Archive for the ‘Star Wars’ Category

This might be the sort of blog post you expect to see written by someone with an AARP card or maybe a parent with young kids – like my best friend and his wife  – but I’m neither.  I’m about a quarter-century away from the card and a long way off from being a dad; right now my aspiration to be the geeky uncle the future kiddos want to hang out with is quite enough in that department.  Despite being somewhat youthful still, I don’t move at a rushed pace as if I have a super-villain by the lapel, ready to right-cross him with the mighty Fist of Justice, and then win a race against The Flash.  The pace is more akin to the three-legged and worn steadiness of Jedi Master Yoda, exuding great bursts of physical energy only when such is needed.  This pace is most evident to me when I travel, which I recently did.  I do my best to arrive at the airport with more time than I need as I rarely run though the airport in danger of missing a flight, although that happened recently.  Only once have I actually run the length of an airport – with the walker – to ensure I made a flight on time and the subsequent exhaustion and pain made me feel like I had just run in the Special Olympics like when I was much younger; trying to talk to my parents by phone after being rushed onto the plane by the flight crew wasn’t a walk in the park either.

More often than not I slowly meander my way to the gate, one step at a time, minding my surroundings like Bruce Wayne was taught to do in Batman Begins.  Often times I take the time at the gate to rest, because you never know who you’ll meet on the plane, if a conversation will happen, or the energy it might take.  Nowadays I opt for a seat near the rear of the plane, since I generally board first, have to deal with less passenger traffic that way, and always have to wait for the plane to empty to get my walker when the plane lands.  Same goes for when I get off the plane and on to where I am going.

Time is all we have, and we don’t even know how much.  Rushing from one place to the next is rarely beneficial; who knows what – or who – you’ll miss.  Right now I’m in one of the best periods of life, as things have been forced to slow down due to my former boss’s resignation and the shift in focus to finding what is next in life after six-plus years of working in Congress.  Instead of being beholden to the tyranny of the urgent, I can take the time to search, write, question, and try to determine what the next chapter, I daresay the next Quest, will be; I am not rushing it at all.

When you rush, it’s like blinking; when you blink, you miss it.  Don’t Blink.  The slower path is often better – here’s to the slow path – the one whereby you arrive precisely when you are meant to, for the road goes ever on and on; down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow if I can…

Which path are you on and what might you be missing?

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Recently, I hopped abroad a airplane for a weekend trip to ‘The  Mitten” (aka Michigan).  While I did get to spend time with friends and family – not to mention the best plane conversation ever – none of those reasons are why I actually went.  I flew to Michigan because an aspiring film maker named Zack Arnold – who is also the editor for the show Burn Notice on USA Network – asked me to attend a special screening of”GO FAR” the documentary about his close friend, the late Chris Rush.  I’ve shared Chris’s story before and the progress that has been made in this effort to showcase the life of one man to encourage and inspire many.  So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I hopped in the car with my brother Seth and we drove to the Michigan Theater on the campus of University of Michigan (where Zack and Chris attended undergrad together).

I’d never been in a movie theater before that I would describe as upscale or “swanky” but this fit the bill, even my brother commented on how nice the place was.  Finally getting to connect face-to-face with Zack after a year and a half of following his progress on this project and meet Chris’s father and talk with him about how I was drawn to Chris’s story by its power and potential for impact and that when there is a good story to be told I’m compelled to assist if I can.  Not too long after pizza, soda, and some cookies my brother was rather fond of, we entered the screening room and took our seats.  Zack took a few moments to tell us all why we were there, why he felt compelled to tell the story of this life but we all knew: this was his close friend, dear enough to name his son after him, who lived the life of a hero, one for whom the impossible became possible…because he was awesome.  Someone who inspired those around him to be better, just by being himself.

The film spans pretty much all of Chris’s life; from his younger days as a poster child with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, his high-school experience of becoming the first quadriplegic ever to be licensed for scuba-diving, his college days at the University of Michigan, and his days at the law school at Wayne State, using Chris’s own matrix of Goals, Obstacles, Focus, Achieve, and Review (GO-FAR) to segment the story as well as showcase his love for Star Wars.   An amazing and emotional tale of real life that doesn’t shy away from success and hardship, difficulty and joy; a story that features such individuals as Tony Orlando and Jerry Lewis.  As my brother commented later: “seeing something like that, you can’t help but feel as if you have no excuse to not do something with your life”; I couldn’t agree more.

For Seth and I, it was a little odd being the only individuals invited to be part of this screening who didn’t know Chris personally, but I’m representative of the target audience as Zack later explained.  A story like this, while for all, is meant to give hope to those with disabilities and medical challenges.  As Zack said, “you understand Chris’s struggle” and he’s quite right about that.  In the end it was a great way to spend an afternoon with my brother and a privilege to be part of the next step in telling this true tale.  I have no doubt that big things are ahead for this project as the waves and ripples of Chris’s life continue to touch many others, fitting as his last wish was to be buried at sea in the Cayman Islands where he first learned to walk; not on grass, carpet, or concrete, but on the sands of the ocean floor.

You went far Chris, father than most of us ever will…and the “Saga of Rush” is far from over.

After two weeks of being back in Washington, DC, I am still processing much of what happened during Reborne Rangers 2012 Alpha at Lake Ann Camp.  It’s a challenge to be back in the concrete jungle after a week like Reborne Rangers; safely planted, for a time, in a place where God’s presence clearly is and things are happening.  To enter back into such an environment of uncertainty is difficult; to leave the safety and rejuvenating effect of “family” is something I did not want to do.

Reborne Rangers is a program that builds, and doesn’t stop building.  Not only does it help mold, craft, and build young leaders; the program builds on itself as the week progresses and Wednesday was clearly a “building day”.  I was thankful that I wasn’t the only “Alpha Ranger” that the current recruits heard from, as Sarah Anderson was also at Lake Ann that week.  Her journey is powerful and genuine, illustrating the Lord’s desire to pursue someone and enable the one pursued to be used for great things as she and her husband Tyler prepare to go India to do mission work; as Sarah told the Rangers – “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls”.  (As an aside, having both Sarah and Tyler visit me in Washington this week was a great blessing; a little bit of Lake Ann on the road as I took them though the Capitol Building and talked about the spiritual heritage of our nation and the leadership that came out of that heritage for so many years.)  After hearing from Sarah, the Rangers heard from Ken Rudolph, my mentor and teacher of 15 years.  Ken took the Rangers though how to use a Strong’s concordance to look up the roots and definitions of various terms in the Scriptures as to equip them to be able to craft their own devotionals, sermons, and Bible studies.  I had a flashback or two of learning that skill alongside Sarah and the others in the first Rangers group years ago, a skill that I never quite honed to the point I could (or should have).  Ken also instructed them in his own methods of building a sermon and how all of that is structured; an inside view of the preparation he does consistently to be able to reach into the lives of students five nights a week, eight weeks a year at Lake Ann Camp.  As Reborne Rangers is a program that builds upon itself, these skills are not imparted for the sake of the skills alone; the Rangers then had to use what they had been taught to construct their own thoughts on a passage in the Word and present it later that evening after they spent the afternoon studying, researching, and writing on the beach of Lake Michigan.

That evening, I traveled out to Lake Michigan to listen to the few Rangers who would be chosen to share what they had studied earlier on the beach.  Traveling with me was Cheryl Tinsley, a high school teacher who would share her story with us later that night, a story stranger than fiction, a story that would end up on the Discovery, History, or Weather Channel today; a survivors tale.  As the Rangers lumbered up the embankment from the beach and met us in the parking lot, I had the feeling that few actually knew what awaited us at the end of our journey to an even higher elevation.  I tend to not handle these things well, not to mention an apprehension when it comes to uncontrolled heights because of my struggle with physical stability, so assistance is often needed.  To solve that problem, enter JB:  one of the counselors for Reborne.  The solution was a classic one, the most fitting solution one can imagine considering my involvement:  The Skywalker Carry (just without the blue backpack).  JB handled the assent very well considering the extra weight, and the stability was impressive…most impressive.    As an aside, to stand upon this dune and look East is to see pristine fresh-water sea and to look to the West is to see the closest thing to The Shire of Middle Earth that I can imagine (or ever will see unless I actually make it to New Zeeland).

Once at the top, three were chosen to share what they had worked at studying on the sands of a Great Lake earlier in the day.  From Gideon in the Book of The Judges to the Wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs and beyond, those chosen exhibited well the gifts of intellect and oratory given to them.  Is there room for honing and improvement?  Of course there is, but upon a good foundation they are.

Enter Cheryl and her gripping tale of survival.  At Lake Ann Camp there is a flagpole that the Jr. High program gathers around every morning during the many weeks of camp to begin their day.  On this flagpole is a plaque dedicating the spot to four individuals who were involved in a wilderness expedition accident during the summer of 1980.  Of this accident there was only one survivor and Cheryl was that one.  The four of them set out in canoes upon Lake Michigan and during this expedition a sudden storm came upon the lake, capsizing their canoes.  Three of the individuals succumbed to hypothermia that night and passed into eternity, despite efforts to keep them going.     Cheryl eventually came in contact with land and wandered for 5+ hours until help could be found, and this is after treading water and fighting hypothermia herself for many hours prior.  It is so evident that she believes she was preserved to be able to tell this story to those like the Rangers, so that the legacy of those who passed in the accident can live on in others.   The motto of Reborne is “Life is a Stewardship, not an Ownership” and this idea comes from one of the individuals who perished in that accident in 1980.

Thursday was the day wherein my Reborne Rangers 2012 experience took on a whole new level and I learned even more of the reason why I was supposed to be there all week that week, that reason was because of a young man named Josiah Wyse.  Josiah’s amazing story began an entire year before I ever met him, and it began at Lake Ann Camp of all places.  A year ago Josiah came to Lake Ann Camp as a Sr. High camper.  What no one knew was that Josiah arrived at Lake Ann Camp with a fully written suicide note in his back pocket, intent on acting on the idea under-girding that note after camp was concluded.  As the story was told to me, the young Wyse was “giving God one week to show him that his life held meaning, was worthwhile, and that someone else actually cared.” And to Lake Ann Camp he came.  By week’s end – through the words of Ken Rudolph and the love of his counselors and fellow team-mates –  he was imbued with the sense of worth and courage to stand before the camp, tell the tale, and throw the note (Death’s written claim upon his life) into the fire and allow the light to burn Death’s claim into oblivion.    It was after this amazing series of events that Josiah was chosen to attend Reborne Rangers a few weeks ago.  I was made aware of this story last year shortly after it happened and I was just amazed, as I had never heard something quite like this coming from Lake Ann ever before (and that is saying something).

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon of that week that I put all the pieces together and realized all of this and that realization was overwhelming as I further understood some of the behind-the-scenes reasoning as to why I felt compelled to talk about some of my darker experiences as a teenager:  someone needed to know that they weren’t the only one whom Death had tired to take as a teen and had lived to tell it.  In spending time with Josiah that morning, we talked of the power of his story and the impact it can have on others to show them God’s power and the importance of life; it helped that it tied in well with my comments on purpose and destiny from earlier in the week.  I am certain he understood, and does so to a degree the average teenager isn’t quite capable of; fortunately, Rangers are anything but average.

Thursday afternoon was the pinnacle of the Rangers Alpha week as the students traveled to downtown Traverse City to engage in street evangelism, to take their previous hours of instruction and training and apply it in field exercise.  Prior to embarking on the bus I shared with them a bit of what it’s like to work amongst the chaos of Capitol Hill and how, when things get intense, two questions often invade my thinking in a given situation: 1) Is someone dying? 2) Is an individual’s eternal destiny at stake?  If the answers to either of these questions are “no” – which they are 99.9% of the time – then it’s “not a big deal”.  It’s a reminder, a call for perspective.   I shared this because what they were about to go do actually encompassed #2:  the eternal destiny of some individuals WOULD change that day, so this WAS a big deal.  Knowing also that many of the Rangers were nervous and fearful – because this IS outside the comfort zone of most people – I imparted to them my scripturally sound homage to the oath of the Green Lantern Corps:  “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We cannot escape His sight; He who loves us with all His might, He casts out all fear, Jesus Christ the Light” (Little did anyone know how well those words would serve me a day hence.)

As we boarded the bus and lumbered down the road, my good friend Josue Valdez sitting in the seat across from me, I was once again taken back into the past, returning to my own memories of the Thursday wherein I was a Ranger on that same bus with Josh Call, Lynnea (Campbell) Strout, and Becky…thirteen years ago.  I recalled our own fear, trepidation, and uneasiness, but also our joy at being used to bring someone to Jesus.  For Josue and I, our role in this “live-fire exercise” was a role of support and prayer, lifting the arms of these Rangers as Aaron and his son lifted the arms of Moses in battle.  As we arrived in Traverse City and the Rangers prepared to leave in their small teams, Josiah ran back and grabbed me, asking for prayer from “Yoda” (which was gladly granted).  I told him that my  prayer was that the Lord would use him and specificity his story to reach another in need of the Hope that Christ offers.  Having prayed this off he went, as Josue and I wandered around keeping an eye on the Rangers as best we could and praying for them.  There’s no doubt that it was a stretching time for all of them as some of them found us as we wandered and rested, asking for us to pray for them on the spot to ward off fear and discouragement.

Upon return to Lake Ann, as we all sat together in the training room eating burgers, the stories began to flow.  Lizzie and her team telling a humorous story of an encounter with a homeless man.  James describing a woman he met as “being a lot like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory” (I laughed aloud at that one).  Katie Champagne sharing aspects of her unique journey with a woman who responded, saying:  “I think I was supposed to meet you.”    As the time of sharing continued, Josiah began to tell the story of wandering the area with his team and how, just as they were crossing a crosswalk, all he said was “I’m going in” and he was gone.  He’d eyed a young man named Max, and for some reason felt compelled to try and share Jesus with him.  As it happens Max was wrestling with some of the same things that Josiah wrestled with a year before and it is in these moments that Josiah saw his opportunity and  took it: to share with Max his own saga, from where he was to where he is now and what helped him get there, sharing Christ along the way.  His story was used to change the trajectory of Max’s life for eternity, as Jesus became his and Max became His.  Hearing this, part of me was floored yet part of me wasn’t as the Spirit asked a simple question:  “This is what you asked for though, isn’t it?” (To which there was no honest retort.)  After the time of stories and rejoicing was over, I gave young Josiah the best hug a small Jedi can, fully confident that the Lord would continue to use his story to reach others (we were all unaware of how soon that would actually be).

Upon the end of such a long and exhausting day, Josue and I ventured out with “The Commander” for some late-night pizza and a better time of fellowship, laughs, thoughts, and wisdom could not have been had.  We could only imagine what it must have been like for the folks behind the counter to see an an older guy, a Mexican, and handicapped man to walk into a pizza joint late at night; in the end, it wasn’t a big deal…but the Saga of Rangers was far from over.

Stay tuned, next week, same bat-channel for the trilling conclusion!

Aaron

I’ve been thinking some about action figures lately.  When you’re young you don’t think past tearing the miniature plastic superhero or villain off the card and using the figures to re-enact your favorite scenes from a show or movie.  I did this a lot with Batman figures such as the Caped Crusader, Robin, The Joker, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and even the Joker’s henchman Bob – alongside the Joker Van, all the Bat-vehicles, and the Batcave playset.  Might as well add to that a collection of Playmate’s Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures too; along with the Enterprise D bridge and Transporter.  When you’re older, all you can think about is how much those plastic toys would be worth if you hadn’t opened them; they’d be collectibles then, not just toys.

The best collectibles are “Mint in Box”; never opened, never played with. Much like my Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Dash Rendar, or Chewbacca in Bounty Hunter Disguise from 1997.  Or Sheldon Cooper’s Mint in Box 1975 Star Trek Transporter toy with “real transporter action” on Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago (Leonard Nimoy voiced Mr. Spock action figure not included, sadly). Open the box, and the object loses it’s value.

But then there’s the philosophy from Toy Story that “toys are meant to be played with” and that toys have value because of who they belong to (be the owner’s name Andy or otherwise).  But in the process of being used they often can become worn out and even sometimes, broken. Fortunately, toys can be replaced, but people cannot; and I think much the same scenario applies.

People want to do something spectacular with their lives, to use them to great ends (partially because of what society bombards us with and because we’re wired to worship something and sometimes twist that into wanting to be worshipped); some are motivated by a love for God, others by a love of Self.  Although not everyone has a destiny before them that is “loud and spectacular”, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do something with your life – as long as it remains untwisted.  The difficulty often comes with the realization that to achieve those ends, you have to go from “Mint in Box” to “played with”, used, often well worn, and sometimes broken.  A.W. Tozer once said that “for God to use a man, he must first wound him deeply”. We desire to be used for great ends but often also desire to remain unchanged by that process. We want to tell the great stories associated with the scars, but not receive what is a prerequisite for those tales; we want The FENX without the Tricycle accident.  We want a grand story to tell without having to live through it.  Jesus said that if you want to be great, you must first be a servant, and service can bring weariness.  Therefore Paul admonishes “lets us not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – that’s perseverance; steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success or existing in a state of grace until a state of glory is reached.  As warn out as life can make us, we have to keep waking up in the morning, in hopes of reaching that state of glory.

Will you step out of the box and into a state of grace?

Among the many activities and incidents while in Michigan recently to see my brother get married, one found me at the doors of Annapolis Hospital in Wayne, Michigan.  Fortunately I wasn’t there because of some biological incident or medical malady, but rather to meet some wonderful people who work in a Family Medical Residency program housed within it’s walls.  Specifically, this program trains medical students to become general practitioners of medicine (aka Family Medicine) and those who graduate from this program generally go into undeserved areas of Michigan to provide much needed medical care.  So why might a lowly Capitol Hill staffer be addressing folks in such a program?  Because folks on both sides of the aisle in Congress worked together to preserve that program.  During the meeting, I talked with the faculty and students about how things had transpired and why it was so important to me to be involved in the effort given my own journey and that I was born in that hospital.  As I told them in the meeting:

“When many of you finish with your residency here, you will go out into under-served areas of Michigan and you’ll meet children just like I was, and their parents. Some will be scared, confused, feeling very alone and unable to cope. But they aren’t alone, they have you. In an age of medical science and genetic testing unheard of when I was born, you are there to guide them with your knowledge and expertise when the genetic test says their child will have a certain propensity for disability and the parents think they can’t; you have to fight for that precious life and reassure the parents they can. If you ever wondered “what are the problems, riddles and conundrums in the world that only I am meant to solve?” – you just got your answer, so know that when the training ends and you walk out these doors you have a purpose”

Upon the meeting’s conclusion, one of the faculty doctors asked me if  I wanted to see the room in which I was born – it happened to be right down the hallway, in an older wing of the hospital. With an small amount of well-hidden trepidation, I said yes – remembering from Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that few people get such an opportunity to engage their own story in this way.  As I stood before the double doors leading into the old wing, with only my exo-skeleton of a walker to shield me from whatever lay beyond, I heard the doctor say “normally we don’t allow this sort of thing because you have to be scrubbed to come back here”.   The doors opened, and I walked through the portal to a distant past; I imagined stepping through the Stargate and into the Dark Side cave on Dagobah in the same instant to a place all-together “other”.  The walls and paint were different, as this part of the hospital hadn’t been remodelled like the others.  To my left, the metal of the doctor’s scrubbing station.  To my right, two doors; the farther one in the corner, my destination.   I suddenly had a small inkling of the “unknown-ness” Luke Skywalker must have felt in that cave; the difference, I left my weapons behind.

I stopped at the door and turn away from it, looking towards the hallway perpendicular to my location; the photographer followed in behind us and had been snapping pictures of this journey.  He wanted a picture of me.  I turned back to the door as the doctor opened it, and I stepped just inside the doorway.  The photographer’s shutter was still snapping; at least I wasn’t facing him as I worked hard to control my emotions.  The doctor pipes in “the walls and tiles are the same as the day they brought your mother in, but the instruments are obviously new”; good to know.     Before me was the operating theatre and to my left, the special baby bed with the lamp wherein the baby goes after the C-section is performed; where I would have been placed for the doctors and nurses to furiously work on as mom lay on the table.   Everything started here; I was looking back in time at the genesis moment of my journey in space-time; thrust from the safety of the womb into the harsh reality of Terra.  All of the scars, all the uncertainty, all the difficulty, started in the space upon which I was gazing; had there been no one else in the hallway at that moment I might have lost control.  Part of me wanted to break, right then; Dad hadn’t even seen this room, only Mom and I were ever here.  The IV fluid issues that lead to my heart stopping and the subsequent brain bleeding causing the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, all the medical visits and surgeries, it all stated here; and 30 years later I had just walked out of a work-related meeting wherein I was the reason for attending – because The Plan started in that room too, the Destiny Clock started ticking.  It was almost too much to process.  I stood there in silence, gripping the red handlebars of my walker that has seen so much, as the truth of my existence washed over me, the truth of destiny, purpose, plan and the Master of the Universe from whence it all comes.  Slowly, I backed out of the doorway, turned around, and, one small step at a time, walked toward those double doors that would take me out of the past and back into the present, out of 1982 and back into 2012.  This Son of Welty did not meet the End of Line in that past or place, but what was just some small steps to and from some doors down a hallway was a giant leap in understanding that I am still ruminating on and will probably do so far a long time.

Wandering, but never all-together lost,

Aaron

“Don’t let your pride get in the way of forgiveness” – Lion-o, Lord of the Thudercats

I have memories of watching the original Thundercats alongside the Silverhawks when I was very young, and when Cartoon Network aired both series together when I was in High School.  Last fall, Cartoon Network launched an updated reboot of the Thundercats which I have grown to enjoy more than the original series, as it is structured as a weekly serial instead of a daily afternoon cartoon, thus allowing for episodes to build one upon another in ways both large and small.

The new show establishes the Thundercats living in peace in the land of Thundera on the planet Third Earth, having long triumphed over their mortal enemies the lizards and the ancient evil known as Mum-Ra, the ever living.  Mistakenly thought to be forever vanquished, Mum-ra returns and lays waste to Thundera, leaving Lion-o and Tygra – the sons of Claudis, Lord of the Thudercats – among the few survivors of the attack.  Joining with General Panthro and Cheetara, the last of the clerics of Thundera, the sons of Claudis set out on a quest to gather the artifacts described in the book of Omens and once again defeat Mum-Ra.

In the latest episode, Native Son, Tygra and Lion-o discover a long tribe of tiger-like beings,who are fearful of creatures born of darkness who torment their people.  It’s quickly established that the leader of this tribe is actually Tygra’s birth father, and Claudis and his Queen adopted Tygra in a scenario similar to the Kent’s in the Superman mythos or the biblical story of Moses.  Understandably, Tygra is conflicted about these circumstances having just discovered the truth of his origins and holds it against his new-found father.  As always, the story is never so simple.  Lion-o learns that to save the tiger tribe years ago  from a deadly disease, the elders – including Tygra’s father – make a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil (the ones Mum-Ra calls upon to transform his decayed form). To uphold the tigers’ end of the deal, Tygra’s father would have to kill him  (for the Ancient Spirits knew that one day Tygra would oppose them).  Instead, the father puts his son in a flying basket of sorts wherein he is later found by Caludis and the Queen (furthering the Moses/Superman nod).  Now that Tygra is once again among them and fighting on the side of the Thundercats, his life is endangered as some within the tribe seek to keep their end of the old bargain.  Ultimately it is Tygra’s willingness to forgive the prideful actions of his tribes-people that frees them from influence of the Ancient Spirits and showcases his opposition to them.

It’s hard NOT to see threads of the Gospel woven into this episode, as the power of both spiritual evil and forgiveness are highlighted in addition to seeing a character struggle with the identity of what he was born into versus what he later becomes and the events that under-gird that transformation.   I would bet that Tygra’s father never thought he would one day be reunited with his son and that his son would be the agent of his redemption, much like the redemption story of Darth Vader in Star Wars and the echoes of the Gospel which emanate from it.  When creators of movie and television content create these threads (such as in Spiderman 3), I wonder if it is intentional; if not, it further points to the Wisdom of Tolkien when he observed that all mythology that we create is a splintered reflection of the One True Myth:  The Creator’s story of the Gospel.

I look forward to spying similar threads in other shows like Green Lantern:  The Animated Series or even Young Justice.

Aaron

PS:  No, the FENX is nothing like General Panthro’s ThunderTank…

Not all Jackets are created equal, they just aren’t; it’s a fact of life.   I happen to know this because I own one of the coolest jackets ever; it’s so cool that it was probably the understudy for Luke Skywalker’s jacket at the Yavin awards ceremony in Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope (I wonder  if that got broadcast across the galaxy as”The First Yavin Awards”?)  This happens to be a black, red, and white Fox Racing  padded leather jacket given to me in college by my father; the first racing jacket he ever owned.  He previously tried to give it to my  brother, but for some reason the cool factor didn’t hit him the same way.  I pull it out every Spring and Fall, never knowing what adventures it might be involved in.

Several years ago, one Spring afternoon in April, this jacket was resting on a post in my dorm room at Cedarville University.  The weather was perfect and my brain told me that my Lake Ann Camp polo shirt didn’t need that jacket to tag along to ward off the elements; the elements weren’t the danger, something else was coming.    The clock on the wall said I was late for a afternoon class, my last class of the day before my dad was supposed to pick me up for Easter break in Michigan.  Exiting the room, I assessed my transportation options:  the Revo scooter wasn’t working, so my best option was the navy blue custom tricycle I sometimes called the “FENX II”.  Strapping my feet into the pedal locks and adjusting the handlebars, I flew out of the dorm at nearly top speed…right down the paved hill my dorm rested on.  Hurtling towards the sidewalk, I didn’t see the motorcycle coming right away; once I did the bigger cycle missed me, but my cycle still flipped over and I was attached to it at the pedals.

Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by people and Campus Safety was on it’s way.  I was back on the bike now, but there was blood flowing down my arm, and small chucks of asphalt embedded near my elbow.  Campus Safety arrived, put me in the back of the car, and drove me over to get cleaned up by the medical minds.  In the least, I was able to give them an amusing tale as they patched up my arm; a tale I’ve since then gotten decent mileage out of.  Afterwards, I tired to make the last few minutes of my class that afternoon; I was out of luck.  The professor was walking out of the room as I came down the hallway with the tricycle, and all I had to do was lift my arm as he asked where I’d been.

In short order my father arrived from the Mitten to the North, my accidental attempt at being a terrible Evil Kenevil (or Johnny Blaze for that matter) completely unknown to him.  As I staggered toward the truck (I don’t walk, I stagger), the first thing he spied was my arm.  In that moment I think I had an idea of what Marty McFly must have felt like when he burned the rug at age 8.  He looked at me, then my arm again: “What did you do?” (The “this time” was sort of implied.)  I explained my accidental acrobatics as best I could, and the matter of fact  response kinda surprised me:  “Well, I always wanted to build you something that would do a better job of getting you around and protecting you from the weather…and apparently, yourself”

And with those words The FENX Project was re-birthed in earnest; all because I didn’t wear my Fox Racing  Jacket and have the aiging scars of my elbow making out with the pavement to prove it.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron