An August night in the seventies with no breeze or air conditioning. The thermometer still reads 88 just before sundown. A heat wave is not a great time to watch a movie outside. Too hot and heavy. It weighs on you.
There’s a lot of nothing going on in this section of the nearest city and this drive-in is like an active junk yard. Living room afghans have thrown up over the asphalt and a crowd of little kids are lucky enough to prevent injury one broken down swing set.
A camera finally reveals itself from the little cement house in the rear of the parking lot. Cartoon advertisements start to play on the mammoth screen behind an old warehouse. Dusk and the stifling haze make it hard to make-out the images. Night falls as the dancing popcorn and candy-shaped characters struggle for my attention.
Instead, I focus on the couple making out in the pick-up truck in front of us. The projector has back lit their every movement. Only one movie is playing but this scene makes it a double-feature. I am not sure what else they are doing but I decide it’s unfair that there is only two of them and 14 of us in one vehicle.
It’s 1979 but we arrived in a Ford Country Squire station wagon from the sixties. Our driver is my former babysitter that packed her sisters, me, and half the neighborhood into this vehicle for the bargain price of $4 a carload. I don’t know how there was any room left for their two garbage bags full of homemade popcorn.
This escapade was a celebration. That’s what I was told anyway. An event to mark entry into my teen years. I was naive but I knew it wasn’t necessarily for me, or about me. I was just an observer watching everyone else’s craziness.
In that way, the outdoor movie theatre was a relevant inauguration to my teenage years. I developed no passion for either of them. Nor was I was ever really present in the footage of my life. Both my teens and the drive-ins were dark pits.
In fact, my father’s tag name for the drive-ins was “The Passion Pit” and he never took the family there. I agreed with his terminology on that hot August night I turned 13. Nothing will ever change my opinion. It wasn’t on the reel but I saw that girls expression when she climbed out of the pick-up truck. It was real. It was too much weight for a young hot me to bear.