Sunny Days in DC

Jack of All Trades, Master of 3-ish.

In which I come of age all over Luke Skywalker’s face…

on February 21, 2013

“The Graduate it on.”

“I’ve never seen it,” I text back.

“You’ve…. WHAT?!” My friend is horrified. She’s been opining on the symbolism of the water metaphors for the last five minutes, and I’ve been trying to wrangle Max so he doesn’t eat our cat. “It was my COMING OF AGE film! I would do a young Dustin Hoffman so hard!”

“Uh huh. Graphic.”

“What was yours?” She and I are similar in a lot of ways; we’ve finished the other person’s sentences before… but there are some areas where we could not be more different…

“My…?”

“Coming of Age film?”

“Cantina scene: Star Wars.” I’ve placed Max into “Baby Prison,” which is what we call the pack-n-play in our house. He’s chewing on a blue elephant.

“Never seen it” she writes back. I am FORCED to explain exactly what she’s missing, and how that scene completely changed my life forever:

For so many people, Star Wars was an eye-opening experience. Whether it was the magnitude of the story, the first time they realized that a Sci Fi epic could speak to them, the Good/Bad dichotomy, or the concept of a group of Jedi warriors who eschewed worldly connections in an attempt to develop the inner self. Star Wars sparked imaginations.

For me, it was a wholly different experience. I went to private school in Brooklyn, because the Public School I was supposed to go to had to finish investigating how a student managed to strangle a teacher with his own tie. Shockingly, my mom felt that an alternative to public education may be the best option for her small, White, Jewish child.

But it’s not like I fit in there, either. It was an expensive school, and most of the kids there were wealthy. They were neat and clean and tidy. The school was neat and clean and tidy. It was in a former church, so everything smelled of old wood, old books, and old money. I smelled like the Grand Army Plaza stop on the 2/3. But it seemed like this was what you aspired to; clean and neat. You got your clothes from United Colors of Benetton or Gap, and your backpack had your initials monogrammed on them. Well, I didn’t, but that’s what everyone wants… so I figured, that’s what I want. I guess. Right? Sure.

And then, one day, I guess because it was raining, they showed us Star Wars in a darkened classroom. And there, right past all the boring bullshit that I couldn’t have given less of a damn about (fucking sand creatures and robots? PASS!), was the Cantina scene.

THAT. I FUCKING WANT THAT, I realized. It was yet another moment in my life where I looked around and realized that nobody else was seeing what I was seeing. This was the instant that both Luke Skywalker and I realized there was life outside of our limited experiences. And not just people living off of his planet, but REAL FUCKING LIFE was happening just beyond the horizon of his tiny world. This was that first moment. And guess what? Real life is dirty, and it’s a crossroads, and there are different types of people, and sometimes they fight, and they’re rude, and yeah – they probably smell.

When I was a teenager, my mom took me on a road trip to California. Our car broke down in Death Valley, and we ended up taking Peterpan bus service back. It. was. Amazing. Someday, I’ll write a post ONLY about that trip, because it was life-changing, but for now: Cantina scene. Bus stops full of people traveling from one side of the country to the other. People talking to each other, and making deep friendships with lifespans shorter than a fly’s. Highway diners. Stretches of road that lasted for days… it was dirty and hot and you’d better hope you liked the people on your bus because before cell phones, those were the only people you had to talk to. Everyone has a story, because people without stories don’t go anywhere or do anything; they’re not on your bus. Your bus, your bar, your ship is going to be filled with people who have histories and needs and motivations. They’re happy, they’re sad, they want to meet you, or they want to be left alone. They have enough money to buy a plane ticket but are too cheap, or they stare enviously at your sandwich until you pretend not to be hungry and split it with them.

That’s the Cantina scene to me. It’s unsanitized life, but it’s honest and forces you to realize how much you miss by only meeting people who dress in Benetton. That one scene in that one movie added dimensions to my tiny world that just can’t be summed up in words. In fact, in high school we were asked to write about our concept of a Utopia. I narrated the Cantina scene. I failed the paper. It’s the one F I ever got, and the only time my mom ever approved a crappy grade.

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15 responses to “In which I come of age all over Luke Skywalker’s face…

  1. lillylion says:

    Was rolling on the floor just from the subject. O.M.G!!!

    “Real life is dirty, and it’s a crossroads, and there are different types of people, and sometimes they fight, and they’re rude, and yeah – they probably smell.”

    And people are different colors and shapes and sizes and smells. And just because we white ones seem to be richer, doesn’t mean we are righter.

    • lillylion says:

      And I just fell more in love with you.

      • H. Stern says:

        I love you, too…. but I’m married, so we’ll have to keep this on the DL. Which in my house stands for “dirty laundry.” Which doesn’t sound fun at all. Anyway, I love you too, and I’m glad you liked this! It seemed like two heavy posts in a row, and I was worried people would be all, “OMG, you’re such a downer now! Write more about your vagina and its adventures!”

        Which: yes.

  2. I’m old and you’re not, so I saw Star Wars in the front row of an old movie house in San Francisco, the month it opened, and that movie house has since been torn down. And I waited in a loooong line and my Uncle bought us popcorn AND candy AND soda which was forbidden to us. But I think that movie would have changed my life no matter what. To paraphrase another sci fi fav of mine (which you are REALLY too young to know) and split the crap out of an infinitive to boot: Continue to bravely go where no (wo)man has gone before — beyond vagina posts. You are ready, Young Padawan!

  3. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. For details on acceptance please visit http://www.johnwhowell.com . I appreciate your posts. – John

  4. Dan Bain says:

    This is pretty much outstanding. If your blog is Star Wars, this entry *is* the cantina scene….

  5. ekgo says:

    I also loved the Cantina (and am humming the Cantina song in my head, now, thanks) but, again, I saw something different than you did.
    It was like an oasis! Which…is probably exactly what it was supposed to be, now that I think about it. All around Tattooine, it was this rigid life in the hot, dusty sand and Luke couldn’t have any fun because Aunt Beru and Uncle Whatshisname were all, “No, no, child. We’re like the Amish here and it’s not time to go out on your…um…visit to the rest of the world yet” and his surroundings were bleak and blah and did I mention it was really hot? And dry? And dusty?
    But then he’s in town zipping along in a little hovercraft and the droids are not the ones you’re looking for and it’s still white hot out and you know everyone in the streets is all pissed off and angry and hot and all they want is lemonade but there IS no lemonade on Tattooine and then all of a sudden? Luke and his new pals are in a dark, not hot (because I think it’s not hot in there though unless they have AC, you know it really is) place full of people who are NOT sand people and are not Amish people of the desert and are not robots though some of all those people are there, too, and it’s everyone all at once and suddenly no one is thirsty anymore because this place is an oasis in the desert.
    And Han totally shot first.
    Here’s a gamer’s aside even though I AM NOT A GAMER: So I played Star Wars Galaxies for a year, or so. It was an online role playing game based in the Star Wars galaxies, thus the name. One of my little peepols (characters) was a dancer and she spent all her free time dancing in the Cantina and getting to Master Level. It was awesome. She also was a costume designer (they called them Tailors) and she and her boyfriend (who was also my boyfriend in real life at the time and was the reason I was playing this game in the first place, though he was not a boyfriend I would keep because I needed to find my way to Gabe) bought some land over by the Sarlaac pit (that’s the big sand monster that Jabba the Hutt throws people into while slave Leia looks on all sexily) and they built themselves a gift shop there. It had Sarlaac spit (used in potions) and food and drink so that people out in the desert didn’t get sick and die from thirst and starvation AND she made T-shirts that people could buy. They said, “I got sick at the Sarlaac pit” (because if you got too close to the pit, you’d get poisoned) and it was AWESOME. You can share that story with your husband because he’ll probably like it more than you do.

    • H. Stern says:

      WORDPRESS DELETED MY TOTALLY AWESOME COMMENT BACK TO YOU!!

      Anyway, you’re a gamer, that’s an MMORPG that GAMERS play, but that’s a cool character so you win awesome points, but also also I want that t-shirt because HILARIOUS!!!

      • ekgo says:

        Heh heh heh…you said MMORPG. I’ll bet you even know what that stands for. Ergo, you, too, are now a gamer. Takes one to know one, and all that.

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