One True Thing

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My son and I are going to see Deadpool 2 this afternoon. It's been on our calendar for a month.

This has nothing to do with me, really. John wanted to see the original back whenever, and I went along with him on a whim. I laughed a fair amount, just because I get tickled by absurdity and...stuff, I dunno. I don't want to get analytical about this. I appreciate the portrayal of a reluctant superhero with a potty mouth and some self-esteem issues, and this seems to be something John and I bond over a little. So let's bond.

...

I've always worried that I don't really have hobbies. Although it's probably a little late in the day to fuss over that aspect of my life now, I guess.

Now I'm thinking it probably isn't unusual. I enjoy plenty of things; they're just on the vague side, and not things like jigsaw puzzles or cabinet making. Gardening. Crafts. Senior citizen soccer leagues, etc. That's all. I don't have an easily categorized thing that I like to do.

It's just probably accentuated by Facebook. I've got a couple of old friends whose hobby, it seems, is Frank Zappa. Others seem to spend a lot of time involved with dogs.

One woman I know looks to have created a hobby out of a lot of grandchildren. It's amazing. I'm in awe of this woman's commitment to her family and her joy and love that comes from just being a grandma. That's gotta be one of the best hobbies. I could do that, if I lived closer to San Antonio. I would make it my life's work, if I could.

Anyway. I don't have anything like that. I'm going to a concert tonight, classical music, something I do all the time. Tonight it's the Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra, featuring Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (ugh, Debussy, like a sugar overdose), Sibelius' Finlandia (love), Brahms' Second Symphony (also love), and Scott Selfon's arrangement of Lord of the Rings (wait what). Our friend Robert, who has been coming over to our house since he was 12 years old, a friend of my daughter and now a professional political strategist, is a superb oboe player and we'll enjoy this a bunch.

But obviously I go to these things because of my wife, who keeps me social. I used to love the theater, and now the only plays I see are university productions with her students.

I'm very interested in car repair and home improvement projects, but in the sense that I want someone else to do them.

And, despite our planned afternoon with Ryan Reynolds, I rarely go to the movies. Too much hassle, too expensive, and too uninteresting. The good stuff is on the small screen these days, and a fair amount of us understand that. I have friends who use senior-citizen discounts to see a lot of matinees. I have friends who jumped on MoviePass, the subscription service that appears to be dying quickly. I have friends who are true movie lovers in that sense, and need to sit in a dark theater and be transported. I get all of this, and sort of wish I were still the same way, but I'm not.

But I love movies, and in a particular way, and now I think I know what that way is.

...

We've been going to the movies for a hundred years, really. Take a look at the silent films of 1918--you'll find Chaplin and Griffith and Pickford and Tarzan, all doing their thing like it was no big deal, but it was.

So it's sort of like reading. I spend hours reading every day, but a lot of people do that. Doesn't feel like a hobby. Neither does exercising or yard work, and I do a fair amount of that.

And people watch movies. It's not specific. People read, listen to music, watch movies, have picnics, pull weeds. We do things. It's hard to find special things that feel mine.

But obviously I love movies a lot, and have since I was small. I remember my first trip to the movies (or, rather, the first one I remember, so...). My parents would have been in their early 20s, with three little kids and a used station wagon, and not much money. We went to drive-in theaters by necessity.

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This is an obvious link, to me. Early memories, fun family adventures, tucked in the backseat with homemade popcorn and soda pop, a rare treat. It was less about the content than the experience, but the content stuck. I grew up in the heyday of the drive-in, before alternatives and real estate prices killed off outdoor cinema.

If I gave you a list of the films I remember from drive-ins, and you appreciate movies and movie history, you'd see the influence. That first film? To Kill A Mockingbird. It was followed by Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy and Love Story and Wait Until Dark and Planet of the Apes and How The West Was Won and on and on. I lost it at the movies, for sure.

And then I delved into the subject as a teenager, watching old movies and reading biographies of the people involved with them. Those names from 100 years ago? I can speak fairly intelligently about their careers and legacies. I can reflect on hundreds of films, probably, tell you something about my feelings and reactions.

My relationships have connections to movies. My first date? When I was 14, and we went to see Jeremiah Johnson. One of my best friends in high school and I dated off and on, and the first time we saw The Sting. My wife and I were friends first, and ended up sitting next to each other during a showing of E.T., a nice first film together (we saw a bunch in those days).

Movies are an easy touchstone for emotional history, then. I share them with my kids, with my wife, with my siblings, with my friends. We all have movie moments, and they're alive and well.

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I just don't watch them anymore, not really. Some television, occasionally. Oh, once in a blue moon I'll notice an old favorite on Netflix or Amazon, and I'll watch it again. But it's usually spontaneous, not planned, and not really much new or groundbreaking.

It makes me think of fiction reading, actually. I haven't read a novel, or even a short story, in years. I lost interest in made-up stories, and it left a hole, I suspect. We need stories, or at least I do. And movies were a big part of storytelling in a big part of my life.

Last year, having an empty church building once a week (choir rehearsal nights, Wednesdays, open during the summer), I tried to start a weekly fellowship thing, just getting together in the middle of the week. I was going to vary the offerings, but started with a movie and the consensus was to just make it a movie night. We had a projector and a screen, and I got an adapter and so could hook up my Blu-Ray player and get a decent picture.

Because of differing tastes and just the overall age of our attendees (some variation, but definitely skewed older), I just picked films that weren't likely to offend sensibilities or cause discomfort. It's not hard; lots of good movies fit that description.

What I hoped for was a discussion, the aftertalk that sometimes followed movie-going when I was younger and had lots of friends with similar interests. We really didn't get that last summer, just some fun in the dark, but it didn't matter anyway. I'd discovered my aesthetic.

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Maybe aesthetic isn't the right word. It just feels right.

I discovered that I loved projecting films, watching them on a screen with other people (although, to be fair, other people aren't all that necessary). The screen is the thing.

Dunno. It just is, and now I have my own.

I've looked at small projectors before. They have a lot of them now, small devices that can hook up to your smart phone or tablet, or anything else with media (PC/Mac, DVD player, VCR, flash drive, etc.). They specifically note that these aren't good for presentations or anything that can't be done in a dark room, although I wouldn't mind trying a few things. This was what I was thinking, really; how could I use one of these small projectors for some fun church stuff?

Which is how I rationalize, I guess. It was less than $80, which is real money but not all that real, and I had Amazon points that took it down to a nothing expense, a very minor indulgence.

AND IT WORKSSSSSSSSSSS.

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I have a decent collection of Blu-Rays, including quite a few that are special editions, with lots of bonus material and exquisite resolution and color. It's a marvel, really, to see these films in all their glory on my plasma set. I do this, from time to time. Marvel a little.

This is what surprised me, then. I hooked that little projector up to my computer (I got the wrong adaptor for my iPhone; getting one of those today) and just streamed a movie I own, just to see. I'd watched this movie a bunch of times.

Now one more time. I sat for two hours, jaw dropped (I assume), in my little home office/den here, a repurposed bedroom that's maybe 300 square feet total. It has one large blank wall. That turned out to be all I need.

It was my own private screening room; I brought in John and Julie to take looks, but they were only mildly impressed. No matter. It was a crisp picture, not perfect but completely watchable, and it covered my entire freaking wall. The sound came from my speaker system and, even though it's the same sound, same speakers, same movie, it took on a different quality, somehow, when I wasn't watching on a smaller monitor.

If I missed the sound of celluloid, of reels spinning and frames slipping by, 24 per second, I had the total effect of dust particles floating in the light and I was Louis B. Mayer. I was Orson Welles. I was anyone who'd ever done this, sat in a dark room with a small projector and stared at a wall for a couple of hours, watching a story unfold. It was heaven, figuratively and I haven't decided about literally yet.

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I mean, people do this. These projectors are popular, and I get it. I could spend a couple of thousand and get a gleaming 4K, 60-inch screen to, y'know, do some marveling at.

But this was the cost of a lunch at a restaurant, and I realized this is my thing. I've never had a thing like this, I think. I don't care about vinyl vs. digital, or all that much about HD vs. 4K. I don't really give a damn about celluloid vs. digital, in fact; if I prefer actual film, I have nearly a century of film to choose from. But I don't.

I just like movies, and I found out that my affection is alive and well. I just had to go back to basics, maybe. Or maybe this is just the glow of a new thing, and I'll move on. Maybe. Maybe maybe.

Or maybe I have a hobby. I'll let you know. Let me watch The Third Man first. And Casablanca and The Godfather, of course. And Butch and Sundance. It might take me a while. Here's hoping I can eventually close my jaw.

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