The Last Picture Show

They’ve shuddered the old Hopkins, MN dollar theater. I’ve been thinking about that a lot for some reason. Is it significant? Sort of…not really. Our pennies just weren’t enough to get it through another soul-crushing wave of the Pandemic. So I’ve been trying to conjure up memories to give it a fitting tribute and not getting much of anywhere. The only relevant memory I can think of is seeing Moana there when my son was 3 and my daughter was 6. This was the first time I’d ever tried to bring two kids to a movie by myself. My daughter was completely enraptured by the giant screen as was most of the packed house crammed with moon-eyed toddlers. My son was on my lap and I was absolutely petrified that he was going to shit his pants. It was so packed we had to sit in row 2 and my neck was stiff as a board. Never has a Disney film lasted so long. Every peppy Hawaiian song an orchestra of sheer torture. But guess what? I did it! Rarely have I felt such accomplishment.

That feeling of accomplishment is so fleeting these days. I’m always pondering impossible scenarios to motivate myself. What if if I spent 20 years feeding my brain instead of killing it? Can I ever dry out enough to get back to where I was at 17? I think about that a lot. A complete factory reset. What would I change? I think it’s safe to say I’d certainly be in a very different spot. “You must be grateful!”, I quixotically exclaim to myself. Grateful, yet curious in life. Or is it curiously grateful? And how much is enough? Most days I’m getting by on nothing but fumes. I’m constantly worrying that if I make fun of someone or something then that same fate will automatically fall upon me. If you look at the jumbled timeline of my life’s events, this is exactly what has played out. So I should be able to take what I dish out like a man. I guess that in itself it progress in some ways…now I give too much of a shit vs. not enough. Yay me.

One time long ago I drank all day long and shit my pants. I think it was 1996. I was wearing a Cheerios shirt. What if I had those brain cells back? Would it matter? Would I be farther ahead in life?

I remember seeing Chasing Amy in the Hopkins dollar theater. It might have been the first time I ever went there. 1997ish? Who knows. I remember thinking the movie’s sole reason for being was the most profound and interesting thing in the world… mind-blowing even. Lesbians! I was 22. I was a moron. Profoundly moronic? As naïve and glassy-eyed as the goateed Affleck and the smirking goofus Jason Lee. This little Kevin Smith movie opened me up damn it! Nowadays, a guy I called Jeff at work for 10 years identifies as a woman named Natalie and I feel like a schmuck every time I accidentally say “good job dude” or “thanks man”. Ok, so not much has changed. I’m still a bumbling hick from Winona, MN despite spending the better part of two and a half decades in and around Minneapolis. Me and my caveman “woke” movie Chasing Amy, pondering big life questions about exotic relationships while in the same movie a character calls the Hartford Whalers “a bunch of faggots.”

Times certainly have changed for Kevin Smith though haven’t they? Near death from a heart attack, an all potato diet (I tried this, it sucks) and opening up a pop up Mooby’s in The Depot bar attached to First Avenue. Remember when we thought this guy might be one of the “voices of a generation”? I remember walking out of Chasing Amy thinking…”Damn…Kevin Smith actually has SOMETHING TO SAY?” And hell, Dogma was ignorant and silly but it did ponder some interesting questions about faith and religion right? Then old Kev made Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back a few years later and it was just…over. I can barely stomach any of his movies anymore, but for that 5 year stretch (1994-1999) he was a king. He was 24 when he started that run and 29 when it ended. Kind of unbelievable when you think about it. What the hell did I do at that age? I can’t think of one thing of significance until I got married at 28. But I could have been any age when that happened….21…23…32. It’s mostly mush until I had kids. Even then I still did things like peeing in potted plants for sport. It went by so fast, my beautiful drunken haze. Christ what if I had applied myself to anything at all besides work and booze?

Sobriety is a deceptive sumbitch. At first you think the worst thing will be going to parties or places serving booze and having to explain “WHY” to a bunch of loud-mouthed jackals. But at some point the newness of sobriety wears off and any drinking buddies you have left are hauled kicking and screaming into this new you and your new alternate reality. Resistance is futile. But what happens when you’re past that feeling of letting somebody down who expected you to get rowdy and pass out in the bushes? What happens when it’s just another thing that happened and you’re over it. Much like “Finger Cuffs” was over it in Chasing Amy? You are just left to lament the time wasted. It’s just another thing you floated away from on the river of life. Yet to them it’s still the funniest, most fucked up shit ever…something to be told throughout the generations as legend.

What happens if movie theaters don’t exist anymore? Or parties. Or concerts. Fuck these one man concerts from a dude’s bedroom! A big useless nothing. In a movie theater you’re giving yourself up to something, for good or for ill. Once you sit down in the dark, you’re IN IT. There is no pause button, you are experiencing agony or ecstasy… or something in between. I NEED to experience something that doesn’t have a pause button besides my morning dump. Movie theaters need to exist. Just like sunshine and Alka-Seltzer.

I always thought if I quit going to Happy Hours, smoking heaters at work, going to rock concerts or opening night of a summer blockbuster film that I’d be missing out on something. I’d be shamefully omitting some important feeling, secret conversation or tiny nugget of information. In reality I could have been doing literally anything else and it could be considered more productive. I could have been learning some new craft or honing an existing one. Sure I learn lots of important lessons from movies, and live music is almost as dear to me as my children…but if I’m stoned or drunk and going out for a heater every 5 minutes I’m missing stuff there too. Either way I feel like Rip Van Winkle at least 60-70% of the time. It’s like all of a sudden a window to another dimension flew open and I’m looking down the barrel of being 45 years old. Wasn’t it just the other day I was 19?…or 28?…or 36? As Adam Sandler once stated so grandly: “What the Hell Happened to Me?”

Ever notice the background actors in the bar scene in Chasing Amy where Affleck first meets Joey Lauren Adams’ character? They are throwing darts (terribly I might add) at the camera while other characters are going in and out of the bathrooms behind them. Your basic bar scene – generic as hell. Except for one thing, the guys are going into the girls bathroom and the girls are going into the guys bathroom. I’m embarrassed to admit I have never noticed this.

In certain respects our laziness grows as we age. We cut corners because we have to get to the important stuff like kids, wives, jobs and car repairs. I’m willing to bet that cool, yet innocuous detail in Chasing Amy would have been missed had Smith made this film in his 40s. That’s why directors, musicians, artists and comedians mostly grow stale with age. It’s all those miniscule details here and there that add up to greatness. Before you know it you’re over 50 and you’re making pure dreck like the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Kevin Smith isn’t Kubrick, he’s one of us. That’s kind of fascinating in a way. We don’t sweat the details. “Who cares!” we bellow… we got all the important stuff done today. “Now I do what I want!” Which is usually nothing.

Is this why I’m always too tired to write, or go out looking for random shit to take pictures of, or watch a film that’s longer than 84 minutes in length, or exercise, or read, or masturbate, or learn how to sew? I get the important stuff done for the most part (work, kids, bills) so leave the extracurriculars to the god damn National Honor Society.

A beautiful social media life coach meme once said: Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted.

This is bullshit by the way. I’m building a time machine, right after I eat this protein bar. Maybe I’ve been too hard on myself. Guess I’ll always be Chasing Andy.

2 thoughts on “The Last Picture Show

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