Monthly Archives: June 2015

In a Galaxy Not So Far, Far Away…


I recently had an amazing conversation with a six-year-old, which I guess is redundant.

We sat across from each other during a celebratory Mexican luncheon for a high school grad (we both were fuzzy on the details), and I noticed he was holding a bright, yellow book.

“Whatchya reading?” I asked.

Super Fly Guy,” he answered, explaining the book’s subtext: the crazy adventures of a fly that loved the school cafeteria, but wasn’t always so welcome there. superflyI asked to see the book, thumbed through it, complimented the artwork, asked him what else he liked.

Star Wars,” he said without hesitation. “I’ve seen five of the (six) movies.”

He could have told me he was a double-organ transplant journalist from Detroit, I felt such an immediate kinship. “Me too!” I blurted. “What characters do you like?”

“Darth Maul,” he said, equally confident. “Padme. And Chewbacca.” We chatted about the next installment, due in Christmas. Neither of us could wait. He leaned forward, a bit hushed. “I like Darth Vader, too.”

And suddenly, I got the genius of the franchise. What other entertainment leapfrogs the generations so effortlessly? Here was a 50-year-old ancient swapping stories with a boy who couldn’t remember life without an iPad. We may criticize the new generation of films for surrendering vision for commercial tie-ins. But the truth is that we have aged, not the series, which has always spoken directly to the DNA encoded in every human boy.

The boy’s father offered a canny theory: “Star Wars is a black and white world of good and evil. Plus it’s got lasers.” I challenge an academic for a better answer.

“Lemme know what you think of the new Star Wars,” I told the boy as we prepared to leave. And I thought of the first time I saw the movie, in Detroit, as a 12-year-old.

There’s no underestimating the anticipation of the first one, in 1977. We’d never seen a trailer like that. The effects. The costumes. The masks. The lasers.

So on opening day, mom dropped me off at the mall theater to get my geek on while she did some browsing at Hudson’s. When I turned the theater corner, I saw two lines, both a block long, waiting for tickets. Uncertainly, I walked to the end of the interminable lines.

Suddenly, a middle-aged black man walked between the lines, calling out. “I got an extra ticket! Who needs a ticket?” I watched him walk the length of the line before he got to me. “I’ll take it,” I told the man.

As I pulled out my money (and he the ticket), we were suddenly swarmed by other customers. “I’ll take it!” one grown-up said. One offered to pay more than ticket price.

“Nope, nope,” he said, waving off the crowd. “This young man was first. He gets it.”

As we were finishing the transaction, an usher called out that the movie was sold out. He introduced me to his family, including a gaggle of his young boys. I followed them into the theater, where mom held the seats. We walked in just as the film started, on the iconic scene of the Imperial Cruiser bearing down on a rebel ship. I did not move in my seat, and would see the film 14 more times. At least.

But no film experience will ever match that moment. It was years later that I realized that the crowd probably took the man for a scalper. Or held a suspicion based on color I did not yet know existed. And when they saw the real ticket, that he was legit, they pounced.

Still, he held ground like Obi Wan. I’ll never forget him waving them off. Calling me a young man. Giving me a seat.

Indeed, Luke. The Force runs strong with this one.


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To Phil, the Real Marathon Man


Perhaps because I’ve felt as if I’ve finished a couple, but my eyes have been drawn to marathons of late.

Maybe it’s that irritating commercial from Marathon Oil, whose new jingle implores you to “put a tankful of freedom” in your guzzler. (Does that make the Prius the official vehicle of the Socialist Marxist Party?). Maybe it was catching the classic film again.

Or, most likely, it was yet another documentary I consumed, this one on the famed run of 26 miles from Marathon to Athens, which gave birth to the modern day sporting event. The documentary touched on all the rote facts, including the roots of its distance, how it became the symbol of national pride in Boston, and how more than 300 are held annually in the U.S. alone.

But I began to wonder about the guy who ran the first. Why wasn’t he celebrated? I mean, he did die trying.

Turns out, the guy is as heroic as any of the A-list Greek gods, from Apollo to Zeus. And the guy was real.

His name was Pheidippides (Phil to his bowling pals), and he was born about 530 BC.


Phil didn’t exude celebrity.  Not hulking, not that powerful, not even that cunning. Not…Herculean.

But Phil could run. And run. Like, further than you’d have the patience to drive run. And Phil believed in doing his share. So when he joined the Greek Army, they unwittingly turned him into one of the world’s first professional couriers, sending him to dispatch news between armies separated by miles.

Around 500, Persia was planning its biggest New World invasion yet, with Marathon as ground zero. What that documentary (and historical memory, for some reason) failed to mention is that Phil ran more than 150 miles over two days to get to Sparta and plead for help.

Sparta did, and helped repel the Persian army. And it was on that run, to Athens, that Phil died, giving the news of victory. Historians say his final words to the Assembly were ‘Joy to you, we won. Joy to you.’

Where’s  Phil’s pomp and circumstance?? His fable? His book deal? His summer blockbuster biopic?

Maybe his name was too tough to spell, let alone pronounce. Maybe we don’t like heralding those who die trying.

But don’t we all feel his pain, even a little? I can’t help but see him as that Everyday Greco Joe, who played to his strengths to get through the day, tried to keep his head down at work and do what feckless bosses commanded.

Bad news, Pheidippides. Bosses are still trying to run Joes to but a nub.

But you’d be proud of how much of your stride we emulate. Joy to you, Phil. Joy to you.




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Domestic Partnerships and Slobber Love


Any pet owners worth their salt believe their domestic partners are god’s gift to the animal kingdom. And that’s only because it’s true.

But while I am full of shit, I fully believe Teddy and Esme are the shit.

It had been too long since I’d seen them Sunday. Ten days, thanks to two road trips that required their boarding. It would be our longest time apart. And it didn’t speed by like dog years.

When it did finally pass, I couldn’t help but marvel — again — at their differences. From color to size to demeanor, they are polar opposites. Even intelligence (let’s just say one may not be, um, MENSA-eligible).

But I also discovered that while they look and behave so differently, they are so alike.

Esme, I think, is the first dog to ever look at me condescendingly. If she has a ball within reach, she will bring it to me, friends, family members, hobos. She’ll set it on the ground and look at me. Then the ball. Then at me. Then…She is saying, ‘Come on, little guy, throw the ball. That’s it. Just throw the ball over there and play fetch. Good huuuuuuuummmmmmaaaaaaannnnn…’


When we are driving to the vet (or anywhere involving unpleasantries), she will sit in the front seat and simply stare at me. She is saying ‘I know where you’re going, and what you’re doing. Sonovabitch.’

Teddy speaks a different language. When I awaken and open the bedroom door, he is invariably, inevitably waiting, saying ‘Well good morning! Feel like a drive?! How about a walk to the washer-dryer?! Look, dad, look outside, look! It’s the backyard! Oh. My. God…DOG FOOD BREAKFAST!!!!!’

Even heading to the vet, he seems ridiculously happy with his head out the window, his tongue lolling. ‘Oh boy! A drive! The vet! RECTAL THERMOMETERS!!!!!’



So I watched their reactions at our reunion. Not only was it our longest time apart; Teddy had to be hospitalized for an epileptic seizure the night before boarding. It was their longest time alone.

Esme came out first, with a ‘Where the hell is he, that sonovabitch?’ scowl with which she greets the planet. But when she saw me, she dropped the facade, hopped on the waiting room couch next to me. She pressed against my thigh, trembling slightly, not making a sound in the animal mayhem around her. She simply burrowed into my lap.

She was saying, in a pure, heartfelt, perfect way, “God I missed you. You owe me so much love.”

Next came Teddy. All clatter. Veterinary assistants calling out his name as he walks out, pats goodbye, the scrape of claws as he tries to Fred-Flintone it on the tile floor to get to me.


And I realize: they say the exact things, just in polar-opposite fashion.

He was saying, equally pure, equally heartfelt, equally perfect: “God I missed you. I owe you so much love.”

We stop for a Coke at the drive-through, a favorite hound haunt. I notice that Esme, for once, wanted to ride in the backseat with Ted. I could have taken umbrage, but how can you deny the beauty of a sister wanting to see her brother?

I smile and look back at the pair, to welcome them home.

Teddy greets me with a slobbering lick that covers the entirety of the right side of my face, from open grin to the lens on my glasses. And here I thought they were so different, when they are simply both sides of love.




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