Ideals of the Past

Over the past year, I’ve been reviewing the world through gold-rimmed glasses.  You know, the kind that rest on the back of your head and coat the world you’ve left behind in gilded shades of light to the point that all your youth might appear a continuous Christmas, filled with joy, beauty and adventure.  Over the past year and a half, I’ve been coping with this new  phase of my life and the responsibilities that accompany ‘adulthood,’ or whatever life at 34 is called.  The transition has not proven especially kind to me: anxiety, panic attacks, self-doubt, ephemeral goals, and an influx of nieces and nephews, who remind constantly that I am no longer a thirteen-year-old playing at ‘adulthood’ by babysitting his siblings, but simply an thirty-four year old trying to reconnect with his youthfulness.

Mostly, I’ve found myself idealizing the past: gazing at my college years and post-college interim at NIH with a fondness, which I never felt in the midst of it all.  I spent so many years begging, searching, fretting over finding myself a job, and now that I’ve found it, the sensation leaves much to be desired.  Thus, my mind idealizes those past moments, when the freedom to choose still lay before me, when life felt infinite and unexpected.

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Let it go

Hi!  My name is Ivan, and I like hot chocolate!  And cigars!

Hi! My name is Ivan, and I like hot chocolate! And cigars!

“Hey Murph, do ya wanna build a snowmaaan . . ?

It’s no secret around the Murphey household that the sibs and I adored Disney’s latest film Frozen.  Over the last two weeks, Kevin, Bree and I have managed to coerce, beguile and flat out bribe the rest of our family to the local theater just to watch the film again — mostly because the holiday season is all about swapping stories with those you love but also because a grown man attending an animated film alone is inviting sidelong glances from concerned parents and mall security.

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We’re decorating intensely for Katie’s wedding next week. Normally, the front yard would be filled with giant inflatable snow-globes and mechanical snowmen tipping their hats. Mom vetoed this approach in favor of a ‘country Christmas’ appearance.

As I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, stories enrich our lives, bestowing understanding, empathy, and wisdom.  They also help to chase away boredom and offer the social American a talking point during Christmas parties before the spiked nog disengages the brain.   The prevalence of stories and storytelling in all facets of our lives (entertainment, history, religion, politics, relationships) has always intrigued me to the point that I’ve often argued (usually after three Red-Solos of nog) that storytelling is the center of all human life: to create, discover, and retell tales.  Of course, most listeners simply shrug off these notions as drunken rants (which many were; the nog is strong in my family) and shrug unimpressed “We communicate.  All animals do it.”

The instruction booklet that arrives with your microwave communicates, but when was the last time anyone has actually read it.  Mostly we avoid the words entirely, gazing at the diagrams and attempting to divine a message like a back-alley fortune teller staring at the bumps on your head for the night’s Mega-millions numbers.  You add a sparkly vampire with predilection for vapid teenage repair-women and 90% of teenage girls become electrical engineers overnight.  No, I’d argue that communication is a subset of storytelling, simply a really boring example of the craft, shorn of all metaphors, characters and sparkle-vampires — for that reason alone I’m willing to be more forgiving.

To me, stories nourish my soul and sustain my willpower through the work week like oxygen through the suit of an orbit-bound astronaut.  Yet very few tales really satisfy your expectations: e.g. Mockingjay, Green Lantern, The Black Cauldron . . . Disney, you could have done so much better.  Of the numerous books, movies, and TV shows that I immerse myself, only a handful of these truly manages the detailed world-building, charming characters, and multi-layered epics, which are near and dear to my heart.  Still, this absence motivated me to write my own short stories.
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Bourne again

Wolverine_originsIn my experience, nothing excites and unnerves a geek more than pitting his (or her) favorite imaginary character against a rival fictional character in a hypothetical showdown to the figurative death.  Nothing.  My good friend, Rodney, believes with every fiber of his being that Jason Bourne epitomizes ‘badass.’  Yeah, Matt Damon . . .  badass . . . My friend is somewhat goofy in the head.  Rodney has even gone to such lengths to name his iPhone after the chronic amnesiac, and dubbing himself ‘The Rod Identity,’ secret sidekick to the world’s most kickass secret agent  Again, the guy’s goofy in the head.

Still like all zealots, Rodney actively sought altercations with those who believed Mr. Bourne had proven himself . . . slightly less-than-awesome. As so often was the case, the argument exploded from a deep intellectual discussion on the quality of Hugh Jackman’s performance in The Wolverine while on vacation last July . . .

We had just exited the theater at Downtown Disney, a cornucopia of Disney merchandise, theme restaurants, and — my favorite — AMC theaters.  Both Ryan and Rodney, having tragically lost half-a-dozen tennis matches two weeks prior owed the gang lunch, ice cream, and a few hours at the local cineplex.  We had spent much of the day at Animal Kingdom, sweating in lines and jumping between sunshine and deluges of afternoon thunderstorms.  As the evening sky cleared, we felt grateful for the safety of soft red velvet and an air-conditioned movie theater.  I had suggested Marvel’s latest superhero tale — thus, harmonizing my love for Japanese culture with my passion for Canadian mutant assassins — at AMC’s Dine-in theater where we snacked on sushi, mozzarella sticks, and bread pudding . . . mmmm.

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Florida 2013: Cracker Barrel

I added a wordpress app to my Smartphone and decided to test drive this bad boy at St. Augustine’s Cracker Barrel (I’m a rebel like that), seeing that my Mom and sisters are visiting the local outlets and the intermitent Floridian deluges are stoppering any attempt to sightsee the city’s copious forts and gator farms. Soooo … I’m posting tons of photos over the next several weeks in part because Disney saps the life out of you but mostly because I’m rather lazy writer. Thus, if you’ve developed a healthy lassitude to the written word, enjoy! If not, well read War and Peace or better yet my other blog posts – some are even longer than a Russian novel so go crazy you kooky sesquipedalian.

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Every visit to Cracker Barrel deja vu haunts you. We ate at three of these places and the wild assortment of candy, talking toy tucans, and 'I love Granny' t-shirts look the same regardless of zip code.

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Universal-ly Accepted

None of this architecture is ‘necessary,’ per se, serving no other purpose than to tantalize the eye and imagination, and just so, I love every detail. Who wouldn’t want a windmill spinning atop their house, or a clam-powered faucet?

Details are important.  Any fan of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction will inform you that ignoring the little things in life can prove fatal . . . you know, because all the aliens died in Wells’ novel War of the Worlds . . . because they never considered Earth’s micro-organisms . . . and because of this ‘tiny’ oversight of these microbes the space invaders ended up a ‘little’ dead . . . which is to say ‘very.’

Which brings me to my second point: subtlety.  Subtlety is also a very important quality, especially in writing.  However, in theme parks, the subtle touch is best left outside the gates, along with moderation and unapproved coolers.  In a well-designed theme park, the act of walking or waiting should prove as entertaining as the rides themselves, engaging the imagination as well as the senses.  At the risk of sounding like a dork, I enjoy the lure of another world, of the fantasy.  To quote John Hammond: “I’m not talking about rides.  Everyone has rides.” Continue reading

Wage and War

Like a femme fatale, the curves here proved deadly.

The 3rd Annual Ice Cream Invitational.  Every summer in Disney, Rodney and Ryan compete with Shannon and ‘yours truly’ in a sacred triathlon that tests the very limits of our body, our heart, and — dare I say — our sanity, a contest fit for gladiators (American or otherwise).  The contest consisted of three rounds.  The first grueling challenge sets brother against brother on the miniature golf course, and then the fiery hell of the tennis court . . .

Wait, why are you rolling your eyes?  Seriously, whatever you THINK you know about miniature golf, forget it.  Disney’s Fantasia Fairways is a theme park asylum covered in undulating green felt, reminding you why men have loved and cursed the bloody game for centuries.  No cartoon castles litter the course.  The pathway to the hole rises and falls like waves on a storm-tossed sea so there’s no ‘trick’ or ‘perfect putt’ to secure your hole in one . . . just luck and the pity of God.  This was to be our battlefield — our Ragnarok, some may say days from now — and waiting for us at the end, a rich waffle cone, filled with soft-serve and seasoned with the blood and tears of our enemies. Continue reading

Trip around the World

So, the boys and I sat down to watch Blade Runner last night: not the original theatrical release, the remastered director’s final cut with the unicorn and without the voice over — if you’ve ever seen the film you’ll know why it’s important to be specific. Sadly, Kevin and Shannon barely lasted through the first fifteen minutes, citing exhaustion and heavy eyelids as the reason. I can’t really blame them; the slow deliberate pacing of the film is not for everyone, particularly movie-goers in this post-Avengers world. Still the world that Scott drafted in the film delights me with its horrid beauty like a living breathing movie monster. If the boys could get past the pace, I think they’d find a wonderful enlightening experience.

What’s all this got to do with Disney and vacation?

Well, on Tuesday, we had stepped out into the rain to eat lunch at Epcot, which lies within walking distance of the Boardwalk Resort. Epcot unlike the other Disney parks is often ignored I think by the younger generations. It doesn’t possess the flumes, animals, and roller coasters of the more ‘fun’ parks, but offers a worthwhile experience if you’re willing to explore . . . and perhaps old enough to drink.  Just like Blade Runner. Continue reading