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Friday, July 16, 2010

Soup Chronicles: The Drive-In

  I had a dream last night that reminded me of something from the past. I have fond memories of the drive-in. Drive-in theatres used to be all over the place, and while I remember few of the movies played, the experiences are the sharpest of all of my memories from my youth. And I have no negative recollections here.

  The first time I can recall being at a drive-in stems back to when my grandmother lived in a bathroomless shack on Lake Simcoe. While everything is faded, I remember being snuck in along with my sister, granmother and dad. One of the Jaws movies opened and I had a new crossword book to entertain me before darkness took over. They had the cheesy intermission adverts for the snack shop, but those were ignored for my grandmother made bags of sweets that no market could replicate. My granny was into recycling long before everyone I knew, and sweets and nuts packaged in reused milk bags were something I looked forward to until she passed. I know that I was at the drive-in on previous occasions from stories of family members (apparently my pop took me to see the Exorcist when I was 3, but I fell asleep.) but this is the first that I remember.

   Fast forward a decade or so to the last time I was at one of these field parties with film. It was winter and I was 18. I was in Toronto and there were 4 of us crammed into a tin bodied Suzuki Sidekick. I was on a date with a lovely anarchist named Rebekah and a pair of her art-student pals. (Sorry that I don't remember your names, but I know you went to Ryerson Polytech) My date and I quietly cuddled under the blanket. The headlining flicks were some Creepshow thing with Jada Pinkett-Before-she-Became-A-Smith and Natural Born Killers. It wouldn't have mattered to a stripper and a kid who lived in a group home if they were playing Fried Green Tomatoes. It was an organic escape from reality and a vacation to the past.

  Corporate mega-cinemas and urban expansion have caused this amazing arena of pure fun to vanish along with the dusty fields that gave youthful joy a home. There used to be tens of thousands in North America and their numbers have dwindled. The Toronto 400  is now a commercial district, but due to a resurgence in nostalgia, the Barrie drive-in still features Dusk-to-dawn weekends. Despite attempts to remove them, drive-ins and old-school theatres still exist because some of us still fondly remember them and it is our duty to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy an experience to last a lifetime. These fantastic joints are out there- all you have to do is look. Take your girl, your kids, or your dog. Whether it is a recollection of a family member who shaped your life beyond death or you are simply curious, take your friends and pile into the biggest car you can find and go on a little trip. Sometimes the greatest escape is only a few miles away.

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