Johnny America




Illustration of popcorn kernels.

I sing again the plea­sures of the so­lo mat­inée, of the sump­tu­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of watch­ing a movie alone — in a dark room filled with strangers — nib­bling pop­corn and sip­ping on a bev­er­age be­tween flur­ries of pho­tons from the sil­vered screen danc­ing on the jew­els of a the­ater full of faces, eye­balls and glass­es lens­es echo­ing blurred shades from the pro­ject­ed ac­tion back to the screen. 

Were I to stum­ble up­on a ring of in­vis­i­bil­i­ty, I would shoplift with im­puni­ty, shad­ow celebri­ties and low­ly strangers to watch the mun­dane hu­man­ness of their days and nights, and sneak in­to every movie at the mul­ti­plex. I would not fight crime. I’d be a rare pres­ence in Wall Street board lurk­ing for hot stock tips. I would most­ly watch Hol­ly­wood stars, di­rect­ly — and the movies they star in. Buy­ing an eight-dol­lar tick­et for a two‑o’clock show­ing is a bar­gain. In the dark of a so­lo mat­inée, you’re prac­ti­cal­ly invisible.

As the pan­dem­ic slows, but is per­haps re­con­sid­er­ing its de­cel­er­a­tion — con­sid­er­ing step­ping on the throt­tle again — two qui­et hours at an af­ter­noon mat­inée car­ries a pop­corn bucket’s worth of silent ques­tion mark with it: will we have to raise our masks again soon? Will the the­aters again shut­ter the snack bar? Or will we col­lec­tive­ly ac­qui­esce to in­her­ent risks of liv­ing with the un­vac­ci­nat­ed Bizarro-lib­ertines?  Too much to think about right now, the pre­views are rolling…

Filed under Commentary on July 23rd, 2021

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