My alarm woke me up at 8:30am. Monday morning, again. Only— this was a good Monday morning. I had worked the whole weekend so today was my day off. I hit the snooze button, mentally calculating how many more times I could hit it and still make good use of my day.

After three more rounds with the alarm, I finally made the knockout punch and turned it off. Putting on my glasses, I was surprised to see I already had a text from Jimi.

“Hey! Any ideas for your day off? I may have one…”

My reply was swift: “Just woke up. Tell me!!!”

“Peter Jackson is getting his star on the walk of fame today, lots of lot people will be there. Not sure if that would be cool now or if I’m about 10 years late”

For those of you have known me since my awkward, nerdy years (okay, everyone who has known me ever), I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I was introduced to Middle Earth by my dad when I was in elementary school. He read the entire series to me over many a bedtime tuck-in. I distinctly remember times where my dad would fall asleep and I was sneak the book away from his hands and plow through another chapter before he would startle himself back awake. I was insatiable.

When it was announced that Peter Jackson was directing The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I followed every movement of the process. I dreamed about traveling to New Zealand and being cast as one of the extras. I watched every interview, “sneak peak” and trailer. I spent hours each week on online forums and RPG sites. I saw the first movie 5 times in theaters. I saw “The Two Towers” seven times.

So to say that I was excited for the potential of this Monday afternoon would be the understatement of the millennia.

I hopped out of bed, threw on a pair of boots and a tank top, grabbed my camera and sprinted out the door. Thankfully, traffic was light and I made it to the Dolby theater in the heart of Hollywood in under 30 minutes. Already, a massive crowd had gathered around the Star Walk. A podium marked the center of the morning’s ceremony. I wriggled my way towards the front, standing on tiptoe to see into the crowd of celebrities mingling in the roped off area.

Oh! Andy Serkis! Right there in front of me. The very man who brought Gollum to life was standing there, waving his hands expressively as he talked with an old friend. His face practically radiated energy.

It’s moments like this where I feel so thrilled to be all by myself. While I love sharing moments and adventures with friends and family, there are times where I just love experiencing something with a greater audience. I was in a pack of men, women, and children who had been moved by Peter Jackson and his vision of Tolkien’s incredible story. The excitement was tangible— not just for “celebrity sighting” but for recognizing this great man’s achievements.

And there he was— Peter Jackson— looking homeless, as usual. His fluffy scruff of hair was piled around his shoulders, his suit was decently pressed, and his smile seemed nervous, like he was ready to run back to whatever hobbit hole he’d just crawled out of. And we adored him. Every cell phone was in the air snapping pictures of the man of the hour.

The ceremony was blessedly brief, with two different speakers listing his great accomplishments and Andy Serkis adding a few kind words. Peter Jackson stood onstage the whole time, a step behind the various speakers, seeming not to know whether to cry or not. It was a beautiful scene, complete with shouts of “I heart Gollum” and “One more time!”

Peter Jackson was then presented with his “star” and the photographers had their field day. Then, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lily, Elijah Wood, and a number of other stars joined him and the photographers lost their minds.

After a few minutes of this, the crowd started to disperse, so I followed suit. I was soon impeded, however, by a gate en route to my parking lot. I looked up and, to my surprise, I had wound up right next to the celeb’s exit. A fangirl screamed “ELIJAH” in my ear and my inner fangirl joined the chorus. There they were: Frodo and Legolas— close enough to touch. Close enough to admire Orlando’s distinct jawline. Close enough to notice how short Elijah Wood’s fingernails are. They smiled and talked to the fans, signing posters, photos, and even cell phones.

As they disappeared inside the Dolby Theater, I escaped the crush of the crowd and reveled in the brush with my junior high heroes. It’s a little mind-boggling to me that the Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001… half my lifetime ago. If today proved anything, though, it is that I will always carry Middle Earth with me. I think that’s why Jackson’s movies were so successful: they were able to take the viewer literally into this other world. I have always loved “escapist” novels: books where I could lose myself and take on the troubles and joys of a completely separate reality. When I was young, I lived in Redwall and Narnia. As I grew up, I discovered Robert Jordan’s Randland* and Martin’s Westerns. And while Jordan might have 12,000 pages of text in his series, nothing quite lives up to the depth and ingenuity of Tolkien’s classic series.

What Jackson did, though, is turn those books into a movie series that literally envelops the audience into a multi-sensory spectacle. As I write this, I am listening to the LotR soundtrack. From the opening notes of “Concerning Hobbits,” I am transported to the green grass of the Shire. Jackson made every word on the page come to life both visually and audibly. He created super-reality that I could live in, too.

It has been fun to go see the new Hobbit movies and warm my heart by the fire that exists in the visual retelling of these wonderful stories. I look forward to seeing the conclusion to Jackson’s grand body of work– as the clock strikes midnight on December 17th.

#onelasttime

*For the Robert Jordan diehards out there, I know that Jordan never officially named his world… Randland is just the made-up fan nickname for it. An interesting note– Universal bought the rights to Wheel of Time in 2008. No start to production yet, though.

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