“I have crossed the horizon to find you. / I know your name. / They have stolen the heart from inside you. / But this does not define you. / This is not who you are. / You know who you are… who you truly are.”
– Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) from Moana
It isn’t easy to answer when people inquire about where my wife Corinne and I vacationed for our honeymoon. You see, we married in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, yet lived in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Therefore, we left Hawaiʻi to wed, only to return several weeks later, continuing our everyday academic lives. Usually, it’s the opposite, right? As Jason Segel, as Peter Bretter, screams, with ironic anger, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “Oh, wedding in Hawaiʻi! Real original!” Yes, we skedaddled from Hawaiʻi to get married. How does someone plan a honeymoon when they live in a tropical paradise? Thus, came into fruition an NCL Hawaiian Islands cruise that served as our honeymoon getaway. Sure, it took two years to go on it, but our first cruise was memorable and filled with love, adventure, and Kona coffee!
“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”
– Dr. Seuss
One of my first albums was Bryan Adams’ smash hit, Reckless. I remember opening the Christmas gift from my Aunt Sybil and seeing a shiny new jewel case with an awesomely designed CD. After hearing “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from his Waking Up the Neighbors album and Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, I started listening to his music. That song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1992 Academy Awards but lost to Beauty and the Beast. No musician is more identifiable to my youth than Bryan Adams. His albums matched a moment in my childhood when I dreamed with intent. As I listen to Reckless, I think back to that younger me, wondering, was what I envisioned…this? I often measure my life against the existence I had imagined when I was a kid and blasted Bryan Adams’ songs regularly from my stereo.
My life is grander and more exciting than I could have ever dreamed. Yet, there is one area where I feel my path has curved far more than I expected. Remember when you were young and inspected your reflection in a mirror, trying to picture what you might look like as an adult? That’s kind of what I mean, but instead of wondering what I will look like, which I am still asking myself, I am referring to my profession. In elementary school, maybe fifth grade, we did a play about what you want to be when you grow up. Although I secretly wanted to be a comedian, I performed as a baseball player. But all types of professions were present; even one child dressed in B.U.M. Equipment clothing represented a homeless person. Not sure how that was inspiring or compassionate.
I have been teaching for some time, but I often ask, is this it? After the odd jobs, hours of reading/writing towards my Ph.D. degree, and nearly two decades in a classroom, is more to come? If so, where does all this lead? Many people, including my wife Corinne, are asking ourselves these questions. The pandemic and the “great resignation” have shown life is too fragile and “work” is no longer going to be accepted for what it was. Instead, paths forward will demand leaps of faith and scenery changes. I love teaching, but is it what I expected, or is my position what I imagined? In the end, as long as I don’t resemble, nor act like, a core member of the Roy family from the HBO series Succession, how bad can it be! Well, maybe Greg, but I like Greenpeace, so maybe not. Join me as I explore my career and ponder what’s to come.
“Ebenezer Scrooge: Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit. Kermit the Frog: Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, sir. Ebenezer Scrooge: Very well. You may gift wrap them.”
– Michael Caine (Scrooge) & Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) from The Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s that time of year when those who celebrate Christmas begin to rewatch specific movies. Most people, like myself, have a favorite film they immediately watch with a loved one or save until the last moment and watch alone. The simple task, or tradition, of rewatching a festive film performs a nostalgic function. That tradition comes with rules that one must follow so as not to break with a familial custom. Personally, after the last couple of years, these traditions are equally important as well as expendable. I have had to take stock of those traditions worth holding onto and those I wish to set aside. Yes, even the practice of watching a film is one I took notice of, but rather than avoid it, I leaned in and turned on, for nearly my twentieth year, The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Today, I am going to explore the ghosts of Christmas. I will illustrate those moments of joy, those family traditions I nostalgically recall, and how the Christmas holidays have changed. In doing so, I will discuss those Christmas films that I play and replay this time of year, with particular attention given to those adorable Jim Henson Muppet characters. In the end, this post is an opportunity to get sentimental and excited about a new Christmas season and a celebratory year that will, thankfully, be nothing like last year. I will spend this holiday with extended family because of vaccines, lower COVID numbers, and great determination. Whether you celebrate or not, all are welcome to explore the holiday ghosts of my past once again.
“There is no time. There is no death. Life is a dream. It’s a wish made again and again and again and again and again and again, on into eternity. And I am all of it. I am everything. I am all. I am that I am.”
– Kate Siegel (Erin Greene) from Midnight Mass
I commend Mike Flanagan, creator of The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, for creating, yet again, another Netflix show I cannot get out of my mind. I have, it seems, on countless occasions discussed his cinematic success. I am a huge fan; this is true. His shows regularly mix genres, and I am constantly surprised by the quality of his written stories. I will not make this a four-thousand-word diatribe on Flanagan, although I could. I recently discussed him in a post about my emotional relationship to cinema in the context of 9/11.
Now, I do not plan to cross any similar bridges today, but my watch/rewatch of Midnight Mass offers me the chance to explore the show with a more detailed perspective. It grants me the opportunity to include another part of my early life, my Catholic upbringing. The show is riddled, if not saturated, with religious discussions centered around, if not primarily concerning, Catholicism. Now, I am not a religious expert, nor do I confer judgment on any religion. I am, however, a human being who lived, for some time, religiously. While it never played a prominent role, it played a role, nonetheless.
“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
– Walt Disney
For me, Walt Disney World is the epitome of youthful entertainment. While I do not consider myself a Disney enthusiast, I have great memories of traveling to Florida as a child and experiencing the magic with an imaginative spirit. As an adult, I visited with a far less carefree tenor, possibly a wistful smirk, but no less respectful of the powerful hold Disney has on those whose minds are full of wishes. Ninety-eight years after founding the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood, the company represents a greater visual authenticity than ever before. Yet, 2021 observes the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in Florida. Today, I celebrate the anniversary of Walt Disney World in the one way I know how; exploring nostalgic Disney memories. I had a wonderful experience visiting Walt Disney World in my youth. As an adult, I went to Disney on several occasions, all very different but no less memorable. Of course, visiting as a child is magical, and I will discuss Walt Disney World of today and my childhood, but I will include my trip to run the 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon.
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) in The Princess Bride
While living in Honolulu in 2012, the Consolidated Theaters in Ward Entertainment Center hosted a Throwback Thursday event where they showcased a classic film each Thursday night. One week was Jaws, and another was Pulp Fiction, and so on. As you might imagine, I was curious which film they would show next. An opportunity to see a movie in the theater I never had the chance to see when it originally premiered was an opportunity I welcomed. Every month, the theater unveiled its schedule for each Throwback Thursday, but I was rarely motivated by the selections. It’s not that those they showcased didn’t deserve the “throwback attention.” Of course, each film did!
Several months into the event, the theater announced a movie I was eager to see. The scheduled film included themes of true love, inconceivable moments, fire swamps, miracles, pirates, and revenge. The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite films. Sure, I have spoken of nostalgic films and use these terms liberally, but while countless movies have provided me joy, there is no film like The Princess Bride. But it premiered when I was too young, so I never saw it in a theater, only on VHS. When I asked my wife if she would join me to see The Princess Bride, she said, “sure, I have never seen it anyhow.”
In shock I quickly bought tickets and remedied one of the biggest surprises of our relationship. My wife had never seen The Princess Bride. Somehow, I had missed this terrible truth. At the beautiful theater in Honolulu, I finally watched a beloved film on a screen far larger than my family’s television of 19 inches in the early ‘90s. So, let me rewind the VHS, press start over on my Disney+ account, and scan your ticket to a conversation about a movie that made masks cool, rotten miracles acceptable, and other narrated films bend the knee. We are “stormin’ da” castle… The Princess Bride.