Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Way It Used To Was

Saturday afternoon. We’d come in anytime. Who had watches? There were two movies, a serial, Looney-Tunes, RKO Pathe News, a Pete Smith Special, previews, a sing-along and the March of Dimes collection box. Five hours.

The guy from the other side of the tracks got the girl next door. The schoolyard bully did a stretch up the river while the smarmy class prez went from the D.A.’s office to the Governor’s mansion until a cub reporter got a scoop that he threw his wife down the stairs and the big time lawyer fell while the newspaperman rose and the world was set to rights.

Having been suckled on matinees we had movie-smarts. We could tell the suave double-crosser from the honest sucker by his mustache alone. And when we were ready for the mean streets, just a bit unprepared for the grit and grime we remembered what Tarzan said to Jane, It’s a jungle out there, and that’s when our skin grew its necessary fur.

If the Shadow knew what lurked in the hearts of men who knew what lurked in the heart of the Shadow? Did he have a double life? Was he a mad scientist in his subterranean garage? Not likely.

The villain operated out of an abandoned warehouse on the other side of town. One day the place would be surrounded by incorruptible police and the chief would shout for him to come out with his hands up. If he shot his way out the good cop would simply nurse a flesh wound while Pat O’Brien would appear to give the nut case his last rights.

It was a tidy world. Even second bananas knew who they were. They taught us about the unattainable. If there was an object of desire to be had these were the one’s who never quite got it. There was usually a fellow with glasses who ended up with the second banana(ette). She was crazy about him anyway. How nice when seconds marry seconds, the rule of bananas.

It’s a good thing we don’t get to see the movie of our life before we live it, or even the coming attractions. Then we would know our place by the billing alone and the rest of it wouldn’t be the worth the price of admission.

We got weary as the plot finally caught up to what we already knew. This is where we came in, somebody mumbled. When we left the theatre we almost believed that life made sense. Look how the middle always connected the beginning to the end.

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