Of Popcorn and Hot Dogs

As I travel around the sun, I have found a few things that make me simply delirious with pleasure. Get your minds out of the gutter, this isn’t that sort of blog. No, today I speak of a very hedonistic pleasure that I rediscovered only last night.

In high school and college, I led a relatively tame existence, and one of my very great pleasures included a trip to the then-titled Cinema and Drafthouse. For $1, then $2 (inflation), I could get in to watch movies about three days before they disappeared off the face of the planet, only to reappear almost a year later on VHS (reasonably priced at roughly $50 back then- after all, technology costs money, right (-; ?) Once inside, we could get a basket of popcorn dripping with wildly unhealthy “butter” for about $2.50 and gladly suffer through dirty movie prints so worn that the splices not only made themselves glaringly apparent but, in more than one case, rearranged the movie’s storyline so as to make it interesting. No matter, I LOVED the place.

Alas, time marched on and I got better part time jobs, which led me to movieplexes where I would pay four and five times that amount for admission (I think it costs about $8 now). But last night we headed back to the Drafthouse (now called the Clearwater Cinema Cafe) to see, for about the 5th time, Cars. What a wonderful film.

Back in the day, I knew whoever worked the box office and thus rarely paid the dollar or two to get in. When I realized that admission had skyrocketed to $6.50, I steeled myself for a more mainstream movie experience, replete with pre-popped corn and some soybean-type faux butter, flash frozen chicken wings, and a “modernized” moviegoing “experience”. I wanted, nay, CRAVED, the subpar food and vinyl wheely chairs, bad movie print, and crusty, I-could-care-less-if-you-ever-eat waitresses. I did not want chipper, peppy waitresses, “heart healthy” food, and expensive chairs, but I realized that was what would most likely await me.

Happily, I was disappointed. This place has the same dirty gray carpet and grey vinyl chairs I remember. The popcorn? In a word, butter nirvana (ok, that’s two words). The movie didn’t really fit on the screen (although it seemed fairly high quality), and the speakers looked like these guys assembled whatever AC/DC didn’t need anymore and had thus sold on eBay. The waitress annoyed me, brought out half of the wrong order, and took forever to bring out our drinks.

I loved it. I felt like I was back in high school and it would not have shocked me to see Chad working the box office (looks like he’s moved on, though). I’m not even sure this place has changed the menu; I ordered the same hot dog and got it on the same hoagie roll as I used to. The food was so bad it was good, and as I sat there licking the “butter” off my fingers, contemplating what cholesterol-lowering drug would work best for me, I realized that the Cinema and Drafthouse makes me happy. They have resisted change, modernization, and selling out. I enjoyed sitting there with my fried food fest more now than I did at 17; perhaps because it reminded me so much of BEING 17. The “Cinema Cafe” is a simple, wonderful, funky thing. Being there makes me smile.

That’s not as sad as it sounds; it’s the simple pleasures that make the circle ’round the sun worth the trip.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.