Monday, June 30, 2008

Time Travel

The Big Heat settled in to our little patch of the high desert last week, mid-90s every freakin day, so we retaliated with one of my favorite things about Colorado: a Friday night trip to the drive-in. All three towns I've lived in here in Colorado have had a drive-in, and I've been to all of them. A lot. It's like a little chunk of 1950's Americana accidentally dropped into the 21st century.

I'm guessing a photo of the drive-in screen would have turned out pretty trippy; sadly I didn't bring a camera. Here's an image I stole off the intertubes:

We have a three-screener here in Huckyland, and it's usually full on a weekend summer night. There's always a solid hour of waiting before the movie starts. Families spread out in folding chairs, bigger kids play catch, little kids already in their jammers and sleeping bags settle into the backs of pickups and station wagons and SUVs. When it begins to get dark people start honking their horns and flashing their headlights, not so much out of impatience as much as knowing that this is what they've done before every drive-in movie they've ever been to. It's ritual. And you don't f*ck with ritual.

No car-window speakers anymore - you tune into the movie with your radio (a different frequency for each screen). There are no ads before the movie. They show 3 or 4 previews and then the movie starts. There is an endless stream of people to the concession stand and the bathrooms, threading their way through multi-generation families eating twizzlers and melting ice cream cones and the worst popcorn ever made. Teenagers prowl the parking lots, hormones tap-dancing in their brainpans like popcorn. If you get bored with the movie you look at the sky; we were lucky enough this weekend to have a good thunderstorm in the distance to watch. If you get bored with the sky you watch the people. If you get bored with people watching, well, you're jaded beyond hope. Seek professional help.

The movie was Wall-e, a suprisingly good flick (you don't often see post-apocalyptic dystopia from Disney) until it remembers it's a Hollywood kid's movie and settles into requisite plucky-underdogs-band-together-and-save-the-day mode. Gotta send the kids home with a smile, right? I'm not complaining. I had a great time.

They even gave out free Wall-e watches, which hearkens back to my days of visiting the drive-in, when they always gave out free stuff. My favorite: a pouch of "green blood" given to everyone before showing the spectacularly weird "The Abominable Dr. Phibes." There's no mention of green blood in the movie. No matter.


Gordo said...

Drive-ins are excellent places. For some time, I've been strangely proud of the fact that when drive-ins were being demolished all over the continent, the one here in Kingston added a second screen. :-)

I'm going to make a point of getting out to it more often. The kids love the midway, too. :-)

meno said...

Interesting how a movie about the dangers of garbage would give out free things, that will become garbage.

That movie made me want to get out and exercise.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I'm so jealous. Drive ins? Are you in heaven?

Daisy said...

One of the things I have always loved about drive-ins is the thrill I get from the sense that even if I'm just driving by, I get to see a little bit of the movie for free!

Viva Zapata, Great Gatsby, The Russians are Coming, various Disney movies.... all seen from the station wagon, before falling asleep in the back...

Maggie said...

i love drive-ins but rarely go. we have one here. my son took two friends last year (with hubby of course) for his birthday. i hope we can make it this year with the whole family.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


Thank God these are still around, even in small numbers, to be enjoyed, and the rituals taught to up and coming generations.

Amen again.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Clowncar said...

Well, Gordo, ours doesn't have a midway, just a scruffy parking lot full of rusted poles (where the speakers used to be). I'm proud my town has one too. Used to have three.

Good point, Meno. And I suppose I'm being a little disingenuous; when they give out cheap movie tie-in toys at McDonald's I call it crass hyper-commercialism, when they do it at the drive-in, I call it nostalgia.

Mona, it's not heaven, it's Colorado. and at 100 degrees it doesn't feel too heavenly tody.

Quite the list, Daisy. You wouldn't think The Great Gatsby would be a big hit among the drive-in crowd. Though I saw 2001 at a drive-in, so who knows? Perhaps I should give the drive-in crowd a little more credit.

Maggie, the downside to family night at the drive-in is no one gets to bed before midnight, so everyone is tired and crabby the next morning. In our house anyway. But you should go.

Amen indeed, Scarlett. The good news is if they survived this long, they'll probably continue to do so.