Okay, I admit that the “thing” actually happened after the drive-in, but even I couldn’t bring myself to use “An Unfunny Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Drive-in” as the title for this blog entry. As usual, I ask that you please bear with me as I start somewhere near the beginning of the tale, and as I ramble my way toward and eventually beyond the event.
My wife and I both really like drive-in theaters! Probably I would even like regular theaters if they would let you bring in a supply of treats and a bottle of wine. But they don’t. The problem is finding a drive-in theater in this day and age. The Scottsdale 6 Drive-in is a sweet set-up on Salt-River Pima Maricopa Indian Community land in Arizona, but that is one heck of a drive from Albuquerque. Thus, when we feel the urge, we pack up the jeep and putter some 100 miles over to the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, which is home to the nearest functioning drive-in.
Sadly, a quick search reveals that the ghosts of 18 defunct drive-in theaters are all that remain within a radius of less than 85 miles from our house.
Although the Fort Union Drive-in only has a single screen, we find that it is quite adequate for our needs. The “Fort” (as I call it) is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings between May and September, and can accommodate up to 350 automobiles. Of course there are no speakers to hang from your window like when I was a kid. Today, the sound is broadcast locally and you can receive it on your FM radio. Luckily, the quality is still pretty random, so you can still feel like you are living in the 20th century every now and again.
The Fort charges $10 per vehicle- a bargain no matter what films are showing in my opinion. The locals flock to the Fort! It is quite interesting to see the cars, trucks, vans, and mobile homes pulled off on the shoulder of 7th Street (NM 518) as early as an hour prior to the opening of the gates. It is fun to arrive plenty early and grab a spot in the front row so you can watch people of all ages playing Frisbee, baseball, and running about in the grassy area directly in front of the corrugated tin screen as they await the arrival of dusk and the mandatory movie previews.
The movies we saw this Saturday evening included “Kicking and Screaming” and “Kung Fu Hustle.” “Kicking and Screaming” was about as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, even Mike Ditka’s intriguing performance wasn’t enough to justify releasing this reel of crap. If anyone attempts to convince you to see this “film,” I highly recommend that you make them drag you to the theater… well, kicking and screaming.
“Kung Fu Hustle” on the other hand is brilliant. It is also funny. I think it is in Chinese, so you’ll want to be sure to take your reading glasses when you see it. Don’t worry; I’m not going to blow this movie by revealing any of the plot. If you tend to avoid “violent” movies in general, I can assure you that this one IS violent, but in a unique and almost tasteful way (as opposed to say, “Sin City”). I would rate this film 4 of 5 Chinese throwing stars in spite of the subtitles and dearth of American product placements.
The second movie wrapped up around 11:00 pm. Instead of doing anything as foolish as even thinking about driving home, we drove the few miles to the historic district of Las Vegas to spend the evening at the Plaza Hotel.
I should note here that the hotel actually recommends patrons to park vehicles overnight in the nearby police station parking lot. Having grown up in a small town myself, I tend to scoff at such warnings, figuring they are really only trying to keep vehicles off the main square for aesthetic purposes. I mean, just how bad can crime be in a town like Las Vegas, New Mexico?
I would learn the answer to my own rhetorical question soon after checking out of the hotel the following morning.
VANDALS! How DARE they?!?
The hotel clerk was nice enough to phone the police for us. A cop responded quickly and seemed ashamed even though I was pretty certain that he wasn’t the responsible party. He took down our basic information and said that if we couldn’t get the paint off, to give him a call and he would file an official report. He couldn’t have been gone more than 15 minutes when he returned to inform us that there had been an arrest made the previous evening of kids who had been painting other vehicles throughout the town with the same color of paint. At that point he filed an official report and indicated that it probably wouldn’t be very difficult to get some restitution from them. That, my friends, is first-rate police work!
So it was off to the nearest car wash. Although we did manage to get the vast majority of the paint off the exterior, dashboard, and glass surfaces, it seems that the seats will prove very difficult to clean. Quite possibly, they never will be as they were. Who knows?
All things considered, we had a nice enough drive home along NM 3 through the gorgeous Villanueva State Park area. We pulled off the road to enjoy lunch alongside the raging Pecos River. Between handfuls of Bugles, I reflected on some of the stuff I pulled as a teenager. I guess looking at this “karmady” through the perspective of the robin’s egg blue-speckled rearview mirror on such an enchanting afternoon had me leaning towards not exerting tons of energy to teach the vandals any lessons. After all, nobody was hurt.
Ironically, another couple that was parked next to us at the drive-in had parked directly behind us at the hotel. They had checked out soon after us (and just prior to the deadline), and arrived at their car only to find the police car double parked next to it. The look of shock on their faces was funny as they realized that not a single speck of paint had landed on their car.
I guess that the moral here is that in the world of random happenings, open-topped jeeps provide better targets for young vandals than the average Honda Accord.
In sum, I would still highly recommend checking out the Fort Union Drive-in whenever you find yourself in the area or with enough time to spare to get there. Spend the night if you can. Do see “Kung Fu Hustle” (and see it on the big screen).