An Epic Tale of Obsession, Magic and Basic Silliness

Part 1: The Gathering

WordNet defines addiction as:

«being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming»

Addiction is at the core of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. For the author, the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron is that irresistible prize that intensifies the most vicious and selfish instincts of Men and Hobbits alike. It twists the desires and visions of its possessor into carrying out the evil of the Ringlord. Those that succumb to the Ring’s influence turn into wraiths, living corpses bereft of their own will. Addiction is also a word closely associated with readers of Tolkien’s work that has been magnificently rendered in film by Peter Jackson. What but addiction could possibly explain the obsessive detail, spot-on locations, impecable casting and glorious sets brought together in Jackson’s trilogy? And what other force would drive adults and man-children out into the frozen pre-dawn air of December 16 just to stand in line for twelve hours of movies for which they already had tickets? Addiction, it seems, isn’t just for hobbits and elves; it has also taken me.

Months ago, my pal Zorknapp mentioned that when the last of the Jackson’s Ring movies came out, some venues would be hosting a special event in which all three parts of the trilogy would be shown. To sweeten the pot, extended versions of the first two movies would be played. Zorknapp was organizing a small group of friends to attend the event at the Lowe’s Theatre on Boston’s Tremont Street. Since I’m a man of without a day job and a fan of both the books and the movies, I agreed to join this fellowship of the Ring movies. But I was firm on not wearing hairy hobbits feet or pointy elven ears, although I was open to negotiation about bringing a wizardly staff. Unfortunately, one of the many theatre regulations explicitly forbade bringing this token of office. As I was to learn, these restrictions weren’t entirely capricious.

Because Hollywood seems to delight in answering my lofty expectations of well-plotted narratives with hackneyed dreck even hopeless stoners wouldn’t find funny, my movie house patronage has become like my love-making: infrequent and frought with peril. Accordingly, I was not in that fabled pre-dawn line that formed down the block of Lowes along Tremont Street and trailed off towards the Wang Center. Only the night before was I told that I should be at the theatre around 9AM, when the doors opened. This seemed a little early in the morning for epic movies, but I wasn’t complaining.
Remember, three movies, each four hours long. Perhaps there was wisdom in getting an early start to the proceedings. Since Lowes is only a few miles from my apartment, I opted to walk along Boylston Street so that I could enjoy the bracing, morally unambiguous air that blows down from the tundras of Canada (it’s what I prize most about winters in New England). Thinking that my friends might get peckish during the Long Slog of Tolkien, I bought some croissants. Even though theatres normally frown on bringing your own food, I couldn’t imagine the concession stand being open that early nor could I picture a long line for popcorn, candy and soda before lunchtime. Besides this was a special event of The Fans. This wasn’t just another movie (or three), this was an Event. Surely, this was going to be time when the normally frosty Bostonian demeanor would thaw a little into a sort of a muddy puddle of mild indifference? Alas in this way and in others, I would be proven very, very wrong.

By 9:45A, I was at the front doors of Lowes. The sidewalk was empty.
The only people immediately inside the lobby were employees. Where was every one? While I got my bearings, I held the door open for a Coca-Cola delivery guy who was bringing in a palette of several cases of soda. For many of my programming brethen, this vision would elicit urges not unlike those felt by Paris Hilton when she passes by the mall’s T-Mobile store.
While my attention was split between the tempting soda (which I call my “liquid friends”) and looking for my companions (“fleshy friends”), most of soda bottles suddenly fell off the palette when the delivery guy failed to negiotiate the second set of doors adroitly. Cross my heart - visions of the Rodney King L.A. riots flickered across my mind as I imagined a frenzied free-for-all of grabbing hands chasing after the sugary caffine. However, seeing my pal jmac, who was not in my fellowship (but was counted an ally nonetheless), broke my inane reverie. jmac was in the small line of people who were being processed before being let into the HALLS OF VIEWING. At 32, I’ve been to a few films and feel I’ve mastered the most salient points of movie-going ettiquette. It is true that this knowledge has existed mostly in oral form though. Until now. Taking a page out of the Moses playbook, the management of Loews sententiously codified acceptable behavior of its patrons, to forestall any shenanigans. One of the strictures was against the bring of any non-Loews food into the theatre. They thoughtfully provided a large garbage barrel for such contraband at the table where tickets were collected and hands stamped. Things were not looking good for my bag of croissants, eyed contemptously by the head ticket collector.

“You’ll have to throw those out,” said Usher Rex.

“But, uh, this my breakfast?” I said weakly.

“You’ll have to throw those out,” repeated Usher Rex.

Taking a farewell nibble out of one of the croissants, I tossed the bag in the barrel after discarding the idea of giving them to the ticket collectors, as a mature, neighborly adult might do. With my ticket collected and hand stamped, I proceeded into the HALL OF VIEWING to find my friends and meet my destiny.

Tune in next Monday for the next installment Hail to the King in which jjohn asks: isn’t $11 a little pricy for a hot dog?

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