Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dark clouds on the horizon

Last night I went to the AMC Studio 30 on Dunvale to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I enjoyed The Order of the Phoenix so much that I’d thought I go see this one as I was curious whether the continuing saga with Voldemort would play out as well as I had envisioned from reading the book.

After the last preview played, the lights started to dim for the feature presentation. Then, suddenly, the theater went dark. There was a hushed silence, and after a few moments, the cavernous space took on an eerie green glow from the emergency exit lights. “I wonder if this is part of the movie,” someone blurted out.

The guy sitting behind me replied, “Yeah, they’ve put us in some dark room at Hogwarts to make the movie seem more real.”

Another few minutes went by. “There isn’t any light on in the projection room,” someone shouted.

We collectively turned our heads toward the projection room. Sure enough, no light—no movement. It was then that some of us began to realize that maybe something had happened. A few of the patrons left the theater to let the management know that the movie had stopped playing.

They returned a couple minutes later with a manager: “Sorry, folks. Didn’t realize you people were still in the dark.” The overhead lights came on. “There’s been a lightning strike close by, and it’s knocked the power out to the building. We don’t know when we’re going to get it back, but the fire department wants everyone to evacuate the building. You’ll receive a 'Re-Admit Pass' on your way out so that you can come back some other night.”

The guy behind me stood up and said, “Imagine that. A lightning strike knocks out the showing of Harry Potter. How’s that for a little wizardry?”

After I got my Re-Admit pass, I decided to head to the House of Pies for a cup of coffee and a slice of egg custard pie. There was considerable lightning and thunder going on, but only a slight sprinkle of rain was falling. That all changed quickly when about half way to the restaurant, I drove into a torrent of water falling from the sky. Considering that we have been under severe drought conditions for the last month and a half, this rainfall was a welcomed sight.

I pulled off into a parking lot and found a spot with a clear view of the churning, black clouds and marveled at the light show that was being put on. The massive streaks ripped from the sky to the ground with thunderous booms that followed. One was so close and so loud that it set off the car alarms. For me, thunderstorms have always had an ominous, mysterious quality about them. Ever since I was a small child growing up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I felt a sense of urgency to beat it on home whenever the dark clouds began to appear over the mountains that separated us from New York.

When I was at a Boys’ Club summer camp in Richmond, Massachusetts, a thunderstorm coming off the pond sometimes would have us young campers huddling in the middle of the cabin. One night when we were watching a movie during a storm, a lightning bolt struck a pine tree close by. It splintered the tree in half. We noticed that several pieces of the splintered wood were steaming. Without thinking I picked up a piece to look at it more closely, not realizing that doing so was akin to putting my hand on a hot iron. I spent the rest of that week with my hand in a bandage that had to be changed every day.

I watched the last of the grayish white wisps of the clouds from the storm scuttle on by, the rain slowing to a slight drizzle. I turned the car on and continue on to the House of Pies. A few of my friends scoffed at me for taking such an interest in "Harry Potter."

But then many of the things they say about J. K. Rowling’s work—that it’s not literature; it’s pure pap that only a kid could appreciate; that there isn’t anything original about her work—sound vaguely similar to much of the criticism that was levied against Stephen King when his first books started to appear.

But as in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, I find the same lesson in Harry Potter that I have found from reading Apollonius of Rhodes Jason and the Argonauts, Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, and Leo Tolstoy’s Lord of the Rings, and that is how to remain focused on completing our quest when faced with insurmountable forces that challenge us to either rise up and prevail, or else succumb to oblivion. In The Deathly Hollows, Potter has his final confrontation with Lord Voldemort in a classic good versus evil showdown: “It’s just you and me,” Harry says to Voldemort. “Neither can live while the other survives.”

As I sat down to the counter at the restaurant, I thought about the events that have transpired in our lives during the last couple of years. With the deep recession that has resulted in the loss of so many jobs, the uncertainty of the housing market, and the widening conflict in Afghanistan, it seems as if we are challenged by forces so little understood but every bit as menacing as the servants of the Dark Lord Voldemort.

My server tonight was a young lady I hadn’t seen before. She placed a cup of coffee and a slice of egg custard pie before me. “Anything else I can get you, hon?”

I looked up at her. She had a smile as wide as the pie plate. “I’m all set, thanks.”

The hot steam wafted from my coffee. I stared into the cup. There was something there about rumbling clouds appearing on the horizon, the sudden downdraft of a cold wind that portends a coming storm.

Considering the ongoing bickering over the “stimulus bill” that Congress passed, the recent debate on developing a national health care plan that won’t bankrupt us into oblivion, and the need for additional troops to vanquish the Taliban, one can’t help wondering if this storm of events will pass, or if it will wreck us for sure. Let us hope, then, that the wand President Obama wields against the problems our country is faced with is truly powerful and magical, and not just some ordinary stick.

Featured in the Waldo County Republican Journal


rdl said...

I'm hoping too !! such alot of troubles to fix. Great post!!

Lorna said...

I like the matching of the mood of the country to the weather. And of course, President Obama will vanquish the voldemorts. In my mind, that's already happened, and everything else, including universal health care is icing. Good icing.

Lorna said...

Later: I saw HP and have to say I loved it---how hard it was to be an adolescent, and how hard it is to watch adolescents dealing with those challenges. I do love HP for so many reasons besides movies, but I did like this one---I was reminded in a quick flash somewhere in the movie of the lightheartedness and magic of the first HP book and movie, but I like watching the whole bunch making choices about what is right and what seems inevitable.

S L Cunningham said...

Appreciate your comment. Thanks for stopping by.


Glad you liked the movie. I think the last one that comes out sometime next year will be bittersweet.