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City Lights: A 'Star Wars' galaxy not so far away

July 10, 2012|By Michael Miller
(Michael Miller )

Yes, this might have been my wish.

That was the thought that recurred in my mind as I inched my way through the crowd at Sunday afternoon's "Star Wars" festival by the Huntington Beach Pier. The Course of the Force, a charity relay for theMake-A-Wish Foundation, had made its latest stop at Pier Plaza, and the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway swarmed with plastic lightsabers, Obi-Wan robes and even a model R2-D2.

Right near the crosswalk, next to the inflatable entrance gate that led to the vendor booths, was the headlining attraction: a replica of the Khetanna, Jabba the Hutt's sail barge from "Return of the Jedi," which the organizers had built from scratch to serve as the relay's lead vehicle. As I stood and gazed at its brown exterior gleaming in the sun, I couldn't remember the last time I had so wanted to be 6 years old again.

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I don't count myself a "Star Wars" fanatic. If I entered a trivia contest about it at Comic-Con, I'd probably get trounced. But roots are roots: When I was born in the late 1970s, George Lucas' galaxy far, far away dominated the TV, toy chest and record collection of just about every boy I knew. I wanted to wield my own lightsaber. I wanted to use the Force. And oh, man, did I want to ride in that sail barge.

For some reason, that scene in "Jedi," where Jabba and his minions take the heroes out in the barge and try to feed them to the massive desert intestine, was my favorite scene in the trilogy. At one point, I even vowed to build my own replica of the barge out of scrap wood and nails, piecing together three tiny planks before the task overwhelmed me.

If I had been a kid under the umbrella of Make-A-Wish, which fulfills wishes for children with life-threatening conditions, I might have asked them to build me a life-size replica of the Khetanna. (The organization, which typically fulfills wishes along the lines of Disneyland trips and shopping sprees, might have declined.) When I climbed the ladder onto the vehicle's roof Sunday, I was decades past that stage. But that's the thing about childhood passions — we outgrow, but we never forget.

It turns out that Lucas spawned more than a few wishes, and for more than one generation, when he sketched out the universe for his massive space opera. At Pier Plaza, I got to talking with Sarah Pizzaruso, a development manager for Make-A-Wish, and she said "Star Wars"-related requests were some of the most common her organization handles.

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