Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Force of Star Wars fans

So I’m writing this as I’m sitting in a line, waiting for the third and final installment in the second series (or first, if you prefer to order them in narrative chronology) of Star Wars movies.

We planned ahead, yet apparently not quite well enough. We bought tickets nearly a month before the opening of the movie. We made schedules and plans, and yet here I sit, a little more than three hours before the beginning of the movie, in the middle of a tremendously long line. There are probably 75 people in front of me and since I sat down (I did, of course, bring chairs and a blanket as well as my laptop), there have been about that many gathered behind me. How crazy is this?

I’m not sure what to make of the crowd. We debated why the crowd would be bigger or smaller or gather sooner or later than the last movie opening. Deanna thought that since the promotion did not seem as strong and since there was so much movie noise (after all, we have a Fantastic Four movie, War of the Worlds and a new Batman movie in the coming weeks). I thought the generally surprised reaction of the fans to the improvement of the second move over the first would represent higher expectations between the second and the third movie. Bethany thought the crowd would not be as large since she saw a CNN report pointing out that rising gas prices had driven down movie-going by 48%. And no one could speak to the change in demographics in the area surrounding the theater in the past three years. It’s just not our hood (anymore).

But for whatever reason, the crowds are large and have gathered much earlier than the crowds three years ago. We are actually in a mosh of three lines for three separate theaters. I heard that there are now five theaters showing the 12:01 slot. Of course, all are sold-out and people are walking up and down the lines asking for extra tickets or begging to trade theaters to be able to sit with their friends.

The line for theater #7 are the extremes. These are the fans who have tickets to the first show offered. This is the line with more Jedi and Sith per 50 people than all the other lines have in total. There are plenty of lightsabers flashing through the darkness, some plastic toys, some professional replicas. I even saw an absolutely perfect Anakin Skywalker, right down to scar under his eye and the red-tinted contacts. He tried to bum a light off me for a smoke, but I told him that smoking led to the dark side of the force. He wasn’t amused.

My friends are all at Chili’s eating dinner, though some are thoughtfully bringing me some food form their to go menu. Bethany is at work until 11, and I hope she makes it here without a hitch before the movie starts.

This has already been an interesting movie experience for Bethany and I. I, of course, grew up on Star Wars and am something of a nut. Bethany never saw the original movies and so when Episode I came out just could not understand why so many people were excited by such a bizarre and even bad movie.

We set out to communicate about Star Wars one night when it became obvious that our experiences were so far apart. I sent her home with my DVD collection of the original trilogy. She would call every night and ask me questions and make editorial comments. Some of them were amusing.

Half-way through Star Wars (E4), she called me to declare, “I don’t see why people like Han Solo. He’s something of a jerk, and he treats women poorly.” I laughed at this and again when he began to win her over throughout the course of the trilogy.

The funniest moment happened as she watched the conclusion of the Empire Strikes Back (E5). She called almost out of breath. “WHAT?! Darth Vader is Luke’s FATHER?! Hayden Christiansen’s character is going to be DARTH VADER?!”

I couldn’t stop laughing. She was unimpressed with my reaction, so I had to explain that I was six days short of having known that fact for exactly 25 years, when Empire premiered on May 19, 1980. And then she reminded me that she wasn’t even alive on May 19, 1980, and we quickly changed the subject.

Our experiences are going to be very different, even now that we have both seen all the movies. For children of the early 80s, Star Wars was not just a movie series, it was an intense focus of fantasy, of dreams and desires and hopes and fears. It was life.

Oops. I was going to pontificate on this longer, but the line just shifted and it appears we are going to be sitting in the theater momentarily. I hope Bethany’s evening has gone well and that she joins me soon. But I have a bad feeling about this … (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Narmani

Last weekend, my fiancé and I embarked on a journey to witness the marriage of one of my life-long friends to his Russian bride. And lest anyone speculate otherwise, I feel compelled to point out that his wife was not a mail-order bride (in fact, the couple met while attending graduate school in northern England).

As our own wedding draws closer, Bethany and I find ourselves experiencing a lot of mixed emotions: excitement, anticipation, impatience, irritation as well as a host of others. But nothing prepared us for the experience of our friends’ wedding.

I called the trip a journey, and it certainly was. We left Dallas early in the morning and drove four hours to a Russian Orthodox church in Houston, TX (the closest church that would allow the ceremony without the groom converting to the faith), followed by a drive to Killeen, TX, for the wedding reception. Adding in the return trip to Dallas, we spent more than 10 hours in the Jeep that day, quite a journey by any standards.

The ceremony was beautiful and unique. We arrived at the church around 10:30 and mingled with the guests until we entered the church. Once inside, we were instructed not to take any photographs and the women had to cover their heads with scarves.

The church had a beautifully constructed sanctuary with a mockup of a medieval façade segregating the public and private chambers. The domed ceiling let in a wash or bright sunlight, but not so much that the elegant chandelier was rendered ineffective.

As is custom, there were no pews, but there was a line of benches around the outer wall. The guests quickly found their way to a seat as they ceremony loomed (we had been warned that we would probably be standing for an hour and half). As the wedding party scurried around asking those last-minute questions (there had been no rehearsal), I happened upon my friend and his mother bantering about the unplanned nature of the preparations. (I later found out that it is a matter of tradition that neither the bride nor the groom know what to expect in the ceremony, to place them in a submissive position before the priest). The bride, of course, was secluded and that made things interesting since none of us spoke Russian.

When the ceremony began, the bride and groom stood in the doorway of the sanctuary. The priest began to chant from scripture, alternating between Russian and English, while a chorus sang along in a medley of response and repetition. Several icons and symbolic elements were introduced into the ceremony, and both the bride and groom were adorned with gold-laid crowns. As each held a burning candle, their free hands were bound with a ceremonial cloth and they and the wedding party were led by the priest in three circular trips around the altar as the chorus continued their sing-song. The bride and groom both drank from a communion cup three times each, and were asked several times to kiss the relics being used to bless their marriage.

The ceremony lasted about 75 minutes (the multiple translations made it a long ceremony) and then we all gathered around the couple or hugs and pictures. We soon retired to the hotel for lunch and then headed out for Killeen.

The reception was held in an executive room at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton. There we ate fajitas and witnessed all the standard post-wedding fare: the cutting of the cakes, the toasts and the first dances. It was a lovely evening packed with interesting people we had not met, and Bethany and I enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Perhaps we enjoyed ourselves a bit too much. Bethany finally dragged me onto the dance floor when a Sarah McLachlan song came over the speakers. Neither of us are good dancers, but we slowly stepped to the rhythm and Bethany became overwhelmed with the emotions of the days. We cried softly as we held each other, slowly moving across the floor.

After another song, we began to say our goodbyes and get ready to depart. Though it was the shortest leg of the trip, the final trip home seemed like the longest. We arrived after midnight, utterly exhausted. But it was a day we are not likely to forget soon.