' ' Cinema Romantico: What Favorite Movies Can Do

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Favorite Movies Can Do

Fifteen years ago I packed what very little I owned into my 1993 Ford Tempo and hit I-35 with Bruce Springsteen on the tape deck and a pounding in my heart that mixed joy and indescribable fear. Call it, 35% joy and 65% fear. I was leaving my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa to move to Phoenix, Arizona. I was leaving the only state in which I’d lived and the only people I’d known to go somewhere completely different.

My first stop was a Super 8 in Oklahoma City. The front desk clerk, who I remember resembling Richard Riehle, checked me in and explained I got a discount at the Denny’s next door for being a guest. But I didn’t want to eat at Denny’s. I’d have to sit there. I didn’t want to eat in public. I didn’t want to be anywhere in public. I was terrified. Not by the place, mind you, but by the situation. I grabbed some McDonald’s and cowered in my hotel room. I’ve never really felt at any other time in my life like I did that night. I’ve had other pits in my stomach but this pit was operating on a whole other level. I felt so inexpressibly alone. I felt the vastness of America in that motel room, yes sir, and I felt isolated in the midst of it. The only people I knew were either 550 miles to the north or 950 miles to the west. I wanted to hide under the blankets on my bed.

So I did what you do in a hotel room and I turned on the TV. White noise could maybe drown out my fears as I consumed my chicken sandwich and fries and Coke. But a funny thing happened…I stumbled upon some movie channel showing “Without Limits.” I came into it late, around the time Pre chases down Mary at the Civil War Monument, but that didn’t matter. I knew the movie by heart. It was like stumbling onto a favorite song on the radio during a long drive in the middle of nowhere. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times but it’s never meant as much to me as it did that night. It didn’t cancel my fears necessarily but it assuaged the hell out of them. I just sat and let the film wash over me and that part near the end when Pre is trying to decide whether to turn pro or remain a broke amateur to have another shot at the Olympics and then goes for a run…it really got me. The run was where he went to find peace and clarity; this movie was where I came to find peace and clarity.

That was November 6, 2000. The next day was November 7, 2000. I survived a blinding snowstorm in the Texas panhandle and managed to decamp to another hotel, happy just to be alive, and watch Bush beat Gore. Until he didn’t. On and on and on, etc. America was about to get Dubya-ed. My time in Phoenix began with a glow but eventually eroded into minor unmitigated disaster. I’d like nothing more than to claim this evening constituted the end of my innocence, or some such, but that’s nonsense. No, it was merely an effervescent reminder that a favorite movie can make even a uniform motel room in a scary, faraway place feel like home.


Alex Withrow said...

Love this. Couldn't agree more. A favorite movie can be such a source of comfort, no matter what you have going on in your life. Probably why I rewatch my favorite films when I'm hungover. Heh.

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks man. I will cop to having also watched "Without Limits" hungover. And while it didn't cure anything, it sure eased the pain.