Saturday, December 27, 2014

40 B4 40: Drive-In Movie

When Return of the Jedi was released, my mother and I saw the movie together at the local drive-in theatre. No sisters. It was just the two of us and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks. I wasn’t allowed to tell my sisters we’d been to see the show. It was our special, secret mother-daughter outing. To this day, Episode VI is my favorite of the Star Wars series. Was it the Ewoks or the secret?

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.


Sheila said...

I love this post! I also grew up with a drive-in theatre and have that nostalgia as well. Glad you got to experience that again!

Beefy Muchacho said...

I love this post. My favorite in the series so far.

Lorena said...

I always think that with age, perspective changes.
Like when I was little and anyone who could eat an entire Big Mac was my hero. They were soo big, how could anyone finish them ? Now, I can eat two.
Like you, I will be turning 40 soon, I have not realised it yet and in my head I am somewhere near 33.

Erica Minton said...

Our drive-in has a food pass you can buy for $5, to bring in your outside food. These small independent gems make most of their money on concessions so please do support them this way if you can, so a few will still be around for today's kids to watch secret movies with their moms. :)