The only times I ever got ahead of any particular zeitgeist was when I started blogging – which was in 2002, and for this blog. There may have been fair number of blogs in existence back then, in the Dark Ages of blogging, but you still had to explain exactly what it was, this mysterious thing called a blog – and god bless ‘em, people like my parents who were only barely aware of the internet, had to have the whole concept explained to them very, very, carefully. And I was way out there when it came to the Tea Party, but that was only because a person I knew and liked – through blogging – asked if I would like to get involved.
More usually, I am the one wandering along the well-trodden track, well after the herd has gone by, wondering vaguely where all the footprints were going, and then being distracted by butterflies or rabbits or something. So it was, when it came to reading Lord of the Rings – I didn’t actually read it until I was well along in high school, and all my friends had read it ages ago. For some reason – possibly because The Fellowship of the Ring was checked out of the library – I read The Two Towers first, and then Return of the King, before reading The Fellowship of the Ring. This had the advantage of kick-starting the adventure off in high gear. Anyway, simply everyone else had already read the whole thing, and in some cases, years before. (It was just one of those books that you read then, just like everyone had read Stranger in a Strange Land. You just did.) So, I read it all, and caught up with everyone else – and then, I did something a little radical: I read it aloud to my little brother, Sander, who was then about four or five. My parents did not believe in TV, you see. This is how people used to amuse themselves, back then.

They read books, and I had established a regular habit of reading a couple of chapters of appropriate kid-lit to my little brother. We had already read The Hobbit – so, one afternoon we launched into LOTR. At a chapter or two a night, it took most of a year, and he was absolutely enthralled before we had gotten very far, and would often beg for another chapter – because the end of most chapters is a cliff-hanger, you see. You simply have to start the next chapter to find out what will happen to our sturdy hobbit adventurers, and before you know it, here comes another peril. As I said, it took most of a year; and by the end of it, Sander could talk like Sam Gamgee. That Halloween, he insisted on dressing up as a hobbit, with a tunic and cloak (we had to fudge on the furry feet, though) and a little wooden sword and a shield with Tolkeinish runes painted on it. I have no idea what his various grade school teachers thought of all of this, by the way. He must have come to school with some very strange turns of phrase, during this period.

And then, when my daughter was four years old – I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings aloud to her, as well. We were in Greece then, and still without a television, VCRs had just barely come on the market and it wasn’t as if I could afford one anyway. So – back to the refuge of books. Blondie, the Daughter Unit became as enthralled as my little brother had been – again, it took the best part of a year. She began relating the latest development to her best friend, at nursery school, and the best friend begged her mother to begin reading LOTR to her. But Blondie was still ahead as far as the cliffhangers went, for we remained a few chapters in the lead, and she could still let her friend know what was coming next.
When the Peter Jackson movie version came out – of course, Blondie and I were so there; every year, when I came back to California to visit my parents for Christmas, we’d go to the big movie theater in Oceanside together; another one of those family rituals. And the last freelance project I finished, allowed me to indulge in some books and DVDs that I had always wanted, among them a boxed set (second-hand, naturally!) of the extended-version of LOTR; the one with all the extra scenes included. Just couldn’t stop at the end of each disc, by the way – had to go a little way into the next. What a visual feast of a movie; and how very curious that it all looked just as I had imagined it would look, all those ages ago, when I read it to my little brother.

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