Dateline – Menlo Park, California
Another day with Vickie Rozell in the Bay area. Today was San Francisco day. We started with the drive up the 101 to the city and headed over to Ocean Beach for brunch at the Beach Chalet at the end of Golden Gate Park between the windmills. The building dates from the 1930s and is chock full of WPA murals. We then battled traffic from hell across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County to see Marin Theater Company’s production of Marjorie Prime.
The play, which I knew nothing about going in, fit right into the themes of this trip as it is about the nature of memory, family, the need for companionship, and what is possible for the elderly with incipient dementia in a changing artificial intelligence world. Joy Carlin played the title character and I remember seeing her in all sorts of things at ACT in San Francisco and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the early 80s. 35 years later, she’s still got it.
Back to the city for a brief tour. It hasn’t changed that much in 20 years other than more people and more traffic. We ended up with dinner at a Taiwanese fusion restaurant in the inner Richmond and a screening of Solo: A Star Wars Movie in Japantown.
Tonight’s story brought to you courtesy of Star Wars and Marin County.
The original Star Wars came out in late May of 1977, 41 years ago now for those of you no good at math. It was the end of my freshman year in high school and, in those days, the cineplex had not yet taken over the world so it opened in a single downtown theater in Seatlle, the UA on 6th Avenue and Blanchard. My parents had read about it in the paper and thought it sounded like a good family outing so on the Friday night of opening weekend, they packed the three of us kids up and we headed downtown. We were surprised to find a relatively long line and the 7 PM sold out. My parents, being pragmatic, decided if this many people had showed up, something good must be going on so we bought tickets for the 9 PM, went to dinner and came back. We all loved the movie, even my mother (who I think found echoes of the Saturday matinee serials of her youth in it), went home, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to see the reviews and the beginnings of a cultural juggernaut in the papers and on the TV news. The three stars were actually in Seattle, on the first leg of a publicity tour, and I caught them on a local talk show looking like the proverbial deer in the headlights as it dawned on them that this little movie that wasn’t supposed to amount to much was turning into a phenomenon.
I of course, saw The Empire Strikes Back three years later in the summer of 1980, the summer after I graduated from high school and everyone in my generation eagerly anticipated the third installment of the trilogy. During my first three years of college, I remember many cafeteria conversations, speculating on possible plot points and reveals. (The one of my friends who guessed that the love triangle would be resolved by revealing Luke and Leia to be brother and sister won some plaudits among our circle.
Return of the Jedi was released in late 1983 at the end of my junior year of college. We all wanted to go but it was so popular that finding tickets for that opening weekend was difficult. There was no world wide web yet and you had to get advance tickets through Ticketmaster. After some scrambling, we located some at a cinema in Marin county so a bunch of us pooled our resources, loaded up in two cars, and took the drive that I took today to Marin and back. I remember that our consensus was the film was a bit of a disappointment and not quite the caliber we were expecting but could anything have lived up to the level of anticipation we post adolescents had placed on it? The day we went was also the day I had found out I had been selected to direct the big spring student musical, Anything Goes so I was in a particularly celebratory mood. I had just turned 21. I was fully adult. Anything was possible.
That day was thirty five years ago this week. Cycles and circles. If I could, would I go back and tell that young man anything? Would he listen?