First Saturdays

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Hi, my name is Rhyan and I’m a movie addict.

And an insomniac.

Native New Yorker, born in Manhattan, raised in The Bronx, and because I inherited my mother’s transient nature, I’ve managed to live in each of the five boroughs. Poor as a skunk’s misery, a church mouse, Job, Lazarus, and dirt. Hell, I’m still poor, and most likely always will be.

The best thing about growing up without anything is that you learn to make the most of what you’ve got and distract yourself from what you haven’t got. My major distraction was television.

It was my babysitter, my tutor, and my secret friend that entertained me as the rest of the world slept. Its siren call would lure me into the living room, where I’d toss my blanket over the both of us so the light didn’t spill out of the room and give away my position. Then I’d plug my mono transistor radio earphone into the headphone jack and marvel at all the noir, horror and science fiction movies that played on CBS’ The Late Show, The Late Late Show, and The Late Late Late Show.

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I was always a wreck in school the following day, but man was it worth it.

The only thing that trumped this near nightly process was the first Saturday of the month. Like most poor folk, we were on welfare and this was before the Food Stamp bill was passed in 1970 which meant everything, rent, bills, and food monies arrived in the mailbox in one convenient check. The Saturday that followed check day was always considered my day. Wherever I wanted to go, wherever I wanted to play.

My playground of choice? 42nd Street. The first stop was Tad’s Steak House. Sure, the broiled steak was thin and more gristle than meat, the garlic bread was oilier than Brylcreem, the chocolate pudding coated with that yucky skin and a fountain Coke served in a large red plastic tumbler that smelled like the previous beverage it held… but to me, it was pure heaven.

42nd

Then my mother gestured at the movie theaters that lined both sides of the street and said the most perfect thing anyone could have said to me at the time, “You can see all the movies you can stay awake for.”

These were once majestic movie houses that slowly transformed during the decline of New York City starting in the late 50’s into grindhouse theaters before grindhouse was even a word. Each one ran three films, usually one current and the others whatever was on hand.

On these magic Saturdays, I tore through Roger Corman flicks, Hammer Films, the Toho tokusatsu imports and so much more. All uninterrupted viewing aside from the occasional mom hand that would clamp over my eyes during nude or sex scenes. Only when I started to nod off was it time to head home, despite my protestations.

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On the way home, we’d stop off at the Horn & Hardart automat and my mother would dump tokens into my hand and send me off to fetch dinner from the individual glass door compartments. Even though it was only plain food — sandwiches, beef stew, and the like — there was something about slotting coins and retrieving a prize that appealed to me.

Optimo

The final detour before reaching home was the Optimo Cigars shop that had a spinning wire rack of comic books where I’d select my month’s reading material.

I realize this may not seem like any great shakes to you, but it remains the only positive memory I have of my mother — too long and too personal a story to go into here — and I can’t think of a better way to honor the anniversary of her passing.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

16 responses to “First Saturdays

  1. I thought maybe you were missing the way NY used to be, but I understand. I think missing my dad and fishing go hand in hand. Thanks for the share.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’d be a liar if I said I don’t sometimes sit in my imaginary rocking chair on my imaginary front porch and shake my fist at the whippersnappers with their newfangled technology and bang on about the good old days of New York, but I’m smart enough (ha!) to realize that New York went through a rough patch in the 70s and 80s and my memories are fond chiefly because I had no responsibilities back then.

      This post actually began as something else, something longer and a bit more convoluted, but I decided to whittle it down to its core. It doesn’t do the memories justice, but it serves as a placeholder for when I truly commit to telling the story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well-said. Often I’m surprised by the direction my writing goes, and sometimes it goes nowhere! But I like reading about what people ‘choose’ to remember. I particularly liked the image of you covering the TV and yourself to create a glowing tent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now, that I do miss. Being so caught up in a movie that the outside world vanishes for a couple of hours. It sometimes happens with books as well, but not as strong as tv or movies.

        I am sadly a part of the society that the late Harlan Ellison (a writing idol of mine) lambasted for sucking on the Glass Teat that erodes intelligence and freedom and creates a legion of bloodshot-eyed zombies unable to communicate beyond their screens or think for themselves.

        The hypocrisy being that he made a good portion of his living writing for 60s and 70s tv. What a character he was.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me think about my hometown growing up. I like that you included pictures to give us a vague idea of what the time period was like.You know, even though we all grow up in different parts of the world and we’re all different personality types – some of our childhood journey lead us on the same path.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Someone much smarter than me once said we’re all more alike than we are different and because I grew up in a multicultural neighborhood I was able to learn this fact early on. If only there was a way to make the entire planet realize this important fact.

      I appreciate your taking the time to read to post and comment on it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rhyan, this must’ve been an emotional write. Memories often evoke such mixed feelings. I’m not sure if we even remember correctly. You took us along on Adventure Saturday. It was a sheer delight to read about your childhood Fun Day. It must’ve been magical for you. Like any child, the excitement can be dizzying. We all have our own memories.
    I hope you think of your mother fondly. No one’s perfect and some are a little behind the others. But it’s difficult to put one in another’s shoes. So, it’s better to let it be.
    And you are the perfect example of TV binge watching. I presume you carry on your own tradition.
    It’s so wonderful to know you a little more. And brave of you to share. Personal matters aren’t easily revealed.
    Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This post was meant to be something else entirely but detoured into this and it was actually quite easy to write. Memories from my childhood are spotty at best, some suppressed and others lost to the ravages of time and mental neglect, but this one sticks. It’s not a single memory but a compilation of Saturdays and I can’t recall ever having a bad time.

      Circumstances have altered my view on “Honor thy mother and thy father” and while I understand the value that society, as a whole, places on this sacred relationship, the overlooked truth of the matter is:

      Not all good people make good parents, and not all parents are good people.

      You may take the stance that all parents deserve their child’s love and respect regardless of their actions, and I can’t argue with your belief because we are two different people who led two different lives, so who am I say that you are wrong for believing as you do, and I am right?

      Understand that when I say “you” I am speaking in generalities.

      Hate is a heavy load to bear, so I set that burden down years ago, but the void left by the absence of hate isn’t automatically filled with love. I have made my peace with the past, and if there is an afterlife, I hope she finds the peace there that she never could here. That is about as gracious as I care to be.

      Onto lighter topics:

      So much has changed in the entertainment landscape, with content so readily available, and television and movies reduced to genre formulas, that binge-watching isn’t the same anymore. It was so much simpler when we had fewer channels and fewer programs and movies would sit in theaters for months before a new feature was released. Now, everything seems so disposable and the attention isn’t on “Hey, look at this great thing!” but instead “Okay, what’s next?” No one wants to be surprised anymore, hungering for spoilers on a project that’s still years away from being released.

      Or, it could just be that the forever child in me is starting to grow into a grumpy old man pining for and griping about the good old days.

      As always, thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rhyan, I believe that what suits someone is the best way to be. There is no right or wrong. And some parents are no less than monsters and it is vice versa for some children. So, sit back and let your mind rest at ease. We all have to move on and just be.
        And attention spans have become so tiny. Satisfaction so bland and insatiable. No wonder people are always looking for something else – practically in everything and everywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

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