Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Neighborhood of Make-Believe

So I suppose I'm putting my credibility on the line here... But does anyone else sometimes catch oneself living in a fantasy world?

I'm not trying to be deep or philosophical here -- like "How do we negotiate the tension between the physical realm and the spiritual realm?" or "What are the masks that we wear as a form of self-defense in society?" I'm talking about true childlike fantasy. Pure imagination. Unfettered frolicking in the neighborhood of make-believe -- you know, baking mud-pies for a tree-house feast... transforming one's back-yard into a collosal stadium with a sell-out crowd watching your magnificent performance in the championship game... enjoying afternoon tea with the royal family... We all know that these things are well and good for children -- even admirable, adorable, and praiseworthy -- but what about adults? Can "grown-ups" pretend in such innocent, frivolous ways?

I've just recently realized how many imaginary adventures I can pack into my daily commute.

The other day, one of the television networks in Amsterdam was airing the classic Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back -- and I couldn't resist reveling in what had been one of my favorite movies as a boy. In particular, I enjoyed the chase scenes -- rebel snowspeeders racing over the Hothian landscape to engage Imperial walkers, noble X-wing fighters squaring off against evil Tie Fighters in the star-specked vaccuum of outer space, Han Solo's Millenium Falcon dipping and diving through asteroid fields and the gigantic teeth of horrific beasts... And somewhere in the midst of one of the chase scenes from The Empire Strikes Back, it occurred to me that I have envisioned these very scenes dozens if not hundreds of times during my incidental travels through the bustling city streets of Amsterdam, mounted upon my brown Batavus bicycle (incidentally nicknamed Darth Brown, as if the Star Wars connection hasn't already gone far enough!)...

Perhaps I'm crazy or childish, but it occurs to me that I often imagine the orchestral themes of Star Wars as I dodge delivery trucks and pedestrian tourists each day. Narrow escapes, bursts of speed, tight corners -- these are daily maneuvers that are easy fodder for an overactive imagination. And it's so much more interesting to be an X-wing fighter pilot, racing to thwart the sinister plans of a tyranical intergalactic empire -- than to be a peddling peasant on his way home from work. It brings joy and excitement to race stormtroopers through the forests of Endor on my speeder-bike. It lightens my spirit to take a break from reality and get lost in the Tatouinian deserts or Hothian tundras of central Amsterdam.

But is this normal adult behavior? I'm afraid the bicycle adventures do not stop at Star Wars...

Sometimes my bicyle is a fighter plane -- dogfighting with the Luftwaffe over the skies of Europe. Sometimes my bicycle is a galloping stallion -- rounding up vast herds of cattle on the open range. And sometimes (particularly at this time of the year), my bicycle is a top-of-the-line racing bike -- zooming through the far corners of France for Team Discovery, seeking an illustrious victory in the Tour de France. The steep bridges of the city are the Pyranean peaks or the legendary summit of l'Alpe d'Huez. The far side of each intersection is a sprint finish against Thor Hushovd and Robbie McEwen. Every bicycle ride can be a mystical quest. My imagination knows no bounds.

But tell me, does this mean I'm a freak? I know that we delight in the comic imaginations of Snoopy or Calvin & Hobbes. I know that we all smile when Peter Pan encourages us to never grow old. I know that we love Don Quixote for his idealism... But don't we also lament the fact that he was just a crazy old man? I'm looking for validation here. Identification and empathy. Here I have bared my soul to the world wide web, and I await its judgment of my sanity. Please tell me that I'm not alone...

Or -- if you're going to put me in a mental institution -- please make sure that I get a nice room with a good view of wooded grounds and a bicycle trail where my desperately careening mind can dart about freely and serendipitously for the rest of my days.


At 4:40 AM, Blogger EP said...


I don't know if this is normal adult behavior, but I often imagine story lines, conversations and situations in my head that are pretty much the same sort of thing that I did when I was five.

Perhaps it's just a sign of high intelligence.


At 10:36 AM, Blogger patricia said...

I think we should put you in a mental institution just so that you'd have more time to blog. ;-)
It was funny reading your blog this morning because just yesterday I was laughing at myself as I realized that I was living out the adventures of Indiana Jones as I made it down Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat toward Museumplein ... darting through traffic, not letting my tires get caught in the crisscross of tram tracks, weaving back and forth due to the construction, even doing a bit of 4-wheeling over a dirty rocky bit ... the construction work kind of "forces you" to ride down the tram track (I mean really, who is going to get off their bike and patiently walk 2 blocks down the bizarre little winding path of overlapping boards they have laid for pedestrians?) ... so the most exciting part was racing the oncoming tram. The suspense and intrigue of these adventures are enhanced of course when you are also somehow managing to carry 3 bags of groceries and your laptop on your bike not to mention a whole other person on the back. With some of the obstacles we face as those who live by bike in the city and the quick thinking and deft physical maneuvers it takes to overcome them, I think we could give Indiana Jones a run for his archeological treasures!

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Stef said...

This blog made me smile.

I don't usually insert myself into Star Wars-type story lines, but I often make up stories of my own as I'm driving, or running, or even grocery shopping. I always just figured it was one of the downsides (?) of being a writer. Everything is a story. I find myself developing full-blown story lines about random people I see throughout my day.

The odd-looking man in the dark glasses at the grocery store becomes a "secret agent", and by the time I've bought my groceries this poor man has become the main character in a story (in my head!) about political intrigue and secret government operations.

So nice to know I'm not alone! :)

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Jay said...

"Laughing on the bus
playing games with the faces
She said the man in the Gaberdeen suit was a spy.
I said, 'Be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.'"

Who bemoans the fact that Quixote was mad? "Maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it ought to be!" Life without adventure is hardly worth living. Create the adventure whatever way you must.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Whew! I'm glad to get some affirmation and encouragement, in spite of my anxieties of being a 29-year-old with a runaway imagination. Thanks to all of you for your amusing responses. I'd still be curious if there were any others who had empathetic stories (or differing opinions) to share...

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Timothy Goering said...

Yes! I can very much relate!!
I'm sorry this is late, but I just happened to stumble across this. I posted something on 'Local Color/Regionalism' a few days ago, where I asked myself the same question, why I dive into a different world sometimes! It's helpful but so nice! And helpful...


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