Growing Up Star Wars: 1978

That’s not me above, of course, but I’m sure each and every Gen-X kid that grew up with Star Wars in the late ’70s to early ’80s can relate. In fact, of all the old “kids playing with Star Wars toys” pics I’ve seen, this one really hits home like no other. It’s so reminiscent of much simpler times, when our imaginations allowed us to make virtual universes and endless landscapes/environments out of anywhere—in this case, on the dashboard of a custom van.

I’ve been there, so many times. It’s crazy to think that my kid is so attached to his iPad, while when I was his age (even younger than him), a lot of times, all it took to make me happy was to have a Star Wars figure in my pocket.

How times change, my friends.

The original photo was shared by one Bantha5 on the Rebel Scum forums, in a Childhood Star Wars Picture thread.

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Star Wars: The Circle is Complete.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a milestone has been made.

My son (9 yrs. old), has finally begun to watch the Star Wars saga, starting, of course, with none other than the original Episode IV. How else could you start, right?

Although it took some effort to get him into it (believe me, I’ve been trying since he was 7, the age when I got into it), this year’s enormous hype of next month’s release of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens combined with the YouTube bombardment of Star Wars Battlefront definitely piqued his curiosity.

Before I knew it, every time we went to Target, he began to behold their super-promoted Star Wars toy line and would ask about the different spacecraft and characters on the shelves. The ominous presence of the 48-inch Darth Vader was one he particularly gravitated to every time.

“Whoa…Who’s that guy?”

“That’s Darth Vader.”

“Is he a bad guy?”

“Well, yes and no. He started out as a good guy, but then got influenced by the Dark Side.”

“What’s the Dark Side?”

“Hmm. You gotta watch the movie to know that!”

After that came the TIE fighters, the X-Wings, and of course, the Millennium Falcon. Each and every one prompting the response, “See the movie. See the movie!”

With a little extra encouragement, I would even bend down low (well, not that low, he’s a big boy) and say, “You know, I saw Star Wars when I was like, 7 years old. I was younger than you, and it’s still one of my favorite movies. Of all time.”

“Even until now?”

“Yup, even until now.”

“Whoa dad, and you’re like, 45 years old!”

“Yup. That’s how good the movie is.”

He paused for some moments to absorb that statement, and we walked on.

It took some nudging to get this kid to finally sit down and watch it. I mean, with all the different avenues of hyper-stimulation that kids have these days—especially via YouTube and his X-Box 360—how easy would it be to get him to watch some old-ass movie that’s almost 40 years old? That would’ve been like my dad trying to get me into watch one of those old Charlie Chaplin silent movies or something.

But the way I see it—and I’m sure every Star Wars fan out there would agree—Star Wars is timeless. It’s simply epic. In fact, when we sat down and watched the opening scene, I got goosebumps and remembered that very same moment in 1977, when I sat in a darkened movie theater and saw something unfold on the big screen that would forever change my life.

I’m hoping that it does the same with my boy. There is hope with this young one, though. Last night we were only able to watch about half an hour of Episode IV. This morning, as I walked him to the car to go to school, I was about to ask him if we could finish the movie tonight. Instead, he beat me to it and said with one of the biggest smiles I’d seen, “Hey dad, can we watch Star Wars again tonight?”

“YES!” I exclaimed. And I probably had one of the biggest smiles he’d ever seen.

Darth Vader Illo circa 1977

 

Above is a drawing of Darth Vader I did circa 1977-’78. This was featured previously on one of my several Growing Up Star Wars posts on leftylimbo.com, and will hopefully find a new home here.

Pay Phones.

Payphone in L.A.

“Please deposit twenty-five cents,” the recording said.

Argh. Wedging the handset against my shoulder with my cheek, I fumble for change in my right pant pocket. I can identify the coins with the touch of my fingertips. There’s a couple of pennies, the ridged, thin edge of a dime, the fat, smooth edge of a nickel, and then, the welcome feel of a large disc with a serrated edge. A quarter.

I insert the quarter in the slot, and the phone registers it with a couple of electronic chirps. The female voice recording says politely, “Thank you.”

Around me the traffic hums. In the distance, a homeless man yells. Two women laugh as they walk, their heels clip-clopping on the sidewalk. There’s a slight breeze. Every now and then, I plug my other ear with my palm to block the city noise, and speak louder so that my friend can hear me. There’s trash on the sidewalk around the phone booth, and I sort through it aimlessly with the tip of my shoe while I hold my conversation. In the back of my mind I wonder if I’ll find anything cool, like a love letter, a suicide note, or even a wad of cash. Today, I have no such luck.

The phone’s handset is black and heavy, with small chips, scratches and dings on it from who knows how many years of usage. Some people may have dropped it accidentally. Others may have smashed it against the booth in anger or rage.

The handset reeks of the city. The receiver’s mouthpiece is grimy with the breath, spit and bacteria of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. Some of its small, perforated sound holes are clogged with unknown urban scum. Yet I rest my chin upon it, with my lips so dangerously close to the grimy kiss of the streets. As horrendous as it sounds, the populace and their germs is the last thing on my mind.

The metal of its coiled cord is musty with age, moisture and oxidation. All these metal pay phones have this peculiar smell, one of the metal’s reaction to the elements. It’s hard to describe, yet only pay phones have it. Or so that’s what I know.

Our conversation ends after we say what we have to say. I hang up, and just for good measure, push down the lever for the coin return. I’m not supposed to get any change back, but once in a great while, for some unknown, magic reason, some free coins will actually drop down into the return chute. So, with every pay phone call I make, I try it. It’s like, some kind of feel-good gamble.

The year was 1989.

Image from L.A. Times article, Dial N for Nostalgia: Is anyone still using pay phones?

 

 

 

1980.

I’ve been especially sentimental this year, due to it being my 20th high school reunion (c/o ’88!). My, has time flown by. So, in the spirit of reunions, I’ve decided to revisit my dusty old photo albums for some golden memories of my ’80s childhood.

My 10th Birthday Party

Our first trip down memory lane puts us smack down in the middle of my 10th birthday in October of 1980. My mom said I could have a few friends over for my birthday party, so I invited some kids from the neighborhood. L to R: Eugene, aka “Kubo,” the quintessential personification of early ’80s Cali rad culture, with the whispy ultra-blonde bowlcut and his crazy bike (in the picture) which had no brakes—the perfect match for his freewheeling, unstoppable nature; David, the cool and confident kid, who’d easily won the heart of the cutest girl in our class without even trying; Beth (behind me), the wizard of personal computers, tape drives and online bulletin boards (BBS!); me, complete with the asian helmety bowl-cut and a big smooth pumpkin-like basketball with absolutely no grip; Aaron, the younger kid who lived across the street and had a dad who looked like Chuck Norris on a Harley; Basil (sitting on Kubo’s bike)—when I asked where he was from, he held an imaginary rifle to his face, pretending to spot and kill a distant target, acting out the recoil and reloading—I was totally clueless, and he said, “Lebanon”; and last but not least, my younger brother Gayani, who munches away happily on a near-empty bag of generic BBQ-flavored chips that my folks had bought for the party…the twin-pak ones that had two clear bags inside a main big one. It made you feel like you got more for your money.

I remember that day vividly. As I’d probably mentioned before, it seems like 20 years ago there were actual seasons in Los Angeles. That day was nice and grey, overcast and kinda chilly, just perfect for the festivities. I’ve always liked grey days. There’s hardly any of those nowadays. Sucks.

My 10th Birthday Party (2)

It’s always exciting to open up presents in front of all the friends who came over to your party. Here I am, having just unraveled a Hardy Boys mystery novel (which I believe Beth gave to me). Notice how everyone appears to be awe-struck by my gift. Not being much of the literary type at the time, I don’t think I read more than half the book before pedaling to jump off dirt ramps on my BMX bike with my friends. I’m not sure where the book is now. I remember being fascinated most of all by the blue edges it had on the pages. I thought someone had a job handpainting every single book off the line.

I just noticed that I used to wear the Adidas® knock-off shoes (as you see in the photo, with 4 stripes instead of 3). This was definitely before my awareness of Vans® slip-ons, and how you had to have them in order to be cool. I have an old blog entry which illustrated this whole phenomena. I’ll post it if I find it. I also just noticed the pair of Zips® shoes right next to mine (far left), which were a big hit in the late ’70s.

1980e

Part of the festivities that day included a basketball game, improvised by my dad, who gave a money prize to whoever made the most baskets from the free throw line (drawn with chalk). David (at center of photo) easily blew us all away. He was a really good ball player. I don’t remember what made me so jubilant at this particular moment (see me with the widest smile at left), but Dave kept his cool even though he completely demolished us. He was just that way.

Spotting some of the background scenery, I see my old Radio Flyer tricycle on the left, and a weird “banana bike” on the right (toppled over)—it literally was a plastic banana with blue wheels. Then there’s the workbench my dad constructed for all his projects…man that thing lasted forever.

1980d

I guess you can tell that I was really having a blast this day, judging from my permanent smile there, gleaming beneath that helmet of hair. Well, I was. It was my birthday. This picture’s kinda faded, and I didn’t bother to try to juice it up in Photoshop, simply ‘coz it had character the way it was. We did indeed have a dining room bathed in gold and brownish hues, and the golden curtains were the icing on the cake. Here’s everyone waiting patiently while my dad attempts to light my birthday candles, my eyes lit with anticipation. That’s Aaron on the far left with the Sunkist can.

My 10th Birthday Party (3)

After being fueled with sugar it was time to horse around. There’s Basil behind me, demonstrating the neck-snapping enemy-neutralizing maneuver as taught in the Lebanese Army (my smile still unfazed in the midst of struggle), Kubo and Aaron making faces, and David in the background as cool as can be. Lookit that Micronauts Hornetroid box on top of my piano—that was my favorite gift that year. I have no idea where it is nowadays.

All in all it was a fun 10th birthday. Birthdays were always fun when I was a kid. These days, they’re fun, but I always ask myself every birthday how much I’ve accomplished, which parts of my body are starting to creak and ache, and what does the new year have in store for me. It’s sometimes a daunting thought. Funny how when I was a kid, I could give a flying Hornetroid about what the future held. Well at least now I have a kid of my own whose birthdays I hope to make just as fun, if not funner, as mine were.

Yes, I said funner. I’ll always be a kid at heart. 😉