Sunday, January 1, 2012

Remembering our best friend

Every R2-D2 Builder can share their own stories of the teasing and ribbing they have taken from people while they built their droids.  While it is mostly harmless teasing, we're all pretty used to it.  Let's face it, if I knew someone building a movie replica, I would be curious, intrigued and might jest a bit when the project seems to be taking a long time to complete.

My best friend, Jim MacArthur, was just that kind of friend.  Jim loved the idea and was pretty impressed at the parts and pieces that started to accumulate over the years.  However, to know Jim is to know that you just NEVER knew what he would say!  He was relentless at times!  However in all fairness, his teasing was hilarious.  He was like a big kid, he wanted to see this thing working!

And it took a long time.  I was pretty shy about drilling holes into parts that cost hundreds of dollars and took months to arrive.  My fellow New England builders would comment on my slow progress.  However as I learned more from other builders at our gatherings, my confidence to press forward grew.  I set a goal to have R2-D2 greeting the children at my parents' home for Halloween.  

I made it with time to spare.

Jim died on December 16th after a short illness.

I think one of the best ways to remember Jim and his love of this R2 is to re-post the article he wrote after spending that first R2-D2 appearance with me that Halloween.

Halloween show of The Force
by Jim MacArthur on Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 10:57pm

Several years ago, when it seemed we all had more time than sense, my friend Paul Bussiere decided on a hobby. He decided to build his own full size R2-D2. It didn't have to just look right; it had to be as perfect as he could make it using the Star Wars movies as his only real reference.

Then he found the web site where several people were building R2-D2s and some of the similar, but different robots seen in the Star Wars movies. Some of my doubting friends (I have to admit to being one of them) rolled their eyes at the idea. Paul persevered. We would talk about doing something, like a night out at a favorite Buffalo wing spot. Paul sacrificed having to save money for one part or another.

Years went by. Fun opportunities with the friends came and went. Dedication a Jedi would envy to getting the little robot built. We jeer Paul something awful. "Looks like an expensive trash can." "That Dome looks like a great popcorn bowl." "Wow, opposite sex repellent." We were wrong. He continued to work. He documented his progress in a blog that became surprisingly popular. Tonight (2009 Halloween) was the Droid Debutante.
Adding to the surprise of the evening, the camera didn't self-destruct when taking a picture of me with R2.

On his parent's porch, lit by the traditional light to welcome Trick-or-Treat'ers was the little robot making his first public appearance. I say little, but it's about four feet tall and weighs about two-hundred pounds! Fully animated by remote control.

The neighborhood is very child friendly, so we all expected a heavy turnout of costumed characters hoping for munchies that are the dentist's worst nightmare. And they came... Paul's mother had to retire from fatigue after handing out piles of candy to hundreds of little monsters that came through.

One of the many Trick or Treaters that came to see Paul's R2-D2.

I arrived just as the home team's candy supply was running out. Little face after little face, awed at the familiar robot with its lights flashing, and talking in its familiar language of beeps, chirps and whistles. I had to run for more candy! I think R2's flashing lights meant he approved.

I know Paul wanted to use his creation to entertain mostly children. Tonight, even the adults were entranced by the 'Power of the Force' from the little robot's presence. Parents asked to take pictures of R2. Kids stopped in the middle of the traditional "trick or treat" enthralled by R2 making a little move, turning its head or speaking up in its droid language.

Probably my favorite picture of a Trick-or-Treater this Halloween (2009) Paul's R2-D2 showing his Star Power!

I have never seen so many children in one place. Each one in costume. Wave after wave of wide eyes coming to see the little movie star. They even continued to come to see him after we exhausted the candy supply, hoping for a glimpse and perhaps a quick photo. This was a night I will remember for a long time. Even though all I did was cheer and jeer the building process. Even though all the work was Paul's. This was an evening I will remember for a long time. On a night where kids usually have fun, we made bright eyes that much brighter, and smiles that much wider.

The Force was with us this night.