(Read to the end or skip to the end, there'll be a Kindle treat for anyone who wants it.)
(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW. Just so you know.)
When I showed my son the Star Wars Trilogy for the first time, I expected him to enjoy it. More than that, I wanted him to love it. But I didn't expected I'd get all weepy in front of him. And it wasn't for the usual reason of just sharing it with him. When it got to the end of Return of the Jedi and Vader sacrificed himself for his son, it hit me. Hit me hard. And as my eyes watered with pools that could end the California drought, my four-year-old son looked over at me with a mix of confusion and embarrassment. Then, thankfully, he turned back to the film and rightfully ignored me. Never before had that moment really hit me so hard. And this from a set of films I knew better than anything else.
Because Star Wars changed me as a kid. In ways that have defined who I am, what I am, and how I am. Twenty-some years ago, I saw the movie in a way that would shock and confound most kids. You see, little squirts today can take their ArcLight IMAX THX super-duper eye-bustin', ear-bleedin', comfy-lean back chairs movie experience and shove it right up their Bantha Tracks. Because I witnessed Star Wars in a car, a million parsecs (see what I did there - proudly wrongly, too!) away from the screen with a tin speaker you could barely hear anything out of.
I was probably four when I saw it. Maybe five. It was Nebraska and it could have even been later as we were as close to Tatooine in being as far from the center of the universe as possible and probably got movies later than the rest of the country. But despite viewing this movie in a way that would be like watching it for the first time on a grubby highway gas station men's bathroom mirror today, it was transcendent. It turned me into something else, someone else. It gave me purpose, it gave me guidance, it gave me hope. (A New Hope at that, even though it wasn't "A New Hope" back then. It was just an unEpisode numbered scrawl of prologue.)
And this didn't just happen to me. It happened to tons of kids who saw the film back then and from then on. It provoked a mutation in all of us who had that gene to become something different. I'm not sure how it worked with regular kids, regular boys. Most boys seemed really into football - living in Nebraska that was pretty much as big a religion as religion. But I couldn't tell you a Husker from a busker but I could tell a Bantha from a Jawa and name all the bounty hunters Vader brought for a special pow-wow on his Super Star Destroyer. Hell, I even got excited when my second grade teacher had the same last name as the director of Empire Strikes Back. I mean, what second grader in Nebraska knew that and nearly peed his pants in excitement when he even considered his teacher could be related to the Irvin Kershner?
But loving Star Wars wasn't easy back then. Not like now. Pre-internet, pre-geek days, it was a tough slog. I was an outcast. A nerd. A dork. A neomaxizoondweebie. But I didn't care. That's what happens when you love something so much. It didn't stop me from every Christmas having there be nothing I wanted more than Star Wars stuff. I wanted toys, books, records, everything. I watched the Star Wars Holiday Special when it was on. (And I kinda loved it. At least the Boba Fett cartoon and I couldn't be more happy just to see Han, Luke, and Leia again as you couldn't just watch whatever you wanted back then. It was like living in the Dark Ages but with a bubonic plague of the soul due to the lack of constant media like now.)
One Christmas, I was a turd to my grandma. As a young 8-year-old boy, I really wanted The Empire Strikes Back record. And when I got it from her for Christmas, I pouted and turded it up. Because she got me the wrong one. Back then, you couldn't watch movies anytime you wanted. VCR's were still a little ways off for us to have one and even then there wasn't a ton of movies out. But I lived Star Wars through books and comics and through the albums that told the story in two different ways. One record had really fake actors that made me angry and another album that actually just took the sound from the movies. She didn't get me either of those. She got me the soundtrack. The two-album soundtrack. One of the best scores for anything ever made and she got it for me. At the time, it felt like a lightsaber chopped off my chubby eight-year-old and then carbon froze my heart. But in in the end, it was one of the greatest gifts ever. I listened to that thing on my Fisher-Price record player a billion or two times, each time allowing my imagination to deepen the Star Wars universe in my psyche in a way the story album never could. (Although I got that too eventually, because, come on, I like really loved Star Wars.)
But I grew a little away from Star Wars as I got older. It was also a post-Return of the Jedi world where there was no more Star Wars outside of the occasional Ewok movie. I got into G.I. Joe - those figures arms and legs could bend and swivel! - I constantly went to the movies ("Hey, there, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, and the Goonies, you'll make me happy!"), I got into movie soundtracks and bought nothing but movie soundtracks. (Like all Midwestern boys do.) Then I got into music and went to high school and then college. And considering I went to the same college a certain George Lucas did, it was still clear Star Wars lived on strong in me. It was as much of me as my spleen and a ton more useful.
In college, things changed with Star Wars for me. I was in a dorky writer in the theatre school in a class where students put on their own plays at the end of the semester. Over the previous summer, I had done a Tom Stoppard play called The Fifteen Minute Hamlet so when this class started that was still fresh on my mind while Star Wars was always on my mind. Thus the idea of fusing those two things like my peanut butter in your chocolate was born and that semester, I wrote and directed and Yoda-ed Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes. (I even cast myself as Han Solo for a second until I realized that would have been the worst casting of any casting in any Star Wars thing ever. Which is actually really saying something.) It was just supposed to be a goofy college play. Done three times in front of a few friends and that was it.
But instead, like most things that you don't put too much stock in, it grew. And grew. And grew. From a tiny creaky theatre at USC that burnt down a couple years after we did it, we've done this show all over the world for twenty years now, from Scotland to Skywalker Ranch. So much of the laughs and fun and adventures that I've been on can directly or indirectly be linked to this show. I went to Scotland and had my show performed on the Edinburgh Fringe, year after year. The show's been done in Paris and Los Angeles and at countless Star Wars and other sci-fi conventions. We've done it for George Lucas, Frank Oz, J.J. Abrams, and for so many others that have inspired and influenced me that it feels like some crazy dream.
But in the end, the most important thing it's given me is friends. So many of my closest friends have come from doing that show over the past twenty years. All because I loved Star Wars too much and knew how to hold my hands up by my head and walk on my knees and do a goofy Yoda voice. And I'll use that to teach my kids something important. Something important that contradicts Yoda completely with something Yoda's the most wrong about (and he and Obi-Wan were wrong about a lot of things.)
Yoda said: "Do or do not. There is no try."
But he's wrong. The Try is everything. I get what he's saying. Yoda's kinda being a big dicked football coach imploring Luke to completely believe in what you do or don't do it. But that kind of confidence in everything in an all-or-nothing kind of way doesn't yield success in my eyes. It's taking a chance on things you never knew could be. It's doing something weird just to see what happens. It's trying a new adventure that might end in your complete and total humiliating failure.
Or it could lead to you doing a silly play about Star Wars in front of your heroes and friends and having a 2,500 person audience give you a whooping standing ovation that makes you feel like a rock star.
So, come on... life's all about trying something. Let's go give everything a try.
And forget that little green dude for a moment.
May the Force Be With You Always in this special Star Wars week. See you on the other side.
And for getting all the way down here to the end of the bloggity-blog, my book on Kindle is free as a Life Day present to you or anyone who wants it. Just click on the book cover for below and go McFury crazy! Only for five days, so get it now before it's gone. Or goes back to a truly unreasonable price of $2.99. Please feel free to give it a read and if you like it, please say so on Goodreads, Amazon, and to anyone that will listen.
(And if you don't like the book, please recommend it to your enemies. I'm not particular.)
Thanks again, folks, for giving this a read. Hope you all have a brilliant Force Awakens week!
the T stands for blaster