Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Circle is Now Complete

My name is Merujo, and I am an old school Star Wars geek. (Hello, Merujo!) I started writing this post back on May 14th, but just couldn't finish it.

In May 1977, I was eleven years old. The younger of my two older brothers, EG, had moved back into our parents' house after a disastrous attempt at college and a few years slinging hamburgers at some dive joint in Jersey. He was - and still is - a massive science fiction freak. Now that his health has faded and he's restricted to a life on disability, his science fiction reading is one of the few things that keeps him going. He doesn't feel well enough to sit through most movies now at the theater. Lord of the Rings was very painful for him - too long to sit without putting his feet up. I try to call him once a week. We catch up on "Amazing Race" and "LOST" and talk about dumb shit and whatever odd news stories strike us both as too bizarre to be real.

Back in the day, whenever a new sci-fi movie came out, my brother would be there opening day, hoping it Just Wouldn't Suck. We'd been watching commercials for Star Wars for a couple of weeks before the movie came out. (I still remember that the ad had a snippet of the scene where C-3PO introduces himself and R2 to Luke in the "garage" of the Lars' homestead. I never noticed R2 in the snippet, so, when 3PO says, "And this is R2-D2" and Luke says, "Hello", I kept thinking, "Damn. That's a weird name for a boy.") The movie looked goofy, it was PG, and my brother asked if I wanted to go see it with him. Being a kid without an allowance, I was more than happy to take anyone up on a free movie.

It must have been a 7 p.m. show. Showcase Cinemas. Milan (pronounced MY-lan), Illinois. May 25, 1977. My brother bought me a souvenir program. The theater was packed.

Never before in my life - and never since - have I felt what I felt that first time I saw Star Wars. I missed half the dialogue because of the audience laughter and oohs and ahhs. (But no cell phones - god, I miss that.) I thought the Jedi used "lifesavers". It didn't matter. I was transformed. I babbled to my mother afterward like a lunatic. And the disease spread like wildfire among my friends. We were the smart girls. Right on the verge of junior high school. Elementary school smart girls who had just discovered nirvana on a silver screen. Star Wars became an all-consuming obsession with me, from the early bird action figures to writing letters to all the actors. (I still have my autographed photo of Harrison Ford - it's traveled the world with me - but I no longer display it. The whole mid-life crisis/Lara Flynn Boyle/Calista Flockhart/flying to strip clubs in Ohio thing has tarnished the fantasy.)

I have photographic evidence of my fat kid self hideously stuffed into awful shopping mall iron-on image Star Wars t-shirts with the most wretched haircut ever seen on a human. It's beyond '70's. It's just BAD. My mom let me use poster paint to create huge Star Wars tableaux on our living room window for special days - birthday, Halloween, Christmas. Each time, I'd repaint the whole thing to represent a different scene from the movie. I realize now, she allowed me to make our home look like a cut-rate head shop. Wow, that was massively indulgent. No wonder the neighbors thought we were whacked.

I saw Star Wars 27 times that summer of 1977. I was a geeklet, and it didn't bother me. I had awful hair and wore boy's t-shirts all the time, and I didn't care. My mom was indulgent and bought me a pile of Star Wars toys which I played with endlessly, but lovingly retained all the packaging for each piece. It was the Before Time, when I was happy running around with my friends, brandishing plastic Han Solo blasters and wearing the awful Greedo head Nurse Rachet made. It was a great time. I didn't care so much what people thought of me and what I looked like. Even the bullies who followed me home from school, taunting me and hitting me with sticks and plastic baseball bats (because they knew I couldn't run fast enought to escape them or catch them) couldn't dim my enthusiasm that summer. And I changed then. I became more confident. I was still a geek, but one who carried some special secret inside that Star Wars had given me. It was okay to dream, and to dream big.

Throughout junior high and high school, Star Wars stayed close to my heart. I won tickets over the radio to the champagne premiere of The Empire Strikes Back and thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I sat outside the theater with my friends for the opening day of The Return of the Jedi, all the good kids, the smart kids, skipping school for a 2-hour religious experience. When I went to college, I brought a Star Wars poster with me to blu-tack to the wall in my tiny dorm room. (I also had a Michael Whelan unicorn poster - go figure, I'm a girl, okay? Whelan is my fave science fiction illustrator, even to this day - and I noticed that he's the dude that illustrated most of the Dark Tower books. Yeah!)

More modestly, when I moved to Moscow, I carried a postcard of that same Star Wars poster and affixed it to my refrigerator, next to a photograph of the Sasquatch, the first night I was there. Harrison Ford looked out at my from my bedside table. He got to see me come home really wasted on champagne and vodka more than once, I'm sorry to say.

The highly prized Star Wars Style D One Sheet - aka, "The Circus Poster"
I brought the "Star Wars Poster Monthly" version of this to college - a whole $1.95 worth. Now, I have the genuine article. It's spectacular, and it's real.

When I came back from Moscow years later, I was a bit more careworn and embittered by allowing myself to be taken advantage of by a wretched French fool. I still get angry thinking about it. (And I enjoy mean jokes about the French more than I probably should.) By then, my love affair with Star Wars had faded, but the affection remained. Practicality reigned though, and I ended up selling all my Star Wars stuff - that which wasn't ruined when my mom's sometime household help had a nervous breakdown and poured dog food into all my stuff in storage in the attic, which created a squirrel feeding frenzy - to finance a move to Washington, DC. (When I was a kidlet, I kept telling my mom "My Star Wars stuff is all gonna be worth something someday." Prescient little bastard, eh?)

Now, and for several years now, I regret selling all my Star Wars stuff. And that is how, General Zhivago says to the girl, you came to be lost. I get this angsty feeling that creeps up from my belly about selling off the tangible signs of happiness, and I have to work hard to make it pass. Stupid, but true. I know they were just things. But it was a happy time, despite the bullies and my mom's cancer and my father just not liking me. It was, in the big picture, a happy time.

So, here I am now...

On the news last week, the Sasquatch and I saw a familiar face camped out in front of the rat-tastic Uptown Theater in Northwest DC, waiting for opening day of "Revenge of the Sith" - Carbonite Girl, a woman who was a fellow volunteer with us at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum's "Star Wars: the Magic of Myth" exhibit. She was, to say the least, a wee bit more flamboyant than either the buttondown bigfoot or I could ever be. She clearly had ren-fest blood running in her costumed veins. On the last day the exhibit store was open, she used her volunteer discount to buy a lifesize Han Solo in Carbonite, which she planned to cover in glass and use as a coffee table. For, you know, nothing says "Ummm, these canapes are deeeeelicious!" like eating them off the special-effects-drooling curled lip of Harrison Ford.

Sigh. I will say this, though, she looked perfectly happy on the news and in her geeky skin, and I admire that in her. I envy the Carbonite Girl. Somewhere along the way (was it in college? was it in Moscow?), when I passed through the doorway from the Before Time, I lost that confidence she managed to keep. I stepped into a different place, one where it mattered what people thought of me and what I looked like. One where I realized that being a really fat chick with bad hair and scars meant that I wasn't ever going to be a wife and a mother and a partner. I was in a grown-up place where even the nicest of the nice guys wouldn't choose me if I were the last woman on the planet, and potential employers looked down their noses at me. I'm still in this place, and I so want out. I wish I could find some of the magic again. I really was much better at being a kid than at being an adult. That's for sure.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.

So, here I am now...

Not sure what's going to happen. I wish I had more confidence in the future. Always in motion is the future. Now that a friend has me obsessively reading about another universe, I'm thinking, there are other worlds than these. Hmm. That can be a good thing. And that can be a bad thing. I guess it's just A Thing.

I just pulled my Harrison Ford picture out of the linen closet and dusted off his face. I'm trying to see past the creepy flings and the strip clubs (and that earring, puh-leeze!) and see what made my heart sing for the first time in '77. The photo is autographed. It reads "To Melissa, Best Wishes, Harrison Ford" but his signature actually looks more like "Happyjon Ronz". I'll leave Happyjon Ronz out today and look him in the eye. There are other worlds than these, Happyjon, my boy - maybe one of them holds salvation.

Uncle George, can I ask for one thing, please? It's time for redemption.

I'm asking personally. Selfishly.

Please do not disappoint me. I don't know if I could handle it again. Please don't let this be bad.

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