Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Stories We Leave Behind

After weeks of heat, humidity, rain, and clouds, I was so happy to see blue skies and blustery 40-degree temperatures when I awoke this morning. I celebrated with the last of the apple turnover for breakfast and an episode of Sailor Moon. In the second half of the third season, the Soldiers crash the elite Mugen School to find out more about the mysterious Hotoru Tomoe and an accident she and her father were involved in many years ago. They have one last showdown with Mimtete, who isn't happy another member of the Witches 5 has tried to steal her job.

Jessa picked me up at 10 to head down the White Horse Pike to the Cinemark Movie Theater in Somerdale. Turns out this is a fairly new theater in a "lifestyle center"- type mall with housing and stores and restaurants, like the Market Place in Cherry Hill. Even with the 20 minute drive, buying food (I had the smallest box of popcorn they sold; Jessa went for nachos and an Icee), and my playing Pac Man for 10 minutes, we were still there too early. The showing wasn't until 11:15.

It's probably just as well we were there early. The place was a bigger maze than the Death Stars. It took us a few minutes of twists and turns before we figured out where we were supposed to be. Because the theater was recent, the seats were comfy, and while there wasn't at ton of legroom, there was enough. We were the first ones there. This being only the second showing of the day, the theater was busy, but not crowded. I was interested to notice the cross-section of people coming to see this. I saw kids as young as 6 with parents my age through college students up to elderly couples.

After many advertisements for current TV offerings and upcoming movies, The Force Awakens finally began. I really can't say too much about the plot without going heavily into spoilers. A young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who lives alone on a desert planet discovers a beach-ball-like droid with a secret message about the long-lost Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Both the New Order, the evil group that has taken over the galaxy, and the valiant Resistance are very interested in finding Skywalker and the knowledge he holds. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his old buddy Chewbacca (Peter Mahew) are just interested in finding their ship, the Millennium Falcon. But it turns out the new head Sith Lord and resident bad guy has connections to Han - and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) - that could have dire consequences for Rey, her new friends, and the galaxy...

Wow. Holy cow. Yeah, this was good. This was good in all the ways the prequels mostly couldn't manage to be. The story was fairly easy to follow. The kids did a great job. Harrison Ford was having more fun than he's had in years. The ending nearly killed me. I cried or almost cried a couple of times. Did it have problems? More than likely, including a few plot points that didn't make sense. I'll figure that out more when it's released on DVD. Let's just say for now, this is a heck of a ride. Whether you're a fan of the series or not, I think you'll find something to enjoy.

Like all Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens is over two hours long. We were in the theater for a while by the time we finally decided it was time for lunch around quarter of 2. Fortunately for us, there was an Applebee's right next door to the Cinemark. Jessa had the good idea of each of us ordering an appetizer plate and soup. We were both still too keyed up from the movie to eat anything really heavy. Jess had hot wings and iced tea; I opted for chicken quesadillas and hot tea. We both had a very tasty and salty French Onion Soup.

We still had over an hour before we would meet Joe at his apartment. It was too nice to hang out at their place, as we originally planned. We made a brief stop at the Gamestop next to Applebee's before riding across Camden County to the Deptford Target. I'm glad we went there! They had some of the newest Ever After High dolls, including two new Signatures (basic dolls) I'd been looking for, Justine Dancer and Farrah Goodfairy. (Ironically, they also had Mira Shards and Courtley Jester, for cheaper than Amazon had them.) Jessa and I also explored the electronics section and the seasonal aisles. While most of what's out now in the seasonal area is for Valentine's Day, they still had a ton of Christmas candy left. I finally found the half-price mini Yorks I wasn't able to pick up at the Acme.

Joe actually lives in an apartment complex in Deptford, not that far from the Deptford Mall. We ended up there next. He has a nice little place with four budgies (one older green-yellow one, three younger blue and white ones bought to give the older one a friend), one very bright-green parrot appropriately named Emerald, a very tall and slender Christmas tree, and lots of stuffed toys, records, and books. We admired his pets and collections as he got ready to head out.

Our next stop was a really nifty little record store in Woodbury Jessa and Joe had mentioned a few times. They'd apparently just opened and had a ton of items for a dollar. That, they did. For the most part, even their regular prices weren't unbearable. I ended up with:

The soundtracks from All Dogs Go To Heaven, The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band, the film version of Can-Can, and a double album of the Irene Dunne 30's operettas High Wide and Handsome and Sweet Adeline

18 Interesting Songs From Unfortunate Musicals, a collection of numbers from shows that were huge flops on Broadway and were never otherwise recorded.

The original 2-disc "Collector's Edition" DVD set for the animated Disney Tarzan

We must have been at the record store for over an hour, maybe closer to two. It was well past dark when we finally headed out again. Joe saw a Goodwill on the way home and decided to give it a try. They didn't find anything, but I picked up a Backyardigans DVD, In the Deep, and a 2-disc record set of music from the actual Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy movies (including some of their solo outings).

It was past 6:30 when we made it back to my place. I got to show Joe and Jessa around. They admired my doll collections, my ornament-laden tree, and my crates groaning with records. I don't often get to have people visit my place, so that was fun.

Opened the dolls as soon as they left. Justine Dancer and Farrah Goodfairy are two of the newest additions to the Ever After High line. Sweet and sassy Justine is the daughter of the youngest of the 12 Dancing Princesses. She wants to run her own dance studio and direct and choreograph music videos someday. Gentle Farrah has taken on the task of being both the Fairy Godmother to Ashlynn Ella and the Blue Fairy for Cedar Wood. She's a kind-hearted creature who loves making new outfits for her friends and dreams of the day when she'll get to take part in a ball of her own. Farrah's pink face is a bit odd-looking and her sparkly blue dress is a bit cheap-ish, but she has the prettiest blue-green hair. Justine's dark brown hair is a messy poof, but she has a beautiful yellow and pink outfit and a gorgeous face with glittery make-up.

Listened to the All Dogs Go to Heaven soundtrack as I removed the dolls and ate leftover stir fry for dinner. While I'm not overly fond of the rather strange movie (about a gangster dog who returns to Earth after being murdered and ends up helping an orphan), some of the songs are actually quite good. My favorite was always "The More You Share" with Charlie (Burt Reynolds) and the pups, and the tearjerking "Soon You'll Come Home."

And...watching the Star Wars movies over the last couple of days has given me a lot to think about. A lot of The Force Awakens centers on legacies and stories - the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we leave behind, the ones we think we know. Stories are an important part of living and of being. We're dead when we don't have a story. And the stories don't end when we do. Stories can be passed down, from generation to generation, from parent to child, from child to friend, from friend to family. Stories evolve, change, take on a life of their own.

Jessa and I were actually discussing this in the car on the way to the theater. We're both thrilled that the Star Wars saga is being continued for a new generation. Now kids will know Rey and Finn and Poe like I knew Leia and Luke and Han...and I couldn't be happier. That's what happens with good stories.

I have so many memories from this series. I remember Rose and I playing with our new Return of the Jedi toys at the laundromat in the early 80's. (According to Mom, that's how we lost our original Princess Leia figure - we left her at the laundromat.) I remember how thrilled Keefe was when the original trilogy was re-released in the late 90's, and then the prequels came out. I'd join him when he played with his action figures. We used to have so much fun, making up stories and somehow connecting the old and new trilogies.

And now, kids will be able to make up their own stories, just like we did. They'll be able to decide what happens next, who loves whom. They'll be pretending to be Rey and Poe and Finn in their backyards, just like we used to have fun pretending we were Luke and Han and Leia. They'll get to make their own bedsheet Falcons and cart around teddy-bear Chewies.

Stories never really leave. Oh, sometimes they seem to disappear for a while, but then you'll find a dusty book or an archived webpage or hear a story from your parents or grandparents, and they're alive again. True fantasies are always there, deep down, when we need them most. Stories are our true legacies. They're what we leave behind, when everything else is gone. As long as the stories are still there, people are never really lost.

And...that's what I'm meant to do. That's what I believe in. I believe in the stories. I'm meant to create them, tell them, pass them to the next generation. Some people believe in faith. Others believe in the Force. Me, I believe in the stories...for they'll be around long after everything else is gone. I'm meant to tell and retell stories, to pass them on, to create my own and enhance the stories of others. That's my legacy.

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