My Star Wars Experience

I’ve been sick most of the week.  While I was working from home one of the days, I messaged my boss with the idea that the whole department should go and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a team building excursion.  He thought it a great idea, and bought 20 tickets for today’s 11AM showing.

As I write this, it’s been hours since I watched the movie.  I’m still buzzing.  I need to talk about Star Wars, and let out some of these emotions.

I’m not going to go into spoilers.  I’m not going to talk about the plot, or give anything away.  I’m mostly going to talk about what Star Wars means to me, and how I felt about the latest installment.

I can remember seeing the original Star Wars, a little bit.  I think it was in a drive-in, and as young as I was, I slept through parts of it.  The only thing I really remember is that I thought the stormtroopers were scary.

Later, I saw Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the theater.  I remember those experiences well.  I remember playing with the toys, and wanting to be Luke Skywalker.  When I was young, I honestly didn’t have a lot of respect for Han Solo.  He was the guy that was in it for the money.  Luke’s ambitions were more noble.

I eventually became a huge Star Wars fan.  The seeds were planted in my youth, which grew into a greater and greater appreciation over time.  In my mid twenties, my interest reached its pique.  That’s when I started playing on Star Wars MUSH.  I stayed active there for most of a decade.  I spent years developing my writing by collaborating in Star Wars fan fiction.

I remained a steady fan until The Phantom Menace.  I went in with all of the excitement.  Honestly, I enjoyed the movie, because my enthusiasm overrode my critical thinking.  I remember leaving the theater smiling, with only a shadow of disappointment in what I’d just watched.

At this point, I could start tearing the prequels apart.  I won’t, this time.  I will just say that as a huge fan, and someone that brings a lot of forgiveness to the movies, the prequels exhausted me.  My passion for Star Wars diminished.  I starting describing myself as someone that used to be a Star Wars fan.

When I heard that Disney was going to make Episode VII, I suppressed my hope.  When I heard that J.J. Abrams was going to direct it, I became apprehensive.  I thought the new Star Trek movies were fun, but in my opinion, they weren’t true to the spirit of the originals.  Did I really want J.J. giving Star Wars the same treatment, and splattering it with lens flares?

As the opening drew closer and closer, I stayed as far away from spoilers as I could.  I only watched the first trailer.  I avoided articles and YouTube videos that talked about the upcoming movie.  I wanted to go in with fresh eyes, and try to enjoy the movie on its own merits.

To be honest, I may have done too good a job stamping down my hope.  Several friends kept commenting about counting down the date, and I kept finding myself surprised at how close it was getting.  I didn’t keep a countdown.  I put the movie out of my mind, and the release date snuck up on me.

The day finally arrived.  I went with my coworkers.  We found decent seats.  And for the first time in a long time, I watched a Star Wars movie for the first time.

When I realized that what I was watching was an actual Star Wars movie, I grew a little teary eyed.  This was the kind of experience I’d hoped for with the prequels.  This was a movie that felt like Star Wars.  A movie that fit with the stories that had inspired me.  This new Star Wars movie did not demand justification or apologies from me.

The movie finished, and I sat still for several moments, satisfied.  Then I got up and went back to work, my head buzzing with what I’d just seen.

The Force Awakens was not flawless.  I think it should have ended about 5 minutes sooner than it did.  But it did made me feel something I hadn’t felt in over twenty years.  It was not a perfect movie, but it was a Star Wars movie.  And I can’t wait to see it again.


The Gig at Camden Springs

My writing has stalled.  The last few weeks, I’ve been busier with band than I’ve been since High School.  We put on a successful Pancake Breakfast with Santa this weekend, and the concert band had an outstanding concert at the church where we’ve been practicing.  We’ve had some great successes, and my time has been well spent.

But the event that made it all worth it took place last night, at the Camden Springs retirement home in Elk Grove.

Normally, RC Swing practices on Tuesday nights, but last night, we went to Camden Springs and performed.  We set up in a foyer, cramped together tighter than normal.  We kept the tiled area in front of us clear, in case the residents wanted to dance.  On the other side of the small dance floor sat several sofas in a semi circle.  A balcony stood above us, allowing more residents to look down and listen to us play.

As we set up our equipment, people came to watch, eager for our performance.  One man approached me.  He used a walker, and his hands were painfully twisted with arthritis.  He told me he played bass.  I knew that our bass player was going to be late, so I invited him to join us, without really giving it much thought.

His name was Ed, and he did great!  When Geno, our regular bass player arrived in the middle of the first set, Geno took a seat and enjoyed the show.  Ed wound up playing both sets with us, and had a blast doing it.

He wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the show.  People told us, with tears in their eyes, how the music we played took them back.  One man talked to me after the performance about his time playing coronet with the British Army.  Another woman told us how it was a perfect end to her 81st birthday.

This is why we play music.  To touch lives, and make people happy for a little while.

My hope is that someday, my writing will touch people’s lives the way my music did Tuesday evening.  Even if it’s just one person, like Ed on the bass.  It’s that kind of joy that makes all the difference in the world.