A few years ago, I bought my dad a Raiders of the Lost Ark themed birthday card. He said: ‘When they ask you how old you are, take Dr Jones’ advice. It’s not the years…it’s the mileage. Here’s to being well traveled!” The card played John Williams’ iconic March theme when opened.
Since then, it has occurred to me that my father looks a bit like Indiana Jones. Like the famous archaeologist, he is both an educator and an adventurer. My father was a teacher, who eventually worked his way up into school administration. Although retired, he remains a mountaineer in every sense of the word: hiking, skiing, rock and ice climbing.
I remembered this recently while rewatching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I wrote down my feelings on SlaughterFreeAmerica.substack.com: “A long time ago I thought Harrison Ford was too old and the tone was too silly. But I came back and decided I liked an aging Jones surviving a nuclear explosion in a refrigerator. I’ve always enjoyed Shia LaBeouf’s portrayal of her greaser son. “
Now, I’m aware that it’s not the best film in the franchise. I haven’t watched the whole series together in a while. I prefer Last Crusade and Raiders of the Lost Ark; however, I think I like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more than Temple of Doom. The 2008 release is a worthy — if below average — entry into the franchise.
One thing I didn’t mention in my brief review of the film for Slaughter-Free America is that Jones and LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams is traveling to Peru, which reminds me of when my dad took me there in 2005, the summer before I went to college. . It was the cornerstone of many adventures I had with my father throughout my childhood.
My father had planned to take a group of students to Peru the year before I was born, but violence from the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path, forced him to change his destination to Ecuador. So it’s no surprise that my father forbade me to bring my Che Guevara shirt. In hindsight, that probably would have been fine. Guevara’s face was stuck everywhere.
I had started my initial experimentation with vegetarianism. At the time, I was an animal advocate, to use the strict definition of the word, not an animal rights advocate. I was primarily concerned with non-human processing, as opposed to use. I didn’t see ending a life as evil in itself. Since the meat in the countryside did not come from factory farms, I temporarily suspended my vegetarianism.
As much as I enjoy movies, the Indiana Jones franchise can’t escape its colonial baggage, even in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Nazca’s descendants are portrayed as wild and dangerous. They come out of a graveyard like the living dead, moving on all fours like animals. In the end, they are sent by the real bad guys in the picture, the Soviets.
I like to think that we conducted ourselves with a certain sensitivity in Peru. But the truth is that no amount of understanding or subtlety could mask the cavernous difference between the economic reality we lived in and that faced by most people we encountered. The mountain villagers, in particular, seemed to exist in an almost completely different world.
We were mountaineering. To be clear, this was not hiking. This involved ropes, crampons, ice axes and helmets. The highest peak I climbed there was Urus which is 17,792 feet. That was enough for me. I let my dad climb the nearby Tocclaraju, 19,797 feet, with another partner.
For perspective, I’m from the Adirondacks, home to Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York State. Marcy is 5,343 feet tall. Climbing Urus – even at 18 years old, in good physical shape – the air was so thin that I was doubled over, out of breath on relatively gentle slopes.
Sporting challenges have never appealed to me as much as they do to my father. So my favorite parts of the trip were probably the days we spent acclimating to Huaraz, learning about the country’s history, and taking in the sights. Café Andino, with its English lending library, was where we spent most mornings.
In the evening, we sometimes went to the Huaraz Satyricon, a charming “cinema” run by an American expatriate from his living room. It would show a wide selection of films on a projector. While we were there I believe the offerings were Barbarella, The Motorcycle Diaries, Revenge of the Sith and Casablanca. We have seen the last two.
Come to think of it, like Indiana Jones, we also indulged in a bit of Peruvian archeology by visiting the ruins of Chavin, remnants of a pre-Inca culture. Here, my dad revealed that he suffered from an unexpected phobia, like Jones’ fear of snakes. My father is claustrophobic and refused to crawl through the smaller Chavin tunnels.
For these reasons and more, I have a particular affinity for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, despite its flaws. I’m looking forward to Indiana Jones’ fifth film, which is slated for release next summer. Perhaps, like my father, Jones will have retired from schoolwork. But I have no doubt that, like my father, he will always be up for adventure.