This is old news, but I just found out about it and it really hits home.
The Dream Theater in Monterey, CA was built by artisan hands, with community in their hearts and minds, in the early-to-mid 1970s (I think). It was a wonderful and beautiful small theater, originally a single screen but they added a smaller screening room in the mid '80s that could seat about 30 people. It was loved very much by its patrons and owners.
It was wonderfully, perhaps even gaudily, decorated in 1970s "hippy-chic," art-deco inspired style. Lots of color, natural woods, and stained glass. The ceiling was illuminated in delicious, swirling patterns, and it would slowly change colors until the movie began. It featured a real silver screen, protected and covered by 3 layers of curtains: in front was a lush red velvet, horizontally opening curtain, then a vertically rising gold lame drape (also known as an "Austrian"), and finally a shimmering white, horizontally opening screen protecting curtain.
Every movie started in proper, grand style, as you watched those 3 curtains opening up, "revealing" the experience you were about to have onscreen. It was reminiscent of the "good old days" of Hollywood, when a movie was a Big Deal, not just what you always do on Friday nights.
They had three different kinds of comfortable seats.
The front row was big, comfy reclined seats, right down on the floor and leaned back to the perfect angle to see the large screen up in front of you, framed by cushioned arm rests wide enough to actually share with your neighbor (the only such arm rests I've ever seen in a theater). Behind those were rows of the more standard, but still well-cushioned, rocking theater seats. The back row was all loveseats, compartmentalized with little three foot walls for privacy.
It was just lovely. As a movie lover and traveler I've seen a lot of theaters, but I've never seen another one that was anything like the aptly named Dream.
I have fond memories of the Dream Theater. My friend, Ricky, lived a couple of miles away in Pacific Grove, and on MANY Saturdays I stayed the night at his house so we could sneak out and go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, after which we would go to the corner Bob's for pancakes and coffee. I was a young teenager, a very impressionable time of my life with lots of experiences happening, and those nights at the Dream had at least a little to do with who I would later become.
I don't remember how or where I heard of the Rocky, but the Dream Theater was the first place I ever saw it and heard the immortal lyric, "Don't dream it, be it," which immediately became a permanent part of my life's philosophy. Everything I consider myself to be, or at least the best parts, can be traced back to having heard those words, and that theater was the first place I ever heard them.
I, and several of my friends, became very hardcore fans of the Rocky in those days. We would walk around in school singing the songs, or even reciting the entire script word for word.
The first time I ever made out with a girl, it was in the back row of the Dream Theater. Sadly, I can't recall her name at the moment, but I can remember the experience... obviously that's one of "the big ones" in our lives. Not only was it my first "make out session," but it was also my first real date. I have no idea if she ever saw the Rocky after that, but I know she didn't see it that night.
On Halloween 1987 another girl I was hot for, Barbra, and I stayed at Ricky's house. I was dressed as a rock star, guitar and all... including some boots with 4" heels, which I regretted painfully by the end of the night (hey, it was the "glam rock" era, it's not MY fault). She was dressed as one of my groupies.
We made it to the Dream early, and were lucky enough to get front row seats. When I say lucky, in this case I mean it. The theater could seat, as I recall, about 200 people. They stopped selling tickets at 250, leaving it standing room only and likely a fire hazard. Someone opened the emergency door and let in lots more people, and by the time the movie started that night the place was elbow to elbow. Barbra, Ricky and I, sitting low in the front seats, could just barely see the top of the screen, but we were excited to be there anyway.
That was the night I had my first sexual experience. Under the cover of being surrounded by people, obviously looking at something besides us, I put my hand under Barbra's skirt and touched a girl "there" for the first time. She was wearing pantyhose, and I stayed outside of them, amazed as a teenager would be that I was getting to touch anything at all. A couple of hours later I found out that I had been "missing" the whole time, but you wouldn't have known it from her reaction. She was obviously enjoying the experience.
Incidentally, I say "first sexual experience" because I didn't lose my virginity that night. I DID wind up getting beyond the pantyhose, but I was nervous... I was doing really well at what I was doing, and was afraid that if I tried to do anything else I would get it wrong, be too awkward, whatever. I didn't lose my virginity till several months later, with a different girl, but that "first sexual experience" is still a cherished memory in my life, and it began in the Dream Theater.
My family moved away from the Monterey area a couple of years later, and I've yet to go back and visit. I've always planned on doing so, to see the places I used to go to as a teen. I've thought of the Dream very fondly very often in my life, and have always dreamed I'd one day go back there. It's the one place in that area that I'd MOST like to see again. I would love to see another movie there, perhaps even The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'd love to sit in that unique front row and gaze comfortably up at that beautiful screen. I've held a dream in my heart that one day I might make out with another lover in that back row, maybe even "get lucky."
And now that dream is dead. The Dream is gone. I will never get to have that experience again, or even simply see the place where it happened.
I just found out that, sometime in the mid-1990s (I think), the city of Monterey bulldozed the Dream Theater to make way for a fucking strip mall.
I'm trying to keep this blog clean, and I will do my utmost best to never use the "F" word here again, but I also believe in the appropriate use of "foul language" when being descriptive. I believe it's appropriate here.
A FUCKING strip mall.
My heart is broken. I feel like a little piece of me is gone, ripped loose by ragged claws. I feel like I just learned that one of my best friends from high school was murdered.
It didn't "die of old age." It didn't get bought and changed by the new owner. It isn't "not what it used to be." It was BULLDOZED. As if we have too many beautiful, quaint theaters, and not enough fucking strip malls.
We all go to movies, and we all had experiences involving them when we were young. I'm sure that most of our "first dates" were at the movies, it's part of our culture. But this place was truly special. It wasn't just some giganto-multiplex, it was something beautiful. It was built with people's hands and hearts. When you saw a movie there you felt like "HOLLYWOOD."
And now it's gone. I can't even find pictures of its interior on the web.
My experiences there, and my feeling of loss, would be enough to break my heart. But there's more to it than that.
Nowadays in my life my mission, the thing that concerns me the most, is the steady and constant destruction of CULTURE in this country. I have and will go on and on about our "culture of shopping." I see a lot that disturbs me, but this is the first time something has so truly and deeply "hit home" with me. Until now, I have been railing against things I SEE, and try to keep my own distance from. I try not to let the things that bother me affect my own life... I try to inform and teach by my own example.
This time it's ME. The Dream Theater was CULTURE. REAL culture, and MY culture. I feel like a part of ME has been mercilessly killed off. TO MAKE ROOM FOR A FUCKING STRIP MALL.
Come ON, people!
When do we say, "enough is enough?" How many places do there have to be to buy cheap shoes and TVs?
How many modern coffeeshops and fast food restaurants do there have to be before we decide there's one "close enough to home?"
One day we will all look around, and EVERYTHING that MEANS anything to ANY of us will be gone.
And you can't rebuild the Dream Theater.
What happens when you go on a second honeymoon to the place where you met your wife, and it's gone?
What happens when you want to go back to the little bed and breakfast where you conceived your first child, and it's now a Holiday Inn?
Where did you have your first kiss?
Where is the first place you ever fell in love?
Or heard the Beatles?
Where did you go to cry when you broke up with your first boyfriend?
Do you want your child's fondest memories to be made in some mall or fast food restaurant?
But it will be OK, right? Just fine. No problem. When we feel bad because we have no culture, or because we have no place left to reminisce on our childhoods or other formative parts of our lives, we can all just go buy a new pair of shoes, a new shirt, a new CD, and we'll feel just dandy, right?
There's nothing I could possibly buy right now that could make me feel better about losing the Dream.