Once upon a time there were princesses who lived in a legendary land called “Phoenix.” Phoenix was a magical city in the middle of a desert surrounded by mountains, a city hung on a pendant which spun between rolling dust storms, burning sunshine, and torrential rain. This city has died many times and reincarnates itself in uglier and stupider ways each time. It becomes hotter and hotter. And dirtier and dustier. And more and more freeways twist through it’s bloody cowboy heart.
These western princesses, in their youth, visited majestic market colonies called “Town & Country” where the symbol of the city, the Phoenix Bird itself was surrounded in flame; and they went to “MetroCenter” where you could eat lunch in a plane, and a mall called Thomas, with giant fish tanks, and “Park Central” a mall lined with sidewalks that sparkled in the open air. The young women lived happily, studying the Classics, learning foreign languages, planning their futures, learning instruments, passing their young lives not in castles but in little patio homes with bougainvillea’s and Ocotillo cacti, cursed only by the passing of time. And occasionally a scorpion king or a rattlesnake would slither silently past.
The princesses were the daughter’s of virtual Kings and Queens, virtual relative to what we know of the world now – the word “virtual” a different word with the passage of time. I suppose I was one of these girls, these princesses who believed in what was a new freedom in the world. I saw the movie Easy Rider, and Hair, and even sort of liked Major “Hot Lips” Houlihan, though she was too coarse and man like for me. I did not want to be a secretary and had no vision of being a wife. But that was a different time. We were not afraid to say what we thought, we were not afraid of our freedoms being taken away… after all, we had just gotten them. Freedom was our birthright, something our mothers fought for, by wearing a short skirt or going on a hunger strike, or helping to build bombs during the war…or not letting a man make you into an object.
Time stood still for a second, like we miscalculated the speed of light. We were friends though, and could help each other on our lunch breaks. There was plenty of time.
But of course, time did pass.
From the highway near the Superstitions, Weaver’s Needle looks phallic and foreboding, a shape we’d giggle at as teenagers. The mountains sidle up next to it, like women vying for its attention. It stands erect and weaves in and out between the cars, hidden in the skirts of the foothills, appearing and disappearing as we drive past. It’s an unmistakable penis, a flag waving in the looming of shadows. The legend of the lost Dutchman’s’ gold, cradled by its shadow, both longing to be discovered and never satisfied.
In Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds, star of Singing in the Rain, one of the most iconic movies of our current history, had a daughter of her own. Carrie Fisher was Hollywood royalty, a Hollywood princess. All princesses loved the movie Singing in the Rain, it was the story of men making money from women’s talent, women putting up with the drama of the casting couch; the way another woman might be jealous and sabotage a younger talent; the way one might end up in the background supporting the establishment — the horrors of the world….But the woman, she won! A fairy-tale in which she stepped out from behind the curtain to sing love songs in her own voice.
A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation. Audrey Hepburn.
Debbie Reynolds husband, ironically enough, ran away with Elizabeth Taylor. No one remembers him now, Eddie Fisher. But who could resist Elizabeth Taylor? So beautiful and a little terrifying. Sex and talent. Sex and Intelligence. And Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf? Me. Afraid of being the professor, the wife of the drunken prof, the fight. Afraid of the screaming that was alien to my suburban life. Afraid that that was the future, which it for a brief moment was.
Meanwhile, the child of Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, only seven years older than the Phoenix girls, studied for a starring role in a movie about space. A revolutionary movie that featured special effects and two handsome men, one a lost boy, one a smuggler. But the fictional princess in the movie, Leia, with her white dress, her alien hair, her chiffon scarf, she was as brave as the boys. She flirted with them, she sparred with them, she was a worthy counterpart, an essential part of a rebellion where George Lucas didn’t just make her a simple symbol of royalty, or a sex symbol, a small wimpy girl, or a Marilyn Monroe blonde. She was articulate and cultured and determined. Strong.
I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side. – Maya Angelou
This is also the story of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, and a summer romance. A story of secrets and sex.
So, there was this moment in the Cine Capri, in Phoenix, when Star Wars premiered there, when those world’s first collided… a moment in the minds of the princesses, who fell in love not just with the boys, but with Leia. Or rather, they fell in love with what they knew they could become. She was them. Leia’s name appears in the opening crawl, she has her own ship, she has the stolen plans which may save her people. This is the story of that moment, when the girls realized that this was the dawn of an era that hadn’t been before.
This is the story of high school romance, of stolen kisses and stolen boyfriends and broken hearts the fairy tales didn’t mention when the prince left to go make another movie, or trace his fingers on the lips of your best friend. Memory and time intertwined. This is a story of Postcards from the Middle. Edgy postcards from nowhere.
(To discuss waves and particles of light, the massive forces of nature, typhoons, tsunamis, the weight of planets, we must also talk about Time. Time is a fairy tale, you see, relative to the observer. Is it measured in days, in years, in coffee spoons? )
The best quote about time:
Time held me green and dying/ Though I sang in my chains like the sea. – Dylan Thomas
This is the story of all women : Just because someone desires you, it does not mean they value you. – Nayyirah Waheed
Women in the past had been denied, had been protected, staying at home, waiting to be saved, barefoot, helpless, symbolic and unreal. Or worse, made to appear as the playtoys of men, sexed-up, simplified, cleavage heavy, smiling. Kept. Simple objects to be desired or tossed away. Like objects. Objectified.
This is the story of animation…the moment objects came alive….a vital person, not a Barbie, not a figurine, not a blow-up doll, not a significant other, not the “Mrs.” or a horizontal, and especially not a trophy wife. A Pinocchio-ess of a girl…a non-robotic creature made from sex toys and baby doll pajamas…who like a replicant in the Harrison Ford movie, BladeRunner, becomes real. At least to him.
I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person. Oscar Wilde.
I want to write about the fire of the moment, the princess heroine, the feminist heroine, the men who barely managed to save the plans after her capture. When we appreciated Princess Leia, (and Carrie Fisher), we appreciated being a girl, even a woman. We admired her the way we did when Lauren Bacall said, “you know how to whistle, don’t you? “ in Casa Blanca, the way Barbara Eden saved her helpless NASA astronaut again and again in I Dream of Jeannie, the way Goldie Hawn wasn’t just a dancer on Laugh-In but used her hips to show the written message we all waited for. We discovered that year that boys liked Mary Ann just as well as Ginger. We had eaten an apple. We had the knowledge that Princess Leia killed Edith Bunker.
And so time passes…
The princesses, armed with their new knowledge, set out to conquer their (Brave) New Worlds. They traveled to distant lands, lands where it snowed deeply enough that humans could not survive outside, lands where the rain never seemed to stop. They trained and conquered both strange beasts and stranger demons. The raised their own princesses and puppies, and retained their independence. Slightly grey-haired, a few of us, not me yet. (hahaha! sorry my friend! ( Somewhat wiser sages. They ran for political office, and often failed. They put the baby doll pajamas back on Courtney Love, and they failed. They tried to get equal pay, rights to stay at home after having babies…. the right to have men go to jail for violating them. Affordable medicine, affordable education. Maybe there are steps backward on the way to progress?
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein.
And what has become of the princesses themselves, the day after the death of Carrie Fisher? So grateful for her pioneering spirit, her rise and her terminal velocity. Thank you young eloquent Carrie Fisher, and you too, old, crabby New York curmudgeon Carrie Fisher.
For every one of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out. The light doesn’t always necessarily have to be in your family; for me it was teachers and school. — Oprah Winfrey.
As they say in Star Wars: There is a new darkness, a presence that hasn’t been felt for years. I sense great danger. A disturbance in the force.
The princesses are from the city of Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun. Perhaps there is still Sky Walker blood and our daughters can bring back the old fight, and the alliance of the rebel forces.
A day later, Debbie Reynolds has passed away at 84…..
To hell with it! They had FUN. “we gabbed the whole night through….it’s great to stay up late…Good morning, good morning to you. ”