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{Straight From the Heart}   *A Night at the Movies*  1/23/01


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Straight From the Heart


By Irene Budzynski 

In this day and age of big name movie stars commanding multimillion dollar salaries, gossip magazines following their every move in the Hollywood hills, and throngs of fans imitating their dress (or undress) and bizarre lifestyles, I have a special place where I can retreat to see a movie the way movies ought to be seen.  Come out with me to the Country Cinema.

On Main Street in a little town in Connecticut is an old movie house which has seen better days, which can only be described as gently used.  The owners are an Albanian family who work hard to keep the cinema running.  Father maintains the property, taking pride in his skills as a mason, carpenter, plumber, and general superintendent.  Mama sweeps the sidewalks in the summer,  shovels snow in the winter, and vacuums the vast expanse of cabbage rose carpet in the lobby.  One or the other of their sons sells tickets or mans the snack counter.

The marquee on the sidewalk has been the victim of local pranksters, bringing up short the letters and numbers needed to advertise the current movies.  Tommy Lee Jones may be featured as Tommy Lee Jeans, but we know who it is.  Because they are missing some zeroes, one side of the marquee may note that the show starts at 7:00, but, if you walk around to the other side, the feature begins at 7:05.  It’s safer to be there at 6:55.  The movie doesn’t usually start at either time.  It rolls when the owner thinks there are enough patrons and everyone is seated.

It doesn’t matter how many folks are in line behind us.  When my husband and I walk through the French doors, the owner’s eyes light up, a huge grin buries his face, and he bellows, “How have you been?  I haven’t seen you lately. Great to see you!”  Handshakes and a brief rundown on our children’s lives precede any exchange of tickets and money.  The owner apologized when inflation forced the price to be increased to $4.00.  He had prided himself on the 99 cents which was the theater's hallmark. 

When we step up to the popcorn counter, it’s hard to believe that the fine young man before us is no longer the little boy who used to carry huge sacks of popcorn bigger than himself from the storage area to the butter machine.  He is now a successful professional who continues to come home from Boston on weekends to help his parents run the movies.  He, too, remembers us and acts as if we are the most important customers in the world.

Sometimes in the winter the heat doesn’t kick in until halfway through the first feature. One freezing February  night I wrapped myself in a quilt to barricade myself against the frosty air,  but after a couple of minutes of shivering  in the oversized rocking chair I was soon mesmerized by the Merchant & Ivory world on the silver screen and the temperature was forgotten.

There is no hanky panky allowed.  If rabblerousers start making a ruckus, calling out or running up & down the aisles,  the owner marches down the aisle, points his finger to the Exit door, and out they file.  No questions asked.  Everyone knows he means business and there’s an audible collective sigh of relief when he appears.  He knows the kids by name, so he can discuss their behavior with the parents the next time they come through his lobby.

You can see trouble brewing when the film starts to clickety-clack, shake up & down, and groan to a halt, sounding like a whale on a Jacques Cousteau documentary. The blank screen is our signal to make a bathroom break or run and get more candy.  It won’t take long for the film to be spliced and adjusted, and it’s a welcome pause during an especially scary movie.  No one stomps their feet or catcalls.  The regulars around here know the routine, and sometimes fondly refer to the moviehouse as Breakdown Cinema.

At the end of the movie the crowd filters through the lobby, past the posters of coming attractions (if you play your cards right & ask early enough, you can claim one for yourself when they are replaced), past the oldtimers sitting at the small round tables against the lobby walls where they sit and discuss the politics in the old country or read the daily newspaper.  We usually stay behind and read all the credits and film locations and walk outside with the owner as he shuts down the lights & locks the doors.  More handshakes and thank yous, and another night at the movies is over.

We walk, arm in arm, back to the car, discussing the finer points of the movie or laughing about the latest highjinx in the aisles. For two hours we have been transplanted to a time before “progress”, a time when we supported the small businessman, a time before takeovers.   I wouldn’t trade the grandest Sony Theater for my little country cinema for a year’s worth of free movies.   I love small-town America!

Irene Budzynski

Send Irene an email and let her know what you thought of her story!

Irene is a registered nurse living in Connecticut.  She's written stories on-line for the past year, and is grateful for the opportunity to share her work.
From: (cheese)

Greetings! I am working on a book to help people decide whether or not
they should be the caregiver of someone wishing to die at home. My adult
son and I cared for my 82-year-old husband as he died at home and we
have horrible memories. Not everyone should choose to do this and I want
to tell them why. Hopefully this will be a  positive book that shows taking
care of a dying person at home is not always the most loving thing to do
for them. No identities will be revealed and those whose contributions are used will receive a copy of the final work.
Thought For The Day:

"Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's
own sunshine." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Verse for the Day:

"A man's pride shall bring him low:  but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit."
Proverbs 29:23

Kid's Thought For The Day:

"Here's a king," announced our three year old as he unwrapped a figurine
from our Nativity scene.  "And here's a donkey," he added as he continued
unpacking.  Removing tissue from the statue of the infant molded permanently
in his manger, our son exclaimed, "Here's baby Jesus in his car seat!"

Parent's Thought For The Day:

"Mother's arms are made of kindness, and sweet sleep blesses the child who
lies therein." -- Victor Hugo

Coach's Thought For The Day:

"The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion."
--Jean-Claude Killy

Deep Thought For The Day:

"The Bible has a word to describe 'safe' sex: It's called marriage."

\_\  /  
/_/  \    "For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but
\_\/\ \   Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live for the Son
   \_\/   of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 

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