Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Last Drive-In

By Ignatz Norvegicus

I just drove back from Gettysburg and was enjoying a lo-carb charcoal-broiled hamburger in peace and quiet.  

Let’s go to a movie tonight. What’s playing?” she said. “No!!!!!” I thought to myself. “I’ll check, Muffin,” is what I actually said.

I ran through the listing at my corporate cinema megaplex. Wonder Woman ... no way. I saw Batman vs. Superman. I don’t want to spend $11 and encourage the jackasses at Warner Brothers to make any more comic book films for another fifty years. Of course, we’re all morons and they won’t stop making this crap.   

Cars 3?” “No.” Ok, scratch that off.  

I got to the last one. Transformers: The Last Knight. Just saying it made me think of Lou Reed, pin-popping in a bathroom stall somewhere in Alphabet City.

That sounds good.”  

She must have really wanted to get the hell out of the house.

Can we go to that drive-in we passed a few weeks ago?” I asked in the tone I usually reserve for those occasions when I want to get out of attending anything related to her family or shoe-shopping.

Are there going to be mosquitoes?”


Then, you need to bring a can of Off.”

I could do that.

The last movie I saw at a drive-in was Dirty Dingus Magee. Sinatra had stopped trying. Shep’s ex-wife (Lois Nettleton) was in it. It was 1970. I didn’t remember much about the movie but saw it later during my college years.

The setting was the swamps of Jersey, the Route 3 Drive-In. There was a playground beneath the screen and sea planes took off and landed in the background. To a seven-year old, it was paradise ... with foil-wrapped hot dogs. Paradise closed in the early 70’s and is now a god-forsaken office building-cum-parking lot. From station wagon memories to cubicle nightmares. From LeSabres and lawn chairs to Civics and carpal tunnel.

The Family Drive-in is one of the last drive-in movie theaters in these here parts. It’s just south of Stephens City, Va. Which is about three blocks long and is no goddamn city unless you’ve been in the desert for forty years and think a place with a post office and a 7-Eleven is the crossroads of the world.

But, it is a drive-in and just a half hour away from Chez Ignatz. So, we jumped into the Jeep and hit I-81.

Traffic was backed up for about 1/4 mile on US-11 Southbound. We crept along on the shoulder until we turned right. As we turned into the theater’s entrance, we were greeted by a clean cut young man who asked what movie we wanted to see. After I muttered “Coconuts,” I told him “Transformers.” He told me that I was good to go. I guess the parking spaces for Cars 3 were already filled up an hour before the start.  

The total cost was $16. Two adults, two movies. Transformers: The Last Knight and 47 something or other. No way I was staying for that last one – whatever it was about.

About fifteen minutes prior to the start of the feature, a PA announcer, who sounded like Arthur Q. Bryan eating peanut butter, told us the ground rules. No smoking, no drinking, being respectful of your neighbor, blah, blah, blah. All good. Except for the bit about the bathrooms not being modern. More to come on that later.

Then, he made announcements about special guests. “Girl Scout Camp 44 with visitors from all over the world.” “Jane something or other who was celebrating a birthday.” Then, a couple celebrating an anniversary. An anniversary. Wow, that guy is getting off cheap.  

We were surrounded by families. All eating. And eating. And eating. Next to me was a lady lounging on a chaise with a bag of popcorn the size of a tall kitchen trash bag. Carbs and salt, baby!

Then, Arthur Q. told us to rise for the National Anthem. Everyone did. No live singer, unfortunately. It would have been nice to hear the Girl Scouts. What we got was a recording that sounded like the Ray Coniff Singers. This is not something I see at the local stadium seater. It was a dignified moment. A fleeting, dignified moment.  

Now, back to the giant bags of popcorn. There were a lot of large people wandering around. Big people ... all carrying giant sodas and wearing shorts. These folks were ready for bed.

The trailers came and went, the movie started. I decided to visit the men's room. It was behind the snack bar and it was not modern. It was crude. About a foot away on either side of the one sink were urinals. Not historic old urinals like at PJ Clarke’s Saloon or McSorley’s Ale House but something designed by a government worker who did not understand plumbing or hygiene, I took one look at this and said “I’m not peeing here.”

I returned to my Jeep and the, ahem, film.

King Arthur and robots. This is going to be good. And, it keeps jumping around. Polo. Outer space, or something. A junkyard or is it a half-demolished stadium.

Dead robots? Can that happen? Sentimentality? Really?  

Doesn’t Anthony Hopkins have enough money? I remember when Olivier appeared in the Neil Diamond version of The Jazz Singer. Same thing here. Whoredom.

Turturro. The Jesus. Nine-year old girls, Dude. It’s a payday.

Jumping around again. Was this thing written by an ADHD kid on a steady diet of Lucky Charms and Fanta grape?

Day Trader is a stupid name for a robot. Crap, it’s a stupid name for a day trader. It sounded like Buscemi. It was. He was out of his element here. 

More jumping around. I need some Xanax.  

Is that Walter Sobchak? It is Goodman! Where are the Coen Brothers when you need them?

There were people involved with this mess that know how to make a good movie. One of them could have pointed out that a possum carcass on the interstate for 24 hours was better put together than Transformers: The Last Knight.

Marky Mark? Even he deserved better. His throwaway line about the Slant-6 of Darts and Valiants made a lot more sense than the Camelot plot line. By the way, Wahlberg’s brother reminds me a lot of Sinatra circa ‘69. He could do a Dingus remake when Blue Bloods dies the death.

What was with all the shifting? It reminded me of the first Roxy Music album, which had more to do with good movies than this.

The film sucked. No, it super sucked.  

But, the drive-in experience was pretty cool. Americans out on a Saturday night, engaging in good, clean fun and making the most of the ancient theater. There aren’t many left.  

It reminded me of 50 years ago. We are a lot fatter. Our cars are boring. Most of us are not optimistic about the future. But we know the good things we have.

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