By Wes Middleton
I was born after the release of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, which, for all intents and purposes, means that I’ve been a Star Wars fan my entire life. I still have my late grandfather’s original VHS copies of the trilogy, which I would watch every time I was home sick from school, and I had to stay home a lot. That wasn’t because I preferred Star Wars to going to school (well, at least that wasn’t my motivation); rather, it was due to having had asthma since I was two years old. As a young child, it was pretty severe, so there were a lot of sick days.
While asthma is undeniably a terrible disease, and certainly my couple of near-death experiences aren’t anything I’d want to relive, I’m actually grateful for the ways that the situation changed my life for the better. During one of my early hospital stays, a family friend brought me my first two comic books, which I still own and cherish: Punisher and Ghost Rider. I read them over and over until I knew every panel. That one event set me on a path to comic book fanaticism an I haven’t strayed since. In addition, there were those sick days spent resting on the couch watching Star Wars. Of course little boys want to run around, but when the doctors’ orders are simply to rest, this was the best way to go about it, because I could, and did, lay there for hours watching and re-watching the original trilogy. I was a kid who needed an escape, and I couldn’t dream of a better one.
My love of the franchise only grew. Now, as an (arguable) adult, a room in my house is dedicated to Star Wars art, I’m a proud member of the 501st Legion’s Golden Gate Garrison, I have a growing number of Star Wars tattoos, and I’ve been featured in both Star Wars Insider and on starwars.com. So it was when a longtime friend and fellow fanboy asked if I wanted to volunteer at a place called Rancho Obi-Wan for its grand opening, I had to say yes. After all, he told me that it was the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars collection. That was five years ago, and even now, after having returned so many times, I’m still swept away by the same awe I experienced the first time I beheld the wonderland that is Rancho Obi-Wan. For a Star Wars fan, it is a place beyond words.
I’ve loved reading since I can remember. As that love grew, so too did my desire to write. I now have several comic book projects in the works, I’ve helped start a writer’s group at Brian’s Comics in downtown Petaluma, and write comic book reviews for whysoblu.com. I’ll be working closely with Rancho Obi-Wan in an effort to maintain the blog and social media outlets with the help of Steve Sansweet, Anne Neumann, and Consetta Parker. The museum, of course, houses memorabilia, but as important it’s the home of stories, passion, and inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind place that needs to be shared with the world, and I am excited to do just that.
Star Wars represents so much to so many. It’s more than the merchandise, it’s more than the community, and it’s more than the film franchise itself–although it is very much all of those things as well. Star Wars is inspiring, and it’s expansive beyond belief. People from all walks of life with all types of ambitions can find a home under the Star Wars umbrella, and Rancho Obi-Wan captures that massive potential. Within its hallowed halls one can find so much history, so much love, and so much creativity. It was being in a place like that that drove me to volunteer time and again, and that continues to drive me every day to create and to contribute.