Seminary graduate N.C. Harrison reflects on Harold Ramis’ mortality, and his own.
It’s a dark day and I feel kind of terrible, tonight. It’s nothing physical—I feel great, in body, and the headache which has been bothering me for over a week finally cleared up earlier today. This malady, this queer discomfort, is a dislocation of the soul. I awoke in a pretty good mood this morning. The aforementioned headache had gone away, I was almost through with my school work for this semester (including a labyrinthine, feminist theory heavy point and counter point paper on the life and ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson) and there was a real chance that the chicken I had been marinating would be ready to go onto the grill. And then I signed onto Facebook and learned that Harold Ramis had died. And my day was ruined.
This might seem like a weird thing to be so upset about, but bear with me for a minute, good readers, and let me provide the context for you. I love Ghostbusters. Like, to the point that it may not be entirely reasonable. It is my favorite movie, has been since I was six years old, and I can quote it from beginning to end with nary a flaw. One of my most meaningful friendship from my undergraduate years was developed and strengthened by this very fact. We met when I randomly heard a cute girl reference the infamous hole that Egon tried to drill in his head, on the bottom floor of our lecture hall, and answered in the call and response fashion of a cantor and his congregation. To this day, I can still write a quote from the movie on my Facebook, and she will have respond within thirty minutes with the following line. My friends and I… are weird. Sweet, yeah, but definitely weird.
Even before watching the actual movie I was an enormous fan of The Real Ghostbusters, its cartoon iteration on ABC. Each Saturday morning, I would wake up early with my Mom—a lifelong fan of Saturday morning cartoons in her own right—and thrill to the adventures of Drs. Spengler, Stantz and Venkman and their repository of common sense, Mr. Zeddemore. I had all the toys from the guys themselves to Ecto-1 (I got her for being good at a doctor’s appointment when I had a truly godawful earache), Ecto-2 (gotten for the same… I had sucky ears as a toddler, which is probably why I’m half deaf now) and even the haunted toilet, Fearsome Flush. Their firehouse, attained from Santa on one happy Christmas, served as the base of operations for every team of superheroes that my sister and I ever had action figures for. It now holds a place of honor in my parents’ attic, waiting for any children that I or my sister might have one day.
I can even thank—or blame, if you take another look at it—the Ghostbusters for my interest in the paranormal (a lifelong sickness) and maybe even the original seeds of my time at seminary since that is, as much as anything else, a quest to understand the ineffable. So many kids, when they experience “things that go bump in the night” or hear the whispers of things that might not really be there, are terrified and hide under the covers. I felt curious, instead of afraid, and went after these imaginary ghouls with all the nigh lunatic bravado of a four year old carrying his plastic proton pack, ghost trap and psycho-kinetic energy meter. I have gone on a ghost hunt or two now as an adult, and carried a high class Mel meter to measure disturbances in three fields of energy at once. It fills me with the same joy and excitement as it did twenty-five years ago. I was equally overjoyed, when I researched this world formally for the first time as a teenager, to find out that Peter Aykroyd, the father of Dan “Ray Stantz” Aykroyd, was one of the fathers of paranormal studies in the United States. This seemed both right and symmetrical, and even made me shiver a little bit. You can understand, maybe, why the loss of Egon Spengler, who had been my favorite Ghostbuster ever since I was very little, turned my mind inside out so badly.
Most of the sadness, the feeling of upset, however, comes simply from the fact that a great writer and hilarious comic is no longer with us. I am saddened even further when I remember that my grandparents, who seem hale and hearty, are only a few years younger than Ramis. My grandfather, who taught me how to lift weights, has a back that is so messed up from years of working at physical, blue-collar jobs that he can now barely handle a twenty-five pound kettlebell that I gave him. My grandmother has had both of her knees replaced—and recovered faster than anyone else I have ever known, but still. My own knees can barely carry me from place to place, at times, and this at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. Everyone in my family except for me seems to have diabetes and I sometimes feel like I am fighting a losing battle against it and heart disease. When this sort of stuff overhangs my melancholy heart (I call it my “free floating doom cloud”) it becomes almost literally impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I feel the shadows closing in on me.
No matter; this body is but a shell. Maybe we can all of us come back to visit, one day. I know that if I do I want to be a truly bitchin’ frat ghost… kinda like Slimer.