Greeno was already in a bar, broad daylight, when I called him up and told him, some sales rep just came in here, gave me three free tickets to the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace.
“I’m in,” Greeno said, gesturing to the bartender for another vodka tonic.
Greeno and I didn’t really meet until our twenties, but he was a lot like me, and it’s my story, I can change that, so we’ll just skip back in time and I’ll stick him right here, between Mike Rothe and John Liesveld, in the cafeteria at my old school. It’s Monday, and we’re all jabbering about Return of the Jedi, which we thought was the greatest thing to ever happen in film history.
I think that was the one with the big asteroid puppet that tries to eat the Millenium Falcon, and I’m 100% positive it was the one with the warrior teddy bears, but we didn’t notice that. We were all feverishly describing every single scene in the movie so quickly, that I don’t see how any of us could have been actually listening to each other.
Then John Liesveld dropped a real downer on us. He explained that these three movies were actually the fourth, fifth, and sixth movies of a nine-part series, and that George Lucas was planning on making the first one next – a weird choice – but he wasn’t going to do it until the year 2000.
Okay, so we did the math. That was seventeen years from now. I mean, we could make a solemn promise to all go and see it together, in 2000, but what the hell were we supposed to do for seventeen years?
Well, Steve Spangler over there had big, sweet replicas of most of the ships. Mike had a video camera. We could make our own Star Wars movies, until the real ones came out.
“And they have books!” Someone said, somebody who wanted food thrown at them.
We threw some food at him, and then seventeen years went by, and the movie came out, and nobody knew it was a big turd yet, so everybody was going, oh man, this is the single most important day of my life, and putting on stormtrooper suits and stapling anything round they could find to the sides of their girlfriends’ heads, and heading to the movie theatre to try and get tickets.
Still not quite to where you could get online and buy them, you still had to show up and stand in line, clomping your feet like a bunch of slaughterhouse cows. If you can’t smell, a funny thing to do in that situation is fart and then demand to know who did it.
The sales rep guy was named Jeff Blovitz – I’m sure he’s still out there somewhere. I’m not sure how he knew I was a big, serious dork, but it might have been from talking to me. He turned out to have all sorts of knowledge about the Star Wars universe and could talk about it at length. I looked at him – was he the kid we threw food at that day?
Back then you could still smoke in bars, and so that’s what Greeno was doing, while I finished working and arranged for a quick babysitter, and called the wife and said, code red, we’ve got Star Wars tickets and you’re meeting me and Greeno at such and such bar. Bring a big purse.
And then there I was, sitting next to Greeno, not smoking but unable to imagine a world in which you could sit in a bar without getting smoked at, having an icy cold beer, thinking, it’s been a long time coming. This is going to be more exciting than the creation of the Universe itself.
Meanwhile, Greeno was no longer half in the bag. He had the bag up around his neck, cinched tightly, and he was going to have to hop around in it wherever he went.
Greeno said, “There isn’t much that I can honestly say I’ve been looking forward to all my life.”
Got that right, partner, I said. Clink!
Then came the wife, dolled up, showing some leg, a saxophone playing behind her as she walked in. We had just gotten fresh drinks, and she said that we should go, because the movie starts pretty soon and there’s going to be a line.
So we slammed them down, and then exploded at her for not bringing the large purse. Greeno and I like to have a six pack of beer with our movie, and that’s one thing big purses and wives are good for, in this context.
“Now I’m going to have to smuggle them, in various pockets,” I said.
So we rolled by a carryout, and got a six pack of Labatt’s Blue, and of course, it was May, so it wasn’t like I had a big puffy coat to conceal them all in. The wife was offering a running commentary on how the six pack of beer wasn’t necessary, and how we were too old to behave like children, and how there was no way we would get it past the door guys anyway.
We said, listen No Purse, just don’t worry about it. There’s nothing that can’t be done.
So I slid a beer in each of the pockets of my khakis, and then sucked in my gut and slid four more right along my belt, tightening it up to strap them in place. I couldn’t really stick my hands in my pockets, but I could cover the protruding caps with my hands, and if I bent my elbows, I would look a lot like I had my hands in my pockets.
Greeno was having trouble walking, period, so there was no way to burden him with the job of keeping any beers stuck to him, so his job was to stand between me and any usher, while the wife did all the talking.
Right across the parking lot, having to take small steps because the pants were stretched around me, clinking a little bit like a guy with six bottles of beer stuffed in his pants, and then we were right there, wading through a sea of people who were in for a serious disappointment.
But that’s the key, man. Hide in plain sight. The Secret Service wasn’t there or anything, and neither was Dalton from Road House, so there was not a lot of individual scrutiny. The question really is, can you keep a straight, nonchalant face while you stiffwalk, clinking, right past ten ushers.
Yes, I could, it turns out, and Greeno could also nonchalantly run interference on nearby ushers, even if he was seeing more of them than I was.
Once we were in the theatre, the wife shaking her head, frowning and giggling at the same time, I began the trick process of getting the bottles out of my pants without anyone seeing, even though every single seat around me was occupied.
But again, no one is watching you at the theatre. They’re watching the screen. I got the bottles all lined up neatly under my own seat, six of them, thinking, cool, when the previews start, we win. The rules don’t apply to us, because we’re super cool.
That’s not what the wife was thinking, not exactly, but she was a good sport about it when I slipped one of the beers across her lap, then two more, over to Greeno on the other side of her, who said, “Ah! Thank you!” A little bit too loud.
And then in the heavy silence that lies between the dimming of the lights, and the beginning of the first previews, Greeno popped his beer open without about as much stealth as he would in his own living room, and then dropped the bottle, which crashed to the floor like a lamp.
A bunch of chuckles erupted and heads turned around to look at us. Not much to do but look around, as well – who the hell was that?
But Greeno hadn’t been as careful as I was with the beers under his chair. Just as people were starting to lose interest, he kicked one of the other bottles, and the wife and I clapped our hands to our faces as it rolled down ten or fifteen rows, bonking sharply as it dropped over each level, between people’s feet, until we could still hear it though it was very far away.
Still, not enough to attract security. Makee you wonder what it takes to get thrown out of a movie theatre.
The previews started, and I waited a little while to open a beer, but by the time I did, everyone was into the movie, and I really did drink my three like I was sitting in my own living room.
And right about the part where the giant fish eats the other giant fish, I started thinking, wait a minute. Something isn’t right about this. Greeno and I have been waiting to see this flick for seventeen years, and I can’t help but notice I’m thinking about things besides the movie. Seems like I should be riveted to the movie.
Not riveted. I leaned forward to check Greeno, see if he was riveted to it, but Greeno was sound asleep, mouth hanging open, kicking a little bit like a puppy dog chasing dream rabbits.
Not the way we pictured it, way back when we were kids.
I tapped the wife on the knee with the back of my hand, and whispered, “Sweetheart, stick your hand under Greeno’s seat over there, will you, and get me that last beer.”