A year later, the entire family returned to the drive-in. I don’t remember the first feature, only the second. After the family-friendly show, my sisters and I were supposed to sleep in the back seat while my parents watched Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. What little girl wouldn’t want to peek at a movie in which a beautiful woman is friends with the animals of the jungle? Of course, we were shocked when Sheena took off her clothes to swim, but that only added to the forbidden appeal of the film.
My last excursion to the now-defunct Your Twin drive-in theatre was in the summer between my senior year and college. By this time, I was aware of the drive-in’s reputation as a hot-spot for teenage romance. My long-time crush, Ryan Penner, invited me to a show. I dressed with care, wearing the short denim shorts I had just updated with ruffles along the pockets and cuffs. Although we saw the show with a group, just the two of us sat in the front seats of his parents’ Toyota Camry. I waited all evening for the pass that never came. He was there to see the movie. I can’t tell you what show was playing.
That theatre was demolished during my last year of college. The outdoor movie theatre industry declined. I didn’t even see another drive-in until I moved to Sacramento, nineteen years after my last, and disappointing, drive-in movie experience.
We now live less than 3 miles from the West Wind Sacramento 6 Drive-In. On long winter evenings, the movies are a distraction when driving the nearby roads. How could we not at least try it?
Things have changed since my last visit to a drive-in. No longer do bulky, retro speakers hang on the windows for sound. Instead, we were able to tune in to a radio station and hear the movie on Beefy’s car’s excellent sound system. Not much is forbidden about the experience, as a married adult. We “smuggled” in Subway and Taco Bell, but I don’t think that was against the rules. We could have made out (and more) in the seats, but I think we’d both rather do that at home. I wish I had brought in a beer, and Yelp reviews reveal that the scent of marijuana is not uncommon, but the strongest drug we consumed was diet Coke.
The drive-in has new appeal as adults. The Honda CRV's seats were far more comfortable than a conventional theater. We were able to use our phones to our hearts’ content. We conversed during the movie without being shushed. (I love to comment on the action during a movie.) I took my shoes off and propped my feet on the dash, without fear of later stepping my stockinged foot into sticky soda residue. When it was over, we didn’t even have to get up out of our seats to leave. It was a comfortable and private experience. But not at all mysterious or thrilling.
At some point in our lives, we revisit childhood or young adult experiences and find them rather less stimulating than we remembered. I’m afraid that my recent drive-in experience just reconfirms my fears that turning 40 means the end of excitement and the beginning of comfort. I just haven’t decided if that’s all bad.