Friday, June 18, 2010

COLUMN: Lost Finale

My dad likes to build stuff. This is cool, especially since I've got a brand new basement in dire need of finishing. But this story begins with something my dad built for me six years ago -- a shelving unit to store my DVDs. And we're not talking your run-of-the-mill shelves. This was a majestic beast, all solid wood and heavy as a horse.

"Get at least five of your friends to help us get this thing inside," he warned me ahead of delivery.

Getting five friends was no problem at all, but each friend insisted on the same caveat: that we stopped whatever we were doing at 8 p.m.: LOST was on. I had slowly watched this show consume the lives and water-cooler discussions of my friends for the better part of a season, but I was having none of it. Some show about island castaways? Not for me, thanks. I imagined some evil hybrid between "Survivor," Tom Hanks, and a volleyball. I didn't need that in my life.

Still, I was grateful for their assistance, so I sat with my friends to suffer through my first episode of "Lost." After five minutes, I wasn't caring about the chip on my shoulder. After fifteen minutes, I was asking questions about EVERYTHING. After thirty minutes, I was on the internet trying to find the back episodes that I'd missed. By the time the hour was up, I was a Lostie. And now it's over.

If you're one of the, what, eighteen people on Earth who haven't come to the conclusion that "Lost" is the best show on Earth ever, you might want to stop reading. If you haven't seen the finale, DEFINITELY stop reading.

In retrospect, I think the most amazing thing about "Lost" is that it even made it to the air. Can you just imagine what that pitch meeting had to be like?

Stuffy ABC Executive: "Okay, Mr. Abrams. Mr. Lindelof. We really like your "Alias" show, but that's pretty much because Jennifer Garner's kind of a hottie. As for the show itself, it's bleeding viewers like crazy because the plotlines have gotten WAY too complicated and weird for anybody to figure out. We assume that your new show is a little more simplistic and grounded in reality, right? Tell us a little about it."

Abrams & Lindelof, two unabashed mega-nerds: "Oh, yes, yes, this one's completely simple to understand."

"A plane crashes on an uncharted island, right? And all the survivors are total screw-ups in life: you've got a doctor with daddy issues, a hot girl with mommy issues, a con man with mommy AND daddy issues, a fat guy who's funny, a bald guy who's not, a pregnant girl, an abusive Korean and his submissive wife, a junkie, an Iraqi torturer, and a deadbeat dad and his kid who may or may not have magic powers and grows approximately 2' each season he's on the air. Don't worry, the audience will grow to love them."

"So on the island, there's a monster made of smoke --"

"NOISY smoke."

"Yes, noisy smoke that kills people. And the survivors find a radio signal, but it's just some weird French Rambo chick. And then the bald guy finds a hatch."

"What's in the hatch? Oh, we're thinking a British guy who has to press a button on an Apple IIe every 108 minutes or the world's going to end. Why 108? Because that's what 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, & 42 add up to, duh. But then he leaves, so the bald guy has to push the button."

"And then there's other people on the island."

"What do you call these other people?"

"The, umm, Others. Their job is to tromp around the island in hobo make-up. At the same time, it turns out that the tail end of the plane crashed on the other side of the island, and it's loaded with survivors, too. They're all rich and complex characters rife with engaging histories and compelling storylines."

"Yes, which is why we'll be killing them off immediately."

"Then they'll find a guy who crashed in a hot air balloon. His name is Henry, but really his name is Ben, and he's the head Other. He's also the creepiest guy on the planet. Don't worry, the audience will grow to love him."

"The Others kidnap the survivors, feed them fish biscuits, and take them to New Otherton. And then we introduce a pair of jewel thieves but kill them off within 45 minutes. The bald guy stops pushing the button and the hatch implodes. The world doesn't end, but the British guy sees the future. He tells the junkie's he going to die, and he does. Then mercenaries show up and start killing people until the noisy smoke kills them. Henry/Ben spins a wheel and the island teleports to 1977. Except for some of the cast who escape the island but decide they'd rather be back, so they come back, plus a scientist who can time travel and another who can talk to dead people and another who's just kinda hot, so we'll be killing her off immediately. Back in 1977, given the choice of detonating an atom bomb or reliving the disco era, they opt for the atom bomb and all blow up. But really they just split into two parallel realities. In one, everyone's on the island while two superbeings battle for supremacy, and in the other, everyone's back at home just fine. Except that they're all dead. Eventually the doctor with daddy issues saves the world by turning on a light, gives the island to the fat guy, then dies and brings everyone together to a non-denominational church where they can hug and move on."

"Move on? To what exactly?"

"Either heaven or a Lost feature film, we haven't decided. Oh, and did we mention there's a guy with magic eyeliner?"

"You did say the chicks were HOT, right?"

"Smokin' hot. Plus the doctor can be played by one of those 'Party of Five' rejects if you want."

"Sirs, consider yourselves GREENLIGHTED!"

HOW did it happen? Who cares, it DID happen, and the result was six of the greatest years in television history. And now that it's done, how do I feel about the finale? I'm not quite sure. There's a surplus of unanswered questions, that's for sure -- but the theories left over will provide ample fodder for "Lost" nerds to debate on the net for years to come, and I'll probably be one of 'em.

Some folks think the finale was great. Others think it was terrible. I'm somewhere in the middle. It could have been a LOT worse. It could have all been a dream... or heaven... or they could have pulled the mask off the Smoke Monster to reveal Old Man Smithers who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids. In the end, the creators were fair to the characters while being a tad bit unfair to the island that brought them together.

I say it was a fair trade, and a fitting end to a perfect piece of television. Soo, umm, now what do I watch?


Reality is starting to sink in.

In less than four weeks, barring any weird unforeseen termite-inspection-related catastrophes, I will be a home-owner. This fact is intimidating and terrifying enough on its own, but I'm starting to realize some of the repercussions of my actions.

It's just beginning to dawn on me that owning a home means that I also own the land my home sits on. I am about to possess my own little square of Rock Island. In a primitive way, this is pretty cool. Me have land. My land. Mine, not yours. "This land is yoooour land, this land is myyy land." No. That land might be your land, but this land is MY land so step off. It's empowering as heck. There's just one teeny problem -- I now have to care for that land.

I have lived 39 years very strategically. Some may argue that I've coasted my way through life to avoid any sort of mental or physical stresses. I would argue this point. While it's true that most of my life is spent either slouched at a desk or lying on a couch, it takes WORK to achieve a level of slothfulness such as mine. You can't just say, "I'm going to lay around all day and do nothing." In order to be really successful at inactivity, one must have an action plan.

For instance, I have made it thus far in life without ever having cut a single blade of grass. I honestly don't know how one mows a lawn -- but I've seen it in the movies and frankly, it looks unpleasant. How did I escape lawn-cutting chores as a child? By employing my strategic action plan of inactivity.

As you may know, I grew up on a farm. Wait, scratch that -- my parents did not "farm" and I think it may require the verb farm in order to justify the noun farm. My folks weren't farmers, but they just kinda liked the idea of living in the middle of nowhere. So my dad took a 50-acre parcel of land that's been passed down in our family and built our home smack in the middle of it. And when your yard is farm-sized, mowing the lawn becoems an all-day affair.

We didn't have a lawn mower. We didn't even have a lawn tractor. We had a TRACTOR tractor. A full-sized, gas-guzzling behemoth that my dad attached mower blades to. And every week, the family would go out on an all-day mowing binge. And by family, I mean my mom and dad. I'd be inside performing any necessary video-game-playing and/or MTV-watching chores.

One day, my folks decided it was time to pass the tractor-driving gauntlet my way. This was kinda cool in a way. I mean, what kid wouldn't want to be behind the wheel of a blade-spinning, exhaust-spitting monster? Still, learning to mow = having to mow and that's no good. So on my first lesson, I did what any uncoordinated nature-shy cybergeek would do: I got flustered and drove the tractor full throttle into the side of my dad's shed until both tractor and shed were mightily damaged. Shockingly, my folks never asked me to mow again.

Yet now here I am with my very own lawn and a now absolute and total lack of knowledge of how to mow it. Happily, my new lawn is infinitely smaller than that of my parent's house, but I still have no clue what I'm doing.

The thought of having to mow in the first place just irks me. What are we paying our nation's top scientists for if not to invent grass that stops growing at a given height? Come on. This is the 21st century. We're supposed to be technologically above all this. You never saw George Jetson mowing a lawn.

Look at corn. Agricultural geneticists have spent billions of dollars perfecting today's corn crops. You plant them and they grow. At some point, they stop growing, out pops the corn, and we reap the harvest. We don't have to mow the corn to prevent it from ascending to the heavens. Corn is smart. It knows when to stop growing.

Grass, on the other hand, is stupid. You cut it and it's like, "What the...? Guess I'll just have to grow some more!" You should be able to buy grass seed that sprouts, grows to exactly 1.5" out of the ground, and then stops to enjoy a leisurely life of photosynthesis and oxygen production.

No such luck, so I figure I've got a shortlist of options at this point. They are:

(1) Pave the entire lawn. Nothing says home-sweet-home like an expansive blacktop slab. Just ask a skateboarder. Wait, if I paved my entire yard it'd be like an open casting call for skater punks to loiter about, wouldn't it? And if one of those dudes fell down and broke his coccyx while doing an inverted backside 540 McTwist off my siding, I'd be sued seven ways to Sunday. Hmm...

(2) Build the world's biggest deck. One that wraps around the whole house and consumes most of the yard and hence the yard work. So if anyone wants to come and build me one of those for free, step right up. Note: I prefer the kind WITH a hot tub.

(3) Scour the neighborhood for Little Timmy. Every block has to have a Little Timmy, right? There must be an enterprising sucker (cough) I mean SWEET LITTLE KID who owns a push mower and needs extra change for the ice cream truck, no?

(4) Grass won't grow if I cover every square inch of my yard in lawn ornaments. If there's one thing I love, it's the pageantry and magic of a good ol' Civil War re-enactment. So why not simply replicate the entire Battle of Gettysburg on my front lawn with concrete gnomes? At Christmastime, we could dangle lights off 'em and -- presto -- they become Santa's elves. It's a win-win. Now to convince my girlfriend...

(5) Speaking of which, perhaps I should just remind her of a conversation the two of us had when I was wavering over such a huge decision. I believe it started with me going, "I dunno, if I buy a house, that means loads of yard work" and HER going, "I tell you what, if you buy this house, I WILL DO MOST OF THE YARD WORK FOR YOU." And now that sentence is in print in a major local publication, which is pretty much the same thing as a legally-binding contract, I'm fairly sure.

(6) Give up and look to the heavens for help, and that was clearly the best answer... because when I did that, I looked up and saw the state of my gutters and that made me forgot ALL about the lawn. Gulp. I need an action plan.