Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.

As you may know, I try to start every post with some (potentially) relevant anecdote to the film I'm about to 'review'. I do this as a way for my kids to have a window into their father's life in case I'm not around to tell them myself. But when I look back at most of those tales, I see silly stories from a life played very safe. Perhaps, overly so. I'm that guy in the movie that's happy enough, but clearly isn't living his dream.

A little over a month ago, after trying to find an excuse not to do it, I decided to quit being such a wuss and finally do something I always wanted to do. While making out with Brad and Angelina would have been awesome, that wasn't it. Actually, my wife had heard about someone in Houlton, Maine (about an eleven an a half hour drive from my house) willing to give up their family business to whomever could write the best essay

Naturally, this business was a movie theater. Not just any theater, but the theater. Set in a small picturesque town in the northeast corner of New England, the Temple Theater was a life-long dream I didn't even know I'd been having. Two screens, 400 seats, and an eight-bedroom apartment upstairs was infinitely more than I could have ever hoped for. I'm not religious, but that sounded like heaven.

And if I could combine a hundred bucks and two-hundred and fifty words, it would be mine. 

Sadly, for whatever reason, and this sounds equal parts foolish and pathetic, I know, I really thought I was going to win. 

Turns out...I never really had a chance.

See, the owner of the Temple needed around 3,500 entries. At a hundred bucks a pop, he could have given the theater to one lucky person and still sold it for the appraised $350,000 price tag. While 1 in 3,500 are terrible odds, let me remind you, this was taking place during that Powerball insanity where 1 in 300 million seemed doable. Hell, I just needed to beat out a couple of thousand jerks. Not every single person currently living in the United States. But when he failed to get enough entries, the whole thing was called off and everybody got their money back. No harm, no foul.

Not that it matters anymore, here was my entry into the Temple Theater essay contest. Enjoy.

I was gonna straighten that handicapped parking sign.
If you think about it, we are all just a collection of stories. Initially, we’re the story of how our parents met, but as we grow up, we create our own narrative based on where we’ve lived, who we are, and perhaps, what we’ve seen. 

My story takes place at a movie theater. I’m there with my family – mom, dad, two older brothers, and we’re happily munching on buttery popcorn and watching the latest family film or goofball comedy (or the original Alien, which I’m assuming I liked…even if I was in the womb at the time).

As I got older, our parents stayed home, placing my brothers in charge of me. Well, I probably shouldn’t have seen some of those stories, eye-opening (and vocabulary-building) as they were. 

Eventually, I was there on my own, seeing everything. Often with close friends, then without them, as they were (quietly) replaced by a girl I met in a Connecticut college and years later, I’d marry her.  We would go as often as we could, not counting the years it took for two purchased tickets to become four

I might not be the person you select to own your theater, but unknowingly, I have spent a life-time auditioning for the role. I’m honest, enthusiastic, dedicated and would love the Temple Theater as much as your family has. Movie theaters are vital to their community as they are a place where we come together to hear the best stories in the world. 

Our stories.

As someone who reads poorly-written essays for a living, trust me, I understood and fully-appreciated the 250 word limit. But man, this was like writing a term-paper on Twitter. Brevity, like owning a movie theater, ain't my thing, clearly. 

All bullshit aside though, it was pretty rad to be able to kick the idea around for a week or two. Like imagine having to pick the two movies your whole town gets to watch! Holy shit, right? What an insanely fantastic burden that would've been (Dude, Baywatch has been showing here for three months...what the shit is with this guy?). Ugh. Imagine that.

Well, time's up on that dream. Guess I'll have to keep teaching inner city middle school. Again. For like, the tenth year in a row. And if you can believe it, tomorrow I'm going to teach them persuasive writing of all things. Or...or...maybe I'll just enjoy my Friday and do something else with my students.

Like show a f--king movie.


  1. Oh dude, I got so excited when I started reading this, thinking that you'd won! I'm really sorry. For the record, and whatever it's worth, I love your essay :)
    - Allie

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It would have been so rad if I had actually won, but the consolation of them calling the whole thing off was I got my $100 bucks back. Yay! I mean who needs a whole house, theater and career/life change...when you can win (back) 5 twenty dollar bills!! Right? Right?

      Great. Now I'm sad again.

      (sorry, I'm really a moron)

  2. I was getting so excited reading the intro thinking you were going to be moving to Maine to run the damn thing!

    Sorry, bro, but beautiful essay, and I mean that. Short, sweet but so full of honest heart.

    1. Dude, I was moving to Maine. No doubt.

      Thanks, Fisti. For this comment. For the chance to write with you.

      And for everything.

  3. I was getting so excited for you. I'm sorry this didn't work out. That's a great essay.

    1. Thanks, Brittani. 250 words isn't enough to really say much. Shit, sometimes I triple that in just the f--king Boos!

  4. Sorry it didn't happen but it still may happen! Who knows! Still the thing that shocked me so much I couldn't even focus on the rest of the post - YOUR MOTHER SAW ALIEN WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT?!

    1. Haha, yeah I guess it could always happen...some...other...way??? Ah, shit, probably not a chance in Hell...but it was kickass for a week while I got to consider it.

      I know, right? Imagine sitting in the theater four or five months pregnant and seeing the original Alien flick for the first time? That must have been cool as shit. And maybe a little troubling, too...

  5. Wonderful essay. Too bad the contest was called off. You might be a theater owner by now. That would've been perfect since a Baywatch movie is actually coming.

    1. Thanks, Dell. I think I probably would have been a shitty theater owner. Unless you like good action movies and bad Alexandra Daddario movies.

      And yes, I'm praying that Baywatch is BOTH.

  6. "This was like writing a term paper on Twitter." Ha ha! Definitely the quote of the week for me.

    I love the essay and bonus points for the title of this post. Love the quote. Love the movie it's from.

    What you said, in the opening paragraph, about writing for your kids to have some insight into you as a person and your life killed me. I love that so much. I think you should eventually publish the reviews in this blog (or at least the ones you deem as your best) and use this essay as the preface. It would be a gift to your kids and anyone who reads it. Plus you could revise the essay, if you wanted to, without the 250-word limit.

    As an aside, weirdly enough, most of the student compositions I read are well written. I've never worked in a public school setting, so I don't have any perspective on that. But I know my students are kind of exceptional. Virtually all of them are homeschooled. So I chalk it up to their actually having time to read and write. LOL.

    1. I always try to use an appropriate quote, and that one seemed just about perfect. Glad you dig it (and the movie it's from).

      Ugh. That's such a good idea about using this little essay as the forward, though I discarded all the extra bits. Hmm. I guess I could always go back and add to it...but outside of the (constant) grammatical errors, I like to live and die with what I was thinking at the moment I posted. For better or worse, you know?

      I hope my kids dig this one day...even if just a little.

      I'm glad to hear that there are kids out there reading and writing...well. Too many of my students look at books as the enemy, and their writing suffers from it. We struggle with teaching cohesion (and flow and passion and interest) in writing and the solution is so simple! Read! Care! You will get better at writing. But, alas, many public school kids (in my area) simply don't do either.

      It's a shame, really.

    2. That is a shame, but adolescence is a crazy time and maybe you're planting a seed that will germinate later. y'know? When I was in middle and high school, I kind of didn't give a f**k, but the teachers who were really invested in the process gave me something that blossomed when I got to college.