Jaws Was Never My Scene, and I Don't Like Star Wars
It was Simmons.
"What's goin' on, man?"
"I've got some Donald Duck, dude. Wanna go see Star Wars for a buck at Leohman's ?"
"Go see...wait...Donald Duck?" I said.
"It's blotter, dude. I got some..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know what it is," I said. I had never done acid before, but I knew the lexicon. Just needed some context. "Umm...Star Wars? I thought they were showing 2001: A Space Oddysey."
"No, dude, Star fuckin' Wars! Huh huh huh. C'mon, let's go! My mom'll drive." Star Wars had come out three years prior.
"Nah, dude," I demurred, "I gotta wash the fuckin' van today. I can't get out of it."
"All right, loser. Have fun," he said. Later."
I walked the yellow receiver back to the kitchen, untangling fifteen feet of boinging spiral cord from the basement stairs, and clacked it onto the wall, averting my eyes from Mom's scrutiny.
If the second-run theater had been showing 2001 that day, it could very well have been my first LSD experience. Simmons was one of my buddies from shop class. He was the guy who had felt compelled to involve me in his acid trip while I was spot-welding a sheetmetal tool box. "Hinds," he lisped, sticking out his tongue to display the dissolving tab, "check this out." Fuckin' burnout, I thought. Of course, he passed the class. I was the guy who got kicked out halfway through for turning custom-made hardwood bowls on the lathe and selling them for five bucks a pop. [Mr. Stansbury: I know what the hell that is, Hinds...I seen them seniors makin' 'em...that's a pot pipe (pronounced pawt pahp).]
Eighth grade can be rough.
By the time Simmons invited me to tune in and turn on, Star Wars was old news. I had seen it. Everybody had seen it. T-shirts had faded. Lunchboxes were dinged and rusted on the corners. Kids still wore their #2's down to the wood drawing Darth Vader in their notebooks, but it was more out of habit than passion.
I had seen the first installment of the Star Wars franchise pretty close to opening weekend, days after my eleventh birthday. We had just moved back to the States after four years of serving our country in an idyllic Bavarian ski town. The culture shock and Virginia humidity was stifling.
My most vivid recollections of this seminal American experience have nothing to do with Luke and Leia, but rather with that 70s/80s cultural center, The Mall.
In 1977, Springfield Mall was the epicenter of Northern Virginia retail culture. In Germany, I had seen King Ludwig's castles and the stately center of München, but never had I witnessed such a vast, monolithic island of red brick in such a steaming sea of acrid asphalt as the premier mall of the DC Metro Area.
The line for the theater wrapped around one otherwise deserted cell block, and wormed into the yellow light of the lobby. We crept toward the distant box office for eons.
I had felt swallowed up before, by mountains and even by cities; but I hadn't felt this. Shuffling in the weird dark heat. Ears pricking at every word of English, when English was the only language spoken. Red brick that would become my home, my school, the texture of the fortresses that defined the neighborhoods sprawling from the Beltway exits.
The movie didn't do much for me. It was good. A good story. The special effects were cool.
But it didn't make me foot-race the movie bus half a mile to my house on the Army base like my first Bruce Lee movie did. It didn't inspire me to practice swordplay with strips of bark like the Sinbad the Sailor movies had.
Nowadays, Star Wars paraphernalia is more ubiquitous than ever. Dads my age (and, curiously, even much younger) seem to be foisting the phenomenon onto their offspring. Kids who haven't even seen any of the movies are addicted to the merchandise and the hype, and parents (mostly Dads) agonize over the age at which they should expose their children (mostly boys) to this defining myth.
I kind of get it, in the abstract way that I kind of get people wanting their kids to believe in Jesus or Buddha or Van Halen or The Local Sports Team. But on the other hand, Star Wars is just a pretty okay movie. Is it really worthy of being the centerpiece of cultural literacy in our country?