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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002
I’m very nearly ashamed of me.

I’m such a poor example for my children, though they brush so close to adulthood now.

Last night, we were in the act of yet again laying waste to a couple of large pepperoni and sausage at the local joint (I had onions on my half but that does little to tell the tale, does it now . . ) and someone mentioned it. Someone just had to bring it up.

The Two Towers was coming. The movie.

It was in fact due out on the 18th, which is today. And some enterprising soul felt it both prudent and endearing to release it on the stroke of the 18th so as to not deny the legions. “Yes, let’s start showing it at midnight on the 18th,” they said.

Now you must realize that I was unaware of this. I was definitely aware that the movie was coming, I’d already promised Ally we would go. Sometime.

But someone just had to bring it up. Last night. Never parlay the vision of anything having to do with the Lord of the Rings in front of me while I’m face first into a pizza. Particularly one with onions.

“Why, we should go!,” I said to the astonishment of the family. “We should just go to the midnight showing! Be the first! Whaddya think?”

(It should be made clear that I am not one to spend a great deal of time in movie theaters. The last time I went, in fact, was for the Fellowship of the Ring last year. And then I bought the DVD and had no reason to go again. I furthermore have little use for shameless herd following and even more shameless plugging by movie moguls who are quick to grab a buck wherever and whenever they can. It should also be clear that I am a sonombulent being, that I treasure my bed time and believe it to be a sacred thing. There are, of course, exceptions for everything . . .)

Ben: “Wow! Yeah, let’s go, we should do it!”
Maggie: “Oh, yeah! Oh Dad, yeah!”
Beth: “Are you people completely out of your minds?”

Ally was strangely silent. This was the point in conversation where my wife would normally, and with reason, break into my reverie with a reminder that it was a school night, that I had to work tomorrow, that the movie was liable to as long as the first of the trilogy – the one where my ass fell asleep and I was in a constant state of wiggle to try to revive it. Damn theater chairs.

Ally considered. But I noticed she had that peculiar gleam in her eye.

Beth had no such illusions. She gets up at 5 am for school, and I mean every single day. She has schedules and reality to deal with. It’s very scary. She is probably a great deal more of a grown up than I will ever be.

Which is why she stayed at home while the rest of us gleefully made our escape for the midnight showing.

I won’t spoil it for you, I realize that many of you love this story and this movie series as much as I do. I was hoping that the Two Towers would at the very least be as wonderful as the Fellowship. I still cannot believe how faithful to the actual books this whole concept is, how beautifully portrayed. No, I won’t spoil it for you.

But I fell in love with the Elf girl Arwen (Liv Tyler) all over again.

I saw Shadowfax.

I saw Ents. I stopped seeing after a while and just fell into Tolkien’s world with a quiet splash and swam in the richness of it. The desperation, the hope, the yearning. The strange loneliness of it all, the open plains with but a single rider of horse for hundreds of miles, the darkness of evil facing the shaking resolve of men.

There’s a side that darkness brings that means the end of normal times. The gift of Tolkien, the magic of symbolism that he could draft is so plain. That here, right now, we face the darkness of our times and our normal place will go away, and we hold in our hands the terrible decision of what to do with it. Whether it is for us to hope and struggle or to turn and walk into the chasm of emptiness. To let evil in all forms rush over us and overwhelm.

It is a movie that you may find yourself weeping for. Because it stops in the middle and dares to ask the question. Do you want to use the magic of the unresolved to hope, to continue on? Will the King ride out once more to do battle, one last time? And where will it all lead?

I hated to see it lead back to reality when the movie ended. Such an onslaught of sensual beauty should not end with Outfoxed rising from his theater chair and saying “Oooooh, my ass aches.” But . . . well, you know. These things happen.

Or the reality of Ben, in the car, at 3:30 am. “So how did you know that the Ents would throw rocks, Mom?”

“Because I’ve read the books son. Your father and I read those books before we even met, and we’ve read them again and again, even after you were born.”

“Books?” There’s books?”

Or the reality that it’s now 5 am and Beth will be getting up any second now. To face her father who usually gets up at 4. A father who is sleepless but seems to need no sleep now. I’ve had my dream time.

I saw Shadowfax, and he was very real indeed.

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