Giving Thanks for a Belated Dissipated Youth

by LF (12/97)

I owe my mother a lot. Aside from carrying me in her gut for a nausea-inducing nine months, she also found me an incredibly cool job in a local paper. I never mention the first thing as it is too creepy to contemplate. But it has been hard to find the words to thank her for the second favor, which consisted of her spotting a classified ad from the Twin Cinemas right after I hit seventeen years of age. At the time I was a Dish Machine Operator at a chain restaurant that still had the balls to call itself Sambo's, a steaming pile of a job which blew worse than than the establishment's name can even begin to indicate.

I managed to suck up appropriately to the sodden drunk then working as the assistant manager at the theater -- who was eventually busted for fondling his stepdaughter -- and then passed a two-minute Q&A with the owner, who looked like a stand-in for Christopher Lee from the old British Hammer studio Dracula movies. Best yet, I fit into one of his pitiful collection of green usher suits (with gold stripes on the pant-legs straight out of a 1950's flick concerning hard-up crooner wanna-be's), so I was farting through silk.

As a result I began working a cake gig at a movie house when I was still an incredibly repressed ex-Catholic fool, managing to hit the theater at exactly the right time to be knocked out of what was shaping up to be an eventual utter geekhood. There was a crowd of characters who worked overtime to bring me on board. Suddenly I was amongst folks who actually had sex, did drugs, got liquored-up, and ran from the cops when they gave chase.

Due to their influence I started smoking pot, drinking heavily, and hanging out with (and occasionally dating) sleazy broads who would've given my old lady da palpamatations. I was still pretty much a wuss, but after only a few months I had stories to tell, and gained experiences that prepped me for an extended self-destructive streak that has lasted to this day.

Most of the guys went to Elyria Catholic High School, a haven for the depraved. Dave was the first hardcore gun nut I ever met. Andy occasionally sacked out on the piles of bagged pre-popped popcorn we kept behind Screen #2 in preparation for legendary physical confrontations with assholes all over Northeastern Ohio. Tom worshipped Enki Bilal and Guido Crepax, knew how to play a harpsichord, and was rumored to drop acid before sneaking out into the back hallway to commune with himself. Another Dave shaved his legs in spiral patterns, longed to be a ski-lift operator in Colorado (an ambition he eventually achieved), and somehow managed to rig up a coat hanger wire to replace the busted-off antenna on his ancient luxo-sedan, which then unspooled lopsidedly every time he fired the beast up.

Then there were the women. At the time I dropped in, most of the concession-stand babes were just over twenty-one, and happily served as the primary booze conduits for the ushers. In addition to being good looking, they were a welcome laid-back relief from the high school broads I was sick of being dissed by. And they were all as nice as hell. One of them actually went out with me to a double-feature consisting of Mother's Day and Motel Hell, two scuzzy classics of the Slasher-flick era. (That wonderful experience gave me the bright idea of taking my erstwhile prom bitch to see Dawn of the Dead at another mall theater in Avon Lake, which did not work out quite as well.)

Then everything began going to shit. It started when the boss hired Linda.

Linda was one huge horse of a cow who wore her white-trash credentials like a halo. That in itself did not bother me, but she also insisted on sharing her man-related tribulations with anyone and everyone within earshot. Normally I refuse to listen to that kind of crap, but her stories resembled the ones from sad old ex-steelworkers and other assorted grunts I picked up as a kid while accompanying my father on his illicit forays to bars -- astounding condensations of ongoing train-wrecks of lives knocked down to the length of a few Duke drafts.

Most of the Cinema's employees were in their teens or early twenties. Linda was already thumping on the ass-end of her fourth decade. Aging trailer-slut seldom wears well.

She told us all that she dumped her last old man because he beat her. She got some mileage out of this factoid for about three months before she met a new dude. Care to guess how? She was at some shithole dive one night, and a couple of the guys arranged around the bar's TV had a set-to concerning what channel should be on. This tubby but muscular little biker fella invited two of the boys out to the parking lot, and proceeded to dust them up.

She promptly fell in love with the inflicter. What a man!

It didn't take her too long to get knocked up. About six months later she officially became Mrs. Lumpy. Especially around the head, neck, and forearms, that we could see.

As far as work went, Linda stayed a constant through the usual waves of school-dictated employee turnover. She reached her professional peak when she was promoted to Manager of the Candy Stand, and also informally became the owner's most trusted sidekick. I'd guess that she managed to bamboozle the old bastard largely through her extended tales of woe, which served as teary-eyed substitutes for good sense. He stopped hiring youngsters on her advice, and began to bring in more aged freaks for jobs that payed at best a few dimes over minimum wage. I worked there for one more season while studying (and saving up money) at a local community college, and found myself mostly surrounded by easily-manipulated older losers.

That translated into no more keg parties on the roof. And no more haphazardly-arranged private screenings of porno at 3am. Et-fucking-cetera.

It was just not the same place.

Up the spout