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Darth Trip

“New York is a head without a body. California is a body without a head.” – Vincent Zangrillo

“You sound like a cowboy, only intelligent.” – Vinny’s friend to me

Return of the Jedi wasn’t really any good – well it had its moments, but it had a lot more of those moments if you were on acid. I remember the weird little hairbrush creature that was Jabba the Hutt’s minister or assistant or whatever he was – you’d cut to him giving this mad laugh of evil…and of course that made total sense on acid…I was the little hairbrush creature witnessing. Add to this that Mark Hamill, surfer boy Luke, had been in a car accident and had plastic surgery. It gave him a slightly ragged look, and I was really into the Monty Clift bios that were out, so of course Mark Hamill’s performance took on this post-car-crash Monty Clift torture that trust me, or you probably already know, was not there at all.

But of course where it really started getting heavy was the whole dad thing with Darth Vader, and Darth coming through in the end, and when they were taking off Darth’s mask to show his fucked up face, my girlfriend rested her hand gently on my hand like I might totally lose it in the movie theater – for after all, after Star Trek – the Wrath of Khan, I wept for 20 minutes straight (drunk of course) that Spock was dead, DEAD!!! And everyone else knew he was coming back but NO! I wouldn’t be consoled, back home taking out my signed photo of Leonard Nimoy I got when I was 12 and wore my hair like Mr. Spock, with the Paul Simon bangs and waxing the tips of my non-sideburns to look like points (using my dad’s mustache wax), and I actually thought I was cool but the Jr. High slutty hot girl with the torn nylons saw my binder with Spock’s picture and said “Oh that’s why your hair is like that” and I suddenly realized I was in my own little world and later my friend Richard described meeting me at 13 as this guy with the Moe Stooges haircut.

But I think deep down even I knew Spock was coming back from the dead.

So Gretchen put her hand on mine so I wouldn’t lose my shit in the Coronet, San Francisco, high on acid and I thought to myself, oh come on – but she did have a point. You never knew with me. But he just looked like a fucked-up old burn victim and wasn’t very scary or summoned any emotion whatsoever, since it was fake anyway. You just went huh, even on acid.

But the real shit came down at the end, because Leia, well she let Luke know she was his sister not his lover so that was a drag, and all his teachers were dead, too, so then there’s the ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda and NOW, dig it, Darth Dad! Redeemed! A true Jedi Master how Catholic deathbed is that?! And how Shakespearean Hamlet old Luke – and Leia says “Come join us, Luke,” meaning come join the lame-o Ewoks having a drum circle but what the hell, it was a party (the Ewoks were supposed to speak Tibetan but even having heard Tibetan a lot, I still cannot tell) – but Luke gives his Shakespearean answer (remember, it’s acid) and says “In a minute, Leia,” which on acid was one for the ages like Brando looking at his brother Rod Steiger in the back of the On the Waterfront taxi and saying “Wow.”

Now of course it goes without saying that you really had to be there – there being the inside of my skull blazing – but none the less it hit me hard – the LOSS of it – like being on mushrooms and watching Once Upon a Time in America and turning to my friend Mitch and asking “Why does everyone have to die?” Choked up with the total loss – and here were the ghosts of the teachers and Luke, well, no one knew but Luke and it was so fucking heavy that for at least a year after no matter what state, stoned or relatively sober, I would weep to retell it. Which was strange, because the only death I’d really known up that point was my leukemian sister’s – which, let’s face it, had hit my so hard I still haven’t recovered, especially when they do those St. Jude’s TV ads with the bald kids, that’s worse that seeing the penned up dog commercial for ASPCA…and that’s almost as bad as it gets.

So I had no idea WHY this end was so profound to me. And it wasn’t just the acid because I saw it again with my brother, 12 years my senior, an alcoholic loner who craved company until it suddenly overloaded him and this time he complained in the tiny movie theater in the tiny loner town that my breathing had been too enthusiastic and thus embarrassed him. We were both stoned and a little drunk and maybe we’d done a little coke but it didn’t effect the imprint of that acid loss.

Years later now clean and sober, I told my wife about how I felt about that ending, and she very tenderly said, “I don’t think you should see it again.” Meaning, if you do, you’ll realize your version is the Herman Melville version of the movie and doesn’t exist at all.

By then, I had lost my father, who’d taught me art, and my writing mentor Allen Ginsberg, AND my root lama (my main teacher) and suddenly, it hit me…the prescience of that foolish acid trip – which is one of the things acid can do, even if it won’t give you wisdom. And like Luke standing there, I was now dry-eyed with that loss, though I’d wept for all of them before – though frankly what I remember most from the passing of my root lama, besides just missing him, was some certainty that it would all be alright, again like Luke at the end, though I’m no Jedi master, trust me.

Eventually I saw the ending again on television, having avoided it for years. Yes, wife Suzi was right. The ending in my head was quite different indeed. The actual ending – stupid, in fact. I tried some denial at first, thinking, wait, they must have re-cut this, but then it sunk in.

It only happened in real life.

–Marc Olmsted


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