My Thoughts Upon The Death Of Carrie Fisher

The year 2016 has been hard on Pop Culture.

This is the year we lost Prince and Bowie.  We lost Garry Shandling and Gene Wilder.  We lost Alan Rickman and Patty Duke.  We lost Leonard Cohen and George Michael.

I was reading something yesterday that talked about how the “Baby Boom” is turning into the “Baby Bust.”  After 70 years, the Baby Boomers are starting to move into the realm of average American life-expectancy and, as hard as 2016 has been, we should probably expect some more hard years going forward as the largest generation in American history begins to shuffle off this mortal coil.

We lost some great artists this year.  We lost sports heroes.  We lost legends of the recording industry and legends of the news field.  When Florence Henderson passed on, a lot of us lost our “virtual mom.”

The death of Carrie Fisher on December 27th was a similar punch in the gut for folks of my generation.  This one hit me harder than any of the other 2016 passings.  Looking at Twitter and Facebook over the last day, I’m not the first person to note Carrie Fisher as my “first crush.”  I certainly won’t be the last.

She wasn’t just a crush though, and others have pointed this out much better than I.  I would be lying to say that 10 year-old Dave wasn’t intrigued by the metal bikini but, then and now, it wasn’t solely the sexuality of Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher that drew me in.  It was the strength that shined through from both the character and the actor.

I was born in 1973, which makes me a child of both the 1970s and the 1980s and grounds me quite securely as a member of “Generation X.”  Prior to the coming of “Star Wars,” an influential event in one way or another to every boy and girl of my generation, my media consumption consisted of fairy tales, sitcoms and dramas on 3 major networks, reruns of old movies on the few UHF stations we could pick up, Saturday morning cartoons, and Disney movies.

As this was the end of the third quarter/beginning of the fourth quarter of the 20th Century, we didn’t get the modern Disney Princesses like Merida, Tianna, and Mulan.  We got Snow White, Cinderella, Robin Hood’s Maid Marion (the Fox version), and Peter Pan’s Wendy.  Our Disney Princesses got captured, swooning and wishing for their princes to come, instead of hitting the bad guy over the head with a frying pan.

Then, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we were introduced to another captured princess.  This was not a damsel in distress who needed to be “rescued.”  Before she was imprisoned in a tower so huge that the hero, his wizard, and his scoundrel friend mistook it for a moon, she shot down two enemy soldiers and looked pure evil in the eye.  After her capture, she held up to brutal amounts of torture and stood stoically by while her home world and everyone she loved was destroyed.

When the hero arrived, she took the lead, blaster in hand, and was instrumental in her own escape, never taking a back seat to those who came to her rescue (“Would someone get this walking carpet out of my way.”).  Over the course of 3 movies, she would lead a galactic rebellion against a tyrannical despot, escape the clutches of evil multiple times, and even defeated her capture using the chains of her own enslavement (how’s that for a metaphor?).

She never needed to be rescued.  She just needed the slightest opening so that she could rescue herself.

In other words, Princess Leia was a Bad Ass.

And this is just the fictional character that Carrie Fisher played.  As the years went by, “Star Wars” continued to be a cultural phenomenon even as those actors closely associated with it moved on to other things.  I would still encounter her occasionally on-screen.  As a geek, I was required to read “Postcards From the Edge” when I became aware of its existence because “Hey, Princess Leia wrote this.”

My first reading of that book was the last time, I think I ever referred to Carrie Fisher as “Princess Leia” outside of those specific movies.  On those pages, teenage Dave found it easier to separate the two in the words of a troubled, yet damned good, writer.  I’ve continued to follow her career as I’ve grown up from the four year-old who first saw “Star Wars” at a Drive-In theater in Kingston, Massachusetts into the 43 year-old “grown up” who has read her books and seen her other movies.

With her portrayal of Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher made me aware that women weren’t just objects to be possessed and that they didn’t need to be saved.  The Disney Princesses of my childhood were replaced by strong Warrior Princesses in my adolescence and well into my adult live.  Beautiful woman can be strong.  In her written words, I’ve learned that, just because you are strong, you can still be broken, but just because you are broken doesn’t mean you cannot still be strong.

Read that paragraph above again.  If there is one thing I’d like my son and daughter to understand by the time they are adults and move on into their own lives, that is it.  Who says you can’t learn true lessons from your pop culture icons?

I never met Carrie Fisher.  I don’t travel in circles that put me in a position to meet “celebrities.”  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t knowledge or experience we can glean from them or from the characters they portray.   I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get a little sad and weepy yesterday for the death of a woman I have never met.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

There are a lot of posts and articles about Carrie Fisher out there today and more coming before the year ends.  May will be written by those far more skilled in the craft of writing than I am.  Many who knew her personally and not just as an image on a screen or words on a page will illustrate what she means to them.

Many will post pictures of a young Ms. Fisher, fresh to the screen.  Some will post images of the metal bikini, I’m sure.  It’s a strong part of her image.  It’s not the image I’ll remember, though.  I’m going with a shot from “The Force Awakens” because it resonates with me.  No longer a child, having fought the battles behind her and wearing her well-earned scars, wrinkles, and grey hair, but still the bad-ass.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-deleted-scenes-carrie-fisher

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Revisiting An Old Post…

Back in 2012, when I first moved to South Carolina and had more time to write, a started a little blog on another site.  When I went back to work, my writing habits fell apart and I stopped writing on that site.

Last year, when I turned 42, I started this blog and promised myself that I would get back on the horse again and update it regularly.

I turned in a strong first post and then proceeded to not update this stupid thing again until today, when I was prompted to do so after re-reading a post from the old blog.

Today, I’m going to cheat.  Instead of writing something new, I’m going to bring us back to the days of old (4 years ago), when i was a stay-at-home dad and was writing (books, short stories, articles, poetry, and blog posts) every single day.

Without further word, let’s go back to June 14th, 2012, when I wrote the following:

****************************************

Let Me Set Your Minds At Ease…

Well, Folks.  It’s the middle of June.  For those of us with kids, it means Summer Vacation.

Some of us have already had the little rugrats home for the last few days, or in some cases, the last few weeks.  Others, like my friends up in Massachusetts, are getting ready for their last days of school as I write these words.

The end of the school year is a time of reflection for all of us parents.  We look back on the last year and marvel at how much our kids have grown up, gape in awe at what they have learned, and have little flashbacks of our own childhoods when we were “that age.”  In addition to these reflections, it’s also a time for something else.

End of the year field trips.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have watched the Facey-Space and Tweety-Sphere erupt with comments, questions, descriptions, and tirades of outright disgust over the field trips that our kids have participated in and we, as parents and chaperones, have been subjected to.

Most of these comments and scenarios can be summed up in two statements.

“This field trip sucked.”

–and–

“Field trips were so much better, cooler, and more fun when I was a kid.”

Today, a friend of mine posted quite the tirade about the beach field trip his daughter’s class went on.  Apparently, they were subjected to some extremely boring lectures about the plight of the Piping Plover.

Let me interrupt here by letting you know that I feel for you, man.  I spent a rainy day on Isle of Palms beach last month doing what basically amounted to…well…nothing, while the parents and teachers attempted to stay dry while keeping the kids from being pulled out to sea by the undertow.

I want to start by commending the friend mentioned above, my wife, my other friends with kids, and all of the other parents out there who took the time out of their busy schedules to participate in these field trips.  You and I know that it means a lot to our kids.  Additionally, the fact that you are distressed by what amounted to a waste of time and resources is wonderful, because it means you have a passion for the education of your kids.  And that is an amazing thing.

But now I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will hopefully set your minds at ease.

Here it is.

It’s not that your kids’ school planned a crappy field trip.  It’s not even that field trips were better “back in the day.”

Field trips sucked when we were kids, too.

“No way, Dave,” shout out the voices from the crowd.  “You’re wrong!  My field trips were friggin’ awesome when I was a kid!”

Okay.  I’m not going to start a fight over this one.  Maybe, just maybe, you were lucky enough to go to a school that didn’t have crap-ass field trips like the rest of us.  Maybe you got to watch open-heart surgery, or throw the opening pitch at a Red Sox game, or go to the moon or something.

I’m happy for you.  My suggestion is to move your kids back to that school district as soon as humanly possible.

Most of us didn’t get those field trips.

Most of us got the Post Office, the local Grocery Store, or Plymouth Rock.

“Whoo-Hoo!  Plymouth Rock!  If we’re good maybe they’ll let us go to the Wax Museum, too!”

If we were lucky, we might have gotten to go to the Fire Station, or Police Department, or maybe the hospital, but come on, we’re 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old.  It’s not like they’re going to let us see anything cool like the Emergency Room on Fourth Of July or the interrogation of a suspect.

We might have gotten a tour of the kitchen.

A fire fighter might have put on some safety gear.

Oh, and hold me back when I talk about the time I got to PUT A STAMP ON A LETTER AND PUT IT IN THE MAIL SLOT.

Anyone who has ever had to do a field trip to Plimoth Plantation in November at age 8, knows exactly what I’m talking about.

When I was a kid, the cool field trips didn’t start until Fifth Grade.  That’s when we got to do things like the Boston Museum of Science and Old Ironsides.  However, my recollections of those trips are that we were kept on a very tight schedule (have to be back to get the kids on the school bus) so we missed most of the cool stuff.

“You’re too cynical, Dave,” the voices from the crowd shout out again.  “The field trips were definitely better.  You’re just being an ass.”

No.

I’m not.

Really.

The field trips weren’t better because we did cooler stuff, or had more activities, or went to more awesome places.  The fields trips were better because we got to sit with our friends on the bus and miss the weekly math quiz.  The field trips were better because maybe, we could buy something at the gift shop or mom packed a bunch of snacks in our bagged lunches instead of having to eat fish sticks in the cafeteria.  The field trips were better because the field trips were 30 years ago and we want to remember them as being better.

Don’t believe me?

Think of everything else that you thought was awesome when you were a kid.  Maybe it’s a TV show.  Maybe it’s a movie.  Maybe it’s some article of clothing.  Think of how much you loved it as a kid.

Now think about it as an adult.  As you are right now.  It’s not hard to do thanks to Netflix, iTunes, and Google.

Remember getting up early on Saturday morning to watch “Superfriends,” or racing home in the afternoon to turn on “Star Blazers” or “My Little Pony” or “G.I. Joe?”

Remember that copy of  “Colour By Numbers” by Culture Club that you had to have and listened to over and over again?

Remember that awesome barracuda jacket?  Those argyle socks that you tucked your pegged pant cuffs into, maybe?

I’ve tried watching “Star Blazers” as an adult.  It’s painful.  I was never a Culture Club fan, but I’ve got a few cassettes from the eighties that I know I’ll never listen to again.

And forget about that barracuda jacket.  I’ve got a skinny leather tie that I’ve been keeping for years as I wait for it to come back into style.  I know I’m fooling myself, but everyone needs something.

Our memories of our field trips are no different than my hopes for my skinny leather tie.

These things are awesome because we remember them as awesome.  We want them to be incredible because we made everything incredible.  And we want our kids to have incredible memories too.

And you know what?  They’re going to have them.  Remember that rainy beach field trip I mentioned back at the beginning of this tirade?  The one that I think of as the biggest waste of field trip time ever?

Maddie thought it was great.  She got to ride on the bus to the beach, hang out with her friends, and run around in the rain.  She seems to have forgotten all about the part where her and a bunch of the other kids were whiny and bored while they changed out of their wet clothes and waited for lunch at the picnic tables.

“So what are you saying,” the shouting voices from the crowd ask.  “I should just suck it up and deal with the fact that my kids went on a waste of time field trip?”

No.  Rant and rave about it.  Complain to the teachers, administration, and the folks who run the tour location.  Make your voice heard. As parents, we should expect more out of the trips that the schools are paying for.  We should expect more from a day when the kids are not in the classroom learning.

I’m sure our parents did.

Just rest assured that we went on our share of waste-of-time field trips too.

And they were all awesome.

42 Things I Know To Be True After 42 Years On The Planet

I turned forty-two this week.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes.

Over the last forty-two years, I have experienced some amazingly wonderful and some fairly terrifying things.  I’m not a philosopher and I am certainly not one of the smartest people in the world.  I’m not even one of the smartest people I know.  However, in honor of my Forty-Second birthday, I present you with 42 things that I hold to be true.

  1. No drink tastes better than a coke in a glass bottle.  Except maybe a draft root beer in a frosted mug.
  2. I understand that they are important in the grand scheme of things, but snakes are scary.
  3. Someday, somehow, my encyclopedic knowledge of “The Brady Bunch” will be of benefit to me or my loved ones.
  4. George Artman, my 9th grade “World Cultures” instructor, taught me more about writing and research than any other teacher in high school or college.
  5. The five greatest movies of all time are “Casablanca,” “Jaws,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Princess Bride,” and, oh, let’s say “Stand By Me.”  It’s okay to disagree.  i know I’m right.
  6. So many of life’s problems can be solved by a turkey sandwich from Gerard Farms and a walk on Rexhame Beach.
  7. If I had to choose 5 events that shaped me into the person I am today, they would be:
    1. Getting the crap kicked out of me by the same two jackasses every fucking day of the sixth grade.  And I mean EVERY day.  Those guys sucked.  Who knows, maybe they still do.
    2. Joining the drama club during my freshman year of high school.
    3. The death of my dad.
    4. Moving to Pembroke, Massachusetts during my junior year of high school and meeting the people I met there.
    5. Meeting my wife and somehow managing to convince her that spending time with me was a good idea.
  8. Rubber Soul is the best Beatles Album.
  9. As bang-for-your-buck/invested time goes, the best theme park attraction in the world is “Splash Mountain.”
  10. One of the most frightening phrases one can hear uttered is “I can’t get my MacBook to bind to Active Directory.”
  11. My wife is right a lot.  I mean A LOT.  And she puts up with a lot of crap from me.
  12. Regardless of how right my wife is or how often she is right, she will never be able to talk me out of the following truth:  Jake Ryan is an asshole.  He sold his drunk girlfriend to a complete stranger.  Asshole.  End of story.  Moving on to number 13.
  13. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a perfect book.
  14. The world needs more drive-ins.
  15. The definite answer to the question “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” is “Doctor Who.”
  16. There is a ghost inhabiting 256 Main Street.
  17. No sunset is more beautiful than the sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida.
  18. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
  19. The best steak in the world is prepared at Bern’s in Tampa, Florida.
  20. There are a small group of people who groomed me into a better person than the little shit I was before I met them.  Without those people, my wife and kids would most likely want nothing to do with me.  I’m not going to name them here because that would be schmaltzy.  You probably know if you are one of them anyway.
  21. When I wake up in the morning, I have the second most epic bed-head ever to grace the face of the planet.  As epic bed head is, in fact, genetic, the ultimate epic bed-head is atop the skull of my cousin, Matt, and he has a year of glorious photographic evidence to prove it.
  22. The scariest movie of all time is 1982’s “Poltergeist.”
  23. My social skills were vastly improved by the introduction of “Dungeons & Dragons” to my life.
  24. The funniest line ever uttered in the history of broadcast television:  “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
  25. I was going to make a statement about “The Breakfast Club” for #25, but it’s not right to make fun of two John Hughes movies in one 42-point list.
  26. The greatest job I ever had was being a house-husband/stay-at-home-dad for 5 months and I would do it again in a heartbeat if the 401K and stock options were better.
  27. I just don’t give a shit if the balls were deflated.
  28. Mankind’s greatest achievement in engineering:  My cassette copy of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First” still successfully plays in the tape deck of my car.  So does my copy of the “Stand By Me” soundtrack.  The pyramids?  Pffffffff.
  29. I saw U2 during the “Zoo TV” tour with Christian and Michelle, Kate, Dan, and Megan (and passed notes via the security guards to Tobin, Tina, Leigh, and Julie across the stadium).  It was the greatest live show of my life until I saw Brandi Carlile play the House of Blues in Orlando in 2011 with my wife, Michelle.
  30. I make the best corned beef hash.
  31. “Man Of Steel” may have been a blockbuster summer disaster flick, but it was an absolutely shitty Superman movie.
  32. I also make the best Thanksgiving Dinner.
  33. My wife and kids find me the best birthday presents.  they are pretty sure the ukulele was a mistake, though.
  34. The often-passed-around Facebook statement “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus and the American Soldier” is patently false.  The most obvious reason to me being that I would gladly give my life up for a number of people and, the last time I checked, was never a soldier or a messiah.  There’s an entire rant regarding the sacrifices of others who are not one of the two mentioned groups, but that is for another day, so let’s move on, shall we?
  35. There is no reason for “Monopoly” to be the most popular board game in America when “Ticket To Ride” is available for purchase.
  36. Listen.  In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?
  37. My moral compass was developed by my exposure to comic books:
    1. Spider-Man taught me that with great power comes great responsibility.
    2. The Justice League taught me that amazing things are possible when you work together as a team.
    3. The X-Men taught me that people who are different, feared, or hated can have a phenomenal impact on a world that may not understand them.
    4. Archie taught me that trying to juggle multiple girlfriends is never going to work out well in the long run.
  38. There has never been a better sitcom than “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
  39. Everyone should have at least one book that they crack open and re-read once every year or two.  Mine are “A Christmas Carol” (see above) and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”
  40. People who believe that profanity is only for the ignorant and uninteresting don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.
  41. The book will be done soon.
  42. 42.