There are some things you never forget -- your first kiss, your first car accident, the first time you saw Ghostbusters. Me, I was eleven (we're talking Ghostbusters here, just so we're clear), and I was lucky enough to see it in a theater, during its original theatrical run. I don't remember much about the movie, but what I do remember is the way I felt when I got home, and the way I felt was that I had found my purpose in life: I wanted to be a Ghostbuster.
Now, eleven is maybe the perfect age to see Ghostbusters for the first time, or at least the 1984 version of eleven was -- I suspect eleven-year-olds today are a bit more savvy about the feasibility of ghostbusting for a living. At eleven, you have a pretty good idea what's real and what's fantasy, but the membrane between those things is permeable enough to allow you to believe in the world you want to exist instead of the one that does, at least for a little while.
I came home from that movie wanting to live inside of it. I wanted it more than anything I'd ever wanted before. It ratcheted my burgeoning interest in the paranormal up to an absurd degree. More immediately, I hatched elaborate plans to get my grandmother to sew me a costume and my dad to build me a proton pack that could shoot some kind of lasers, so at the very least I could have the best goddamn Ghostbuster Halloween costume anyone had ever seen. Alas, my plans of both professional parapsychology as a career and of a Halloween costume for the ages came to naught. In truth, the only remaining sign of that burning obsession with busting ghosts is my inability to not watch Ghostbusters any time it's on. If I come across it on TV, no matter what I'm doing, I stop and watch to the end. If someone else is watching it, I'll sit down and join them. Doesn't matter what else is going on, when Ray Parker Jr. starts crooning about how bustin' ghosts makes him feel, I drop what I am doing, and I watch.
In all of this, I suspect I am far from alone.
That's why the news of Ghostbusters co-writer and co-star Harold Ramis's death hit me so hard. I'm now at the age where the creative people who populated the pop culture of my youth are passing on with alarming frequency, and I still haven't gotten used to it. Maybe you never do. Some hit harder than others, and this one was a particular jolt. When I was a child, Ghostbusters was firmly entrenched in my top-ten movies (truth be told, it's not far out of it to this day) and it's Ghostbusters I return to as a way to say goodbye to a man who made such a mark on my psyche. I'll never forget the first time I saw it, and because of that, I'll never forget Ramis. May his ghost remain forever unbusted.
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Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.