Night at the Capri

One of the charms the locals used to lure us to Montgomery was the Capri, an independent single-screen theatre that plays films the multiplex takes a pass on.  If we moved into Cloverdale, they told us, we could walk to the movies.

The Capri is both a theater and a movie society, a non-profit that runs the theater.  Becoming a member means tickets are only $6 each–and that’s on Saturday nights.

For my fellow Staten Islanders, the Capri is what the Lane should have been, instead of a night club, dance hall, catering space and whatever else happened there.  The two theaters are about the same size, and look like they were built within five years of each other.

Going to the movies at the Capri is a trip, and not just back in time.  We’ve gone and had to wait for the person selling tickets to come out of the booth to sell us a bottle of water (with a cup full of ice).  You can also get bottled beer at the Capri, or a glass of wine.

You buy your tickets at the one-person booth that sits in the middle, right between two sets of doors that let you into the lobby.  On your left is the ancient popcorn machine (no butter, just the way we like it) and the refreshment counter.  On the right you can pick up the schedule for next month, or flyers for other community events.

Head up a stack of steps and enter the one theater on either the left or the right.  It’s not as intensely art deco as was the Lane, but its got an art deco vibe going on.  There are no annoying commercials running, so you don’t spend 20 minutes before the film starts getting bombarded.  Instead there’s what looks like a basic PowerPoint with posters for the coming movies.

As for the movies, there’s a mix.  Most of them are what used to be called “second-run,” movies that came out to first-run theaters perhaps a month or two before.  I think they hit the Capri, generally, sometime between theatrical release and Netflix.  Plus they’re not the blockbusters that tend to get shown at the Rave, our mall-based multiplex. 

The Capri is where you’ll see the newest Philip Seymour Hoffman film, or, as we did tonight, the Patricia Clarkson film, Cairo Time (spoiler alert: longest case of unrequited sexual tension ever filmed).  But they’ll also run oldies but goodies, like the Christmastime showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, or the special Veteran’s Day showing of Stripes  (yes, the Bill Murray vehicle).  And sometimes there will be southern films, a short festival or something else that seems to fit the town–and the bill.

So you’re in your seat, holding your drink and your popcorn, because there are no cup holders.  If you’re older than 35, you’ll know that theaters didn’t used to have cup holders.  Often, instead, they had ashtrays on the back of the seat in front of you, but this I have not seen at the Capri.  It is not stadium seating, nor do the seats recline.  None of this is necessary anyway.

As movie time approaches, the curtains close over the slide show, the lights go out, and a new image is projected just as the curtains begin to open again.  You remember this, of course — if you are old enough — from when you were a kid.  The image is distorted against the curtain, but as the curtain parts, it freezes in focus on the screen.

Before the movie comes on we’re asked to turn off our cell phones, and reminded that there’s no texting and no talking.  The next screen points out that “courtesy is contagious.”

We only see about two previews, just the right amount to whet the appetite for the film.  When it’s over, everyone stays until the credits are finished.  When you go out into the lobby, people say good night to each other.

We went there a few weeks ago for a special benefit showing of Springsteen’s Hyde Park concert film.  Before it started, the manager came to the front of the house and explained that he’d set the film sound on “normal,” but if people wanted it louder, he’d accommodate us.  The audience agreed that loud was better, and he cranked up the sound.

Anyone want to move to Montgomery?

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Lifelongnewyorker Catches Up

Consider this a round-up of odds and ends from the uncharacteristically silent (of late) Lifelongnewyorker.

Weather.  Is delightful, thank you.  Today, October 24, it’s 81 degrees and dry.  I’m still hanging around in shorts and t-shirts, the windows are open and a delightful breeze stirs the white linen curtains.  I will enjoy what my mother called “good sleeping weather” later at the nighttime temps drop into the 50s.  Despite the evening chill, though, we’ve decided it’s still too soon to switch to our winter bedding.  Turns out we’re in a drought, which partially explains the unending series of bright summer days.  But the reality is hard to hate: since March, it’s been warm and pleasant.  Gorgeous spring, hot summer, and lovely fall.  Expecting a few days of winter at some point.

Diet.  We’ve already discussed the fact that fears of food deprivation in the South were wildly overstated.   The fine array of foods, coupled with car reliance, led Lifelongnewyorker to gain a few (more than five) pounds since arriving in Montgomery.  With the arrival of September, Lifelongnewyorker is proud to say, she started a diet and has now lost all of the weight that was added.  Mr. NYer has been most helpful, preparing diet-friendly lunches and dinners, and sacrificing his own nightly glasses of wine in solidarity, even though he doesn’t have to.  (Actually, the diet has been even more effective for him, which was not exactly a desired outcome).  The diet led to something that I haven’t experienced since 6th grade:

Going home for lunch.  One day last week, I realized I’d left my lunch in the refrigerator at home, so I got into my car, drove home, ate lunch at my kitchen table, visited for a while with the cats, read the mail, got back into the car, and arrived back at the office 45 minutes after I’d left.  Try that in NYC.

Cat intelligence.  Harpo, our older and friendly cat, had long been in the habit of taking “constitutionals” in our Staten Island backyard.  Mr. NYer would let him out and instruct him to stay in the yard.  After a certain period of time — usually 20 minutes or so — Harpo would wander away.  Mr. NYer would fetch him and bring him inside.  More than once, though, the cat slithered under the deck or wandered farther afield and couldn’t be found, and then I’d be enlisted in the effort to get him.  Simon, the younger cat, is skittish and fast.  We have never let him out.  When we moved into the Alabama house, Harpo had spent about a month in a second-floor apartment where going out was not a possibility.  Warned about the ferocity of the local flea population, we decided that Harpo was now going to be an exclusively indoor cat.  

Now, what you need to know is that the Island excursions turned him into a howling pest.  He would stand at the sliding screen door and cry to go out.  Frequently the cry worked, and Mr. NYer would let him go.  Here in Alabama, Harpo’s voice has been raised only in anticipation of food, or when he hauls one of his toys around.  He has never asked to go outside, and has never made any kind of dash when the French door to the patio is opened. 

Until Saturday, when somehow he dislodged the window screen while sunning himself on the sill.  I was roused from bed by Mr. NYer calling me urgently; by the time I emerged from the bedroom, he already had Harpo in arms, in the living room.  But Harpo had discovered that Alabama had an outside, too, just like Staten Island.  And he’s been standing at the French doors, howling, since then.

It’s safe to go out again.  Sort of weather-related, but we’ve been striking off exploring a bit again.  Last weekend, we went to the Kentuck Folk Art festival in Northport, just across a river from Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama.  We decided to avoid Saturday, the day of the Alabama game (Roll Tide!), because filling a stadium with 102,000 people leads to a certain amount of traffic.  The festival was great, with a combination of artisans (pottery, textile, jewelry, etc) and real, honest-to-goodness folk artists who often worked with found and discarded objects.  Music played from one of two stages, and it was good.  Every aging hippie, young hipster, and countercultural person in Alabama was there.  It was  a great vibe, and we bought a nice pottery vase, a pottery earring bowl, and some jewelry. 

Inspired, we took at chance at a closer-in craft fair in Prattville, the next town.  This time the entertainment was provided by a succession of dancing school troupes — one set of little girls in costume after another.  There were hula skirts, bumble bees, lady bugs, princesses.  We were astonished that Prattville had such a concentration of children to maintain this unending supply of dancers.  No boys.  They were all at peewee football practice. 

We didn’t stay too long.  Although there were a few wonderful quilters and one potter, most of the crafts were homemade and followed one of two themes: religion or football.  Seriously, I had no idea the Christian cross could be affixed to so many objects, including folk-art rustic birdhouses.  Nor that there were so many ways to wear or display your allegiance to Auburn football (Go Tigers!).

We stopped in the center of Prattville, a tidy and well maintained downtown.  The Autauga Creek runs next to Main Street, and nineteenth century mills sit just north of the downtown area.  Strolling along the beflowered Creekside walk, we saw a father and son fly-fishing in a rocky part.  Upstream just a bit was a dam with water pouring over.  Very picturesque. 

Meanwhile, an antique store/cafe beckoned on Main St, and we wandered  its aisles for a while.  Leaving, we peeked into the windows of the Red Arrow hardware store, a going concern that outdid the antique store for old-timey curiosities.  This hardware store looks like it hasn’t been in any way since perhaps 1945.  Wood floors, deep and dark, and inventory that, well, it’s hard to believe they’ll be able to restock it anytime soon.

Yes, there were modern things for sale, including an open rack with guns (“Do not handle guns”), garden hoses, screws and nails and paints.  But there was also a huge selection of cast iron cookware, galvanized steel tubs, porcelain-on-metal basins (my mother’s favorite for all sorts of chores, including washing of babies), and crockery.  Crockery like you’d put moonshine in.  There were butter  churns.  Farther along, there were replacement glass tops for coffee pots, as in stove top percolators.  Remember those?  Then there were flyswatters with whippable metal handles, not plastic.  You could buy a brand new Radio Flyer wagon, or a brand new metal Radio Flyer tricycle, just like the kind I had as a kid.  I wanted a jug, a wagon, a stove top percolator … but we left just happy to have stumbled into this place out of time.