That mid-winter night I dreamt I went to the Princeton Garden Theatre again. But things were not the same. I could not enter. The lobby was empty, dark. I looked up at the marquee. Blank. But then its shape shifted.
It was not one marquee but dozens, one dissolving slowly into another. And I recognized the many Manhattan art houses I had frequented throughout high school, college, and beyond. Uptown, downtown, all around the town.
St. Marks Cinema — Bergman triple bills, for $1.00! Waverly Theater — RHPS how many times? Greenwich. Bleecker St. Cinema — hours of cappuccino and movie talk afterwards. Eighth St. Playhouse. Cinema Village. Anthology Film Archives. Quad. Elgin — seat selection of utmost importance or your butt would hit the floor. Film Forum. D.W. Griffith. Plaza. Paris. 55th St. Playhouse. 5th Avenue Cinema--that visually stunning X-rated Scandinavian tale of doomed love! Festival. Fine Arts. Thalia. New Yorker. 68th St. Playhouse. Sunshine.
And I realized I had outlasted most of them.
With that the montage froze, then returned to the blank Garden Theatre marquee. My eyes were drawn to a glow coming from the exit. I stepped closer and familiar sights and sounds poured out the door and swirled around me.
Not so reassuring at the start:
This is no dream — it’s really happening!
Ah, youthful enthusiasm:
1954. You don’t get years like that anymore.
Really, no introduction needed:
We rob banks.
Lots of drama, lots of laughs:
All I wanna do is go the distance.
Hey, I’m walkin’ here. I’m walkin’ here!
I am God’s lonely man.
I detest cheap sentiment.
I am angry nearly every day of my life.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.
I’m going home, wherever that is.
There was Judy and more Judy:
My! People come and go so quickly here!
Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.
There was dazzle:
Divine decadence darling!
There was biting banter:
He: I thought we agreed before we were married that we weren’t going to have any children.
She: And before we were married we didn’t have any children.
Followed by a memorable retort:
We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces.
Sometimes just a phrase hit the spot:
Laughs kept coming:
I’m in pain and I’m wet and I’m still hysterical!
Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
There were season’s greetings:
What shall we hang, the holly or each other?
You’ll shoot your eye out!
There was genuine, aching, youthful longing:
If I get to University I’m going to read what I want and listen to what I want, and I’m going to look at paintings and watch French films and I’m going to talk to people who know lots about lots.
Then things turned very dark, sometimes subtitled:
I met Death today. We played chess.
We played with life and lost.
I wish I knew how to quit you.
Nothing’s really been right since Sam the Lion died.
Tears welled up on that last line. And just like that the images went silent, turned misty, and floated through the entry.
I followed but again the door was locked, the lobby empty, dark.
Come back. Come back, I pleaded. Then realized this was pillow talk.
Perchaluk lives in Lawrenceville. He writes, “You can take the movie-mad boy out of New York, but you can’t keep him out of the movie house.”