Print is Dead

Harold Ramis 1944-2014

I've been meaning to update this blog but life has been incredibly, wonderfully busy. Things have been going extremely well, and while I'd love to unload all of that positive energy into this blog every piece of free time gets filled with a new opportunity.

What spurred me to write was the unexpected (to me at least) death of Harold Ramis. Anyone who knows me from about age five onward knows that my favorite movie, hands-down no-contest, is Ghostbusters. I know every line, every sound, every gesture of every inch of that movie and its sequel. An entire portion of my home is dedicated to the 'collection' of various figures and memorabilia I've accumulated (the crown jewel is my 1987 Data East Real Ghostbusters arcade cabinet). The only thing I have inked on my body is the famous no-ghost logo on my arm.

The death of Ramis, known for his role as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, was a real punch to the gut. I found myself sitting at my desk Monday trying not to cry over a guy I'd never met, and only known superficially, and feeling really silly about it. I texted my wife, who asked if I was ok, and I said that I was but I had to text her again immediately and say no, I was definitely not ok. Then I kind of lost it for a bit; luckily I was home with our three-year-old, who wasn't feeling well that day, who tried to cheer me up by asking if I'd like to look at his butt. He's the comedian of our little troupe.

It's interesting to me how people react to my love for all things Ghostbusters; people around my age generally light up and ask when they can come and play the arcade game. Younger people haven't seen the movie or have seen it in passing, and I'm more than happy to loan them my backup copy (yes I have a backup, please return it Brian). My mother-in-law furrows her brow and scowls disapprovingly at the Ghostbusters corner and makes subtle references to moving the entire thing to a family room someday. My dad is amused by it I think but it seems an oddity to him.

I guess I felt like I should write down somewhere why I'm still so entranced by a movie three decades old, and why I've devoted a significant portion of our already small living space to its honor.

My initial exposure to the movie mirrored a lot of kids' who grew up in the 80's. I remember my dad renting a VHS player at the Hollywood Video up the street from my grandmother's house in Kentucky, and bringing Ghostbusters along with it. I remember being totally mesmerized by the ghosts and the equipment, all the gadgets and gear they used to trap the paranormal. Every Christmas and birthday was a guaranteed bounty of Ghostbusters toys. I remember when we get the original four Ghostbusters - we each got two. And we didn't fight over them! The thought of having duplicates was ridiculous. There were four Ghostbusters, and having any doppelgangers hanging around the firehouse offended our fanatic sensibilities. I can remember how they smelled when you opened a new package. I remember the Christmas we got the firehouse, and the Ecto-1. These memories are as vivid as any that I have. Most of all, I remember that my brother and I were amateur Ghostbusters in every sense. We fought the good fight against things that go bump in the night as well as two little boys could, with the inspiration of Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston of course.

Childish playthings naturally go the way of the dodo as you get older, and it was no different with Ghostbusters. Even though it was a comedy targeted at adults I began equating it with my youth and pulling away from it. Around the same time my parents got divorced - that was a really dark time my friends. I won't go into it here - its not appropriate and you haven't bribed me with the requisite amount of bourbon. But I was thrust prematurely and unnaturally into adulthood, and all of the innocence I had as a Ghostbusters-loving kid evaporated. Playtime was over, and Ghostbusters became a painful reminder of a much happier time.

An interesting thing happened about ten years ago. People who had grown up idolizing the movie and the cartoons started becoming consumers. They longed for some of that nostalgia of opening that Christmas gift, of popping in that well-worn VHS copy for the 100th time. A market developed around them, and before you know it there was a real demand for action figures, toys, prop replicas, and comics. That's how I got caught up in it again.

I don't feel much longing for anything that happened to me before I turned eighteen. It's a time I'd rather not think about. But I discovered that some of those positive feelings never went away, that incredible sense of anticipation and joy of finding something to add to your collection. In fact it was better! I didn't have to beg my parents to take me to Toys 'R' Us and buy me something, ANYTHING, so i could have some new Ghostbusters toy to play with. As an adult I could pick and choose and collect as far as my budget (and my wife's patience) would let me. The best part of it - it's contagious. When my kids know something Ghostbusters is coming to add to our collection they get as excited as I do. They've gone fully down the rabbit hole with me, watching the cartoons and everything. Every Halloween after trick-or-treating we have a tradition - we sort the candy and watch Ghostbusters.

It is my bridge over troubled waters. It reminds me of a time when my brother and I were innocent little kids whose world was free from agony; when we were your typical suburban middle-class family filled with love. I can still feel six-year-old me giddy with excitement when a new Ghostbusters item is added to our shelf, and adult me can laugh at the numerous jokes that went right over my head as a kid (I'll go back to Ms. Barrett's apartment and check her out...). It reminds me of people I love when they were at their best - many of whom have been anything but since then.

And plus, it makes me laugh.

I did not know Harold Ramis. I never met him. God's honest truth, I'm not super familiar with his other work. I was so Ghostbusters obsessed as a youth that I refused to see any movie with any of the actors that was not Ghostbusters. I remember my parents taking us to see Scrooged and being so royally pissed. Bill Murray in a movie with ghosts and he's not Peter Venkman? THANK YOU BUT NO.

I don't know anything about Ramis but this- he and his comrades brought an immeasurable amount of joy and happiness to my life and I will be forever grateful.

I saw this somewhere and I'm going to steal it: If my sadness were a twinkie, it would be a twinkie 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 pounds.

- Bob