As far as I’m concerned, love smells like popcorn.

A friend and I were having a conversation about bad dates recently, and we started recalling good dates as well. It occurred to me then that I fall in love at the movies. There are some excellent places to see them in and around Chicago, too.

Dates aside, I also have a few very fuzzy wuzzy memories of seeing movies with my grandma (including my first visit to the Catlow). My sister and I, ten years apart in age, have always bonded over movies. At one difficult point in my childhood, my dad took me to see a movie, just the two of us, so I’d feel better. (This was at the Elk Grove Theater before it was remodeled, so the lobby actually smelled like years and years of the gross, burnt popcorn at the bottom of the machine, but I didn’t care.) I never really fit into my family, and watching movies was one of the few areas of common ground we all shared. Going to the movies meant two hours or so where I didn’t feel like I came from the island of misfit toys, and we could laugh together or rehash favorite lines over dinner afterwards.

In high school, as for many people, the default date was seeing a movie at the mall. I started saving my movie ticket stubs during my sophomore year, so I can say with absolute certainty that almost all the dates I went on in high school involved a movie, and while the boys who would take me sometimes got sick of going to the same places again and again, I never did. Even when I would go home and write up a scathing review for the school paper (I think I compared Rush Hour 2 to a dessicated corpse picked at by vultures), I was happy to have gone to the theater to watch a movie.

The best of all these, though, was a date with my first serious boyfriend that happened my senior year. I had never heard of or been to the Pickwick in Park Ridge, and since I was (and am) “obsessed with old shit,” to quote his sister, he knew that had to change. I remember what  we ate for dinner before the movie, what I wore, where we parked, and of course what movie we saw (Amelie), and it was all completely amazing to me. Even now, when I think of that theater, I think of the giddy rush of first love.

I later went on to fall in love with Mr. Wrong at the Gene Siskel Film Center, stand in line at the Lake Theater with Ms. Wrong for what felt like eons only to have the movie sell out before we got tickets, and nervously jabber like an idiot about rack focus while waiting for a film to start with the man who is now my husband at Century Centre Cinema.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the Des Plaines Theater, even though I’ve never eaten popcorn there; if I didn’t recall Piper’s Alley, even though you can’t see movies there anymore; or if I didn’t talk about the special kind of love that happens between a drunk guy in a bathrobe and a drunk woman in a bathrobe when The Music Box has a midnight showing of The Big Lebowski.

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