Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wanted Posters.

I just had a yard sale where I sold off a ton of my movie posters. (I have the leftovers posted for sale on craigslist.) I won't miss them, exactly, but I'll miss having them, if you know what I mean. It was cool to own them, but what the hell was I gonna do with them? Sure, all that blood in the Maniac poster would match the color scheme in the downstairs bathroom, but guests may have found it, ah, intimidating.

I started off my collecting in the early eighties, with posters bought or cadged from Plainview video stores. Some of the ones I have listed now were from that era, and were displayed on my bedroom walls: My Favorite Year, Eating Raoul, Heaven Help Us. Then, in one fell swoop, my collection grew enormously. One might even say criminally. Cuz, you know, I stole them.

This story--the way I tell it anyway--takes a circuitous route, which, you'll see, is only appropriate. Bear with me.

In 1986, the Old Country Twin movie theater in my home town closed down. It was a sad event, especially as it was the last of four theaters to shut down in just a few years. It was preceded in death by the Plainview Theater, the RKO Century Twin, and Morton Village. The Morton Village theater was my favorite because it was less than a ten-minute walk from my house, with the Old Country Twin a bit more of a hike (past the Plainview-Old Bethpage library, IHOP, and the Plainview Diner). But I was almost always up for a hike anyway.

As a teen, I had a penchant for roaming the streets of Plainview late at night. While my newly-licensed contemporaries were keen on driving everywhere they could, I put off getting my permit because I really just didn't care for driving. I still don't. If I could walk there, why wouldn't I? And if I couldn't, why would I go at all?

Walking around Plainview past midnight was almost a hobby. I loved that I could just walk out of my house and stroll down the middle of the street with no one else around. I'd see a blue glow flickering in some windows, darkness in most. Once, I stood for way too long below the second-floor windowshade silhouette of a woman (the top half of her anyway) moving strenuously to and fro, throwing back her head as if in ecstasy. I was transfixed and aroused and, although certain that I would be accosted at any moment as the adolescent pervert I was, not about to give up my prime viewing spot. Then I realized she was riding an exercise bike. I laughed to myself and moved along, perhaps untucking my shirt in an effort of concealment.

After my residential ramblings, I'd make my way to the Morton Village shopping center, a long strip mall on Old Country Road, and browse along the windows of the stores, some ever-changing, some the same as when I was small (and until even today). Nothing was open, of course, until I reached Dunkin' Donuts. Then I might get a chocolate chip muffin and head home.

If I was in the mood for a long jaunt, however, I could make my way down Plainview Road to Waldbaums, the only 24 hour supermarket in the area at the time. More often, I'd continue down Washington Avenue, toward my old school, St. Pius X, but I'd stop before reaching it and instead stray into the woods at Plainview Park. It was risky--who knew what manner of drug-addled Kennedy High School ne'er-do-wells might be toking up in the seclusion of the water tower area? Might be the next Ricky Kasso! But in fact it was usually just me up there, staggering soberly through unpathed suburban forestry with only my thoughts, the moon and sometimes a light, unexpected rain rattling the leaves above me.

There was one major reason I loved late-night wandering so much: a recurring dream of my childhood. I was always intrigued by the world of adults which mysteriously continued without me as I was shuttled off to bed. I often ventured downstairs at what felt to me like the wee hours, probably closer to eleven o'clock, to see just what the heck was going on. Usually it was just TV watching, but sometimes there were people I didn't know visiting, and those programs on the television seemed like they were not meant to be viewed by us little people. Hmmm.

In this dream I walked the streets so familiar to me, but in the dead of night. But the night was not dead; it was quite animated, or more accurately, populated. The stores were all open, with friends and neighbors walking the streets with me, and not a car was in sight. Perhaps it was a premonition of sorts, a foreshadowing of our world today, where business hours have become less typical, and many people are not constrained (comfortably or otherwise) by nine-to-five conventions.

Soon enough I learned that our burgeoning 24/7 world was not exactly what I had dreamed about, and that the mysteries of the adult world, once unravelled, tended to be disappointingly mundane. As I've said before, I always liked learning more than I liked what I learned.

But anyway, in 1986, when my quiet a.m. meanderings still thrilled and inspired, I made my way to that recently-shuttered Old Country Twin and circled it, looking out back by the dumpsters for mementos. Finding none, I went to a back service door--the kind without handles--and, digging my fingertips between the door and jamb, I was amazed to find that I could pry the door open. I stepped inside, and soon was wandering through the aisles I had excitedly clambered down in near-blindness so many times. I crept behind the popcorn counter and then found the pitch-black way upstairs to the projectionist's booth. Spooked, I instead doubled back to the way I came in, carefully closed the door (making certain that I could still open it) and went home.

I don't remember if I came back that night or another, but return I did, with a hammer, screwdriver and flashlight. It was around one in the morning, and I prayed that no cruising cops would find me suspicious on this night of all nights, on the prowl with the tools and intention of B & E. I again pried my way into the theater and headed straight for the upstairs.

It was better than I ever would have imagined it. The first thing I pulled from storage was an enormous box containing... holy crap, hundreds of movie posters! I sorted through them for at least an hour with utter delight, sneezing and wheezing from the thick layer of dust on everything. I can't even remember if I took all of them, or if I picked and chose; I think I pretty much swiped the lot. So now I had a giant box of posters to tote a good mile or so home in the middle of the night. Fortunately, they were folded for easier carrying (although, aesthetically, I'd have preferred them rolled).

I began looking through the rest of the booth, and discovered there were reels of film still laying around. I wanted those too, but there was no way I'd be able to carry all that stuff, so I left them. I did look at the first few frames of one reel, and I wish I hadn't. To this day I regret the decision to leave it behind. It was the trailer for Star Wars. (I mean, yeah, what the hell was I gonna do with it, but still!)

So there I am, lugging a giant cardboard box of purloined posters down the main drag of Plainview at three a.m. As my arms cramped and my back ached, I formulated a story to offer any curious cops: This? Oh, it's a generous gift from a friend, uh, somewhere nearby. (Nah, no cop could be that dumb.) Uh, these were out in the trash behind the theater--I swear I never went inside or anything! (Yeah, that'll work.) Uhright, the imaginary officer then mused in his inevitable Long Islandese, but den whattuh tha screwdrivuh an' flashlight faw?

I stopped midway home and ditched my incriminating tools into the bushes out front of Dunkin' Donuts, which, miraculously, hadn't a single police car in the parking lot. But as one may have been arriving at any second, I continued on, hustling shadily down side streets and finally arriving home, sweaty with triumph and my ill-gotten gains.

After sneaking upstairs past slumbering family to my bedroom, I looked over my plunder with pride. I had things to do that morning, but I was too excited with illicit joy to sleep. So instead I carefully rolled, labelled and cataloged the entire lot of posters, again and again stifling vigorous sneezes. Then, well after unwelcome daylight had intruded into my bedroom, I at last slept the satisfying sleep of one who had gotten away with it. And this, at very long last, is my confession, worthless in its lack of remorse and the limitation of statute.

I really liked having those posters, but I like having this story better.


Blogger MO'SH said...

Hi, I'm looking for a poster from "Best Defense." Can you assist me?

Sun Jun 17, 07:54:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was you!??? Asshole!

Mon Jun 18, 12:42:00 PM 2007  

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