Life, Death, Love, and Star Wars

Star Wars is woven throughout the fabric of my existence. I am far from alone in this regard because Star Wars matters to a lot of people around the world. With the new movie debuting later this year, and Force Friday happening today, it feels like a good time to explain why I find Star Wars so important. I spent some time earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration with tens of thousands of people who could share a similar story about how Star Wars has affected their lives. Every one of those stories is original and valid.

This one is mine.

Before delving into the details of what it was like to be at Star Wars Celebration back in April, I want to explain the various stages of my Star Wars fandom and experiences throughout my life. I was born in New Jersey in 1976, so I was too young to be aware of the first movie’s imprint on society in 1977. As I grew up, I became a fan because Star Wars toys were everywhere – and I wanted them all! My mother referred to me back then as Greedy Smurf, which is a title I thankfully outgrew (right, mom?!). I recall watching Star Wars in my living room whenever I could find it on the cable channel, PRISM. This was before the days of digital downloads, DVRs, Blu-rays, DVDs, Laserdiscs or even VHS tapes – so finding a movie you wanted to watch took planning and the local TV Guide. For example, discovering that Star Wars was going to play on PRISM next Friday night became appointment viewing. My aunt or grandmother would sometimes call our house to alert me that Star Wars was going to be on television. My fandom started in this way, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of an old box TV watching Luke leave his home to partake in a grand adventure.

Luke Reaching for Lightsaber

Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke. Luke, trust me.

My memory tells me that the first time I saw Empire Strikes Back was on a VHS tape at my aunt Eileen’s house while the rest of the family were off doing something else; I could be mistaken. The scene that hit me like a bolt of lightning was Luke in the snow cave on Hoth. Helpless and dangling from the roof of the cave, Luke senses danger, closes his eyes, and wills his lightsaber to leap from the snow and into hand just in time to fend off a raging monster.

That was it.

That was the moment!

I had heard “Old Ben” teach Luke about The Force many times in the first movie and watched Luke trust his feelings to blow up The Death Star, but it was not until that moment when Star Wars connected with me on an existential level.

Let me explain, I was born with a variety of heart and kidney defects. Immediately after I was born, my parents were told by doctors that I would be fortunate to survive a week. My heart had a double inlet left – or “single” – ventricle along with transposition of the great vessels and pulmonary stenosis. In layman’s terms, my heart was not pumping blood the way it should, and the blood it was pumping did not carry the same level of oxygen as a normal heart would. Another term sometimes used in cases like mine is Blue Baby Syndrome because areas of the skin take on a bluish tone as a result of the lack of oxygen in the blood. This is a characteristic present today as my cheeks flush purple at times and my toenail and fingernails are “clubbed.” Despite the dire prognostications from the doctors, I continued to live beyond that first week, and I went home to start my life with my family.

SW4

A picture of me that appeared in our local paper for the March of Dimes fundraiser. From left to right, my brother, mother, father, and sister. My hair rocked!

Time passed, and one of my kidneys was removed when I was one year-old because it never developed properly. I then had a procedure at the age of four to get more blood flowing to my lungs, which in turn got more oxygen into my blood system. So I grew up around doctors and the realization that my lifespan could very well be limited.  I was featured as the poster child one year for our local March of Dimes telethon. However, I enjoyed childhood activities and friends, though there was a constant awareness of my own mortality. I was surviving. I was alive. And my doctors did not really seem to know why my body continued to function. Every few months, my parents would take me into the doctor’s office, they’d dip me in a variety of bacta tanks, and tell me to keep doing what I’m doing – sometimes with a visible shrug.

My body has been in, “Never tell me the odds” mode since Day 1.

And that is why Luke reaching for his lightsaber with the swell of John Williams’ music echoing off those cave walls emotionally crushed me.

Luke survived. I was surviving.

Nothing was impossible.

Memories Lost, Memories Gained

My health remained a concern and I did not know any other way to live; it was just another part of the routine. I started school and performed well in classes; the only issue was keeping up in gym. My parents went out of their way to keep my life as normal as possible. By the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters 1983, I was old enough to anticipate the movie. I played with the toys all the time, collected the trading cards, and spent a lot of time using markers and crayons to draw Star Wars pictures (wish I still had those). I remember my father taking me to see Jedi during an afternoon. We were late, which might explain why – to this day – I am irrationally adamant about arriving for movies early to settle into a good seat, watch the trailers, and enjoy the show. My father and I walked into the dark theater as Jabba was speaking in subtitles, and we struggled to find free seats as our eyes adjusted to the dark. I remember being disappointed that we missed the beginning of the movie, but overjoyed that there was another Star Wars film in my life. I do not remember much else about that day. I was only six years-old, and the day blended in with every other day in my young life.

Father State Police

My father, Albert John Mallen, Sr. with his squad car.

Until August 28th, 1985 when my father, a trooper and undercover detective with the New Jersey State Police, was shot and killed in the line of duty while executing a drug raid on a meth lab. His death happened a few days before I turned nine years-old. Suddenly, the moments I shared previously with my father took on more importance. Being the youngest of three siblings, most of my childhood is blended into a collection of memories and events involving all of my family. My father took me – and me alone – to see Return of the Jedi and it was a moment we shared together. His favorite characters in the movie were Chewbacca and, for some damn reason, Salacious Crumb. At the same time, he also enjoyed George “The Animal” Steele from professional wrestling, so perhaps he had a soft spot for creatures that were weird and hairy. Many memories of my father have unfortunately faded away, but not the afternoon we saw Jedi together. That memory I still have, and it is mine forever.

By the time I started high school in 1990, it had been seven years since a new Star Wars movie was released. Star Wars became less prominent during those years even though I watched the movies on VHS all the time in addition to shows like The Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. The release of the movies on DVD, and later the Special Editions that played in theaters, were all that fans had to cling to of the original trilogy. The only connection I had with other fans outside of my local area was reading magazines like Star Wars Insider and watching Steve Sansweet sell licensed products on QVC. (On a side note, were his appearances on QVC Appointment Television for anyone else? I was so delighted when I was awake at 1AM, flipping through channels, and found him selling Star Wars items I could never find in stores.) In addition to the collecting stylings of Mr. Sansweet, a variety of licensed comic books, novels, and video games carried me during those years. I spent weeks- or months-at-a-time playing games like Super Star Wars, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Dark Forces. I sought out all the gold-labeled covers for the Dark Empire comic series. I voraciously consumed each novel in the Heir to the Empire series. However, it was not until midway through my college years that the news of a new Star Wars movie took shape.

It was an exciting time in my life; my health was stable, I graduated college with a degree in psychology, and I was about to leave New Jersey to move to Minnesota for my masters degree. On top of that, the first new Star Wars movie since Jedi would be released next year in 1999.

And I had no idea The Phantom Menace would lead me to the love of my life.

Frenzied Anticipation

The news that Lucas would fill in the backstory for the original trilogy of Star Wars movies was mind-numbing. I was finally going to learn about The Clone Wars and see why Anakin Skywalker lost his way and “helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights.” It was really happening, and I wanted to be a part of it. By the time the first trailer for The Phantom Menace arrived, I was well into my first year of graduate school at University of Minnesota. While I became friends with a fellow nerd, he had no interest in seeing The Waterboy just to see the first trailer for The Phantom Menace. I had no such reservations and went to the theater by myself after class.

They played the trailer before and after the movie. I was beyond excited, and I needed to find like-minded fans who shared my enthusiasm. As the release date approached news spread that some fans were camping in line for tickets weeks before the premiere, and I decided I had to be one of them. Without Twitter or Facebook to guide me, I went through the forums at TheForce.net and found a guy that was organizing a line in a suburb outside of the Twin Cities. I contacted him through the forum and he welcomed me to join. After class one day, I drove approximately 30 minutes from campus to the theater and found 10 to 20 fans sitting on camping and lawn chairs in a movie theater parking lot. The whole situation felt extremely silly. In retrospect, it was probably one of the most important decisions of my life.

Line 2

Rain did not deter us. That’s me second from the left. The guy in the snazzy poncho was the organizer of the line; great guy.

During the following days when I did not have to go to class, work, or eventually sleep, I was at the theater making friends and talking about Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars. The line grew, various media outlets interviewed us, and it became a strange place where theater employees brought out huge Tupperware containers of popcorn for us to eat and cops drove by the parking lot in the middle of the night to check in on us only to watch a few scenes from Empire that we were projecting onto the exterior theater wall.

These were my people!

We were all from different backgrounds but had one thing in common – for whatever reason, we loved Star Wars and were passionate enough about it to put other aspects of our life on hold so we could wait in this line.

The Line.

It is still known simply as The Line to many of my friends and family. One of the interesting people I met in The Line was Grant Gould. Frequent readers of the site may know he did the artwork for my mascot, Iddy the Lich, and also illustrated numerous characters for my No Assembly Required monster series. I interviewed him back in 2012 to discuss his roleplaying game, Blade Raiders, but in 1999 he was just another Star Wars fan like me. I got my ticket for the first show, saw the movie, and then saw it again. Then I saw it seven or eight more times. I believe I saw The Phantom Menace 10 times in the theater, not including the 3D release that happened a few years ago. I honestly could not judge the movie on merit alone. It was a new Star Wars movie; I did not possess the skills at that time to critique the movie objectively.

After Episode I released, I met up with the same group a few times as the organizer of The Line invited us to parties he hosted in his rooftop loft in the Twin Cities. The parties were fantastic and it was great to sit on the roof, look out over the St. Paul skyline and talk about Star Wars and a variety of other geek-centric topics. While preparing to move away from Minnesota after graduation in 2000, I got invited to another party by the organizer of The Line. Only this time, I was distracted by another passion, the Philadelphia Flyers. They were on a glorious Cup run that featured a five-overtime thriller against the Penguins the night before I graduated (that video still gives me chills). My plan was to travel back home to South Jersey as soon as possible to make sure I was there for the Stanley Cup Finals, which meant I would miss the party. The New Jersey Devils had other plans, and came back from a 3-1 series deficit to end the Flyers season (and basically Eric Lindros’ career as a Flyer).

I remember exactly where I was when the Flyers lost that Game 7. I had to tour Iowa State University because I was starting my doctorate program there in the Fall. Iowa is not exactly a hotbed for professional ice hockey, but I was able to watch the game on a tiny television mounted behind the bar at a restaurant. I looked on in horror as the Flyers got eliminated. My plans changed as I did not have to rush back home. Instead, I decided to stay in the Twin Cities long enough to meet up with The Line one last time. If the Flyers had won that series, then I may have never seen people from The Line again.

I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This

Since I was scheduled to be out of my apartment (maybe best described as a single dorm room), I crashed with different friends for a few weeks. It was liberating to not have a physical space to call home, and one friend joked that I was living the life of Steven. I knew I was leaving Minnesota and driving back home to New Jersey the morning after The Line party. By the time that night arrived, I had (mostly) recovered from the Flyers collapse and was riding a wave of positive emotions and confidence. I made it through my masters’ degree, earned a spot in a quality doctoral program, and collected wonderful memories and great friends along the way.

The party was another epic event; Grant recently described this as a “Phantom Menace” party, though I claimed for years it was NOT a Star Wars party. I enjoyed catching up with The Line and assumed it was the last time I would see many of them. As the evening progressed, a new girl arrived to the party and appeared out-of-place. While everyone else was dressed in casual clothes, she was wearing a sleek dress. I noticed she was talking often to Grant and made my way over there. Grant saw me and told the girl (in his infinite wisdom), “Hey, this is Mike. He’s great. He’s from The Line.” It turned out the girl was his cousin, and I learned she was at a wedding (not her own!) earlier in the night; thus the dress.

Party

I was rocking the Jason-Newsted-from-Metallica haircut that night. Fortunately it did not scare Emily away. Thank you again, Grant!

We immediately hit it off. She hit me with a line referencing The Godfather, “Michael is such a powerful name,” and I tried to impress her with the fact that I went to Woodstock the summer before. We talked and talked and talked; the rest of the party faded into the background. Before the end of the night, I got her contact information by using a Sharpie to scribble her AOL email address on my forearm (classy!) and vowed that I would stay in touch even though I was leaving the next morning.

Days later back in New Jersey, I did send her an email, and she thankfully replied. Throughout that summer, we stayed in touch through emails and phone calls. She was attending college about five hours away from Iowa State and then later spent a semester studying abroad in London. After some visits back and forth when she returned to the States, we entered into a long-distance relationship that ultimately resulted in her moving to Iowa (serious commitment on her part!). Whereas I can be timid, she was bold, assertive, and ensured that we were both taking advantage of all life had to offer. I decided this would be the woman I would marry, and I proposed to her in 2003.

Wedding

I am a lucky, lucky man.

Being the creative type, my proposal involved a city-wide scavenger hunt that started with a note left in her apartment that was set in place by an R2-D2 telephone. She completed the scavenger hunt (in about two hours), agreed to get married, and we walked into our wedding reception to the Star Wars Theme in 2004. Over 11 years later, we continue to bring out the best in each other.

When I think about the events that led to meeting her, it takes my breath away because it would have been so easy to have never met her. I could have decided to watch Episode I like any normal person and not camp out for tickets. I could have missed The Line. Thankfully Star Wars brought us together.

I am forever grateful.

My life trundled along. After earning a doctorate degree in psychology, my wife and I moved to Texas as I had a job opportunity in Houston. She returned to school and earned an MBA, and we both continued to climb in our respective careers. We enjoyed a wonderful life in Houston, but decided in 2012 to return to Minnesota to be close to one of our families. During those years, Grant had become a freelance illustrator and had done numerous projects for Lucasfilm, and we attended several conventions with him including Star Wars Celebration III. Star Wars was still a hobby and an interest, but the intensity declined after Revenge of the Sith was released in 2005.

There Has Been An Awakening

Over the past 10 years, most of my conversations about Star Wars have been about the merits – or lack thereof – of the prequel trilogy. My Star Wars fandom now has a baked-in, bittersweet taste as the powerful positive memories of the original films trigger the, “What was Lucas thinking with the prequels?” questions. Even shows like The Clone Wars, which I find overall excellent, produce head-scratching continuity issues for the greater Star Wars saga. (I still think they took the easy way out with Ahsoka, but that’s another post for another day). It has been a “long, long time” since the majority of Star Wars fans were able to embrace something new without reservations. So when news broke that a new trilogy was going to be filmed, there continued to be hesitation mixed with anticipation as questions loomed if the new creative team could get it right this time.

The first teaser trailer was released and it quieted some of the negativity about the new film. I mean, watch the Falcon barrel roll as John Williams’ music blares and not get goosebumps, I DARE YOU!

I skipped watching the trailer when it became available online; I wanted to experience it in a theater for the first time. Thankfully, a theater close by in Minnesota was one of 100 in the country that showed the trailer in front of Big Hero 6. It was awesome to see it unfold on the big screen!

SW2

“It’s not canon that the YOUNGEST goes first in Dejarik!”

So when Grant Gould offered me the chance to be his assistant (i.e., Booth Babe) during Star Wars Celebration in California, I jumped at the chance. I attended a few Star Wars conventions with Grant in the past, and found them to be remarkably entertaining. The first was a smaller convention in Dallas, TX years ago that resulted in my sharing an elevator with Ray Parks (Darth Maul) and hanging out and sharing drinks with actors such as Leeanna Walsman (Zam Wessell) and Matthew Wood (voice of General Grievous) and members of the 501st. I also got introduced to the Star Wars’ Artist community, which is composed of fans just like myself – only they illustrate Star Wars characters as part of their job. The artists are incredibly talented and wonderful to speak to because they are passionate Star Wars fans. I have commissioned a few of the artists, including Cat Staggs and Jamie Snell, to illustrate Iddy the Lich because I love their work so much. I traveled to Celebration this year with high hopes that Star Wars, which had never truly left my life, was back.

The convention did not disappoint; it was amazing.

Other than a generic, “It was tough to see all the cool things to see,” I cannot think of a bad thing to say about the convention. I assisted Grant with setting up his table in the Artist Alley and got to see the convention floor come to life the night before the event. The anticipation in the air – just among the people working the show – was contagious.

“What’s going to be in the trailer?”

“I don’t know, do you think we’ll see Luke, Han, and Leia?”

“We have to, right?! Is Harrison going to show up unannounced during the panel tomorrow?”

“Oh my god, this place will go nuts!”

SW6

I just wanted to get a breakfast sandwich and got accosted by a Biker Scout.

These conversations were happening everywhere – on buses, sidewalks, hotel lobbies, fast food chains, and certainly on the floor of the convention as all the vendors set up shop. I got to walk around aimlessly in the convention center and took a ton of pictures. The official badge I got as part of working with Grant meant I belonged there, which is a feeling I never truly accepted. I felt like an imposter, and imagined sooner or later someone was going to realize I should not be wandering around ALL THE STUFF before the show opened. I was surrounded by toys, statues, LEGOs, videogames, apparel, and merchandising of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye could see. And the enthusiasm for Star Wars continued to snowball around me.

Grant and I briefly debated camping out in line over night to get seats at the panel with J. J. Abrams the next morning, and we quickly decided that there is no way we could handle the lack of sleep for the rest of the show. We were much younger when we camped out for Phantom Menace, and this show was work first –and fanboy second. I followed along on Twitter as fans lined up for the panel starting around 9PM. It was a wonderful touch by J. J. Abrams and Disney to buy pizza for all of the fans waiting in line. It is difficult to describe, but the goodwill about this Star Wars moment was palpable around the convention center. It was still mixed with the trepidation that most fans have post-Prequel Trilogy.

“That first trailer hit all the right notes. But I don’t know . . .”

“Disney seems to be getting Marvel done in a good way. So maybe it’ll work.”

“Abrams rebooted Star Trek and that wasn’t bad.”

“Yeah, I hope they don’t screw it up again.”

I remember standing in The Line in 1999 and having a conversation based on the question, “What if this new Star Wars movie is terrible?” We all laughed; how could a Star Wars movie be terrible? The mythology of Star Wars created so many interesting questions about Vader, The Clone Wars, and a full-fledged Jedi Order. I saw The Phantom Menace about 10 times in the theater when it was released, and I did not fully embrace the negative aspects of that film until much later. It was Star Wars, Obi-Wan was great, the podrace was cool, I was “in love” with Natalie Portman, Duel of the Fates by John Williams was epic, and Darth Maul was a spectacular villain. Plus, the final few minutes of the movie foreshadowed all the things I wanted to see in the prequels – Obi-Wan is tasked with training Anakin, and Palpatine seems aware that Anakin could be a powerful tool for his plans. Star Wars was back and I was happy, and I assumed Episode II would finally get to the good stuff.

Skipping a long critique of Attack of the Closes and Revenge of the Sith, the prequels as a whole still feel underwhelming. There are elements of those movies I enjoy and defend. For the most part, the three prequel films in the franchise were not only a disappointment, but skewed things that were cherished about the original films. The most intriguing questions about the Star Wars universe going into the prequels were either answered ham-fistedly – or not at all. When I watch A New Hope or Empire, I do not like to think of Vader as being a petulant child that was a lousy friend and husband even before he turned to The Dark Side. It annoys me that Order 66 makes the Jedi look incredibly weak, and takes the emphasis away from Vader “hunting down and destroying the Jedi Knights.” I cannot ignore the prequels happened; even positive memories about the original films trigger negative thoughts about the flaws in the prequels.

I mention this because the hesitancy to fully embrace a new era of Star Wars was also there to behold leading up to the start of the convention. It was written on faces and in the tones of conversations. People wanted desperately for this new movie to work, to capture the magic that influenced our lives in one way or another. As I assisted Grant with final preparations for the show to begin, fans piled into various exhibit halls to watch the opening panel. I was attempting to stream the panel on my phone and had limited success as the cell service and Wifi in the area were getting assaulted by all in attendance. Artists and other staff looked over my shoulder as I gushed about BB-8, but mostly everyone was busy organizing their tables, working on illustrations, or generally bustling around to make sure they were ready for customers once the doors were opened.

When it became clear that J. J. Abrams was going to introduce the trailer, I – and several others trying to stream on a phone or tablet – started shouting.

“Get over here!”

“They’re about to show the trailer!”

Even as I type this, a smile springs to my face and I am holding back tears. I cannot describe the feeling in and around me during the next five minutes. People dropped what they were doing and ran, skipped, or hopped to whoever had the closest device so they could see the trailer. All of us were in the building where the trailer was being debuted to a live audience, and yet we squeezed together shoulder-to-shoulder to watch for glimpses of footage on the screen of an old iPhone. A frenzy of activity with people rushing about turned into absolute stillness when the stream faded to black. No one made a sound as familiar notes from John Williams played.

SW5

This is how we watched the trailer for The Force Awakens while it was playing for thousands of people live literally right down the hall from us.

The stream was on a delay; perhaps only a second or two. As the camera was panning to the right across the desert, the crowd in the building went nuts. We heard their reaction a beat or two before we knew what they were excited about. We caught up and a few people gasped and commented out loud.

“Oh my god!”

“A Star Destroyer?”

“Whaaaat?!”

Stone silence dropped in again as we heard Luke’s voice talk about how the Force is strong in his family. People huddled even closer around the phone as images flashed before our eyes – Vader’s burnt helmet, R2, a lightsaber (is that Leia?) – followed by Luke saying, “You have that power too.” The music soared. The skin on my arms had goosebumps, and I could feel the electricity of everyone standing around me.

The audience in the building once again drowned out the room with thunderous cheers, and we were not sure why.

The trailer continued and X-Wings blast over the water, Oscar Issac is shouting in his pilot seat (now we know why the crowd reacted!), the crossguard lightsaber is in action, the new cast is running in the desert, a new Sith Lord?, new stormtroopers, Daisy Ridley, TIEs getting shot up, John Boyega, the Chrome Trooper (oh my god!), BB-8 peeking around the corner in the Falcon, Ridley again, Boyega again . . .

Our collective attention was broken because the crowd in the building went wild. We could not hear the trailer, and the floor felt like it is shaking. We knew something big was about to happen.

The stream caught up to the live audience in the building and we see The Falcon is being pursued by a TIE Fighter, and IT’S FLYING INTO A CRASHED STAR DESTROYER!?

Those of us hovering over the phone started cheering, and while we were all trying to wrap our mind around the Falcon flying INTO A STAR DESTROYER! our thoughts were interrupted by the biggest reaction yet by the crowd in attendance.

Massive, thunderous applause and exclamations of joy were deafening. The floor definitely WAS shaking at that moment.

The screen on my phone went black for two to three seconds. We are reeling because we knew something was about to happen. What was coming next?

Han and Chewie on the Falcon!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

The Star Wars logo flashed onto the screen and the people around me were – and this is a technical term – losing their shit. Adults, full-grown adults, were laughing, jumping up and down, shaking, hugging, high-fiving, and crying. No one was judging the exuberance. No one was managing expectations or worrying about impression management.

Everyone was giddy.

Star Wars was BACK!

Various people remarked to me that they have chills, and the Artist Alley suddenly looked like a bingo ball container. People were bouncing around one another, moving about in a stupor looking for anyone to connect with. I spied one of the younger artists standing motionless with his arms clutching his head with a dazed look on his face. I shared his awe in that instant. It is a moment that I will bottle up and take to my grave. Everyone got to watch the trailer for The Force Awakens in their own way, and a few thousand got to watch it live in the room with J. J. Abrams and company. I got to watch it with Grant and about 40 artists that live, breath, and eat Star Wars. It was fantastic.

While people were trying to recover, I yelled out that they were about the show the trailer again. Given the loudness of the audience in the building and our collective freakout (again, technical term) the first time, we did not hear if Han said anything. We once again huddled around phones and tablets and were sure to be incredibly quiet after the Falcon storms into the crashed Star Destroyer.

Chewie, we’re home.

It was the first time any of us heard that line. We were emotionally crushed. More tears, more laughter, more raw energy. It was wonderful, and spontaneous, and warm, and so incredibly genuine.

The crowds from the panel were released and crashed onto the convention floor. We were suddenly surrounded by thousands of people who experienced the same cathartic release. The emotional weight of the prequels and all that they did – or didn’t do – was significantly lighter all of a sudden. Each person that came up to Grant’s table was beaming ear to ear with a silly grin. People were excited about Star Wars and they bought and bought whatever merchandise they could find. The positive energy in the building throughout that first day was thrilling, and it carried over into the weekend.

Grant and I were in the convention center at least an hour before it opened to the public each morning, and were there after it closed for at least another hour at night. These were long days that were quite exhausting and left little time and energy for revelry. Along the way I got to briefly meet current Star Wars celebrities like Dave Filoni (director of The Clone Wars and Rebels) and Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano), but the thing I honestly enjoyed the most was sitting at Grant’s table and communicating with him and other fans that were gushing excitement about Star Wars – and doing so without reservations. It reminded me of my time in The Line waiting to buy tickets for Episode I; everyone had their guard down once again.

Celebration

Working for Grant at Celebration offered numerous benefits. Koo nee tang!

I was happy to assist Grant in selling as much of his art as possible. I am not a salesman, though as a psychologist I have skills in listening and having educated guesses about what motivates people. Some people wanted a gift for their child while others were focused on collecting original artwork. One amazingly nice guy tasked Grant with a number of commissions (character head shots) so he could have the actors of those characters sign the art before the end of the show. For my part, striking up a conversation and being friendly led to quite a few sales. My work at the show allowed Grant to focus on completing more commissions instead of managing the crowds. Grant remarked that I sounded like Obi-Wan speaking to the droids on Tatooine as I greeted people walking by his table with, “Hello there.” It was perhaps the best compliment I received all week, although getting praise (and some sweet art prints) from Cat Staggs after I sold a bunch of stuff at her table while she was off doing a panel was also nice. As the convention concluded, many of the vendors reported it was one of their better – if not the best – shows they had in terms of sales. Everyone shared the belief that Star Wars is back.

The Next Episode

Throughout my life, Star Wars has been a constant presence. It fueled my creativity as a young child. It provided a touchstone for important memories about my father after his life was cut short. It self-medicated me at times when I was feeling down about my health and wanted a distraction. It led me to new friends, and the woman who has helped me navigate my adult life. And it connected me with my nephew just last month as we built a Wookie starship together out of LEGOs.

I recall my anxiety prior to seeing Episode I in the theater for the first time, “I hope I live long enough to see Episode III.” Worries about my lifespan are not idle curiosity given the status of my heart. The self-awareness of my own mortality is like a cloak that I’m never able to take off. At times it is stylishly flapping in the breeze as I boldly stride forward in life. And other times it is shrouding me in darkness as I fret and hesitate about the future. The same anxiety creeps in now because there is so much hope about the new Star Wars movies.

I hope I live long enough to see Episode IX.

Star Wars Love

. . . like you did by the lake on Naboo.

A new era of Star Wars kicks off in three months, and that is wonderful. The positive thoughts and feelings are also served with negative emotions and doubts, “What if I’m not alive to see it through?.”

It is just how the human brain works.

The Dark Side, and the Light.

For however long I have left in this world, know that I will be along for the ride. I plan to attend the midnight show in December with many of the same people I met in The Line in 1999.

And I will keep reaching for that lightsaber buried in the snow while navigating the asteroid field of life.

Because never tell me the odds.

Star Wars Christmas Card

ps. Happy Holidays

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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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10 Responses to Life, Death, Love, and Star Wars

  1. alphastream says:

    You made me cry man. Excellent post – someone should pick this up and pay you to have it on a major site. I’m always pulling for you every time you mention going to a doctor. I sure hope you get to see a ton of the new movies, because you deserve it.

    • The Id DM says:

      Thank you for reading, and for sharing your response. I cried while writing it, so it’s only fair you have an emotion reaction too! 😉 It would be great for the article to gain some traction. I’ve been working on it for months.

  2. Theron Bretz says:

    Wow. Way to make an old fan sob. My son has never not known Star Wars, but in December, I get to take him to see a new movie for his birthday, as my father did for me. May you have many more years to enjoy what’s yet to come.

  3. That was awesome, Michael! May you always be the 1 out of 4720.

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