Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars: The Uber Dad Awakens

     Star Wars rules.  True story, no doubt about it.  The saga of good vs. evil resonates with us all, and I for one have been a fan since the very beginning.  Timeline- May 1977.  A very young blonde haired, green eyed boy fell in love with the story and the characters created by George Lucas.  So much so that I attended showings of the movie upwards of a dozen times.  This was only the beginning.  Since then, every Star Wars movie released peaked my attention, and I had to see it.  Heck, I even thought highly of the dreaded prequel trilogy.  I know Anakin was a whiny petulant child version of the soon to be dark lord, Darth Vader, but I ate this stuff up with a spoon.  Qui-Gon Jinn became one of my favorite Jedi Knights, and don't even get me started on my affinity for Darth Maul or Mace Windu.  So, when the news broke that a brand new Star Wars would be produced by JJ Abrams, this guy was immediately not only intrigued but very excited.  Plus, what made this truly special was that I could share the Star Wars experience with my children.  Sure, Jesse has, of course, seen all the movies up to this point, but has never really experienced what I knew was coming with this latest tale in the Star Wars saga.  Lines around the corner at the local theater, and excitement that every fan of movie making can feel like electricity running through their very body.  Sort of like, lets say, a "Force."  Well, I decided that Jesse and I must experience this firsthand together.  A passing of the proverbial torch or light saber.  I always fancied myself more of a Sith Lord than a Jedi, but if there ever was a person that exemplified all that was good with the world, and was full of light and virtue like a Jedi it would be my son Jesse.  I should mention that my daughter Maddie is, unfortunately, in the 1% of those who could care less about Star Wars so she would not be joining us on our adventure, but her mother will take her to see Alvin and the Chipmunks at a later date.  All of what follows is true, and the hero's journey that my son and I went on to see this movie is epic.  Well, interesting at least.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

     The show started at 2:15 at a local cinema.  It was a bit of a rush job this event, because at the spur of the moment I decided it must be now.  The boy and I will go see the new Star Wars movie, and mobilization will commence.  I had originally intended to take Jesse the week of Christmas, but many unforeseen and unfortunate events prevented this from happening.  Crate training dogs and face pimples....nevermind.  The point is that now was the time, and we would be experiencing the grand spectacle that is Star Wars soon.  Very soon.

     We arrived just in time to see a parking lot full of vehicles.  A parking challenge presented the first obstacle for our heroes.  As far as the eye can see...cars, trucks, vans, even motorcycles.  Nowhere to park, but trust was placed in the fact that eventually by divine intervention if nothing else, a parking spot would open.  Surely this would be the case.  We went round and round so much I felt like I was in an 80s song performed by either Ratt or that odd fellow that was spun round, round like a record baby...round, round.  I digress.  Finally like a beacon of hope a spot was located and taken immediately.  Now a long trek through a busy parking lot began.  At first it was a walk, then a more brisk pace began that eventually broke out into a jog and finally a full blown gallop!  We could feel the excitement beginning to build as we approached the movie theater.  Finally, we arrived at the ticket window, but soon our spirit would be diminished significantly.  It seems that during my quick mobilization I got the time wrong.  Well right time, wrong movie theater.  There was no 2:15 showtime, and my heart sank with sadness.  Was this to be the end of the hero's journey....

     No.  It's not about how hard you hit, but it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  A setback.  Frustrating sure, but not a defining moment.  Keep moving forward or in this case, keep moving to another movie theater or later movie showing time.  I had to enter my own Death Star to accomplish this feat.  The dreaded HWY 280 traffic on a Sunday afternoon had to be conquered to reach the next showing of Star Wars at 2:45.  The Nissan Xterra performed admirably like the Millennium Falcon.  Jesse was Chewbacca to my Han Solo.  He'll love that analogy.  The traffic proved to be thick and hard to handle, but nothing would stop us from the completion of the mission at hand!  Movie we will see...Yes.  We did arrive, and again the parking lot was full, and this time a line was forming around the corner to gain entry to the phenom that is Star Wars!  I began to relax a bit, because we were there in time and it appeared out of the danger zone.  However, it was not over just yet.

     Standing in line we began to hear chatter about the movie being sold out.  Discussions with fellow hopeful movie goers led me to believe that there was a chance we would not get to see the movie after all.  At least not at the time we wanted.  The closer we got to the ticket window the more nervous I became, and one lady and her five children seemed to take an exorbitant amount of time, but we were inching closer and closer.  Finally, we arrived at the window.  2nd in line at the time, and I noticed the slow lady was back standing off to the side looking longingly at me.  I knew what was coming.  A mistake had been made, and she had returned to attempt to fix the issue.  This was concerning for many reasons, but mainly I was distressed due to the amount of time she had taken previously.  The family in front of us buying tickets to Alvin and the Chipmunks were finished, and it was our turn.  However, slow lady was standing there and wanted to step in front of me.  Have you ever had a moment in life when you were thinking something in your head, and by some mystical force you blurted it out.  That was what happened to me in this moment.  In my head I was thinking, "Lady, I understand that you want this fixed, but you have no idea what we have been through to get to this movie, and you better hurry up!"  Yep, that's right the lady asked me, "Do you mind if I step in front of you?" and my response was, "Yes, go ahead, but you better hurry up!"  I couldn't believe the words were coming out of my mouth, but that was how important getting into this movie was for me.  All I could think of was that now this lady was going to get the last ticket to Star Wars, and my son and I would be left out.  NOOOOOOO!  Luckily, the lady did as I asked and "HURRIED UP!"  I did apologize to her for my rudeness, but there are no rules in Star Wars fandom.  True to my Sith heart I used anger to assist in my ultimate goal.  Well, not really, but I probably shouldn't have told the nice lady to hurry up.  Out of character, but it is what it is.  The silver lining to this was that we got our tickets to the movie!!  The dark storm cloud part was that the popcorn line was so long we did not have time to purchase the delicious buttery salt laden delicacy.  Which distressed my son extremely.

     The movie theater itself was packed.  For a moment I thought we would have to take some of the neck breaking seats in the front.  You know the ones where you have to look straight up to see the movie, and you get an old school "crick" in your neck.  It reminded me of going to see Silence of the Lambs in 1991 for the Midnight show with some friends, and having to sit on the front row and look straight up at Hannibal Lecter eating a liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.  Cue slurping sound.  We got pretty good seats, and outside of the absence of popcorn we were ready to go!  Ready, except for the two hours of coming attractions.  The previews that preceded the showing of Star Wars were absolutely ridiculous. They weren't even good previews.  However, this is Capitalism, and I like Capitalism.  The more selling one can do the better I suppose, but it provided an unwanted irritant for those of us chomping at the bit to see the real attraction - Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  Although I could have bought some popcorn during all those previews, I suppose, I didn't, much to the dismay of my sole male heir.  I have to say when I heard that glorious John Williams score begin and saw that familiar beginning, I was moved.  I looked over at my son, and felt really good.  That's what this entire day is all about.

     It was a very nostalgically moving experience overall.  No doubt about it.  JJ Abrams definitely gave a huge shout out to the original Star Wars and made it appealing to the aficionado of the series, but also made it entertaining enough for the novice in the ways of the force.  Sitting there with my son, and being able to share something with him that I enjoyed so much as a child was priceless.  Star Wars can be considered one of those special American institutions that so many people can share and relate to, and it truly bridges the generation gap.  I remember very well watching Star Wars when I was Jesse's age (it would have been Return of the Jedi by that point) and sitting there with him watching the latest installment was special.  I hope that some day he will get to do the same with his children.  May the force be with you, always.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Garbage Can Lids to Xbox: What a difference a generation makes

     Back in the day stuff was different.  The truth in this statement cannot be underestimated.  Today, my son and daughter have a plethora of toys and electronics to amuse themselves with, but back in my day....well things got interesting and downright dangerous at times.  Things have changed.  To take this idea further I'm going to employ an old fashioned compare and contrast format to show exactly how different things actually were back in my formative years.  Quite possibly an argument could be made that my generation was the last of a truly wild bunch.  It's a wonder we all survived, and while I'm sure there are children today that survive much like we did, it has definitely become a rarity.  That being said, I am extremely happy that my son is not wrecking dirt bikes or smoking marlboro lights.  That's a good thing.

     Jesse plays Call of Duty Black Ops.  We played Call of Duty Duck and Cover.  Rocks and Garbage can lids.  The garbage can lid was used as a shield against the thrown rock.  These weren't the rubber or plastic garbage can lids either, they were the straight up metal variety that made a fantastic sound when struck by a large projectile.  We played war with these weapons on a vacant lot of an unfinished house a street over from good ole Bessie Ave.  Ground zero for this type of stuff.  Jesse plays and spends time in a place called the "field."  Back in my day we spent our time at a place called the "Desert," and we would frequent an area known in local lore as the "Swamp."  Differences aplenty, and one can easily see that my generation took the idea of rough around the edges to a different level.

     Jesse and Maddie ride bicycles, but I attempted to emulate Evel Kneivel on my bike.  I jumped ditches, embankments, concrete blocks, and once I even jumped a tombstone.  That's right we hung out in the cemetery.  I grew up about 150 yards from a cemetery.  Some of my people were buried there too.  We played games in the old boneyard, and had fun doing it.  I can't imagine young Jesse doing that, but Maddie may be up for it.  She loves scary stuff so that probably wouldn't bother her.  Once upon a time, yours truly, bought a Ouija board and took a group of would be paranormal investigators up to the old cemetery at midnight on a hot, dark and gloomy Alabama summer night right after a nice July rain.  The damp conditions provided a bit of a fog, and the Ghost Hunters and I set out to conjure up some hijinks from the spirit world.  We were pretty stupid, and fueled by the vigor of youth and probably a different kind of beast (Milwaukee's Best Light.)  We got a good scare out of the adventure, but that was about it.  No spirits were awakened or harmed with the Ouija board experiment, and since then I don't really put much stock in those things.  Mind over matter really.  I don't pay them any mind, so they don't matter.

     Jesse is almost thirteen years of age, and to compare my son at 13 to me at the same age is fascinating.  At 13 I was riding dirt bikes in the aforementioned "desert," and climbing the infamous Ramada Inn Hill.  No way in the world that I could imagine Jesse doing the same.  He plays XBOX, but I barely was able to capture the Princess on old school Mario Bros. original Nintendo version.  I had only recently graduated from the Atari 2600.  Jesse can work all kinds of computers, PC or MAC it doesn't matter.  I, on the other hand, could not for the life of me figure out the Commodore 64, but I was hell on a Honda XR 100.

     My hairstyle of choice was the mullet.  Business in the front and party in the back.  How you doin?  Jesse has the Bama Bangs or Swoosh style, and to be honest it is basically in reverse of the old school mullet.  Party in the front, business in the back.  So what does it all mean?  My hypothesis contends that everything old is truly new again, but sometimes it is in reverse.  Makes sense to me in an odd confusing sort of way, but probably the actual reason for the hairstyles of choice in any generation is that "chicks dig it."  True story.  Or at least that is the belief of the red blooded American Male in their formative years.

     Things sure are different these days.  We rode in the back of pick up trucks, drank water straight from the garden hose in the back yard, went to schools that were built with cancer causing asbestos as an ingredient, and never heard of SPF 100.  I walked for miles with a fishing pole in my hand to go fishing in a creek, and after completion of my fishing business I went swimming in the same creek.  My children go to the pool, which is cool, but something special can be said about getting that creek mud between your toes on a hot summer day.  The feeling of nostalgic places and things provides comfort, and I even tried to argue that the 1980s were better than today in a blog a couple years ago.  I was trolled, heck I thought a troll lived under a bridge, but internet trolls are a completely different animal.  This "troll" said the following to my the 80s are better argument:  "There was no internet in the 80s...end of thread." I could make the same argument in opposition to the 19th century, "No antibiotics in the 1880s...end of thread."  In some respects I agree with the troll, but we still had fun.  Technology and science have provided an exciting time for my children to live in, and I look forward to what comes next.  Our ways may be archaic by today's standard, but fun was had by all I can assure you.  It's a wonder we survived.

It is a fun exercise to compare the childhood experience form different generations, and while I am happy that my children are coming of age in a time of much wonder and promise in the world there are concerns.  The only terrorist activity back in the day that I can remember involved eggs being thrown at houses, and the only guns that one had to be concerned about normally were attached to a guy who rolled his sleeves up a little too far.  The children of today have quite a bit to deal with on a regular basis, and for the most part it looks like they're doing a fine job overall.  That being said, while I could smoke my kids in a belly buster contest up at the lake they may be more well adjusted to things that really matter.  Maybe?  The truth will be revealed at a later date.  I've got faith in the youth of America!