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Five Movie Theater Memories Summer of 2004

In the summer of 2004, I didn't have much to do besides "work" a 5-hour shift about three days a week.  I had gotten a job for the summer at a hand-made gift and craft shop, and two weeks into the full-time job, they announced the store was closing, so all employees were cut down to part-time.  What was going to be a summer full of employment suddenly found itself with a lot of free time.  

On a good day, I'd ring up maybe three customers and stock some shelves.  Most days, however, I just spent my time running out the clock.  I'd spend my shift walking up and down the aisles, running the vacuum, trying to memorize the number of steps up and down each row, counting the ceiling tiles... I was bored.  A lot of it was spent singing along with the only music the manager allowed us to play (Frank Sinatra) and thinking about working out.   

I had gotten into the best shape of my life at school the previous year, and I had worked my way up to running 5 to 7 miles per day and lifting weights like a fiend.  I wanted to be in the best shape of my life during my final semester at college, and what would likely (and did) wind up being my last season playing organized ice hockey.  

That summer, most of my copious amounts of free time at home involved drinking 2 gallons of water, eating grilled chicken, running, lifting weights, and sleeping.

I was also excited because for the first time ever, I had a television in my bedroom.  I brought home my TV from school and begged Dad to run a cable line up to the 2nd floor.  Around that time period, the cable networks all began to move towards digital cable, away from the old analog signal, and required a digital cable box on each television set.  Before then, you could run one line into the house from the street.  Using a splitter, you could then have several off-shoot lines to different television sets.  When we first hooked up my TV, I must have had 50 channels, but it slowly dwindled down to just The Food Network and USA Network.  My parents wouldn't pay for a cable box for the few months I was home, and I really didn't have any money to pay for it myself, so after I got down to just the bare minimum, I spent a lot of time watching DVDs and mastering "Vice City" on Play Station.  

When I wasn't doing any of that, I was going to the movie theater with my best friend from high school.  

If you didn't read my article about 2003 movie memories (CLICK HERE TO DO SO), my best friend from high school was a bit of a loner like myself and didn't have much going on either.  He preferred to stay in his room at his parent's house and watch his enormous DVD collection or play PlayStation until all hours of the night too.  He'd tell me stories of spending hours on internet message boards at 3 in the morning reading about all things Avril Lavigne or new comic book movies.  

Looking back, we did quite a bit together that summer, between playing roller hockey at the park with some guys from the old team, to a game we invented that combined tennis and racketball called "Rackis."  

Most of all, though, we made sure to go to the movie theater at least once a week.    

In fact, on Wednesdays, our parents jokingly called it our "date night" because it was understood we were going to the movies that night and we'd be out late.  Being out late was unusual for the two of us because we were both the kinds of kids who would rather be home on AOL Instant Messenger than out partying every night like some kids.  Our parents rarely had to wonder if we were out dead in a ditch somewhere.  

We must have easily seen over 50 films that summer!  Some of them were terrible, some of them we should have never paid to see (I'm looking at you, "Chasing Liberty,") but most of them were enjoyable.  

Good or bad, though, some of them were pretty memorable experiences.  

"Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle," July 30, 2004

As I mentioned, the two of us never were into the party scene, so we didn't really appreciate most of the drug references, but we both love a good comedy.  We both had pretty low expectations when we went to this movie, but it didn't take long before we were doubled over laughing.

And when I say laughing, I mean the bent over, can't catch my breath, about to pee my pants laughing.  I needed those laughs that night.  I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time, and the movie hit me in the right place at the right time.  

There was specifically one scene where a knockoff Burger King employee (Eric Andre) decides to "burn this mother down."  You may not find it that funny watching it 15 years later, but that night the entire audience was absolutely roaring.  

There was also a scene where Harold and Kumar, getting scared and lost in the bad part of town, saw "two guys that look like us."  The two doppelgangers were immediately mugged by someone with a baseball bat, and we fell out of our seats.  It was just so unexpected and unnecessary that we couldn't contain ourselves.  We'd quote this movie to each other in everyday conversation for years.  To this day, the only film I couldn't catch my breath laughing from in the theaters like "Harold and Kumar" was when my brother took my under-aged self to see "Austin Powers." 

"Open Water," August 20, 2004

As far as this movie goes, I really don't remember much about it.  It was about 2 hours of people screaming in the darkness while floating around in the water.  Like JAWS did to the American public back in the 70s, it made me not want to go swimming for quite some time.  

I do remember, however, that my friend invited a girl we both knew from high school.  It wasn't really a date; she just went to see a movie on a day she had nothing going on.  He was trying to impress her, and I basically played the chauffer, chaperone, and 3rd wheel for his non-date.  I privately offered to sit away from them or find an excuse to leave, but he said no, that it would make things awkward.   What was awkward was watching him try to flirt all night.

Speaking of awkward, before we even got to the theater, I was the one driving, and when we got off the New York State Thruway into the mall parking lot, we were cut off by another car.  I gave the one-fingered salute and went on with my life, but moments later, we pulled alongside them at a red light.  She rolled the window down and proceeded to scream out the window at the other driver like a lunatic for a minute or two for driving while on the phone.  This was, of course, before the days of in-stereo Bluetooth. 

I was mortified and quickly sped off when the light turned green.

King Arthur July 7, 2004  

I've always liked history, so much so that I had a minor "concentration" (not an actual minor, but more of a secondary focus) in Pre-Civil War American History in college.  Even though I realize this one is not a documentary, I was game right away for "King Arthur" based on historical curiosity.  

My buddy only had one interest... seeing Kiera Knightly in a skimpy warrior's outfit.  I heard about nothing but that for weeks leading up to the premiere of the movie.

This movie was undoubtedly a different representation of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Merlin alright.  I still think it was pretty entertaining and would recommend spending the time if you like that sort of thing, but it changed the story up a bit.  

What makes this worthy of being one of the movie memories?  I can still remember the giant bruise in my ribs from his elbow every time Kiera Knightly was on screen.  I've never seen him so excited he was practically foaming at the mouth.  

That, and we were the only 2 in the theater.  

I guess it wasn't a hit.

The Manchurian Candidate-  July 30, 2004

This 2004 version of "The Manchurian Candidate" is a psychological thriller based on the 1959 novel and 1962 film of the same name.  For those unaware, the "Manchurian Candidate" is a brainwashed politician manipulated to do the bidding of a larger, more dubious entity.   

It must have been a Sunday when we went to see this film because I remember my Uncle was visiting my grandparents next door and he only came over on Sunday afternoons.  I showed up late to this movie because when he found out I was going to see it, he talked my ear off about the original film, and I was late to pick up my friend.  

We made it in time for the movie, but our "on-time" was at least 30 minutes before showtime.  We'd wander around the place poking our heads into different theaters trying to score a few minutes of free movies.  We'd get our snacks and head to our usual seats:  last row, middle, with an empty seat buffer between us for snacks, coats, or whatever.  I seem to remember this time we made it just in time for the last preview.  

The movie itself is pretty unremarkable.  What makes it important to me is that, without getting too political, it opened my eyes that nothing from our government or media is truly as it seems.  When I went home that night, I fired up the computer and began Asking Jeeves about conspiracy theories.  For you young 'uns, "Ask Jeeves" was the go-to search engine before Google came around.  

Some theories were pretty outlandish, and I dismissed them immediately, but some of them still make me doubt the "official story."  Heck, some of the conspiracy theories from 15 years ago (or 6 months ago) have wound up being true!   

After the past few years in American society, I don't believe a thing anyone says anymore.

Dodgeball:  The True Underdog Story June 18, 2004 -   

Much like "Harold and Kumar," this one was full of inappropriate laughs.  This flick had the most significant effect on our entire summer.  

When people say "laugh-a-minute," it's usually an exaggeration.  In this case, it was as close to accurate as possible.  When ESPN 8:  The Ocho flashed on the screen, we nearly died laughing.  It was utterly off-the-wall hysterics.  If you like random jokes, gags, and laughs like the first few seasons of "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy," this movie is for you.

That summer, we had begun playing racketball at the high school, so much we started using "The Ocho" in our running commentary during games.  We made a whole league up for just the two of us and played an entire season worth of playoffs and championships for our new sport, "Rackis."  This movie inspired us to be outside more that summer.  We had so much fun playing and joking that we started spending even more time on that court instead of inside our own homes playing video games.  

When you look back on the carefree summers of youth, this was my last.  I also hazard to say it was probably the best.  

The following summer, I began working full-time in my chosen career and haven't had an actual summer vacation since!