I fell in love with the movies at the Olmos Theater in San Antonio. In the mid-70’s, the Olmos was a grand dame that had seen better days. But she still offered glimpses of her former glory. As I remember it, the Olmos was a one-screen affair and pretty large. On Saturday afternoons and maybe more often, the screen showed the classics. Particularly in the summer, the air conditioning was a good enough reason to spend a couple of hours there in the late afternoon. Once the lights went down, I was transported to other times and places.
Most often I was at the Olmos as Matt Petersen’s sidekick. I would get lost in the plot, the images and the junior mints. After the movie Matt would tell me the backstory to the film, the literary allusions I had missed and other useful tidbits. Matt is one of the five smartest people I have ever known and definitely the most literate. But Matt wore his abilities lightly and had friends from the jocks to the cowboys to most of the other social strata at Douglas MacArthur High School. It did not hurt that his September birthday made him the first to drive and the first to legally purchase alcohol, but the friendships were sincere.
I tried to keep pace with Matt, cribbing on reviews of the classics before we saw them so I could discuss them knowledgeably afterwards, but eventually came to peace with the idea that it was more efficient to suck the knowledge out of him and regurgitate it out of his presence to others who might credit me with original thought. This strategy worked particularly well when we went our separate ways for college. A summer’s worth of analysis from Matt provided a years’ worth of impressing freshman girls who had a literary or artistic bent.
Matt was my best man, a role he took seriously and performed well, right down to providing the whiskey shots we took before walking out into the church. I was certain we would be best friends forever. One of my deep regrets in life is that we drifted apart. Not in the sense we ever lost our friendship, but he moved to Washington D.C. before there was Facebook or no-cost long distance; gradually we just stopped communicating. M’Lissa tracked him down on the occasion of my 40th birthday and we had a nice phone conversation but my lack of follow-up means we have not spoken in 14 years.
One of the reasons I let this happen is that I have always been certain that Matt and I could pick up right where we left off. Despite not having communicated for over a decade, I am still just as certain of that fact. If I am ever in D.C., I might just camp out at the American City Diner, where they show a different classic every night. My guess is that it would not be too long before I ran into Matt and he would indulge me again. M’Lissa knows me too well, but I bet when I got back home I could impress Kelsey and Kendall with my deep knowledge of The Treasure of Sierra Madre.