Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Bound to the Past: Instant Replay

Growing up in the early 80's, Green Bay Packer football was awful for the most part, and continued to be well into that decade.  At one point, as I was lamenting their mediocrity, my father let me know that they were once great.


"Yes, Rob.  As a matter of fact they won the first two Super Bowls."

I may have had a cerebral aneurysm at that point.  That information was staggering. 

That was an actionable statement from the old man. I began to check out books from the library and rent NFL Films videos from the local mom-and-pop on that very subject, The Lombardi-era Packers.  I was energized with the incredible footage of the machine that was Vince's teams.  The skill of their offensive execution, the power of their defensive dominance was regaled in pages of old library books,
and those old dusty VHS tapes that no one but me ever rented.  Watching the Ice Bowl was a staggering event to behold, and to think that it wasn't just the Green Bay Packers, my team, but it happened just a short jaunt to the North of where I was born and raised.

Names were frequently tossed about in my painstaking research (which was required to steel myself in the team's history, so I could put knowledge to use in the acquisition of these great men's bubble gum cards) like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Jim Taylor, Herb Adderley, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer.

Jerry Kramer.

Fast forward to the winter of 1985.  Waco, Texas.

I was a new kid in the area, having just moved there in October from Wisconsin.  I filled weekend hours with walks, often to the local Richland Mall.  In these days, the mall was different.  I could spend hours there.

First and foremost, a little known fact is that Texas in the summer is just 18 degrees cooler than Hell itself, and the mall was exquisitely air conditioned.

Secondly, Camelot Records was there.  This place was where I began to build onto a record and tape collection of Rock Music and comedy that was just in its infancy.

Third, Waldenbooks and B. Dalton.  A side effect of solo time is vast quantities of reading, and these two stores along with the library provided me with my fodder.  One Friday December evening, while waffling through the sports section at B. Dalton, I came across it.

"Instant Replay" by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap.

Kramer was the guard who opened holes for Taylor and Hornung, and one of the protectors of Bart Starr.  He was among the 5 masters of execution on that great Lombardi O-line that helped win 5 NFL Championships in 7 years and 2 Super Bowls.

"Instant Replay" was his diary of the 1967 Season and some 18 years later, it was a descent into a time period, a sports era, and the mind of a young man who was motivated to greatness by one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.  The observations of what was minutiae of every day life to an NFL player was fascinating to me, but the sharp contrasts in what life as a player in that 1967 league to the flash of 1985's version was even more compelling.  I must have read that book 3 times.  The humble nature of this man, while living a life swirling in glorious moments, always brought a smile to my face. The comraderie, the battles, and those small moments...  I learned more about Lombardi's team from that book than all those other sources combined.

This past weekend Jerry Kramer was finally voted, about 30 years late, into the NFL Hall of Fame.  It's true the Hall is filled with Lombardi's soldiers, and that cannot be argued.  In effect so many, that it's reasonable to believe that writers who vote for the players nominations may have been fearing over-saturation of players from that era of the Green Bay Packers.

I thought that was bullshit.  Study the film, guys.   Jerry was a monster.

I'm happy for Mr. Kramer.  He claims it didn't bother him much that he wasn't in, but you could see by the reaction upon his induction that he was overwhelmed with joy.

I met Mr. Kramer about 10 years ago at a signing, where I brought a vintage copy of "Instant Replay" that my mother got for me at a garage sale.  It was just after Replay's co-author had passed away, and I managed to pass along my condolences as well as tell him how much the book meant to me.  He thanked me on both counts, was gracious as hell, and I'll never forget his huge hand as he shook mine.

The book he signed is not the one I stumbled across at B. Dalton all those years ago.  Sadly, along the way, that dog-eared copy with its awkwardly designed cover art and all, vanished.  They both mean the world to me.

Congratulations, Jerry Kramer.  And again, thank you.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Looking For Laughs 1: Positioning

I found out recently that I am a comedy nerd.  I did not know this.

I have two sources for this information:
Martin Short's autobiography I Must Say! and the sort-of oral history of the intersecting of life and comedy, Judd Apatow's Sick In the Head, a book that knocked me on my philosophical ass.

To give you an idea of how Judd's a student of the game (and Conan, to his credit, is no slouch himself): 

Not only did I not know I was one of these "nerds", I didn't know they existed...
You see, the "comedy nerd" is a person that doesn't just dig humor, but kind of studies it.   As a young teen, my stack of stand-up albums rivaled that of my music (and that's saying something).  I recorded shit like HBO's Young Comedians Special, Saturday Night Live, and the burgeoning Late Night with David Letterman, for repeat viewings.  I memorized some comedian's routines and was caught out by my sister Pam (though it was 20 years later) for repeating them.  (I never said the material was original, Sis.)

As referenced by others in those books I mentioned, I stayed up late after SNL to catch SCTV (before anyone knew what the hell it was), one-off things like Twilight Theatre, and inhaled stand-up specials wherever I could find them.  I memorized the words and actions of fictional characters like Short's Ed Grimley, The Young Ones, and the members of Spinal Tap.  I was the only kid I knew doing this, but didn't think anything of it until it was mentioned by Short and Apatow in their books....

This epiphany coincided with the remembrance of a revelatory Apatow scene from his masterful and underappreciated Freaks and Geeks:

I was that kid.

Now, mind you, I missed the boat on Garry Shandling, but you get the drift.  I had been a young kid who had spent much time alone (or with the tube) for varying reasons.  Foremost, I sought out various comedy stylings because they often grabbed me when the moments came.

Yes, I have laughed that hard at stand up. 
Yes, I have spit out soda at some of the better moments of SNL or SCTV.
Laughter was and is a healing balm, and whether or not I knew I needed it as a kid, I firmly remember looking all over TV for it long before and after cable was an option for sources.

Going forward however, as I became a teen with a job and some spare cash, I started buying comedy albums and it reigned supreme along with my love of rock and roll as a major pastime.

I loved all types of comedy.  From the often absurdly observational and frequently angry (like George Carlin), to people "who didn't work blue" like Bill Cosby or Steven Wright. I went back in time at record stores to get albums by those guys and many others, while picking up new material from young upstarts.   

As a sidenote:  I try not to hold tight to the Cosby thing because he's a monster, but before we all knew that fact, he was considered ground-breaking and hilarious.  Sadly I must admit, the shit's just not as funny now.  Kind of like how Ted Nugent's guitar-playing is nowhere near as good as it used to be.

As I've stated here, I love to laugh, but as I eventually broke out of my teens,  I felt stand-up comedy also opened up avenues of different ways of thinking. Opinions began to form and  my attitudes were challenged by people like Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Greg Giraldo and even some of the stage work of Robin Williams.  Pontification and chortling combine rather well, really.

I hope this series I've put together will be enlightening, not only shining a light onto my mind's workings in relation to humor, but why I am the way I am.  Even if that's not all that important to you, perhaps the history and relevance of great comedy will be.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Spectrum Files: Halloween Hijinks: He Knows You're Alone (On Lichter Road)

  Halloween Hijinks

Somewhere in the family photo archives is a genuine artifact of boundless joy.  Two of my sisters and two of my brothers sitting on the living room sofa with pillows covering the lower portions of their faces, eyes piercing whatever may have been in front of them.

Which was the divide between the sofa and the television.

They were terrified.  A moment of high tension where the only thing missing was someone jumping in the room and screaming at the top of their lungs, resulting in much noise and defecated garments.  My mother took this snapshot, circa 1982, as the family for some reason was enthralled by a horrible slasher film from that glorified era,  He Knows You're Alone.

This little known gem features the big screen (for better or worse) debut of one Tom Hanks, which he pontificates about here:

Spectrum, who as I've stated could bring the highest of quality films into your home, also could swing the crap stick. This was one of those incidents, but the whole family (and assorted friends who were there on this hilarious Saturday evening) remembers it quite well.  My mom loves to tell the tale of the fear running rampant on the sofa that night.

He Knows You're Alone was another Halloween rip-off, but apparently had enough juice to scare the shit out of four young adults, and who knows who else was present in our humble abode.  Shot in 1980 on a low budget, it came and went in the cascading wave of movies that were either made as homages or direct attempts to profit off others' art in the horror genre.  It was lucky enough to feature a young Tom Hanks, who unlike many stars who had their starts in slasher or teen sex romps (Renee Zellwegger and Johnny Depp, I'm talking to you) loves to tell the story of the movie and apparently isn't ashamed of it in the least. 

See the video above for proof:  "KNIFE RACK!!"

A search and rescue mission for the legendary snapshot my mom lensed is underway, and if unearthed, shall be posted here for posterity's sake.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bound to the Past: A Matter of Faith

There was a time that I came out of the dark of the loss of a father, not just doubting, but absolutely not believing in the existence of a god.

It seems in that department of loss, a person can go one of two ways: one can dig deep in your faith for strength, or completely abandon religion altogether for its lack of support.

I was somewhere in the middle.

My Mom remarried a couple of years after that Cancer asshole took my old man, and I was wandering the lakeside of uncertainty, really not feeling comfortable with the idea of any sort of supreme being.  It wasn't Dad's death that locked that down, though that factor had me despising the God I grew up fearing and loving during those moments that I did believe he was there.
It was science really.  I kept looking at the facts and the physics, history, and geology, and was having a hard time grasping the whole God thing.

The aftermath of Dad's death wasn't really helping either, to be honest.

But I wanted to.  I did.  I grew up in a loosely Lutheran household with plenty of church, if not prayer.  So the ground was laid, and when Dad got sick, there was a lot of prayer books, services, and counseling of the clerical involved that added to the atmosphere of Godliness.

So as I entered adolescence, all that was becoming argumentative. It was turning into a kind of mist that I was thinking I might be able to wave away.  Still, I was a tad afraid of what life would be like without it.

So I did what I always do.  As a music fan, a sports nut, a comic book reader, a cinephile, and a writer.

I went looking.

There was a church not far from where I lived and I took a walk over there.  I stopped short of going in on multiple occasions, but on one brisk fall afternoon, I pushed on that heavy door and walked in.  At first I thought the place empty, and was about to turn around and walk back out when I heard a voice.

A deep voice, with a touch of friendly rasp.  "Hello there?"

"Hi." I said, unsure of anything, let alone that voice.

And out of an office to my right at the end of a hall came one of the tallest people I have ever met, with the deepest voice, and the warmest damn grin.

Pastor Ted.

He shook my 11 year old hand in his immense one, and asked me what he could do for me.  I was shocked by how easily enough it came out.  I had questions.  I wanted answers.

That giant hand came out again and motioned me down the hall he had come from to his office.  I sat down in his mid-sized domain in a chair opposite his side of an immense desk.  He was surrounded by books. On the desk, on the enormous shelving unit that made up the wall behind him, and on end tables and other shelves around the office.

 I was surprised as he lit a cigarette, smiled, and began asking me about myself.

I went through my history, brief and jagged as it was....a happy childhood, Dad's death, mom's remarriage, the moving, and finally, almost as if angry, my loss of faith.  There was no shock on his face at all, just a knowing nod and smile.

I wanted this man to bring it back.  Make me feel as if God was watching my back again, and return the security that came along with all of that.

He found a place to begin.

That afternoon we spoke for a couple of hours.  Comfortable and conversational, and Pastor Gundlach begin to chip away at that mountain of doubt that had been ascending for the last few years.  I spoke of science.  I brought up the word evolution.  He smiled again, and spoke of a very learned man he knew, regimented in the field of science as a researcher whose faith in his God was as strong as anyone he knew.  He also stood, reached behind him to his left and pulled a small paperback book and set it front of me on his desk.

"I think You'll like this." he said softly as I looked down at a copy of "The Handy-Dandy Evolution Refuter".

"A lot of your heavy questions will be answered in here, I'm not a scientist." He said as I leafed through it, "but I think You and I have a lot to talk about."

And so we did.  I became a member of that church, just myself, though my Mom would attend there often enough, was confirmed, took my first communion,  and became an acolyte.

Many of us have several heroes in different chapters of our lives.  It's part of the process.  I may be a bit overdramatic or hyper-warm in labelling them in this way, but that's how I am.

Pastor Theodore G. was a hero.

He passed away about 4 years ago, retired legend of the Wisconsin Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and I doubt he remembered me much.  However, at the time I was there, he would tell people when I wasn't around (My mom verified this) of a young man, struggling hard with his faith, that one October afternoon had grown tired of the struggle and asked him to ease his pain.  And how proud he was to do so.

Adolescence is important.

It's a bridge to adulthood.  I feel as though if I had navigated it without a belief in the loving god that I had spend most of my youth having, I'd have grown to be a different person. I would have been harder, less quick to understand, less willing to forgive.  With that somewhat shaky but never failing belief in God, I grew to be a person with a strong ability to feel and express empathy.  With an even more powerful ability to love.

It wan't easy, mind you.  Unlike the other student's in Pastor G's confirmation classes I was quick to question. I asked with frequency and asked hard.  Pastor G always had reasonable answers to my queries, and always laid a path.  I came in as a black sheep to the Catechism classes, and I think Pastor Ted liked that and saw it as a challenge.  No one else in my group carried any doubt, and though mine was lessening, I was the only one that needed reinforcement.

Without that faith, I may have given in to the doubt and anger that was constantly at my shoulders. Perhaps not controlled the temptations I resisted as I grew up. I don't think I would be who I am today.  Right now, I may not have the same faith and belief I had then.  I may not be a strong Christian, a Stryper Soldier Under God's command, but I know I'm a good person.

I think, in large part, I have Pastor Ted to thank for that.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead:

   In honor of the late, great George A. Romero, my son Aidan chimes in with a look back at the most unsung of the original Living Dead films. 

   "Zombies man, they creep me out".  This statement by the character Paul Kaufman (the late Dennis Hopper) leaves the audience to the question: what is the most frightening or perhaps interesting aspect of the living dead?  Ghouls, zombies, walkers, stenches, whatever one would call them, the most important and persevering element of these monsters is that they are us.  They are a reflection of the human condition and society.  No one has had more influence and understanding of this than the master of modern zombies, the auteur George A. Romero, and this has never been more apparent and obvious than in his fourth Zombie film,  2005's Land of the Dead.  Land follows the progress of both human society and the dead since his original living dead trilogy consisting of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the dead and Day of the Dead.  While this film differs from the previous installments in terms of scale, the constants of Romero's work remain present and relevant involving his political allegories, social critique, and symbolism.

      In every one of Romero's living dead films, the director allegorically examines the society he lives in.  In Night, he tackled the topics of communism and racism.  In Dawn, he criticizes the modern consumerist culture. In Day, he depicted the issues of militarism and lack of communication. In Land he combined several elements in his political critique, most notably the war on terror.  By this time, many years after the outbreak of reanimated corpses, society has made some progress in rebuilding itself and what first appears to be an efficient way but it's revealed to be corrupt and destined for downfall.  The film revolves around the city of Pittsburgh, in a building at the center of it called "Fiddler's Green", a luxurious establishment exclusively for the upper class, while those who can't afford it (a large amount of people) inhabit the slums around it.  The city operates with a system mirroring both feudalism, where people wind up doing tasks for the powerful in exchange for favors and aristocracy, where the power for those who happen to be rich. This could be seen as an illusion to the power corrupt people with money wield in modern times.  The entire city is fenced in, more or less protected from the dead. The man in charge of fiddlers Green, Paul Kaufman, is threatened by his ill tempered lackey, Cholo Demora (John Leguizamo).  After Kaufman backs out of the deal to allow the latter into the establishment, subtly due to Cholo's Hispanic ethnicity, adding a touch of racial discrimination and inequality into the structure of this corrupt empire. Cholo threatens the destruction of the fence using the powerful arm of "Dead Reckoning", which he has hijacked.  Kaufman immediately rejects Cholo's ultimatum and opts for other means of resolution by sending the original commander and designer of the "dead reckoning" Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) to stop him.  This is an allusion to President Bush's declaration "We do not negotiate with terrorists".   A line Kaufman actually uses. The reference is among the most obvious and specific allegories Romero has used in his Living Dead films.

      Another of Romero's trademarks the film predominately features is a social critique, in this case regarding class warfare.  The rich hold all of the power and the poor are left with scraps. This is a reflection of the growingly distressed economy of modern America with some many people below the poverty line and money not getting where it really needs to be.   The reason for this is quite prevalent.  In Land, the people in power are ignoring the problem, therefore they are a part of it.  Kaufman does not acknowledge the poor people living in slums outside of Fiddler's Green.  This allusion is taking a radical step further with the zombies themselves; the dead are now portrayed by Romero as carnivorous animals as opposed to malevolent ghouls and it seems almost cruel when marauders runs through the dead's territory and sadistically destroy them. As this film takes place an undetermined amount of years after the original trilogy, the zombies have had time to evolve. They all remember routine aspects of the original lives and attempt to mimic them, and even show empathy towards one another.  Early in the film zombies are seen attempting to use their old instruments or reclaim their old day jobs, the most significant case being a zombie gas station attendant.  This is grown from a seed planted in the previous installment,  Day of the Dead.  In Day a zombie named Bub shows he recognizes objects he may have used in his past life and displays genuine grief in a  surprisingly touching scene.  Now in Land, a large amount of the dead showing these traits. With a new sympathetic view of the zombies, they now take their place as lower class and the economic allegory, and through the events of the film, may become what could be viewed as revolutionaries as they attempt to overthrow Fiddler's Green.

      On the subject of sympathetic characters another one of Romero's occurring reoccurring elements is symbolism.  In Night of the Living Dead, Romero was one of the earliest directors who bravely cast a black man as the lead hero in the form of actor Duane Jones, who portrayed Ben. While Romero states his casting decision was due simply to the fact that Jones had given the best audition, he repeated his choice 10 years later in casting Peter in Dawn of the Dead, who is played by Ken Foree. He rounded out the original trilogy following this as in Day of the dead with casting Terry Alexander as one of the protagonists named John.  He repeated this motif years later in Land, but with a twist. The casting of a black man was Eugene Clark as Big Daddy: the intelligent zombie who would lead the dead in their revolution. With this decisio,n he suggested that Daddy is a hero as much as any of the human characters, bringing the character arc of the zombies as a whole to a bizarre but effective conclusion.

        All of Romero's zombie films contain allusions that can be examined but Land of the Dead could be argued to have the most effective and specifically relevant political allegories, social critiques and symbolism to the time period, and confirms Romero's status as a true auter with his own definitive style. He creates this post apocalyptic recovering society that already displays the same problems we face today, such as the inability to resolve matters peacefully,  and the ignorance of important economic issues leading to a massive and growing gap between the upper and lower classes of society.  Using these, he closes out his original living dead continuity reaffirming the zombies many parallels with the living, and at some times leaves the audience rooting for the dead to prevail against a corrupt government.  By the films end, the viewers are still left to ponder just how different or better they are from the dead. The subordinate Mike (Sean Roberts) comments on the zombies behavior:  "They're pretending to be alive!",  leaving Riley Denbo to note "Isn't that what we're doing? pretending to be alive?"

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bound to the Past: An Uneasy Dawn

Winter, 1982.

A Saturday morning featuring my brother, my sister and her boyfriend terrifying me with tales of what they had seen the night before. Hordes of marauding ghouls piling on top of the living, chewing on them, and in turn transforming them into one of their own.

The details of what they saw, from the graphic details of the munching sequences, to the fear of their creatures' numbers were truly disturbing, but what was more haunting was the realistic description of the downfall of society under the weight of this gruesome and massive threat.

What they saw and were reiterating to me was a midnight screening of George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead", and the descriptions kept me up at night.

A week or so later, I distinctly remember hearing Kenosha's WRKR broadcasting the radio ad for the obviously successful midnight movie.  The ominous rumblings from the deep-voiced narrator telling me how the film had been banned in a gazillion countries and several planets.  This didn't sound like a sales pitch, it sounded like a damn public service announcement!

For some reason, all this made me nervous.

Flash forward about 3 years.  I'm a 7th grader, sitting in my room on a grey, boring, fall Saturday afternoon.  I decide, in an incredibly bored state of mind, to flip on my little Portland (a Daewoo product!) television and click over to WVTV 18's afternoon movie.

"The Night of the Living Dead".

Oh, boy.  Should I watch this?

I'd heard the stories, and I knew of the connection to "Dawn of the Dead".  "Dawn" was the sequel to Romero's "Night", a low budget horror film that scared audiences and put butts in the seats back in 1968.   I had read in library books about the movies, about both "Night" and "Dawn", touting the ground-breaking effects work, the often realistic depiction of societal breakdown, and their unrated statuses.  On video shelves, I had seen the Thorn/EMI VHS tape of "Dawn" on the shelves with Roger Ebert's blurb about "The savagely satanic view of America" blasting off of it.

Still nervous.  But curious.  Like a cat.

The lead-in to Ebert's talking point was on right now.

I watched "Night of the Living Dead" that afternoon, and I was never the same again in regards to movies.  Despite it being the middle of the afternoon, broad daylight, and my parents being about 40 feet away in the living room, this movie scared the shit out of me.  I had felt this way only one time before, and you can thank John Carpenter and Michael Myers for that.   But I knew Myers wasn't real.  The stuff happening on the screen here felt like it could actually happen, and the crux of it's effectiveness lies right there. 

That's what George Romero did. He made me deal with a movie, not just watch it.

When I finally saw "Dawn of the Dead" 5 years later,  as a senior in high school, I felt the same apprehensiveness.  I was actually afraid as the opening frames unspooled across the screen.  That red carpet backdrop behind the film's title graphic served as some sort of warning. 


But like I did with "Night", I hung in for "Dawn".  It was like dipping your toe in ice cold water.  With every horrifying event on the screen, I was able to go a little deeper, be able to take it a little easier.  By the end of the movie, I felt as though I had survived something, but now I was ready.  Ready for more.  At this moment, I had truly had fallen in love with the horror genre.

John Carpenter and George Romero had given me something I had never felt before.  They had taken me to an edge.  Made me feel a shaky, electrical feeling, a combination of fear and exhilaration.   They taught me that movies were more than an entertainment.  You could actually take someone for a ride, nervously perhaps, but nonetheless, take them.  I was glad to introduce my son to the works of both of these great men years later, and have learned it was a great decision. 

George A. Romero passed away yesterday.  His oeuvre was much more than "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead",  and even the Dead films in general.  He was a great filmmaker, but one thing I learned through his interviews and even attending a screening of "Dawn" with my father-in-law, he was funny, political, thoughtful, sharp as a tack, and genuine.  Intensely genuine.

Just last fall I watched the feature "Night of the Living Steelers" on the NFL Network.  The project intertwined George's career with the heyday of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  George was a Pittsburgh native, a Steeler fan, and at one time even directed short films for NFL films.  In this featurette, his guiding hand and warm voice took you through the sounds and images of horror and football both and reiterated the down-to-Earth nature and uniqueness of this wizard of filmmaking.  "Steelers" teaches you just as much about the Steel City cinematic legend's roots as it does the Pittsburgh Gridiron stalwarts.  After seeing this little documentary, I felt closer to the man and  I'm grateful I saw it.

It effected me deeply when I had learned he was gone, and I'm going to miss him.

He was one hell of an individual, and they don't make 'em like George anymore.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bound to the Past: Heroes Can Sleep During Star Trek

In early 1980 my dad was sick with esophageal cancer.  He wasn't at the point where he was bed-ridden yet, but I think it can be safely said that time was of the essence.

In an effort to share limited time, He decided to take me to the movies.

In the fall of 1977, He took a clan of us to see "Star Wars" at the Keno outdoor theatre.  I don't need to go into too much description of the awesomeness of that. I barely remember that screening, but I sure as hell recall the effect it had on me and so did my dad's wallet.  For many reasons.  Reasons I wish I still owned.

I think with this new film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, he was hoping for something close to the same thing.

Even to fans of the legendary television series, the first film of the "original cast series" is seen as a bit of a slog.  It is a bit overlong, a bit quiet in tone, a bit melancholy, and a lot cerebral.   Not to say it's pure garbage,  it's a quality movie, it just wasn't a thrill a minute.  For an 8 year old kid and his tired, ailing dad it probably wasn't a great choice. That fact wasn't either of our faults, as it was a damn Star Trek movie. It did feel more like a very strong episode of its offspring, The Next Generation.

I still have fond memories of the film, despite all that.  I vividly recall Ursula Andress speaking of V'ger. It kicked out some decent spaceship effects for its time, and a still intact chemistry between the cast members, all of them back together again after nearly 15 years.  Needless to say, I found my mind wandered often during the film, and the old man slept for long periods of it.  Often snoring.

But that's okay, heroes get to sleep during Star Trek movies.

After we shook off the doldrums and headed out through the lobby to go home, I spotted something.  This was in the days when studios would often supply theatres with "programs" to accompany their "event" films.  It didn't happen all of the time, but in this case an oversized full-color booklet was being sold to potential buyers.

I asked Dad if I could have it.  If memory serves, he really didn't want to buy the damn thing.  I liked the colorful images and pressed him, more than likely a bit whinily.  (I know, not a word)

In short, I was an asshole.

And he wasn't.  He still bought it for me.  As a father, I know this feeling he must have felt in that moment.  Despite the fact that this expenditure really is a waste, you love that little person who wants the result of it. And you want to make them happy.

Dad wanted to make the asshole happy.  At 8, I knew very little of Star Trek, series or movies.  Star Trek didn't have people shooting laser guns at each other, no swashbuckling lightsaber action, there was no Darth Vader, no furry mascots or charming robots.  It was thinking man's science fiction that I wouldn't come to respect for many more years through the gateway of that Next Generation series I mentioned earlier.   So for all of those reasons, I shouldn't have this book.  For those same reasons,  this thing means the universe, no pun intended, to me.  This man, this hero, tired and ill, loved his son so much that he spent hard earned money to buy something for someone who didn't get it.

Or maybe just to get him to shut the hell up.

Either way, that's love.

My Dad wasn't a hero because he took me to see Star Trek.  He wasn't a hero because he bought me a stupid book to go along with it.  There isn't enough damn bandwidth here for me to tell you why Bob was a hero.

I miss you, Dad.