One of my favorite memories from youth was watching movies with the family in our basement. We had one of the very first big screen TVs down there. That thing had a separate five foot high screen and a huge glassed topped box for projecting the image. Nowadays you can get a far superior projector and actually lift it all by yourself. Ours was a beautiful piece of furniture though…two pieces actually. It had three distinct beams of light for red, blue and green. You really had to line that sucker up just right with the screen or risk distorting the image. I think the TV had to have been a Zenith. We used to get all kinds of stuff made by that company. My grandfather sold Zenith products at his store, where he also repaired TVs and other electronics.
My grandfather or Pepére as we called him, could build or fix anything. I’m fairly certain that my love of TVs and technology came from him. It was so much fun hanging out in his store when I was little.
I remember playing in and around all the TVs, radios and record players. Even cooler than that was getting to watch him fiddle with all sorts of projects in the workshop he had in his own basement. There was also a pool table and a bar down there. Not that I drank back then…just early preparation for later on. Best of all was the little piece of technology he had in the living room upstairs. There was a mirror on the wall which would slide open and reveal a TV at the push of a button. It was awesome.
Is it any wonder that I always have to buy the latest and coolest gadgets? He loved to call them gadgets. I really wish he was still around to help me build the home theater I have planned for my basement. I believe if he was, the project would have at least gotten underway by now if not completely finished.
Back to movie nights…I distinctly remember waiting for my parents to get home and hoping that they selected something good to watch. I don’t recall which of them went to the store and picked them out, though. This was in the great era of VHS, fresh off its triumph over Betamax tapes. There were local and independently owned rental stores everywhere. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were still nothing but hazy dreams in the minds of David Cook and Mark Wattles. I managed a Hollywood Video for a time, but that’s a story for another day. Be kind, please rewind…
On many of those movie nights we had a couple to choose from. I think I even got to vote on occasion for which one we’d watch. So, we would sit in the shag carpeted and heavily paneled basement comfortably watching something we never got the chance to see in the theaters. I’m pretty sure Pepére was the one that finished the basement for us. It was great because it was one of the few things we got to do as a family without all the distractions of the real world.
The best part was speculating on which point of the film my father would suddenly pause the movie and yell out, “popcorn??” Do I want popcorn? Oh hell yeah I do…always at “intermission” and not before. Save all the half popped kernels for me. If I could only figure out how to make a whole bowl of those.
There were so many great movies too. For some reason “The Right Stuff” stands out for me. A long movie, but great all the way through. I chewed Beeman’s gum throughout high school because of Chuck Yeager in that film. “Out of Africa” also left a mark, but for the opposite reason. Boring.
It never really mattered though, because just being there as a family was all I cared about. When I would see something I thought was really good or funny, I couldn’t resist looking around at everyone else to catch their reaction. I seem to get almost as much enjoyment from seeing people around me having a good time as I do from the movie itself.
Fast forward to today (see what I did?)… I’m trying to keep the movie watching tradition going in my family. My children are not quite old enough yet for movie “night”. This is why I watch things such as “Sing”, “Frozen” and “Moana”. This is also why I’ve watched “Polar Express” close to one thousand times so far and at least seven times this year already. It’s easily my favorite movie to watch with the family. I’ll have more on the magic of that film sometime after Thanksgiving.
For now I suggest you gather everyone up, fire up the DVD/Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Fire Stick, whatever you use and watch something good (or bad) together. Don’t forget to choose your moment and go for the popcorn!