I don't know who's idea it was. I must have heard about it, my brother was almost two years older and he must have been the one who wanted to see it. I don't know. It doesn't matter.
All I know is I was 9 years old in 1977 and my brother and I were in Houston Texas spending a couple of weeks with my aunt and uncle -- it was a big deal, we flew down from St. Louis by ourselves. I think we went because my aunt and uncle wanted to see if they wanted kids, and I guess they wanted to practice on my brother and me. I remember going to the beach, my brother waking up one night because he had to throw up (from eating too many hot dogs or something, we'd gone to the Astrodome to see a Astros/Cardinals game). We rode go carts and you had to be either ten or eleven to drive one by yourself, and I got to drive one. That was a big deal for me -- the guy thought I was eleven. And then, and again, I'm not sure who's idea it was, but one night, my aunt made a huge bag of popcorn and we had candy and sodas and we went to the drive-in. Remember the drive-in? It was always a double feature. The first one was called Bug or something -- there were a lot of killer cockroaches involved. But I certainly remember the second movie.
I would never, ever forget the second one -- it was a movie called Star Wars.
I watched Star Wars on the roof of my aunt and uncle's car at a drive-in in Houston Texas in 1977, and at the time I thought it was the best and coolest thing I had ever experienced. And today? Today I think ... today I think it was the best and coolest thing I have ever experienced. I don't remember at all how or where or with whom I saw Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back, but I remember I saw them; my mom probably took us. And they were great and awesome and I've seen all of them more than a few times, first on VCR and then on DVD. They were great movies, they still are, and they were part of my childhood, they were part of my growing up, my life's lexicon, but I didn't realize how significant they were, how very important they were to me. For some reason, I didn't know they were episodes 4, 5 and 6, or maybe I did and just didn't think much of it. They were over and they were cool and put to rest. But sixteen years later George Lucas pulls me back in. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and I couldn't wait!!
George Lucas had revived that childhood thrill, those wonderful memories. Oh, man was I excited! The chance to relive the past, to feel like that nine-year-old again. I now had friends who were much geekier than me, they played Dungeons & Dragons as kids. I never did, but, boy, I was right there with them, so excited about seeing Star Wars again. I couldn't wait. Sixteen years. We bought tickets for opening day, the 12:01 AM showing at the Mann's Chinese theater. We stood in line for hours -- not to buy a ticket but we wanted to get there early enough to get a decent place in line to get a good seat, we'd bought tickets on line weeks before. Now on line, back then a drive in ticket booth. Well, the movie sucked, except for the light saber battle with Darth Maul at the end -- I'm sorry but that fucking kicked ass!! The whole theater was cheering. Otherwise it sucked. But it didn't matter because it was Star Wars and I had two more to look forward to. Certainly they couldn't be as bad as the first one. Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Are you kidding? Hell yes I'm going! Again, tickets on line, got there early to get a good seat, opening day 12:01am. Sucked. I figured it would, I didn't care because it was still Star Wars. It was Star Wars. Star Wars -- and I had one left.
This time it was at Universal Studios. We bought tickets on line as soon as they were available for the 12:01 AM opening. People were dressed up. Normally that would be considered weird, but here, in this world, it this theater, is was fucking cool. Some people got up in front of the theater before the movie started and had lightsaber battles. It was awesome, I loved it and I loved looking around the theater to see those people. My people. A boy was sitting behind me with his friend, who was engrossed in the new Playstation personal game thingy -- I don't know, I don't play. I did when I was a kid, when I was his age. They couldn't have been more than maybe seventeen. The one boy started talking to me. Nice kid. He asked me if I'd read the Star Wars novels. "No," I said. "But I saw the first one when it came out." I didn't say "at the drive in" because I don't think I could have taken hearing, "What's a drive-in?" Then a boy, I don't know, he looked around 9, was walking around with his lightsaber. He thought he was pretty cool. In fact, the boy behind me told the kid he was cool, and asked if that was his light saber. "It's my dad's," the boy said proudly. And the music started, that music that always brings back a wonderful flood of memories. I love that music. It's the best theme music ever made, matched maybe only by the Jaws theme. And Darth Vader was there, and Luke, and Leia, and Obi-Wan and Yoda. And then it was over. It was over. Star Wars was over. As I walked out of the theater, it felt surreal, like I was in a haze, I wasn't sure what I was feeling. I was thinking of that boy with the light saber, and I realized I was his age when I saw that first Star Wars, and it hit me that I could easily have a child that age, and that my aunt and uncle were younger than I am now when they took me to see that first Star Wars at a drive-in in Houston Texas in 1977. I walked out of the theater and said to my friend, offhand really, "It's kind of sad that's it's over."
But then in my car, as I drove the few miles home alone, all I could think was that it was over, and it was sad. Really sad. I started tearing up. Star Wars was over. Why was I so upset? The movie was pretty good, the dialogue was shit, I thought Anakin's justification for going to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader was stupid and weak, but that wasn't why I was upset. I was upset because the coolest thing I had ever experienced was over. I didn't know ... I didn't know how much Star Wars meant to me, until I realized that the end of Star Wars meant the end to my childhood. I have nothing more from my childhood to look forward to, and I feel a great loss, a surprising emptiness, and it makes me very, very sad. Star Wars is a mere mortal, and so am I ... and I don't like it one bit.