Jul 4, 2023

I Am Serious... And Don't Call Me Shirley

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
This probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, or even those of you who just happened to stumble across this blog one day and keep coming back, but I have a weird brain.  One of the many ways that it behaves in a manner I don't understand is in what it chooses to encode as an everlasting memory.  This is a little hard for me to explain so bear with me.

Sometimes, I'll find myself in a time and place that feels especially vivid to me for no good reason.  When this happens, the world around me takes on an almost dreamlike quality and I feel happy and totally alert, but also calm and at peace.  It's not like this happens at especially important or meaningful moments in my life, and it doesn't last for more than a few minutes.  It just kind of sneaks up on me randomly, and when it does, whatever I was doing in that moment is cemented into my brain in a way that few other memories can match.

This does not happen to me very often; perhaps once a year at most.  I wish it happened more often than it does.  Hell, I wish I could take a pill that made my entire life feel like it does in those moments.  It's not something I can predict or plan for, and I don't see it coming in advance, but I always recognize it when it's happening.  The most recent time was during intermission at Night Two of Camp Blood VIII at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  I wrote about this earlier this year, but in a different context because when I am in a moment like this, whatever things I was experiencing at that time tend to become fused together in my mind.  I can't think of one without thinking of the other.

One of those moments happened on Christmas night when I was a teenager.  I'm pretty sure it was 1995 because I was living at my grandparents house in West Hazleton.  It was pretty late at night.  We had already eaten dinner and exchanged presents earlier in the day and, for all intent and purposes, Christmas was over for another year.

Two of the presents that my grandparents gave me that year were the movie Airplane, and a tape called Abbott & Costello: Volume One which began with the Who's On First skit.  I was alone in my bedroom at the top of the stairs, sitting in the recliner that I still have in my house today, and I watched both tapes.  That surreal feeling that I did a really poor job of explaining washed over me, and that moment has been burned into my memory ever since.

There's no reason that I can think of for this to be an especially strong memory, but it is.  I can close my eyes and picture every last detail.  One of the other side effects is that the movie Airplane and this particular collection of Abbott & Costello skits have become paired in my mind, to the point where I can't think of one without the other (click here for a longer, but equally inadequate explanation of what I'm talking about).  In recent years, I've started watching these two tapes as a double feature during the holiday season to try to recapture that feeling, like a junkie chasing a high.  It doesn't work, but it's still a pleasant experience.

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Airplane would still be a bucket list screening for me even if I didn't have a bizarre psychological phenomenon associated with it.  It's one of the funnest movies that I've ever seen.  I can't remember when I saw it for the first time (although I know that it was before Christmas 1995), but since it premiered in theaters worldwide when I was literally one day old, I never got to see it in theaters... until tonight.

Every night that I spend at the Mahoning is nice, but tonight was especially pleasant.  We were parked in the front row between our friends.  Gene and his son Ben were to our left, and Kate and Mike were to our right.  The sky was a little cloudy, but none of them seemed to be blocking the sun so it was pretty hot, but we all set up our camping chairs and sat around talking for a few hours while the sun went down.  Sometimes the conversation was deep, and sometimes it was just fun and silly, but regardless of the tone, it was always very pleasant.  I don't make friends very easily, so the fact that I've met so many good people on this lot whose company I enjoy and who seem to enjoy mine is something that I appreciate very much.

Gene hopped in the projection booth to give a presentation with ten fun facts about Independence Day before the trailer reel (he's a very funny and creative dude), and then we all kicked back and watched one of the greatest comedy films of all time.

My brain didn't kick into that other-worldly feeling that I tried to describe at the top of this post, but I still had a moment right before the start of the movie where I closed my eyes and reflected on how fortunate I am.  This is a good life, and I'm glad that I'm here to experience it.