Friday, August 9, 2013

From the Archives: ‘Star Wars’ Fan Fiction

As I write this, my 6 year old nephew Jack is playing Lego Star Wars on PlayStation 3.

He’s joyously destroying Stormtroopers with the help of Lego Luke Skywalker’s green lightsaber. He often tells me what’s going to happen in the game as if I haven’t watched the original trilogy a million times. Every now and again, he’ll let me play if he gets stuck on a task, but for the most part, I’m relegated to watching him live out my childhood in digital Lego form. When I was a kid, my brother’s and I simulated lightsabers by wrapping colored electrical tape around yellow Wiffle ball bats. We’d stage epic duels in our backyard and get lost in the fantasy that we were part of the Star Wars universe. Not too long ago, my brother Patrick and I were shopping for our nieces and nephews and came across plastic lightsabers that look like the real thing. Did we open them up and have a fight right there in the store? Yes, yes we did.

I think we even bought them for later use. Inspired by all this nerd nostalgia, I dug through my personal archives and found the Star Wars fan fiction I wrote in the 7th grade. I was not disappointed.

Now the official poster for video game playing at my brother Tom's house.
Chaos at Yavin 5

A small starfleet moved across the darkness of space.

It was headed for a destination only known by its leader. He moved across the bridge of his command ship and stared out into space. The fifth planet of Yavin loomed in front of him. His green lips smiled, as the ships made their way through space.


Dan Ford awoke from his Jedi sleeping trance to a loud banging noise. Ford’s copilot Josh Fardreamer was already working on the problem. Ford stretched out and let his eyes adjust to the light.

“So Josh, what’s up?”

“Looks like we’ve got a call coming in from Sector 120A,” Fardreamer said, trying to get the telecommunicator to work and glaring at Ford with his blue/purple eyes.

“You should really have this thing looked at.”

“The only mechanic I trust with the Thunderbird is me,” Ford said giving the device a hard tap and leaned back to watch the message. A well-built man wearing a crown of unparalleled beauty appeared.

“Jedi Knight, I am King Rolling Star III, ruler of the fifth planet of Yavin. Our planet has been bombarded by an alien race, led by a murderous villain named Skylark. He has set up a blockade around the planet, and has destroyed two ships trying to assist us. We would be honored if you would help us stop the madness of Skylark.” The king ended his speech and let the fair-skinned Jedi make his move.

“Sir, we would be honored to assist you and your people fight this villain,” Ford replied, his voice as calm as ever.

“We shall be waiting,” the king said ending his transmission.

Ford started to warm up his ship’s engines. Before Josh had a chance to argue, Ford sent the ship hurtling into lightspeed.

Hours later, the Thunderbird dropped out of hyperspace just ahead of the Yavin system.

“Which planet is it?” Fardreamer asked, his purple eyes wide. “I don’t think we need to ask,” Ford said pointing.

Yavin 5 was almost completely blocked out by ships. Ford, not looking phased, moved his ship forward.

“You got a pass?” An alien voice boomed into the cockpit.

“No, but you will let me through to the planet,” the Jedi said using the Force to control the guard’s mind.

“Don’t worry about the pass, just move along.”

The guard ships of the blockade then revealed a pathway to the planet. As Ford and Fardreamer entered the atmosphere, they let out the breaths they had been holding. A lush forest sprinkled with temples came into view.

“Which landing pad did he say?” Fardreamer asked.

“His personal landing station at his castle,” the Jedi replied. The ship moved through the yellow clouds as they headed toward their destination. The ship then made a smooth landing.

“Ah, Jedi Ford, thank you for coming. This is my daughter Crystal,” King Rolling Star III said as the pair exited the Thunderbird. The king had brown hair that fell down to his shoulders, and still had on the crown of great beauty.

“Let’s get down to business,” the princess said diplomatically.

“We are not a warlike country, but we did manage to break through the blockade and borrow old supplies from the old Rebel Alliance base on Yavin 4,” said the king.

“Let’s round up some of your people and teach them how to fly those ships,” Ford said.

Since the people were eager to learn, the training only took two days. When Ford and the rest of his makeshift fleet were in the air, he commanded them to open fire. The battle had begun.

“King Star, don’t go that far…” An explosion cut off Ford’s scream.

The princess, who was flying with the Jedi and Fardreamer, started screaming. Fardreamer cradled her in his arms as the battle continued.

“I found Skylark’s personal ship,” Ford said using the Force. He continued his pursuit and fired a laser the ship. The villain’s ship spun out of control and flew off into deep space. The members of his fleet saw this and followed suit.

Cheers rang up toward the ships as they landed back on the planet. A huge celebration was had and it went long into the night. Ford and Fardreamer prepared to leave in the morning.

“Dan, I have one last surprise,” Fardreamer said, pointing to the ship’s nameplate. The Thunderbird had become the Crystal Star.

Ford smiled and said, “Come on Josh, let’s get out of here before we do any more damage.”

The Crystal Star hovered into orbit and then sped off.


Far out in the universe, Skylark’s ship burned. The alien stepped out of the flames and smiled. He moved away from the ship and let it burn. Now the official poster of video game night at my brother Tom’s house.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Baseball Runner: If You’re Going to Run, Run Happy

To say I’ve been in a running slump would be in understatement. Actually, to be in a slump, you have to actually run, so it’s more of a running lull.

However you choose to define it, I’ve been in serious need of motivation to pull my sneakers back on. The last race I was signed up for was a 5K in Connecticut with my 9-year-old niece Elizabeth. Unfortunately, two Metro North trains decided to crash into each other, crippling my options out of New York City. As bummed out as I was about not being able to be there for Elizabeth, I heard that she crossed the finish line at 29.32, and breathed a sigh of relief. There was more than a good chance that she would have beaten me, and I give my family enough ammunition in which to make fun of me with. Elizabeth besting me in a 5K would have been a staple of family parties for years to come.

I recently set a personal goal to get back in running shape and take on the 2013 Hartford Half Marathon in October. I had the structure of a blog post in mind earlier this week, and asked Elizabeth if she had any inspirational tips she would want to include in it. What she sent me was far better than anything I had imagined.

Uncle Daniel is going to make sure he’s running happy from now on!

Elizabeth running with a smile!

Run Happy


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From the Archives: Northeast Middle School Presents ‘The Wizard of Oz’

I was an extremely shy kid. 

People who know or work with me now will have a hard time believing that. However, before March 13, 1998, I was so shy and timid that I didn’t play Little League, had to be coaxed and coached into making friends, and was generally afraid of my own shadow.

When my 8th grade teacher Mrs. Carroll—who had assigned my autobiography project the year before—announced that the school was putting on a production of The Wizard of Oz, there was not one fiber of my soul that wanted to audition for a role. However, in a rare display of ambition and guts, I asked if I could be the backstage journalist that documented everything leading up to and including the performance. Mrs. Carroll agreed, and I was unaware that she did so just to get me into the audition room.

“You’re trying out for the Cowardly Lion,” she said when I walked into the band room on the day of tryouts. “Go.”

She caught me at just the right time and in just the right way. I didn’t have time to be scared, and I certainly didn’t have time to back out. I was in a scene and I did what I had excelled at my entire childhood. I pretended to be someone else so convincingly that Daniel Ford ceased to exist. For however many minutes that scene went on for, I was the Cowardly Lion.

Mrs. Carroll had me audition for the Tin Man too, but my destiny was already determined. No one was going to be the Lion but me. 
The cast list. I pretty much had a nervous breakdown after seeing this the first time. I got chills looking at it all these years later. This is the piece of paper that changed my life.
I was shaking right before my first scene of the first performance. I don’t know how my costume didn’t fall right off my body. Maybe it was the pillow tied around my midsection that kept everything together. I listened for the line from Dorothy that signaled I had to leap out and roar. I wished for that moment never to come.

A funny thing happened when it did. A switch went off inside me and I instantly got into a zone. All my lines, all the music, all the dance moves came to my mind one after the other and I don’t remember taking a breath until it was all over.

Me as the Cowardly Lion
I remember I walked out for the curtain call and the whole auditorium went bonkers. This isn’t me over exaggerating for effect. If I had heard a crowd that loud up to that point, I would have run in the other direction. But Daniel Ford the Ham was born that night and played up to the standing ovation by flexing my Cowardly Lion muscles and strutting across the stage.

We're singing "We're Off to See the Wizard" in this picture. I nearly tripped over my tail every time we ran this scene, but never went down.
 I’ve had people recently come up to me in Bristol and say they remember when I brought the house down during The Wizard of Oz. No matter how old I get, it’s going to define me in my hometown and I couldn’t be prouder of that. My 8th grade math teacher called me “The Best Kept Secret in Bristol,” and that gave me the drive, incentive, and more importantly, the confidence to leave home and conquer in New York City. I actually did produce a piece of journalism—or what I considered journalism to be at that age—after all of us lost the immediate glow of being talks of the town. It brought back a lot of memories for me and I hope it brings back similar fond memories for my co-stars.

I signed everyone’s program with my mother’s well-worn inspirational phrase, “Reach for the Stars.” Here’s hoping the former inhabitants of Oz have them firmly in their grasps.

The full cast and crew.
The 'Wizard of Oz' Retrospective

The story of how Dorothy finds Oz and learns there is no place like home has been entertaining people of all ages since the movie’s release in 1939. Fifty-nine years later, the student’s of Northeast Middle School presented The Wizard of Oz for the public at Bristol Eastern High School.

The performing of The Wizard of Oz was a labor of love and persistence to succeed. To steal a line from Tom Hanks in Apollo 13, “Even the guy sweeping the floor was proud to be apart of it.” The actors and actresses should be congratulated for their hard work to bring The Wizard of Oz on stage for the people of Bristol, Conn. As for our talented director Mrs. Carroll, words cannot express what a great job she did transforming the students of Northeast into the characters we’ve all grown to love. Let us not forget Ms. Luke, Mr. Carlson, and the tech crew, who we could not have put on the show without.

As for me, going from a backstage reporter to one of the leads was something I could not do without any of the people I have just mentioned. Although the yellow brick road that the Northeast students have been following for four months has come to an end, we wish the future students who might travel on it the best of luck.

Other ‘Wizard of Oz’ Memorabilia

A letter from the Bristol Board of Education thanking the cast individually for a preview performance. I need more people need to address me as “master.” 

Ticket stubs. The green one would have gotten you into the March 13 performance and the yellow is for the March 14 show. $4 for a night of homegrown entertainment? That’s a steal. 

Front and inside covers of the program for The Wizard of Oz. Here is my actor profile in said program: “Daniel is in 8th grade and is an honor student. He is in a number of music groups including the Express Singers and the NEMS band. Daniel plans to write and act in his own musicals and plays. Dan would like to thank Mrs. Carroll for her support and guidance.” 

A card from my favorite social studies teacher Mr. Simpson. He’s a big reason why I became a history nerd. I came back to visit him during my sophomore year and he had just given his annual quiz on the Constitution. He fired four or five questions my way and I nailed them all. #nerdtriumph 


A letter from Mrs. Carroll that I will always carry with me as a reminder that risks are worth taking and that hard work and having a positive attitude pays off.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Look Back: The Life of Daniel F. Ford
The Lost Chapters

Last year, I did some investigating into my personal archives and unearthed an autobiography I was assigned to write in the 7th grade. Publishing each chapter and responding to my 14-year-old self allowed me to better understand the man I turned out to be. The last chapter ran in October.

Or so I thought.

Going through some of my grandmother’s belongings, my father discovered a printed copy that I had autographed for her. It featured a cover page, dedication page (my grandfather Stephen), and an acknowledgements page that read, “I truly want to give my sincere thanks to all my family and friend for helping me to get to where I am today.”

The typed manuscript also included three chapters that weren’t apart of the original written pages I had been blogging from. Here at the beginning of a new journey seems like the best time to share them and remember that dreaming big pays off in the end.


Being My Age

Finally, on to me.

I’m about 4’11’’ and have brownish-blackish hair. I have blue eyes and have a strong academic future. I would describe myself to be an outgoing person who loves a challenge.

Best friends are very important people in my life. They tend to make the obstacles that life throws a little easier to handle. Probably the three friends that I consider best friends would be: Judy Sadowsky (who else?!), Justin Andrews, and Dan Galli. You know why Judy is my best friend, so I won’t bend your ear. Dan Galli and I became friends Jessica Adams on the Green Team dumped both of us (editorial note: I’m sure that won’t bring up any unpleasant memories…). I think these friendships will last because for so long, we’ve been through the good and the bad and somehow always come out on top.

One of my major hobbies is writing stories. You could give me the most boring topic and I could turn it into a world-class novel (editorial note: Try me. I dare you). I also like to read any type of book and I love to play baseball.

What makes me happy is when someone is trying to make a difference in the world. Also, hitting a homerun to clinch a spot in the playoffs. I am also happy when the New York Yankees crush the Boston Red Sox.

 I am like other people my age because I like sports and listen to popular music. I am different from everyone because sometimes my jeans are too tight, I don’t play on a sports team, and I listen to country music. I think this is okay because being different makes life exciting and interesting.

The next person I’m going to talk about is one of the biggest influences in my life. Like I said, it isn’t the first time she’s been mentioned. It is the one and only Judy Sadowsky. She has given me so much advice over the years. Whether it was about girls or anything else, she was there to help me out. If it weren’t for her, I would not want to be a writer. She’s taught me so much in the years I’ve known her. She taught me it doesn’t matter if you’re different, it’s how you’re different. She can turn a game into a better game just by changing one rule. She’s my inspiration to try to make a difference in this world. I truly give her my sincere thanks for helping me through the years, through the good and the bad. Sure, she’s not perfect, but she sure gives perfection a run for its money.

Typical Days From Ages 5–50
Age 5 

In the morning, my mom would wake me up. I scurried around getting ready for the up coming school day. I always used to eat Lucky Charms. My mom would have to pick out all the marshmallows before I ate (editorial note: I think it was a specific marshmallow shape, not all of them. I don’t remember which one). Sometimes, my mom and I would play Candy Land. Since I was in the afternoon kindergarten class, I got to play all morning. When the afternoon came, I got into my mom’s car and she drove me to Ivy Drive School. I rushed into the room, which was divided by a moving wall. My teacher, Mrs. Platt, was really nice. I usually played house, drew letters, and did many other things. After we had story time, we had naptime. I hardly ever went to sleep (editorial note: oh, to have those hours back. Damn you 5-year-old Daniel Ford, get some sleep!). I do remember bringing in Superman cupcakes on my 5th birthday. And that’s all I can remember about when I was 5.

3rd and 4th Grade

I had this girlfriend in third grade (editorial note: oh boy). She came to me one day and asked me to marry her. Thinking it was a joke, I said yes. I don’t remember who, but someone made fake invitations and gave them out to everyone. The next day, the art teacher has who her bridesmaid was. I whirled around and asked how she knew. My teacher walked in and said, “We all know.” Needless to say I was humiliated (editorial note: “You're seeing a whole team of psychiatrists, aren't you?”).

In the fourth grade, I transferred to Edgewood Elementary School. The first day of school, I cried my eyes out. I didn’t know anybody there. Once I got used to Edgewood, I was a normal Edgewooder. No matter who thinks Ivy Drive is better than Edgewood, or vice versa, I will always consider both home.

My Age 

At 6:30 a.m., my alarm goes off. I give myself four minutes to stretch and wake up. Then at 6:34 a.m., I get up, shut off my alarm, and get ready for school (editorial note: for this sequence to happen at the same time in present day, my iPhone would have to light my hair on fire). I get dressed and go downstairs to eat. I have a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, then head to the bathroom to wash up and brush my teeth. After that I walk my dog Sam. Finally, I leave at 7:30 a.m. to walk to school. After six or seven hours of school, I walk home. I once again have to walk Sam. I then do homework and watch some television. My younger brother gets home after me and eats everything he can get his hands on. When my parents get home, I set the table and we eat. Then I watch television until my 8:30 p.m. bedtime. I brush my teeth and go to sleep. I get up the next morning and do it all again.

The Year 2000 

My alarm will go off at 5:30 a.m., and I will push the button to make it stop. I will get up and go through my old routine. I’ll leave my house at 6:45 a.m. to arrive at Bristol Eastern High School before 7:05. After what seems like centuries of school, I’ll drive to Northeast Middle School and pick up my little brother Pat. He will be 12 by then. If I have money, I will treat him to lunch at McDonald’s (editorial note: I took the bus for four years had no money). We then go home and do our homework. We then watch some television or a movie. I set the table when my parents get home and we eat. I moved my bedtime to 10:30 p.m. and quite enjoy it (editorial note: smash cut to my mother shaking her head). I wake up the next morning and repeat the same pattern again.

Age 50

At 5:30 a.m. I will wake up and do my exercises. I then will eat breakfast, wash up, and head toward my office building in downtown Bristol (editorial note: #dreamhigh). I hope there I will be working on a world-class novel. At noon, I will walk a few feet away and eat at a little delicatessen for a good ham sandwich. I’ll go back to my office and work a few more hours, then go home to my loving wife, and have myself a good home cooked dinner that she made (editorial note: you sexist bastard!). I will do my exercises and then watch some more television until I feel like going to bed. I get up in the morning and repeat.

(Editorial note: For those of you who haven’t lost consciousness, the moral of these, ahem, dry rundowns is that I expected to have a life writing, eating, and watching television. Nailed it).

The Future 
This chapter is going to tell you a little about what my future is going to look like. I plan on a bright future with plenty of opportunities.

For starters, I would love to live in Maine. Probably not in a very populated city, but close to one. I love being near mountains and plains. Maine has both, plus more. I love the climate. It is just right in the summer and snowy in the winter. Snow in Maine is plentiful, and since I plan to own a snowmobile, it will be perfect.

As my occupation, I envision myself as either a writer or a pilot. I would love to soar above the clouds like a bird, but would also like to be working at home on my novel. My mind is set on being a writer, but would love to get my pilot’s license so I could do some flying in my spare time (editorial note: that sound you’re hearing is all my of family and friends cackling over the pilot thing. Give it a week, it’ll die down).

One leisure activity I would do, depending on my career choice, would be flying. I am definitely going to travel. I plan for my senior trip to visit every capital city in the United States (editorial note: WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THIS??). After that I will come home for a couple of years and then travel around the world. I don’t know which countries I will travel to, but I am definitely going to travel.

In the future, I think America will be a strong independent country that will concentrate on its own problems and let other countries solve their own. America will have a stronger legal and government system. America will have a policy that will have an effect on illegal immigrants entering the United States (editorial note: I have no words. At least I didn’t say “the gays.”).

I think I will be a very outgoing adult. I probably won’t have time to have a family until after I travel, but I hope to be a strong, loving father and spouse that my father was to me and my brothers. I will spoil my grandchildren rotten. I will be the kind of guy that would let my neighbor borrow my power tools or watch my kids.

I don’t see many problems in my future (editorial note: you poor, unsuspecting bastard). The only problem I see is getting married. If I choose the wrong person and then have kids, then they will be affected. I don’t want that to happen. So the only way I’ll be able to go about stopping this from happening is to choose the right person early on in life (editorial note: it took awhile, but I found her).

The brightest thing in my future looks to be my pursuit to be a writer. I hope that one day people all over the world will read my books and think they are good. I hope that this autobiography is the first step to accomplishing this dream.