A brief break from the ranting today. Triple digit weather, a case of shingles http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/dis-faqs.htm, and an on-call weekend punctuated with oddball emergencies have conspired to suck the indignation (not to mention the inspiration) from my soul. Needless to say, the tick of the clock to 8:00 this morning filled me with joy as it signaled a day off. Freedom! Air-conditioning! The shingles was, alas, still present but was rendered far less annoying by the previously mentioned circumstances.
Summer evokes childhood -- swimming, ice-cream, watermelon, flopping on a couch with a book, mosquito bitten games of hide-and-seek, and movies. In the pre-video, pre-megaplex days of my childhood, the downtown movie theater played one movie at a time, and lines snaked along the baking sidewalk for blocks. Around mid-July, doubtless sick of the cries of “I’m bored,” parents would load 5 or 6 of us into a van and drive us downtown. Admission money carefully safety-pinned into change purses, and illicit brown bags of popcorn smuggled into pockets and backpacks, we were ready. The oldest member of the group always had a dime for the pay phone, just in case. The downtown theater in Merced looms grandly in my childhood memory. The orange top of the white tower stood out for blocks. I felt very grownup as I handed my money to the teller encased behind the sweeping curve of glass and stepped into the lovely cool of the lobby. In those days, there was one screen that seemed impossibly huge, a grand staircase that led upstairs to a painted balcony that made me think of Cinderella’s castle. Smells of popcorn, dust, and an obscure stickiness known only to movie theaters filled the air. Movies on that screen seemed so real that I would look back to the light from the projector during the scary parts just to reassure myself that it was only make-believe. The outside world vanished for a couple of hours into the cool, fantasy-laden darkness. When the doors opened to the blaring heat and light, we would stand, blinking moles, on the sidewalk until a double-parked parent honked and waved us back to reality.
My heart broke when that theater was renovated and split into four smaller screens. But, by then the VCR was common, and it had become increasingly difficult to convince our parents to shell out the time and money for a downtown movie excursion. New digital technology and the mandatory blockbuster action scenes have somewhat revived the movie, but my children will never have the same feeling of movie-ness that permeated my childhood and that of previous generations. Theaters are clean, well ordered, and completely generic. Bag searches make greasy brown bags of home-popped popcorn impossible. I may drop them off at a theater, someday – when they’re 15?
Today, however, I reclaimed a bit of my lost past. I decided to celebrate freedom (and distract myself from the hideous rash on my shoulder) by taking myself to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/harrypotterandthehalf-bloodprince/. I nibbled on my popcorn through the endless previews, unimpressed. Then, it happened. The mist rolled in, carrying the Warner Brother’s logo. The movie was starting! In that instant the whole sense of movie-ness, of being a solitary adventurer swept over me.
Watching the adolescent forays into first love increased my sense of nostalgia. The chairs grew smaller; I was old again. That sense of uncertain excitement fled dimly into my past. As the summer heat burst through the exit door, my feet stumbled mournfully away from youth.
I consoled myself with lunch at Tucos in Davis http://daviswiki.org/Tucos_Wine_Market_and_Cafe. Between tiny spoonfuls of a dancing cucumber melon gazpacho, I sipped my wine, read The Language of Bees http://www.laurierking.com/, and lounged in the shade of an olive tree and green umbrella. By the time the beef Carpaccio watercress salad had arrived, my consolation was complete. Nibbling on the cheese course and sipping a glass of port, I realized that, perhaps, adulthood isn’t so bad after all.