November 15, 2015
It was 1983 and we were all looking forward to the new Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi. George Lucas hadn’t yet put a foul taste in our mouths with midi-chlorians and Hayden Christensen, and we were still riding the AT-AT battle high of The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, Lucas was about to shoot first with the Ewoks, but we didn’t know that yet.
Lucas had the gall, the sheer audacity, to release this film on a school day. Seriously? A school day? I had to see this on opening day but back then I never missed a day of school. Headache? Fever? Screaming heebejeebies? Didn’t matter. Unless my arm was hanging by a single tendon I was going to school. My Mom was very, very strict. (I was 12, BTW.) Cutting school was out, and pretending to be violently ill would only get me, at best, a trip to the doctor, so I was stuck having to wait until Saturday, and by then I was sure everybody in the world would have seen this film but me. I had to go.
And then a miracle happened. God’s grace shone down on me, and all copies of Return of the Jedi spontaneously combusted and the world had to wait along with me until Saturday, when new prints would arrive at the theaters. Remember that?
Well no, but a miracle really did happen. That morning I woke up and my mother told my brother (the noted cynic, Allan Keyes) and I that we were not going to school, that instead we were going to see Return of the Jedi. Whoa!
I couldn’t believe it but it was true. A little later we hopped on the bus and went to the first screening. The lines were not as crazy as I expected, but who cared? Not only was I not in school, but I was seeing the new Star Wars film on opening day!
Only one thing could dampen my enthusiasm: an old lady on the bus.
It was a little crowded. Mom had a seat and my brother and I were standing near the front. I was wearing my brand new Return of the Jedi t-shirt, which only came in an unfortunate powder blue color.
I was near the front of the bus, by the first seats which are reserved for either senior citizens or angry teens. (This was long before Brooklyn was filled with hipsters, who now sit in those seats ironically.) There was an elderly grey-haired woman, about 3 feet tall (4 if you count her grey hair pilled on her head) sitting in the seat right behind the driver and she was wearing very, very thick glasses. These were your typical old lady frames, with a string of faux-pearls running from arm to arm behind her ears, and her sight must have been about as bad it could be without her being legally blind because she leaned in close, very close, uncomfortably close, to my chest and moved her eyes across every word of my shirt, sounding out the words to herself- which is to say, very loudly.
“Staaar… Waaars…Returrrn… Of… The…The what? Jed-eee? Jed-eee? What’s a Jed-eee?”
That last was directed to my nose, since she had lifted her head out of my chest and, now looking up, was still way too far into my personal space. Even back then, 12 year old Kid Blog knew when someone was all up in his grill.
So I told her, taking a step back, that it was a new movie, a sequel to Star Wars.
She had never heard of it. Not Return of The Jedi, not Star Wars, and, almost angrily, said that it was a silly shirt. I looked over at my Mom,and my brother and I moved a little closer to them.
“Do you see that shirt?” Now she was talking to the other senior citizens around her. “That’s for some movie. He looks silly in it.” I was being publicly shamed by a random old lady on a bus. I looked at Mom, who gave me a complicated look that said to ignore her, we’re getting off soon anyway, she’s crazy. (I told you it was complicated.)
Well, we got to the bus stop by the theater and to get off I had to pass the old woman, who yelled at me to “stop wearing that shirt! It doesn’t fit you anyway!”
We got off and joined the crowd (Mom had already gotten us tickets) and I was happy to see that not only were there plenty of people wearing the same shirt, but most of them looked a lot worse, and had more pimples, than I did. Geeks in 1983 were the same as geeks today.
But unlike them, I long ago got rid of the shirt. Some of those geeks are still wearing them.