The Blue Mouse

June 24, 2007 at 1:17 pm (Waxing Nostalgic)

You might think I spend a lot of time in movie theaters, the way I talk about film. Not so much anymore, but I used to. Before home cinema (VCRs, DVDs, etc…) I was good for a movie a week, often more, when the cheap theaters were up and running. I knew them all. The best ones were downtown.

The Blue Mouse Theater was a favorite. In 1976, I went to see Taxi Driver. Unfortunately, there was no matinée. In the afternoons, they played X-rated fare. So, at age fifteen, I saw my first skin flick, Annie. It had nothing to do with redheads or little dogs. All I remember is a pretty blonde running around naked. I stayed late, paid twice, and saw Taxi Driver. I went home feeling a lot older.

Around the corner from the Blue Mouse was The Round-Up. The Round-Up was a small, dank, sweaty place that smelled of beer, piss, old men and cigarettes. The chairs were of a folding variety, and you could hear the projector clicking. Old creepy guys would sit next to you, give an expectant look, then slither away. I was innocent enough (and big enough) at fifteen not to be freaked out by this. It was a minor irritant. When getting to see three movies for sixty-nine cents, I could deal without modern conveniences.

Of course, I was naive. Like the steam baths on Third and Fourth Avenue. Once I attempted to enter, expecting to find a bunch of old men in towels, sitting around sweating and speaking foreign languages. I was met by a flaming Bruce Vilanich-alike, who screamed at me to “get the hell out of here!” Perplexed, I skulked away.

Finding an open, user friendly bathroom downtown has always been a challenge. Across from what is now Pioneer Square, there used to be underground toilets. The subway, we called it. A lot of drunken bums slept down there, so I used it only as a last resort.

Even scarier was the Greyhound bus terminal. There is now a major hotel on the grounds, but back in the day it was every bit the big city bus station. The bathrooms were in the basement. There were always puddles of water on the floor, maybe to keep people from sleeping in there. Drug dealers lined the stairway, and once you passed that gauntlet, through the puddles, the stalls… Oh, the stalls.

The first time I used one, I saw the gaping holes on either side. (I peed in a stall; too many weirdos loitering by the urinal.) As I took care of business, a pair of nerd glasses and a huge eyeball met my gaze through the hole. I shrieked, “Dude, you mind?” or something incredulous, and the eyeball disappeared. I hurried out, and probably never went back.

Some twenty years later, I would learn what a glory hole is. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t know back then. I probably would have tried it.

If anyone tells you security is too strict at the new Greyhound station, I beg to differ. I saw the old one.

There were others. The Star Theater on Sixth and Burnside was a live nude review, with all-night porno going the rest of the time. A friend worked graveyard shift, and we would split a jug of wine and watch the perverts parade. I have a couple of good stories from that place, but I am not going to share them here.

These days, it’s a different experience, going to the movies. One can buy beer and food and partake while watching the movie. We used to have to sneak in our cerebral entertainment. Not that long ago I met Mizelle for a movie at one of the McMenamin’s theaters. We ordered a whole pizza, and I smuggled in chocolate milk. It was such delicious irony, me sneaking milk into a bar.

Last night, I went on a date at the multiplex. After twenty minutes of commercials, and two hours and twenty minutes of movie, I’ve come to the conclusion that movie seats are still uncomfortable after all these years. $20 to see a movie. Fortunately, the movie was good and the company was excellent. And thanks to technology, I somehow earned a free ticket. Signing up for that Rewards Card has its perks.

I have three months to use the free ticket. I’m sure I will, but it might come down to the wire. See, my home system, with DVD player wired into the stereo, provides a satisfactory cinematic experience. I can eat cheaply, no smell of popcorn, in fact no bad smells at all. If I need to use the facilities, the movie will wait until I’m done.

And the only pervert in the bathroom is me…

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