The last eighteen hours or so have offered their small reminders of mortality a bit more thickly than usual. First of all, a Facebook friend posted a shot of the marquee of the suburban theater nearest my high school — a better, newer complex has opened across the street, and the building has been vacant for a while, so it’s coming down. I went there on a few dates back then, but went there much more often in the mid-80s, while I was back at home finishing my B.A. and working at the Sears store at the mall across the street. You see, the Mad Dog worked there, first as an usher, then a concessionaire, and finally graduating to projectionist, which meant that he could set us both up with 25-cent passes, and later, that we could screen movies the night before they opened as long as we were willing to stay up til three a.m. or so — much easier when I was 20. So that’s where I saw (among others) Nightmare on Elm Street, Better Off Dead, The Joy of Sex, and Key Exchange. Better Off Dead, of course, is now part of my personal mythology/reference file, and I’m proud to have passed it along to the Spawn. But it started at the Florence Cinemas.
Then when I got up this morning, a blurb from my M.A. institution’s campus paper informed me that Cooperstown Apartments, where I spent my first three years of grad school in university housing, are coming down in June to make way for new construction. It was probably due — as the article attests, the apartments were obsolescent, with painted cinder-block walls, no air conditioning, and a general aura of shabbiness — and that was in 1988. I can’t imagine they had improved much. But it was also an interesting place to live. The locals called it “Little China”, due to the large number (indeed, a majority) of international students who lived there because they either had less money or lower standards of living than the American grad students did. I also fell into the “less money” camp, so there I was as well. That was where I started writing my first, unfinished novel (it was an autobiographical novel that I abandoned because it dawned on me that my life really wasn’t that interesting), and where I fell into and out of love a few times before finally finding one that would last when I met the woman who became Mrs. M. The Mad Dog stayed there a few times as well, on leave during his first stretch in the military. The hallways smelled like foreign foods, the carpet was threadbare, and on Friday nights, the parties across the street at Sigma Chi would drift through my open window and keep me awake.
So, the Florence Cinemas are going, and soon enough, Cooperstown will be gone too. And I’m not interested in being maudlin about it — my life is better now than it was when I spent much time at either place. All the same, and as I said at the beginning, these moments remind us that moments are limited, and that even the places of our past slide down the glass’s neck faster than we might think.