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(click on photos to enlarge)
"Film Lover's Mecca"
Greater Los Angeles, CA >> Austin, TX
December 9, 2003 through January 20, 2004
Story by Debbie
MOVIES, AND HOW TO SEE THEM
We happened to hit town right during the end-of-the-year movie release extravaganza. You'd think that's a good thing, but I have concluded that Los Angeles is mecca for movie gourmands and movie gourmets alike, but it's hell on a gourmet movie gourmand like me. The gourmet stuff tends to play in limited theaters, sometimes only one, and they're not exactly all across the street from each other. So I spent an inordinate amount of time either in darkened (yes, darkened, as in NO HOUSE LIGHTS, are you listening Regal Cinemas chain?) theaters or traffic. Some of the stuff would eventually make its way to other cities, including Austin, but I didn't know if I'd be there at the right time. Oh, the pressure!
So I just went for it, using planning techniques that were probably more suited for the Pacific Theater than movie theaters. I also worked way outside the box, going so far as to use the subway! Yes, Los Angeles has a subway, but you'd be hard pressed to know it from their wretched website, which just uses "Metropolitan Transit Authority." Yeah, like anybody in their right mind would automatically associate Los Angeles with a mass transit website? Sheesh. You might get lucky and see Dodger Stadium mentioned in one of the annoying flashing pictures and conclude that this is transportation for Los Angeles, or you might squint and see the words "Los Angeles" in some little type in the "Metro Spotlight" section. But honestly, would it kill them to just have the words "Los Angeles" up there pretty big somewhere? (Heh--they evidently think Luddites aren't up to the task of gleaning which MTA this is--it says so right at the top of the text-only version of mta.net.)
But I digress. And I don't do video, so it's a big deal when I'm somewhere that shows classic movies on film that I otherwise wouldn't get to see. In Los Angeles, that included the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, which absolutely lived up to all the praise. The films were on three consecutive nights at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, which is about an hour from where we're living. I ended up making the commute to all three and even started recognizing some other repeat audience members; we tend to sit in the same seats for each screening. In fact, before the third movie, the introducer asked how many had been there for all three movies, and way over half the audience raised their hands. I just thought, "Friends!" I'm sure others would think, "Scary obsessive people," but fortunately I don't care.
And I managed to be in town for the tail end of a Leslie Cheung tribute film festival and got to see Inner Senses. God, I love it when things like that happen--we don't get Hong Kong movies in Austin any more, since the evil bastards at UT stopped showing movies on campus.
And finally, there was one more movie to be had before we hit the road--Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at the Cinerama Dome. Neither of us had read any of the Tolkein books or seen any of the previous installments, but we figured that we might as well give it a shot it if we can see it in a cool place. I was lost pretty much the entire movie, although Carey was able to understand good bits of it. It didn't matter--the spectacle was the show, and the Cinerama is an institution.
Before leaving this fair city, I will share one final movie moment.
I had a day where I saw four relatively mainstream movies at a multiplex, one right after the other. The final flick of the day was Cold Mountain--a long one.
It was in a theater with stadium seating, but all in one batch rather than a little
chunk in front, then a horizontal aisle, then the rest. I typically favor the last
row of the little chunk in front because I know NOBODY WILL BE KICKING MY DAMN SEAT.
But I don't sit there right off because I know how people love to group around me. So I always stand off to the side during the previews, carefully sizing up the crowd and planning my defensive seating. But there was no safe harbor in this theater, so I did second best and skipped a row in front of the most forward person, and sat in about the 5th row.
Poorly designed seats. Well, probably good if you're way up at the top and looking down, but that puff of upholstery behind one's head just doesn't really work when you're looking UP at the screen, which is how I think movies should be viewed, of course. But what do I know.
And the seat backs are REALLY high. I think you'd have to be 6'5" in order for your head to poke over the top at all. Admittedly, it would be nice not to see people's heads bobbing around or their manic hand movements stuffing popcorn in their mouths, but on the other hand, it's hard to look back behind you over the back of the seat to glare at any miscreants.
So I get all ensconced in my little nest, unsuccessfully trying to set adjacent arm rests so that they block the aisle lights. About 15 minutes into the movie (after 15 minutes of previews), I feel the clutches of doom encircling me--someone is walking down the row behind me. I know this because no matter how much leg room is ever granted in a theater, it is physically impossible for anyone, and I mean anyone, to walk down a row to a seat without jostling the rows on both sides of them.
Sure, it's annoying when the clown behind you in an airplane grabs the back of your seat to use to hoist himself up, and then to keep himself vertical when trying to get out, but those really do have no leg room, and I'd argue that it's better to pull on inanimate upholstery than to push on the actual chest of the person you're trying to get past. You physically CAN'T stand up vertical without some sort of assist.
But in movie theaters? No. I have no idea what these people are doing, but I have never once been surprised to find someone sitting behind me because their appearance is always accompanied by that most jarring WHAM from down the row.
Anyway, I feel the WHAM WHAM WHAM and these folks sit behind me, over about 2 seats. (That's another thing--why would someone CHOOSE to sit near someone else, and a stranger, to boot?)
Okay, I figure I'll wait for the first time they kick the back of my row and I'll fume, and then when it happens again, I'll just move foward one more row (and have to look up even higher). But first, we have yakking. Lots of yakking, in a normal voice.
So I lean over and peer up get a look, and see that it's a man near me, next to a woman. The man is this Hollywood-looking doofus (no gold chain, but I think he just forgot it) about 60, with a woman who looks a bit younger. And I can clearly hear him saying, "Why are you crying?" pause "Why are you crying?" And sure enough, I can see light flickering off the tears rolling down her cheeks. She's really crying. And it can't be the movie--they just got there.
I could tell that either he was going to keep asking her, or worse, she would answer and they would start discussing it, so I stood up and walked over to right in front of him, leaned on the seatback (not that standing between him and screen would necessarily get his attention) and said, "Can you please be quiet?" He looked right at me and said, "Can you kiss my ass?" I looked right at him and [lamely, I'll admit] said, "No." He responded, "Well then."
I returned to my lair, just in time for the most godawful loud Civil War battle scene ever on the silver screen. So tragically, he was deprived of the opportunity that most people seize, which is to continue making a few comments, just to show ME that they can talk if they want, before eventually shutting up.
I did, however, get a hearty laugh-out-loud for myself, which had been WAITING since Bad Santa started several hours before.
This ranks right up there with the time I asked a guy if he could please be quiet, and he responded, "No." Hey, never hurts to ask, right? Unless they punch you or something. (It's only a matter of time.)
Okay, one more...I was at a movie in New York once, waiting for it to start. The man sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Did you know that's Dustin Hoffman sitting by you?" I looked past the empty seat next to me and sure enough, it was Dustin Hoffman. I replied with something like, "Well, what do you know." More accurately, "What do I care?" except starting about halfway through the movie (an admittedly very grim black and white Hungarian thing or something) Tootsie himself started frequently checking his watch, which had a backlight worthy of a search helicopter. And then he left before the movie ended. You'd think a guy with his pull could weasel the running time out of somebody and plan accordingly. But at least I was able to put a face with the rude behavior--always appreciated.
THE VOYAGE HOME
So we left Los Angeles to head back to Austin, where Carey had some work to do, having received an order for another simulator as a result of the successful teen driving pilot program.
Because we left on a Sunday, the traffic across Los Angeles (about 100 miles) wasn't too horrible, and we were making pretty good time, such that we could envision making Tucson and getting another meal at El Charro. (I told my friend Pam about El Charro, and she said, "We found it when we were in Tucson. Ate there twice." Seems to happen a lot.) Since it was Sunday night, we figured the downtown streets around El Charro would be relatively deserted and we wouldn't have too much trouble finding a parking place or three or four for our conveyance.
Well, except I wasn't all that sure where it was, so we had to do some exploring, which is always interesting in a very old town with skinny streets, in the dark. We took a few hits to the roof from tree limbs and couldn't back up when we saw the "No trucks over [some number of pounds, several tons under what we were]," but it's not like it was a bridge or something.
We eventually found the place, and only sort of got jammed up by a stop sign (which looms right at eye level) while trying to make what looked to be an easy turn. Got more great food, and leftovers, and hit the road again.
We'd seen an RV like ours parked in a vacant lot near that swank Voyager RV Resort we stayed at on the trip out. Hey, if they can do it, we can do it. Unless it's dark and you can't see where the fences are. And there are people on the road tailgating you.
We ended up parking along the road near that spot, and upon disembarking found about a half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts lying on the ground. Someone was expecting us!
Just parking and sleeping like that still makes me a little nervous, but it was late and we really were just going to catch some z's.
The next day, we made it to Van Horn and got MORE Mexican food at Chuy's, the little place that made John Madden famous. Or maybe, the other way around. Anyway, it was great to get somewhere early. That's something about I-10 out there--the towns are so far apart that you don't nickel-and-dime yourself into arriving somewhere after dark. You KNOW if it's going to be dark by the time you drive the 200 miles to the next town.
DESIGNING WITH DOT
One more stop before Austin--San Antonio, to see my friend Dot, who not coincidentally has a degree from UT in interior design. Carey and I have been vexing over re-doing the lambrequins (that's a "Dot" word--it's those decorative things that go around windows, like valances but on the sides, too) and were just frozen with indecision. We'd been hanging different fabrics as testers for a month now, and just couldn't decide. Knowing you have bad taste really does make life difficult.
So we had a short visit with Dot in the H-E-B parking lot near her house, and that girl swung into action upon seeing one of the fabric choices: "This fabric is beautiful, cover that and that and that, make the lambrequins straight not wavy, make a couple of pillows, always order a couple of extra yards over what you think you'll need, if it's seven, get ten, fabric supplies are weird and you never know if you'll be able to get more." Bing bang boom, all decided in about 15 seconds. She's a marvel.
Not only that, our drive back to Austin from San Antonio, which we always dread, was surreal. Almost no traffic, even though it was about 6:30. Cheap diesel at a place we happened to stop, super fast pumps, nobody waiting in line to pay with their company paperwork or whatever. And there wasn't even any traffic in Austin, and backing the moho into the parking lot behind Digital Vehicles was a piece of cake. Well, except for some kind soul who left a washer and dryer where we normally park. But they were easily moved, and once again we were back "home" near the dumpsters and abandoned appliances.
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