Return of the Jedi’s thirtieth anniversary is just one week away. I hope you’ve got your shopping done. I’m just kidding—we’ve all poured enough money into the Lucasfilm merchandising juggernaut already. If we melted down all the Chewbacca figures sold between 1977 and today there’d probably be enough plastic to make prosthetic limbs for every single person who’s stepped on a forgotten land mine since Star Wars first came out. Not to depress you or anything.
That reminds me of a hilarious story: I was four when Jedi came out and even though I was already amped on America’s number one space opera I didn’t want to see this final installment because Jabba the Hutt looked really scary in the tv commercials. My grandparents bought us all tickets to see the thing anyway, and I was just beside myself that entire morning. Kid logic told me I’d die of shock the moment Jabba came onscreen. Shortly before the movie’s showtime Grandma and I were wandering around K-Mart when I became instantly enamored of an Admiral Ackbar action figure on one of the toy racks. For whatever reason (he looked like a fish person and I liked fish?) this Ackbar toy was shifting the tectonic plates of my Jedi stance. I stood there in a weird daze.
“I’ll make you a deal,” my grandmother said as I clutched the Admiral’s blister pack like it was my only food for the day. “I’ll buy this man for you if you go see the movie with us. Okay?”
There was a brief pause.
“Oh-kay!” I shouted like one of the Little Rascals.
Nothing quells fear quite like spontaneous consumerism. The only memory I have from the actual presentation of Jedi that day is having to pee really badly during the speeder bike chase. Grandpa sensed this, trotting me out to the bathroom so as to prevent me from ruining the fine upholstery at the Sanford, Florida megaplex. I hated giving in, though, because the speeder bikes were so super cool. The theater bathroom was far less enthralling. Once you’ve seen Mark Hamill racing through the Redwood Forest on a space motorcycle self-flushing toilets seem less than outré.
I feel like I’ve told this story before elsewhere, but this version is really the best. Ewok image courtesy of Merchandising Is Forever. Stay tuned for more baloney like this in the coming days.
- the rules of squash
- the rules of racquetball
- when or where exactly Daniel Webster lived
- anything about the Gross National Product
- how to operate a yacht
- how to operate a bow tie
- anything about lacrosse
- how to make eggs benedict
- where to buy a salt lick
- reasonable prices for ascots
- the names of any famous Yale athletes
A: Yeah. The results were less than satisfactory. See below.
My facial hair is like a UFO; you’re not really sure what you’re seeing, but you know you’re seeing something. I’m not into it.
A few years ago I almost married someone whose only true flaw was a distaste for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. She thought BTEA was incredibly dumb (I believe her exact words were “This movie, ugh…it’s soooooooooooooo dumb!”). Look, you can accuse director Stephen Herek’s sophomore effort of many crimes and be correct—it’s very dated in pockets, Ted’s brother doesn’t get enough screen time, Napoleon Bonaparte was not actually that short—but you can’t call the movie dumb. Not in my book. The concept is incredible.
What if the spiritual deity who could bring peace and balance to our world materialized as a pair of D+ suburban metalheads, and what if the key to their success involved time travel? It makes Wayne’s World look like the shallow ego party it actually is. What does Wayne stand to lose in his movie? A girl? A tv show? The fate of our universe is in Bill & Ted’s hands, and they’re not even smart enough to get on public access. I guess my point is Mike Myers kinda sucks and I’m glad I’m not raising children right now in a divided household.
Names (when used) have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the eternally downtrodden.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Whose Parents Didn’t Let Him Play Video Games: We all had that one friend growing up whose parents tried to set him/her “on the right path” by banning from their household Atari, Nintendo, and the like; this particular friend of mine was also only permitted to watch PBS. Based on my observation, the plan worked in the sense that this kid was skipped a couple grades ahead of us in math and could name all the presidents in order before he hit double digits. On the other hand, homeboy also tore his thumb open on a chain link fence during his first week of college whilst attempting to steal a case of soda (something else he was never really allowed to have at home) from the cafeteria. So nature, nurture, whatever.
Anywho, the lack of cable tv and Super Mario forced us fifth graders to play board games and have conversations at this party, which turned out to be plenty of fun (especially when we all started talking about the concept of “God” and what he/she/it might actually be; to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a more adult conversation). There’s a pretty epic photo of me from the morning after this all night Shoots n’ Ladders rager—I’m asleep in a sitting position, clutching a tiny stuffed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and this enormous maroon hoodie that I’m sure was B.U.M. Equipment brand is practically swallowing me. I’m also wearing my glorious Air Jordan rip-off sneakers, the Sir Jams.
Most kids probably would have felt self-conscious about such bootleg kicks, but I never really gave a flying fuck about basketball or shoe culture. I just wanted my feet to be comfortable.
Sleepover At Shouty P’s House: Shouty P was this shrimpy kid we all knew and adored who, as his name implied, had only one volume to his voice. That was okay, though, because ninety percent of the time he was hilarious and as far as I know he never tried to wrong me or any of my friends in that way middle schoolers like to wrong each other sometimes. He runs a golf course now, in case you were wondering. Ironic, as I think shouting at golf courses is generally frowned upon.
My overriding memory from this particular get-together is the fight that broke out very early in the evening on Shouty P’s front lawn between The Kid Whose Growth Spurt Put Him Three Heads Above Everybody Else and The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman. I don’t remember what the fight was about but it was maybe the only time in my life I’ve seen an altercation that played out like a Popeye cartoon, by which I mean these two individuals turned into a ball of dust, fists, and fake curse words as soon as it was “on.”
Eventually peace was brokered and we settled in for the evening, all taking turns playing T&C Surf Designs on regular Nintendo. I’d never seen that game before and it instantly became a dangerous obsession. Hold the phone, we got a skateboarding gorilla in Jam shorts? Nintendo, have you been renting space in my head?
The Sleepover Where I Saw A Dirty Movie For The First Time: The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman invited me over one Friday night in seventh or eight grade for some midnight Mortal Kombat action. On the walk to his house after school he was like, “Check this out…” Batman Kid turned his bookbag around and pulled out a VHS labeled Naughty Girls Need Love Too.
I really wish I could tell you what my exact emotions were in response to this revelation, that my friend had somehow acquired a porno and we would be viewing it that evening, but all I remember for sure is watching it at one in the morning and cracking up at the theme song (in which some “groovy dude” repeatedly sang the title of the movie) and being really grossed out that one scene was two people doing it on a pile of tires. On the ladder of erotic experiences of my life Naughty Girls ranks pretty low (it’s several rungs below Courtney Thorne-Smith in Revenge of the Nerds II, which is really ground zero for eroticism as far as I’m concerned).
I’m sure my first porno viewing was somehow skewed by the fact I watched it with a kid who was simultaneously working on his homemade Batman costume. This may have also been the night I discovered The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman was also obsessed with the theme song from Wayne’s World, so much so that he had dubbed it as many times as he could on a ninety minute blank cassette. A full ninety minute cassette with nothing on it but the Wayne’s World theme twenty or thirty times. Yeah, that’s no cause for alarm.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Who Owned Every Nintendo Game Ever: Barry was a young fella I only knew because our dads were pals from way back; in fact, I only hung out with the kid three times tops because he lived sorta far away and went to completely different schools. However, Barry and I always had a blast together—he was a super nice kid who didn’t seem to have any hang-ups and could have a grand ol’ time even when we weren’t glued to the Nintendo (has this post made it clear yet that home video game systems were the center of the universe in the early ’90s, a cultural force more vital to our stupid existence than the Bill & Ted movies and Bo Jackson combined?).
Of course, it was hard not to be glued to the Nintendo at Barry’s house because somehow he had gained possession of every regular NES game ever. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone in my life with a comparable NES collection. I guess his parents were rich, or maybe another twelve year old he knew died and willed him all his games. All I know is any game I could think of Barry had, which explains why the first time we ever hung out at my house he took me to school on all twelve or thirteen games I owned.
Barry and his family were nice enough to let me sleepover one weekend; yeah, we cycled through all those Nintendo shits, but we also watched Silver Streak (recommended by Barry’s dad; we weren’t really into it) and ceremoniously cut open Barry’s brother’s Stretch Armstrong to see what was inside. I’ll never forget standing in that bathroom watching Barry trying to tear Stretch open with a pair of scissors when a sudden noxious cloud of something that looked like baby powder shot out of the doll’s incision. We both laughed hysterically.
The Plastic Pillow Pillow Fight Sleepover: In the sixth grade or so my pals and I all spent the night at Louis’s house, where for once in our dumb lives we got to have a massive uninterrupted pillow fight in the basement rec room. Unfortunately, this kid Louis had a plastic pillow. That is to say, he had a regular pillow inside a plastic pillow case. I’m not sure why—if he was a bed wetter, he would have needed plastic sheets, not a plastic pillow, unless he slept backwards on his bed? I don’t know and honestly did not care about Louis whizzing in his bed. I don’t think any of us did.
What we did care about was this kid whomping us in the face with his plastic pillow. It stung like a fucking bastard (especially if one of the corners caught you). Louis whacked our buddy Thom one too many times; Thom shot me this look that said, “Mah’fucker’s goin’ down.” Then he tackled Louis, snatched the plastic pillow, and went apeshit on Louis. It was like Raging Bull. Louis absolutely started crying, but none of us cared because we all had red marks from that stupid fucking pillow. Eventually a parent came down to admonish us all. Boo.
Louis later joined the Air Force and got totally jacked. Sometimes I worry he’s gonna show up on my doorstep with another pillow. Louis, please, I’m sorry. Let’s do lunch. Unrelated: Louis had an “ALF For President” poster up in this rec room, an item I definitely coveted for many years.
My Thirteenth Birthday Sleepover Party: The final sleepover before being a teenager made everything kinda weird. My friend John brought me a jar of gefilte fish as a joke; my mom put it in the refrigerator and over the course of the next year or two we watched it turn all sorts of neat colors.
This sleepover is probably best remembered for a racially insensitive remark one of my friends shouted out during a heated game of Super Dosgeball on the NES; the teams in the game were U.S.A. and Nigeria, and an angry comment was made about the latter team immediately returning to its continent of origin, which my father overheard, which naturally made him go ballistic. The offending friend—who shall remain anonymous even from silly nickname since this was twenty some-odd years ago and he was twelve or whatever—was almost bounced from the party until some profuse apologizing surfaced (I also think since it was January in rural Connecticut my dad didn’t really fancy carting this kid home on allegedly icy roads).
Many hours later, while we were all watching L.A. Story and eating severely cold pizza, I felt a sense of contentment and happiness, like, These guys, they’ll be my friends forever. I’ll always be able to count on them. I was basically correct in that assumption. Only one of them really went off the deep end later in terms of friendship duties; surprisingly, it was not the kid who made that remark about Africa.
News broke today that Disney has shuttered LucasArts, a.k.a. the part of the Star Wars business galaxy what’s been makin’ all the vidjuh games. I never really got down on that Monkey Island tip, but you better believe I spent what felt like feckin’ years in high school playing the living hell out of X-Wing Simulator and its follow up, TIE Fighter. Of course, back then PC games were spread across five or six floppies and you’d be lucky if the damn things ever loaded completely without any errors, but even when X-Wing was messed up it was still one of the greatest computer combat dealy-bobs ever made. I weep for the people who’ve lost their jobs and also for the dissipation of something that was once intensely relevant to me, but I also feel plenty of warm gooeys from all the joy LucasArts gave me in that stoned age before XBoxes and Playstations and even N64s. Thanx for the memories, LA. See you in the (death star) trenches.
Here we see the heavily-rumored conga sequence from J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Star Wars movie wherein Luke dances with himself, Lando Calrissian, and a bunch of dead people.
I took this when I was fifteen or sixteen for my high school photography class. Proof positive that black and white can make anything look soulful—even mass produced plasticky crap!
A: No. I’ve never really thought of myself as having the right kind of body for tattoos. I always figured they’d look weird, like I was trying to look tougher than I actually am. Like overcompensating.
Only once did I seriously consider getting inked. When I was nineteen I accompanied my friend Justin to a tattoo parlor in Daytona Beach because he was getting some asian symbol on his arm (as was the style at the time). During that trip I almost convinced myself to get Black Flag’s famous logo stamped somewhere on my frail barely adult torso, but I didn’t have quite enough cash and I was also worried that I might not be championing Damaged as strongly at age eighty. So that was that.
For a while in the mid-2000s I joked with people that I was going to get a back piece of Chewbacca driving the Ectomobile through downtown Oslo with the Ramones and Richard Nixon in the back, all wearing ghostbusters jumpsuits, but that would probably take centuries to complete (and hurt like a bastard).
Columbia, South Carolina, circa 2005. You can’t really tell, but I’m wearing baggy-ass Korn pants, because that was the style at the time.