determination to the well stocked treat table full of cupcakes and candy bars. Red solo cup of Hi-C in hand, I’d make small talk with the girls dressed in the Holly Hobby and Raggedy Ann costumes. These same girls would giggle as I’d say clever things like, “I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.” I had no idea what that actually meant but I know it was something a classy guy would say at a party.
Oh yeah, that's me with the eye patch....

As Mom and dad unpacked, I plagued them with questions like. “When are going?” and “How much longer?” topped my lists. My mother kept trying to hush me told me numerous times that good things come to those who wait. This always frustrated me because this was the opposite how she’d wake me up with that “Early bird gets the worm” bit. Looking back, I realize that my mom was trying to keep the Big Guy in check rather than actually soothe my impatience. After one too many questions from yours truly, the Big Guy had enough and let out his famous Alpha male roar. This was my cue to be reminded that I was pack follower and not pack leader. I sat down in the corner in an attempt to be quiet.
To be Concluded Tomorrow........

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All I Got Was a Rock....

It’s funny how Halloween creeps up and I always surprise myself by realizing, out of the blue, how much I dig this holiday. It’s like I forget each year then all of the sudden, I remember right around the end of September. For the past few years, I’ve gotten out of the rhythm of the holiday but thanks to two very energetic kids, I am back in the swing of things.
It should not be a surprise to me but I find it interesting just how much Halloween has changed since I was a kid way back in the seventies. This Fall Festival crap irritates me. There is nothing demonic about Halloween. It’s just an excuse to get candy and pretend to be someone else. And pretend I have but that’s later.

Remember these? At least the costumes have improved since we were kids. It was always an exciting trip down to Woolworth’s to pick out the selection for that year. I don’t know why I got so excited. The mask was hard to breathe through and my tongue would get caught in the mouth slit. That damn elastic band would always break. The suit was basically a vinyl jumpsuit designed to hold in sweat so by the end of the night, I was drenched.
To add insult to injury, all of those old costumes would have the character’s name printed somewhere on the chest with a cheesy logo. This always irked me for some reason. I have a big red “S” on my chest who could I be? Nixon? I’ve got black mouse ears with silk screened red shorts and buttons? I must be Daffy Duck. I don’t walk around town with an action scene painted on my chest under a big stenciled “ROBBY,” so why would the Six Million Dollar Man? My dad said it was to help out the stupid kids but in retrospect I think he was dodging the question.
While some of the social restraints are a bit silly, at least the costumes have improved. Some are even worthy of being on the silver screen or Broadway. Veronica’s Vampire Queen is down-right chilling how gothic it’s turned out. Jude is going as Han Solo and his costume looks like a tiny Harrison Ford dropped it off in the closet.
I am going as Chewbacca and I am very excited. At first I thought it was because of the whole “kids” thing but that’s only part of it. It’s actually a little more selfish than that. For the first time in several years, I am excited about Halloween because I have somewhere to go and someone to be with. Three some ones to be exact and it’s given me renewed sense of purpose.
Right when I got to be too old for Halloween, Mary came along and we used to make her costumes. I had forgotten how much fun I used to have making stuff for her amusement. Last Saturday, I spent most of it building a holster for Jude’s blaster. I loved every minute of it. As soon as I am done typing this, I start work on my Chewbacca bandolier. I had forgotten how creative I can be when I get started and I thank Kim and the kids for kick starting me. This part of me has been dormant for way too long.
So what’s next? Kim told me about a gingerbread house contest at the Westin for the holidays and I keep getting a vision of a Popcorn ball boulder chasing gingerbread Indiana Jones through an Aztec Burial chamber of licorice.  Just keeps getting interesting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

And Then There Was Two....

            Thirty three years ago today, my life took his first major change. My little sister, Mary was born. I remember it very clearly. First of al,l I was irritated that I had to go to school. I figured the birth of one’s baby sis counts as some sort of snow day. My parents disagreed. So I had to tough it out at Westside Elementary.
 It was the longest day of my fifth grade career. All day long, I’d try to focus on my lessons but all I could do was daydream about whether I’d have a little brother or sister waiting for me when the 3 o’ clock bell rang. I tore out of Mrs. Klein’s classroom as fast as I could all the while avoiding hall monitors who’d try to slow me down. I finally wove my way outside to the line where kids go picked up at and saw my grandparents’ Ford LTD.
Over the years, I have made a point to remember certain details about special moments in my life and fortunately my 10 year old memory knew to hold on to this one. Grandma and Pop got out of their land cruiser with a big smile on their faces. My arms were spread out wide in a hurry up sort of motion and I said words that have never left me,
” Well, what do I got?” Pop began laughing in his famous low country chortle. Grandma, on the other hand, never lost composure.
 “Robby, you have a lovely little sister.”
A little sister, I thought. Well, I can deal with that. And off to Abraham Baldwin Hospital we went to finally meet.
This was taken the Sunday following Mary's birth. It's our first picture together.
I hate to admit this but my first glimpse of Mary was a tad underwhelming. In reflection this is probably the beginning of my long held notion that babies are boring. I can remember how proud I was to be a big brother as I looked at that tiny little thing wrapped in a pink blanket. There was also this really fat baby in the crib next to her named Carnegie. He was over 12 pounds. As I stood there, I stared intently at my new little sister and waited for something to happen. Nothing. As we walked off to go check in on Mom, I recall thinking that I hope that things pick up because this was boring as hell.
This has always been my favorite pic of us together. Even at 9 mos, Mary had that devilish smile we all recognize.

Be careful what you wish for. Mary, did indeed, get more interesting. Mary was my permanent sidekick when we were kids and soon became my partner in crime as we entered our young adult years. Sure, we had some knock down drag out fights from time to time along with some quarrels of amazing proportion. When it’s all said and done, she was always by my side. I never really understood just what it meant for someone to have my back until Mary came along. I know many amazing, gifted, and talented people in my life but Mary will always be my favorite person.
Christmas 1983

             Sometimes I hate the fact she lives up in Connecuit with her awesome fiancĂ©e, Christine.
Then I remind myself that she has now a grown woman with her own life and responsibilities. Mom
and I often comment on cool it is that Mary has followed in Dad’s footsteps as a librarian. Sometimes
I even catch myself drifting off  when she goes on about some library details and I have to laugh
because it’s just like listening to our father go on. Then I think of the horror of what would it be like if
Dad was still alive and the two of them going on and on about libraries over dinner. I laugh silently to

I miss my sister on a daily basis. Even though we always joke about the dangers of the both of us living in the same zip code, I dream about it often.
It might be many years from now as I picture Kim, the kids, and myself having everyone over for a dinner. Aunt Mary and her lovely wife, Christine shows up only to be whisked away by Veronica who loves to confide in her two much-cooler-than-us-aunts. Mom and Stuart show up a little late but in plenty of time to sit down as the hilarity begins with the usual quips from me and Mary. This goes on until we go too far which is about the time Mom drop s the hammer on me to behave. Amazing how a 40ish something man can be still be intimidated by a 5’3” woman with a cane.
After dinner, the kids take off to destroy the evil Empire with a little Lego Star Wars action while Mom and Stuart hit the road before it gets too late. This leaves the Christine and Kim left to have to endure Mary and I while we go on about this, that, and the other along with  throwing out so many inside jokes that we should come with our own index. Glasses are emptied and filled while the conversation runs deep. Mary and I have always loved discussion in depth topics philosophical or historical and now we are joined by our lovely spouses who are both two smart cookies in their own right.
The evening wraps up and I have my arm around Kim as we watch the other two Richardson drive off to their very nearby home. Dishes are to be done and passed out kids must be put bed. End daydream.
What do I got? An amazing sister who I am very lucky to have not just as a sibling but also a friend. Happy Birthday, Roo. I love and miss you very much.
You can dress 'em up, ........

Monday, October 17, 2011

I’ve written many times about my fascination with Star Wars. I assure you that I while I do love this movie, I can also speak intelligently about other non-related geek subjects. Historically, I have chalked it up to being one of my guilty little pleasures. Lately, I’ve come to believe it may have some deeper roots than pure escapism.
      Star Wars was the launching post that got me into being obsessed with pop culture. As a result of being fascinated by the characters, I began to look at other work they had done which led me to look at other good movies and so on. As a kid, I’d glean magazines in the super market to find anything new or interesting that I didn’t already know about Star Wars. I was just interested in the story. How they made it appealed to my nine year old mind. This would lead me to being amazed with the art of special effects.

There was a magazine that I have never really given any real credit to. If Star Wars was the father to my love of movies then Starlog is the quiet stepfather in the background. To this day, I clearly remember picking up issue number 8 in the Big Star magazine rack while my mom was shopping for groceries. The back of it had an ad for Don Post Horror mask--now with Star Wars. The Vader mask excited me and I began to fantasize about ruling the galaxy with my dark evil overlord might (or as much evil might as a nine year old can conjure up. Suck that, Obi-Wan) this caught my eye and I began to flip through the pages. There was a small story about Star Wars but so much more that I enjoyed including an interview with the guys who made the dinosaurs on Land of the Lost. Sold!

            Because of that magazine, I discovered all these classic sci-fi movies like The Time Machine, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Forbidden Planet. Starlog was probably required reading up until my freshman year at YHC when it got to be too difficult to track down issues and I couldn’t afford the subscription. All of these amazing new facts began to pop into my young mind and slowly I was realizing that I was fascinated not just by movies but also how they were made. At dinner, I’d share about how Lucas came up with the idea to name Indiana Jones after his dog, how stop motion would lead into the development of Go-motion, and how new civilizations terrain could be illustrated by merely painting on to a pane of glass and projecting the movie around it., To this day, part of the fun of movie watching is figuring out what techniques were used as well as the acting and story development.

         The real treat would be when I could glean some new item about the Star Wars universe. I’d memorize this new nugget of knowledge for later use and go along my merry way. All of this always prompted the same response from my father:
“What can you possibly use this information for in your future? What good is that going to do?”
            My dad was generally supportive in most of my creative endeavors but he honestly did not understand my growing obsession for Star Wars and other movies. Looking back I realize he just wanted to help form a well-rounded kid but this always bugged me. We had shared a love of Bugs Bunny cartoons when I was younger and spent much time laughing and discussing the finer points of the Road-Runner-will-he-ever-get-caught-by-the-Coyote-argument. It made no sense to me that we couldn’t do the same about Star Wars.

I have the C3PO & R2 as a poster hanging in my bathroom

         It wasn’t just a movie as much as a pop culture phenomena. It was one of the first items that I can remember that the merchandising was inundated into our lives. I begged for us to dine at Burger King to get the glasses and even the posters. (Most of which are still on display in my house as I type). All of the books and comics slowly grew into my collection. And the toys…
            God oh mighty, those were the most amazing toys made. The landspeeder had these hidden wheels to give the illusion of gliding over the ground. The detail on the characters must have been straight from the costume design sheets, even the faces never really looked like them. The included weapons were pretty impressive though way too small to keep up with. The light sabers would even extend from a switch hidden in the arms. I still have these little treasures of youth and plan to share them with Jude and Ronnie one day. Can’t wait for them to see my Death Star playset.  
Best. Toy. Ever.

           With all of this stuff hovering around me as a kid, it’s no wonder that I still a bit obsessed with this movie. My old buddy, Jeff Doke and I were talking about this and he shared a term with me that might literally change the way I see things.
            Jeff explained that his dad looked at Star Wars much like mine and even went so far as to call it a “load of bunk.” As disheartening as that was for Jeff, he still wanted the same thing I wanted from my Dad which was a buddy to share all this with. The more I talk to fans; I find this to be the case for them too. Looking back, nobody realized the social impact that Lucas’s space opera trilogy had on us.
            Doke went on to say that it’s his belief that these movies had such an impact that we shouldn’t be considered a part of Generation X. In truth, we are Generation Lucas because the social impact. Frankly, I kind of like this more than being a Gen Xer.
            A few weeks back, I received a text from Kim that was marked important. As I read it, I realized that Jude was asking some questions. To say Jude likes Star Wars is a bit of an understatement and he hangs out and talks the SW talk with his 2nd grade buddies. His buddy Oswald, is a self proclaimed expert but frankly, I have no idea what sort of expert because so far he has tried to convince Jude that Yoda has a twin brother named Yogurt and an older brother named Yacht. Its one thing to be wrong but quite another in my book to continue to be wrong and try pass yourself off as an expert. I am not a fan of Oswald and his fucked up school of  Star-Warsology.

The text question from Jude was, “Who taught Qui-Gonn Jinn to be a Jedi?” I quickly texted back that Qui-Gonn was taught by Dooku and became one of the greatest Jedi lightsaber duelist of all time which made his death at the hands of Darth Maul even more tragic.  As I looked at all this info that I had shared, I began to shake my head in embarrassment. I am a 43 year old man acting like a nerdy kid. This bit of information took up space that should have gone to Algebra or something useful. Why do I know these things?
            This morning Ronnie, Jude and I were playing my X-box with the Lego SW saga and having a blast. While we played they assaulted me with technical questions. How did they make the taun-tauns work? What’s a bantha? Kim even asked how they made the noises for the lightsabers. And I am rattling out answers left and right. Furthermore, I love it because I can see the kids getting that same faraway look in their eyes that I had at that age. I may be little but if I use my mind, I can create anything with what I have around me.
            Have I spent too much of my life obsessing like a 43 year old man child on a badly acted sci-fi movie that is nearly 30 years old? Probably. Do I waste my money on silly items based on that movie because I trying relive my youth? Probably.
            I wish my Dad was still alive for so many reasons but now I have another one now. I now honestly believe that I learned all this stuff not so much for my own enjoyment but that someday a seven year old boy would want to understand just what exactly does that Corrrellian Blood Stripe mean that is on Han Solo’s pants and why Dooku was trained by Yoda. He has those answers because a nerdy little boy took the time to learn this, grew up, ands loves bonding with his new partner in crime and in the process looks like the coolest guy in the world to that seven year old. That’s why.