1977: The Year My Life Was Changed

In May of 1977, I had been a teenager for all of five months. I’d like to say I was one of the coolest kids out there, but I was, just as any other thirteen year old boy a complete and total dweeb. I wasn’t sure if girls or toys were the most important thing. Staying in my room, or going outside to ride my bike were my most difficult choices. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood; I lived in an up and coming new neighborhood with kids all around me, who were there to play and help me get into mischief.

One day, my mom took me to the theater to see a new movie which had just come out; Star Wars. Up until this time, Star Trek reruns, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Planet of the Apes movies had been the sum total of my science fiction experience and honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect with this new movie. She dropped me off at the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon to meet friends, telling me she’d be back later to pick us up.

With snacks in hand, I went in and found my seat. Things were simpler back then, the chairs were cooshie, but they did not lean back, well they kind of rocked a little, maybe a couple inches; just enough for the kid who couldn’t sit still to be able to work off his or her sugar rush from the Juju Beans and soda. As the lights went dark, I don’t remember if there were any movie trailers or it went straight into the movie, but I do remember the John Williams opening fanfare and thinking, “Hey, this is different!”

As the music played, the opening crawl came across the screen, and as I read it I remember thinking this could be cool. I’d never seen a movie start like this and the words simultaneously had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and got me excited to see what this world of Star Wars had to offer.

What happened next totally blew me away. The Tantive IV, Princess Leia’s ship came into view from the top of the screen. I remember thinking, “Man, that’s huge!” But following right after was the Imperial Star Destroyer, and it seemed to take a full minute of screen time for this behemoth to pass into view. I can honestly say it was at this point, less than five minutes into the film, George Lucas had me completely and totally hooked.

It is a moment in my life I will never forget. If you were a fan of the television series That 70’s Show, watching Eric Forman see Star Wars for the first time is exactly what it was like for me. (Click picture to see clip)

My memories of the original three movies all come from my teenage years; age 13, Star Wars, age 16, The Empire Strikes Back and age 18, The Return of the Jedi. Many years later after my children were born, it brought me much joy when I was able to introduce them to this series when George Lucas re-released the original films with added footage on the big screen before making the prequel episodes, and yes I do like the character Jar Jar Binks!

Here I am forty-two years later, and my love for this franchise has only deepened and become more expensive. My office is what most would call a shrine to the god of Star Wars, but I call it surrounding myself with things which bring about some of the best memories I have. And as a writer surrounding myself with creative things helps me to create. (At this point my wife will say I’m justifying my purchases).

The past forty plus years have seen a lot of changes in Star Wars, and I love them all, and yes, even the Star Wars Holiday Special. With the new Disney+ television show The Mandalorian being the first of many Star Wars television shows to be made, not to mention all of the animated series and new movies on the horizon, you could say I will be enjoying Star Wars even with my grandchildren; the first of whom is scheduled to arrive next April.

But if you happen to be looking for me on December 18th and 19th, leave a message on my phone, because you’ll find me sitting in an AMC movie theater experiencing all nine movies in a row. Twenty-four hours of Star Wars bliss for me, and very little sleep. Star Wars Marathon here I come!

For the Kingdom and the King, May the force be with you!

I Was Bullied For Liking Star Wars

 
I was on a mission trip in the Philippines for the past 2 weeks and while there we traveled to the island of Marinduque. As I sat on the beach I scanned the horizon and saw this building. 

I immediately thought it looked like the little droid BB8 from the new Star Wars movies and quickly snapped a picture anxious to share it on a Star Wars fan site on Facebook that I follow. 


I pointed it out to my wife and friend Linda and explained what I saw. I was met with the typical response I usually get from my wife and friends; disinterest. Not because they are mean, it’s just they aren’t Star Wars fans like me. So their reaction to what I had found wasn’t surprising or upsetting to me, I’m actually used to this from people who just casually watch these movies.


When we got back to the hotel and WiFi, I eagerly posted my picture with the caption “Only Star Wars Fans Will See It” and waited for my fellow fans to enjoy what I was sharing. I checked my post a little while later and found that most of the people who had posted didn’t see what I saw. I thought that was odd, but kept going back to see what others were saying about my picture.


I was shocked to say the least, when I saw mean things being posted about me in the comments section. Several people were downright ugly about it, calling my fandom into question. I’ve been a fan since 1977 and a big one at that. To be told I shouldn’t share anything, and maybe rethink being a fan because obviously I wasn’t, was very hurtful.

I haven’t been the victim of bullying since I was in Junior High, (I’m 55 now) but it hurt, and quite a bit. Now as I said, I’ve grown accustom to my wife and friends shrugging their shoulders when I talk about Star Wars, but this was a fan site with tens of thousands of fans of the franchise. To say I was not expecting to be vilified was an understatement. It actually felt like I’d taken a punch to the gut.


As I sat there stunned into silence, I didn’t know exactly what to do. I mean these were supposed to be people like me; fans of the most awesome sci-fi story ever told. And yet, I felt as if I were an outcast, a nobody, someone who just didn’t belong. I posted about how I felt, and that it was uncalled for to treat a fellow fan this way, saying goodbye and unfollowing that account. It was better for me if I just didn’t see what anyone else said; good or bad at this point, because my feelings were hurt.

Later, as I was waiting to speak to a group of students, I was telling my wife and Linda about how I had gotten an idea of what I was going to talk about because of the way I was treated about the picture, they laughed. I had to explain, with tears in my eyes about how much it had hurt me to have been bullied like that. I told them, I was used to people who didn’t like the franchise as much as me acting as if it didn’t matter, but to have been so excited to share my love of Star Wars with other Star Wars fans and then be shot down like that was devastating.

I’m sure this is nothing to other people, but to me it was a difficult day to say the least. I know bullying happens every day, I’m sure at some point in my life I’ve even probably been seen as the bully. All I know is it was hurtful and there was no reason for people to say the things they had said. Like my mother always taught me, “If you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything at all.” This hasn’t hurt my love of Star Wars, there is nothing that will ever change that, it has been too important to me for too long, but I will always remember the day I was ridiculed by other fans and bullied and will do my best to never be like that to anyone, because it doesn’t feel good.

If you have been the victim of bullying and don’t know who to talk to, click this link https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/who-to-call there is someone there who will help you out. And if you love something, don’t let anyone ever tell you how you are supposed to feel about that, if you love it, then love it with all your heart.

For the Kingdom, and the King!


I’m The Old Guy Who Loves Star Wars

Since 1977 I have loved Star Wars and everything involving that galaxy far, far away. Like many young men of that time period, I was able to identify with Luke Skywalker in his desire to get away from the farm. Granted I didn’t live on a farm, although I did stay with my grandparents one summer and was tasked with feeding the chickens, stupid animals and I hated it almost as much as Luke probably hated tending moisture vaporaters. I could relate with his desire to do something to change the world he lived in, even though when the opportunity arose he was a little hesitant to go with ObiWan Kenobi.

Even though I could identify with Luke, I really wanted to be Han Solo; the scruffy looking nerf herder, who despite his crusty exterior really had a heart of gold. I remember thinking the first time I saw the Millennium Falcon how it was the coolest space ship I had ever seen, and I would have given anything to been able to go aboard her; something which is going to become a reality in a few years when Disney World opens Star Wars land…and yes, it is on my bucket list.

I was sixteen when I saw Empire Strikes Back, and at the time drove a 1962 Plymouth Valiant with push button transmission. That car would go 55 miles per hour if there was a strong tail wind and going downhill. I can’t count how many times I said, “It isn’t my fault!” to my friends as we drove around Muskogee in my own hunk of junk.

Spoiler alert: I remember how shocked I was when Darth Vader revealed who he really was to Luke after defeating him in a light saber battle. There was an audible gasp throughout the theater as we all felt the horror of Luke’s lineage with him. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the only one to say, “That’s not true. That’s impossible!” I remember it took days and a couple of more trips to the movie theater to actually begin to accept the truth that Darth Vader was Luke’s father.

The thing about Star Wars I really like is the good vs. evil aspect in the story telling. George Lucas (the creator in case you didn’t know who he is) didn’t really write anything new or even especially creative; he took themes from the stories we already knew and just gave them some new window dressing. But man, what cool window dressing it is. Add to this a mystical energy field which surrounds everything and binds the universe together along with laser swords and blasters, how could you not like these movies?

One of the greatest things I have been able to do in my adult life was take my children to the theater to see these movies on the big screen. Much like when I was younger, my kids love this incredible universe given to us by Mr. Lucas. Leading a new generation into the ways of the force is really the only responsible thing any adult can do. After all what better way to teach right and wrong, good and evil and doing the right thing even if you’re a bit of a scoundrel?

As an original fan from the very beginning, let me encourage you to pick up a copy of the movies if you’ve never seen them and binge watch them over the weekend. You’ll be glad you did. And for those of you who are fans and have been, maybe it’s time to get them back out and watch them again. It’s just a thought.

May the force be with you.

 

Mabookies On Parade

The picture may not be the best quality picture; after all I used my Redneck photo copier to take it, i.e. I took a picture of a picture using my phone, but it is one of my favorite memories from a time long ago. The three people pictured in this photo are me and my friends Terry and Angel, and was taken 16 years ago while on a mission trip in the Philippines. I added the words “Mabookies On Parade” and had it printed for the three or us. We often referred to it as our “album cover” even though we never recorded any music.

The term “mabookie” came from the remastered version of A New Hope (Star Wars episode 4 which is the first movie, but the fourth in the franchise). In it, Jabba the Hutt referred to Han Solo as mabookie and the subtitles defined the term as “my boy”. Terry and I adopted this phrase and began calling each other by this nickname and it took on a life of it’s own. Later we added Angel to the group; even though she’s a girl she was our mabookie too.

One of the reasons I love this picture is because it reminds me of all the laughs we had together. I know you can’t tell from the picture, after all we were making an album cover at the time and were going for the serious artist pose. But when the three of us got together, there was laughter galore.

It probably helped that we were kindred spirits and had the same quirky sense of humor. There have been very few people on this planet who “get me” but these two did and my life is so much better because of them. I believe if every person on this planet had two friends like these the world would be a better place. I’m truly blessed to have been a part of this cadre of fun loving people.

Terry died a few months ago, taking our trio down to a duo, and while it’s been hard with him gone, Angel and I had the opportunity the other night to get together and watch our favorite movie So I Married An Axe Murderer together. It was so nice to have her there with my family; eating, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It was just like old times and I hadn’t realized how much I missed the good times we all had together.

And as I sit here writing this and looking at this picture I can’t help but thank God He brought these two people into my life so many years ago. They truly have helped to make me a better man, and the laughter they brought into my life I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Thank you Terry and Angel for all you’ve done for me; mabookies for eternity.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Art Linkletter used to have a television show where he’d put children in front of a camera and then ask them questions. The show was a great hit because the kid’s answers were always hilarious. Yoda said it best in “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”.

Children really do say some of the darndest things. I loved the answers these kids would give Mr. Linkletter and often wondered how they came to their conclusions. One little boy when asked, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” replied he would be an Octopus. When asked why, he said, “So I could grab all the bullies in my school and hit them with my testicles.”

We had our own version of this with my youngest son Noah. He was always saying something which would have us on the floor laughing. I remember one day he told his mother, “Thank God I’m not an Indian!” Alarmed at his racist remark and wondering where it came from, Cheryl asked him why. “Because they take their shirts off and lay on top of each other.” Confused at first, she then remembered we had all been watching “Dances with Wolves” the night before and Kevin Costner’s character did marry a girl and in the consummation scene they did take off their shirts and lay on top of each other. I still laugh every time I see this scene in the movie.

Raymond Reddington; played by James Spader in the remarkable television show “The Blacklist” said in this week’s episode,

Picasso said it took four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. They live in a delightful space somewhere between dreams and reality. They taste color, hear shapes, see sounds. We should all have such special needs.”

This is a great way to describe children; they have this ability to not be bothered by the mundane things we adults are bogged down with. They awake to a newness of life every day and enter into it without any preconceived notions of what the day is going to hold. They do not worry about things like bills, where their next meal is going to come from or any of the things we as adults do. Probably the biggest thing they concern themselves with is what are they going to play with first.

Somewhere along the line however kids end up taking on the cares of this life. They begin to be burdened with things they should never have to endure. And I’m afraid it comes from the adults around them. We don’t encourage children to think outside of the box, instead we try to place them inside with us. We stifle creativity and try to replace it with productivity.

I’m reminded of another movie, “Uncle Buck”; in it Buck, played by funny man John Candy, has to meet with his niece Maisy’s Assistant Principle. He is told by Miss Hogarth that Maisy is a twiddler, a dreamer, a silly heart and she doesn’t take her academic career seriously. His reply is awesome, he says to her,

I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids…until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good.”

And this is what we as adults do to children; we try to convince them to live their lives like us; little adults instead of letting them be kids. Kids need to say the darndest things and we need to encourage them to be twiddlers, dreamers and silly hearts. I think it would make the world a better place if we did.

What Will You Do?

“What will you do when they catch you?”

“What will you do if they catch you?”

“What will you do if they break you?”

These three questions are lines from the upcoming Star Wars movie Rogue One; due out in December. (I am so excited!) But this morning as I was contemplating some things at work, they came to mind. In life sometimes there are things which happen outside of our control, and it is what we do when presented with these challenges that make or break us.

Each and every day we are presented with challenges; either at home, work, with our friends; no one is immune. Problems are like wolves chasing us down; we all have to deal with them eventually. But the situations we face aren’t really the problem, they are common to us all. The real struggle for each of us is how we deal with the problems when they show up; do we fly off the handle and go ballistic; looking like a fool, or do we passively just take it, only to gripe about the situation later to our loved ones? This is where the real battle lies; in how we deal with them.

“What will you do when they catch you?”

” What will you do if they catch you?”

“What will you do if they break you?”

Troubles are coming for you, do you have a plan to deal with them when they arrive? I must admit I usually don’t and end up regretting the responses I make when I’m presented with a challenge. I think one of the reasons I have such a hard time with this is because they mess up my routine. And who among us wants our routine to be upset? Humans are creatures of habit and when something interferes with that, it upsets the apple cart so to speak.

We have to work on being able to step outside of ourselves when these moments come and look at them objectively. For instance, I know at work when given the opportunity to add some more to my workload, it is not because my boss has decided to hurt me. On the contrary, it is because there is a situation which needs to be handled, and he has come to me because he knows I can get it done. Of course sometimes it takes me a minute to remind myself of this and make sure I keep my attitude in check.

These wolves which are nipping at our heels do their best to catch us and eventually break us; this is their job and they are good at it. What we have to do is stay one step ahead of them. And doing this requires the ability to keep a good, positive attitude when you can feel them breathing down your neck. 

As loud as they are yapping, you’ve got to be louder in voicing your positive attitude to yourself. And it can be hard, because a lot of times the other voices around you aren’t so positive and it can feel as if you are fighting a battle on two fronts.

The one thing I know, but have to remind my self daily, is I have what it takes, there is more to me than meets the eye and I am destined to do great things. Regardless of what any other voice is trying to tell me, these things I know are true for me and they are true for you as well. You just have to believe them and remind yourself daily.

So if these problems of life catch me, I’ll just not let them break me, because I’m better than that and so are you!