Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Utilitarian Clothing



Seeing the King’s Speech on Valentine’s Day was easy. It was mature, adult and didn’t require a lot of planning. We got a babysitter for the kid, I purchased the tickets beforehand and the obligatory flowers were picked up the day before at the farmer’s market.

Given 15 years of sharing the same bed, this wasn’t so bad and in the smallest form I could find ways to justify it as romantic. Because the babysitter expired at 9 pm, there would be no talk of after movie drinks or walking around Lake Merritt holding hands. This was good.

The King’s Speech was playing at the Piedmont theatre in Oakland, an art-house cinema where the employees dressed like waiters, read books in-between films and always asked you, “Do you want butter or Brewer’s Yeast on your popcorn.” Brewer’s Yeast is ok and I used to put it on everything when I was dirty and dogmatic, but I prefer my popcorn au natural, nowadays. Even though I’m picking on Brewer’s Yeast and the faux sophisticated atmosphere of the art house, it offers one thing that I can’t live without: No Fucking Teenagers. If teenagers are there, it’s North Oakland/Berkeley types that attend Head Royce, list The Beatles as their favorite band and dabble in veganism. The innocuous kind.

We were first to arrive. We got popcorn, a large soda and found aisle seats. Slowly, couples trickled in. As the theatre filled up, it became painfully aware that all the couples (no singles) had a lot in common. All appeared to be in their mid-50s, been married or together for 15 plus years and were dressed in utilitarian clothing: Patagonia, REI and North Face. With little to talk about, they patiently waited for the previews to begin. Going out on Valentines was a chore and even though they wanted to see the movie, they were put off by the obligation. In my striped socks and age inappropriate skinny cords, I was damn near subversive in this crowd.

A younger couple in the thirties took the seats in front of us. Even though the two aisle seats were open, they chose to scoot one in, sitting next to another couple. It’s always odd at the movies when someone chooses to sit next to you, even though they don’t have to.

The couple didn’t last long. They quickly moved over to the aisle seats and then down 2 rows and 3 seats in to the right and then back to the original seats, finally settling with the aisle seats again. Watching their indecision was exhausting and humorous. The guy saw me chuckling at them, but he was so intent on making Valentine’s Day works that he didn’t care. I felt empathy for him. Being a guy, I felt that she was calling the shots.

On the ride home, Alex and I talked about the movie. After exhausting how great Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Helena Bohman Carter were, we talked about the audience. I said to Alex, “The audience was so bland that I yearned for a few teenagers talking loudly on their cell phones.”

Like all things, I will forget the movie but remember how I felt about the audience.

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