Sunday, April 5, 2009

Unfaded Memories

I remember the first time I saw The Thin Man. I had just got my job back that morning. To celebrate, I spent the afternoon pitching pennies. I won enough to buy a ticket to the theater near my brother-in-law's house where I rented a room. I sprawled out in the middle of a row, even winked at a girl a row behind me. First, the news reel about John Dillinger still being at large, the drought and dust storms, and Hitler's rise. A Betty Boop cartoon, and FINALLY the film. I laughed all the year's troubles away. Heck, we all did. I left the theater convinced all I needed was a snappy wit and a small dog to meet me a swell dame like Myrna Loy.

Well, okay. That's not exactly how it went. I love old movies: Bogart film noir, Fred Astaire musicals, or screwball Cary Grant comedies. My mind makes up a little fake me-history to go along with what I'm watching. I don't know why my brain does it, either. I'd understand it if they were memories of my OWN life, but "memories" of my grandparents' era? Is it to enjoy the movie even more, as if I could be in the original time at a theater when it was first released. Or, is it just a game to cull as much sickly-sweet nostalgia as I can from the movie?

When I hear old Benny Goodman tunes, I'll get sucked back to the days before going to war, the smokey dance hall with the tables shoved close together, yellow bulbs with tin shades hanging from the ceiling to light us, swirling-drunk dances, wringing one more happy memory to warm me through the winters Over There.

It's other people's schmaltz, but I loll in it all the same.

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