Flipping through a recent Famous Monsters of Filmland (and, yes, if you’re any kind of decent person of a certain age, just the mention of that magazine will get your heart racing), I was struck by something time and again as I read the tribute stories about Ray Bradbury. Actually, it was something in the accompanying photos that really struck a nerve.
Or should I say, it was the fact that Ray’s smile was always more than a smile. When Ray Bradbury smiled ... he beamed. It wasn’t the non-committal, get-this-photo-over-with kinda smile we’ve seen in a million different pictures.
Ray smiled like he meant it.
And then I noticed the same thing with photos of a couple of Ray’s dearest compadres, Forry Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen (and if I have to tell you who either of these gentlemen are, your life has been ill spent). The great thing about it was that even late in life, at an age when a lot of people have simply lost the spark of life, all three of these men still smiled like goofy school boys.
And, let me tell you, seeing lifelong friends, all of them with grey hair and sagging bodies, still laughing like teenagers, it’s something that really warms the heart. We often hear the adage that as we age we have to put away childish things, but I think these three gentleman prove that growing old doesn’t necessarily mean becoming so self-serious that you can no longer enjoy yourself. Sure, we must all grow up. We have to get a mortgage and pay our taxes and worry about hair growing in our ears and other terrible things that never crossed our minds when we were young.
But why must we lose the spark of what makes life interesting? Why give up so many of the things that bring us joy? Bradbury’s smile is that of a man who loves dinosaurs and spaceships and monsters and dark carnivals and makes absolutely no apologies about it. It’s said that every individual’s Golden Age is when they are 12 or 13. This is when we are so passionate about things we vibrate with the love for them. For me, those interests were very much those of Bradbury’s — I loved comic books and Tarzan and Universal Monsters and, you know what ... I still do.
Ever been to a party where all the adults in attendance want only to talk about the stock market, the condition of their lawns, or the pain they’ve been experiencing lately in their chest? Yea, me too. Holy Hell, get me outta there. No offense, folks, but there’s a big difference between growing up and becoming a stone-cold bore.
Personally, I want to be like Ray. Smiling like a kid who’s just gotten out of a midnight showing of Frankenstein. Grinning like a 12-year-old who’s just spent the afternoon having the ink of Jack Kirby’s artwork rub off on his fingers.
I want that joyful twelve-year-old to live inside me forever, even when I’m looking back at the world through cataracts.