Friday, December 11, 2015

A love note to Harkins Camelview

Will I be able to make you understand why I love this place so much and why I will miss it so much? 


 I do not remember the first time I went to this theatre* (*blogger wants to tell me this is spelled wrong, but its Harkins Theatres and I'm sticking to that.)  I just know that since I moved to Phoenix in 1995 I have been in love with this place. I love that it shows all independent and foreign films. I love that it's an older building and the screens are kinda old school, the seats aren't stadium and they aren't fancy, the clientele is a weird mixture of middle aged people and college students, and the experience feels very intimate. The whole place is cozy as hell. Even the bathrooms are likable. The murals are cool and the walls are slightly dingy and nothing about it is really slick or what I've come to experience at the nicer newer theatres and I totally dig that. And those mushroom shade structures out front? It hurts my heart they are going away.

But what I think I probably love the most about this place is that it helped me heal from my divorce. It helped me get to know myself better and to be a happier person. I am being totally honest when I say I don't think I would be doing as well as I am emotionally without this place.

Let me back up for a minute.

When I was in high school I got into this thing where I felt like I needed to be out doing something every Friday night. I mean maybe sometimes that would be hanging out at a friends house, but a lot of times it was going to the movies, going to a football game, going to a dance, or being silly with my friends driving around Rexburg Idaho. I went out on Saturdays sometimes too but it felt like I pretty much ALWAYS went out on Friday.

In college it was similar. When I was in college I had another experience that contributed to why I love Camelview so much - and really movies in general. The summer between my Sophomore and Junior year of college was little rough (an understatement) - for lots of reasons I was pretty depressed. I had recently moved to Provo and while I love Provo that first summer was a little bit of a difficult adjustment. I remember one day I was in my room which was part of the attic of an old house in downtown Provo. It was hot. No air conditioning! I was sweltering and in a very bad mood. I remember there was no one at home to do anything with and I really needed to get out of the house. I remember having this vague idea about the movies and air conditioning. I got dressed up in this summer dress, put on full make-up, did my hair, and then walked to the movie theatre in downtown Provo. The movie was "The Secret of My Success" with Michael J. Fox. I went to that movie alone. I was so much happier afterwards. Not only was it so much cooler getting out of that stifling old attic but it just felt good to go and do something. From then on I used going to the movies by myself from time to time as a way to regroup.


There's something so magical about movies for me. That summer in Provo I learned there was a Foreign Cinema on campus in the Kimball Building. I quickly fell in love with Foreign films. Pretty soon I was traveling to Salt Lake with my friend Nan to see movies we couldn't see in Provo. Movies like "Manon of the Spring" and "My Life as A Dog". These are still old favorites. I don't know why exactly I grew to love films of a quirkier and more exotic quality. I loved the pacing of foreign films. I loved that a lot of the time they are just more of a contemplation on life than an action packed sequence of events. They are often more quiet and I need that sometimes. I like the feeling of watching something in a foreign language and then having that language kind of wash over me. I delude myself often into feeling I can speak Portuguese for an hour or two. I enjoy American movies that are independent usually much more than mainstream films for the same reason.

For many years when I was married we went out on Friday nights. Sometimes just to dinner, or maybe to the art gallery, or First Friday, or some event - maybe dinner with friends. I always enjoyed going out on Friday. It felt like a great way to kick off the weekend and my fall back "go-to" activity was a movie and dinner. In retrospect I am not sure if my husband really enjoyed that as much as I did.

To me there was nothing better than driving around in the convertible with the top down on a warm Arizona evening, smelling all the goodness of the desert, anticipating a perfectly cooked steak and a movie. When my marriage ended my husband and I had 50/50 custody and we split the time the children were at his home and mine. I had them slightly more often than he did and one of the things we agreed on was that they would go to his house on Friday nights and stay until sometime on Saturday. I was okay with that and at first I would try to fill my Friday night schedule with meeting friends for dinner or something similar. But often I felt like I was just trying to fill up the time so I didn't have to think too much about being alone. It is weird when you have a bunch of friends who are in couples and suddenly it really doesn't work to hang out with any of them anymore. I totally understand why that happens, but it doesn't make it suck any less. Eventually I started to plan ahead that I would always go to a movie by myself if I didn't have anything else to do. And often (usually) I preferred that to anything else. It was the perfect way to spend my Friday.


I would drive, up Lincoln Drive to Scottsdale Road with the windows rolled down, smelling the desert and glad I had somewhere to go and something to look forward to. When you're overcoming something difficult spending time alone can be very soothing.  There's no one to answer to and if you want to feel sad or cry - you can go right ahead.  I healed one Friday night at a time. Camelview was a huge part of that and for that reason I will always love it. In the movies, in the dark, you have epiphanies about things. You learn a lot of important things about yourself. You see things you never saw before. You hear things in a new way. You become a student of human nature and it teaches you. You cry. You laugh. When you leave - whatever was wrong when you came is all better.

I know losing one movie theatre isn't going to totally ruin my little ritual. There are other theatres. And there will always be great movies. And the new movie theatre that is replacing Camelview will be awesome with it's stadium seats and dining options and blah blah blah. Very slick and beautiful and I'm sure lovely in it's own way. But it definitely will not be the same. I hate that we throw things away because they are old. I hate that people always want newer things and shinier things. They are hardly ever better. People usually figure that out when it's way to late. My last movie there was last weekend watching Amelie. Which is one of my favorite movies and I saw it there when it first came out. It was a fitting note to end things on. Anyway. This is my love note to Harkins Camelview. Thank you.

1 comment:

Suzanne Barker said...

Lezlee, while I also love this place, I don't think it has the same depth of meaning and purpose for me as for you. I appreciate your gift of finding the right words to express the feeling behind something. We all have those feelings but we aren't all as adept at identifying and naming them. Bravo for a blog entry of insight, depth and emotion.


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