It felt like I was having an illicit affair. Several times a month, midweek, Id sneak off to a dark theater for a matinee with a friend. It became a wonderful ritual in a hectic world. We met at her home, got in her car and drove to our place.
That place was Carys art house theater, The Galaxy Cinema, which played documentaries, foreign films and independent movies such as The Descendants, A Separation, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. The lobby looked like an adult place, no bright lights and noisy games to attract teens and children. Unlike at other art houses, at the Galaxy we paid for our tickets inside, exchanging friendly banter with the staff. None of that receiving a ticket through a slot.
The concession stand sold regular movie fare along with Loco Pops, homemade cookies and brownies. Sometimes, my friend and I arrived so early we could hear the first round of popcorn popping. The wait staff woman knew us well; she knew we would get the $8 large popcorn and a large drink. Shed even split the drink for us, not something a corporate-owned movie palace would do. She knew to layer the butter all the way through the bag.
I was drawn to the quiet of the theater. No cellphones ringing or garish lights blinding me as people played with their devices. No loud people chomping in my ear. The few sitting in the seats were mainly middle-aged, retirees, respectful folks, serious about movie-watching.
At 50, I was probably one of the younger movie-goers. But since I was laid off, attending a matinee has become a cheap thrill. The $6 matinee whisked me away to a secret place where I could dream and relax for a few hours before being thrown back into the reality of searching for a job. In many ways, I couldnt afford to miss these precious moments of down time.
Going to the movies beckoned me midweek like a fever. There was something magical about the escape into a mostly empty theater. I always left feeling lighter in spirit. As my friend and I drove back to her house, we discussed characters like the amazing and resilient 6-year-old Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild. The sheer force of Hushpuppys personality fueled our conversations on the ride home and for weeks to come.
We couldnt forget, too, the scenes from Marley, the documentary of the great reggae singer and Jamaican activist Bob Marley, the delicate man searching for identity and trying to fashion a better place in his homeland.
I was normally home before rush hour, savoring the story Id experienced on the screen and my friends company. We both savor the small moments in life. We cherish character development and evolution the more complex the characters, often, the better the story.
We made our last pilgrimage to the Galaxy a couple of weeks ago to see The Master with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a disturbed World War II veteran adjusting to society with the help of a charismatic leader of a new philosophical movement.
We left that one a bit perplexed about the story, but we also recognized the complexities of the character Freddie, trying to embrace the world in the small ways he knew how. Whether we liked the movies or not, our experiences at the Galaxy always left us better for a glimpse of human failings.
So this week, with the Galaxy now closed, Im in mourning. I may sulk around in pajamas. Im sad the affair is over.