The Forgotten Cinema

Sandwiched between a fifties style café and gourmet bistro, stood the mighty cinema. Its tower had distinct turquoise bay windows. Its façade was pinker than a flamingo.

In fact, the whole shopping center was pink. It represented the highest in late 80’s architectural sophistication. Inside the Canyon Springs Cinema, great films of 1989 and early 90’s played.

Moviegoers stood in line for such classics as Wayne’s World, Addams Family Values, My Girl, Clueless, Too Wong Foo, The Lion King and (dare I say) Titanic. It was a gathering place for the community, which included many workers from the nearby, March Air Force Base, and students from UCR.

In the late 90’s, Riverside had a movie theatre boom. Theatres were easily found in two-mile radius. The Canyon Springs Cinema stood strong. Then pinker than a flamingo shopping center began it’s gradual decay.

Soon competition from nearby theatres finally hit Canyon Springs, like an incurable virus. The cinema and its mighty tower eventually faded away.

Once a beacon to mainstream cinema, where tears and laughter filled tacky red seats, neither emotion was ever felt again. Rather than being torn for a more modern structure, the cinema has remained abandoned. It’s interior, emptier than the Great Plains.

The shopping center did have a beacon of hope, curry. The neighborhood’s most delicious Indian restaurant livened up the bland scape. At least one can still have a spicy and delicious Chicken Tikka Masala, in the shadow of an abandoned shrine to film.

Coffee and Prozac

In high school, my trousers would never fit correctly, which, created a wedgie, a terribly obvious wedgie. I could throw a coat over it during winter, but my bum was unavoidable. The terribly cruel kids in high school nicknamed me, “the never ending wedgie.”

Wedgies were out of style by 1999. However, days of fantasizing about graduating high school and being an accepted freak of nature never died out, passed 1999. Uncovering my tribe became a monumental dream. I’d be the toast of the art world, an Oscar winner and Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Fast forward, if you attempted to find my art at the cinema, a museum or indie bookshop, then disappointment would engulf your soul. Although, I wrote many stories and even written the first draft of a novel, I still struggled to get my art into the world. In fact, as a thirty year old, feelings of awkwardness and aloofness never left.

More surprisingly, I was feeling out of place in New York City. Twas the geographical location, I ran away to not be an outsider. As my thirties progressed, not only was it rigorous to develop a writing a career, but change was needed, and inevitable.

New York’s stifling sidewalks were suffocating. Therefore, escaping became the dream. After failed attempts at moving to Los Angeles and Portland, escaping disappointment came in reading books.

Randomly, I sought to find the right career path. Reading and writing were the only hobbies, which tickeled my fancy. How could I make a career of that? Then, I remembered high school and the fine literature digested. Randomly, I decided to become a high school English teacher. Along with academia, I decided to make a bold step, geographically.

Upon taking my morning breakfast of a coffee, bagel, and Prozac, I checked on my frequent flyer miles. Bravely, I researched how many miles would be needed for a one-ticket to Southern California.

Having more than plenty of miles, I booked the one way ticket from New York La Guardia to Ontairo, CA. By June 1st, New York would be another chapter in lie, albeit, a very interesting chapter. Soon, Riverside would become my bohemian enclave.

With only two months left in the Northeast, I brainstormed a bucket list of experiences, still needed to be had in the city. After living in New York, on and off for nearly a decade, there wasn’t much left. Coffee shop adventures, book shopping sprees and walks in Harlem were more thrilling than a visit to the top of the 30 Rock.

Waiting out the move proved most difficult. In many ways, I was stuck in my old life, but change loomed nearer and nearer. Impatience hindered enjoyment, but attempted to be a happy (as happy as a cranky New York resident could aspire to be).

Escape through the written word became most beneficial. Would I survive the next few months of waiting? of course. Ironically, the place and institution I desired to escape turned itself into the dream of the late 2010’s. Only, I would avoid all trousers, which gave me never ending wedgies.

The Dream of the 90s is alive in Riverside???

(yes, this is a Portlandia reference)

Riverside in the 90’s a mystical land. An unsettling amount of isolation paired with hillbillies and grungy gen x-ers turned the unassuming suburb into a slightly eclectic mix, Gen-x rebels and nuclear families

Standing above the hills of masterful, Mt. Rubidoux, the rest of the world seemed more interesting, more cool, and more artistic. Many teenagers yearned to leave their track homes for New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I plotted to live in New York. Imagining a life filled with art, breaking into random song on the sidewalk, and plenty of gay guys attributed to high aspirations.

The 2000’s happened, I ended up moving to New York. I struggled for years, cleaning kitchens and washing dishes. Eventually I worked the quintessential admin job with a health insurance plan and my own apt in Harlem.

By my thirties, New York didn’t have the seem appeal. There was a boredom in the air. In fact, many big cities suffered the same plight. High rents, Whole Foods and fancy gyms were turning campy paradises into the suburban conformity we attempted to escape from.

While the major cities of the world were being taken over by 1%centers and their offspring, I plotted to leave Manhattan. But where could I go? Sure, the dream of the 90’s was alive in Portland, but I wanted something a bit off the beaten path.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I strolled around downtown Riverside. It smelled like the 90’s, when I was a teenager heading from coffee shop to an indie flick festival at the Fox theatre.

Nostalgia built, as high winds blew rare objects into my eyes. My tootsies touched the fine cobble stone pavement. I walked toward Back to the Grind, the local indie coffee shop.

A blue grass band joyfully played for coffee drinkers. The music mesmerized, as did the artsy air. Enough with high rents and fashionable haunts, I am a child of the 90’s and Riverside. I liked my sidewalks like my men, grungy.

With cheap rents, and a sizable artistic community, I decided the dream of the 90’s was really alive in Riverside, possibly. How would I magically move back? I had a life established, New York City.

On the plane back to New York, I imagined a life of reading books and writing. I need to get paid for this grand fete. Grad school? Yes, grad school for MFA in creative writing. I shall converse with scholarly minds, while making a career out of reading books, writing, and teaching others about literature’s grandeur.

“Professor Anthony,” the gushy feeling overcame me, as the plane flew over Midwestern corn fields. Landing at Kennedy, I felt a bit more optimistic about life than pre-vacation.

Two weeks later, I returned to Riverside for the Christmas holiday. Writing samples, a thesis, statement of purposes, letters of recommendation, where due a few days after New Years.

Grabbing my lap top, I headed for Augie’s coffee shop. Gulping down a lavender latte, I prepared my portfolio. My brain went from 1980’s East Village to the Sultan Sea’s desolation. I couldn’t write or focus.

Everything distracted me. The barista’s hip t-shirt. Foam rising from my cappuccino, curiosity about the book being read at an adjacent table. I didn’t cry from frustration, just banged my head against the blond wood table.

My weeks at home were spent frantically organizing my portfolio. The blank canvass effect stressed and alluded me on certain days. Other days, I oozed inspiration, and was quite productive.

The deadline loomed, I wanted to have everything done before heading back to New York. Then distraction, lots of distraction continually dared to detour academic ambitions.

The new Star Wars flick, dinner with friends and cozy evenings by the fireplace, helped lift creative brain cells into oblivion. Relentlessly, I did everything I could to finish my college applications and writing portfolio.

On unseasonably cold morning, I had to fly back to New York. My portfolio was finished. Polishing my personal and purpose statements became grealy important.

After a full day day of travel, distraction once again became an enemy. Returning to Manhattan, I had mere hours to finish my portfolio. Pressed on time, I opened the empty doors to darkened apartment. Dashing toward the fridge, I only had whisky to hold me over.

Unrelenting, I switched on the lap top. Terribly hungry, I could only think of pizza. How I missed pizza. Rather than working on college application madness, I ended up stuffing my face with brick oven pizza and white wine.

The wine made me quite sleepy, but I still had to finish the entirety of my portfolio and application. Nearly falling asleep, I imagined an existence of sunshine, books, coffee shops, and my own car to ride around in. Motivation quickly returned.

Lifting myself from bed, I did not surrender to the wall of sleep. Everything was sent to the university. Happily, I passed out in bed. Dozing off, I would soon learn the answer to the following question. “Is the dream of the 90’s really alive in Riverside?”

  • Special thanks to everyone who sent recommendation letters, proofread and encouraged me along the way.

Quirky in L.A.

The Cranberries, Blur, & Nirvana played on an old car radio. Palm trees swayed with the brutal force of Santa Ana winds. Automobiles nearly collided. Smog paraded merrily along an ideal turquoise sky.

Houses with 50’s American charm were reminiscent of the California dream. Freeways, empty sidewalks, and breezes from the Pacific exemplified a land of wanted boredom. This was L.A. in the 90’s.

Often times, my family and I took day trips there. Growing up in nearby Riverside, L.A.’s Fred Segal was a perfectly packaged representation of la la land.

It was (and still is) the legendary store were celebrities shopped. They did lunch, bought super duper, cool graphic t-shirts, and browsed for hip home décor. My mother would take me to Fred Segal’s for a very important initiation.

“You like donuts, don’t you?” asked, the statuesque Nordic sales lady. I unapologetically shook my head, yes. Unlike most perfectly quaffed Fred Segal clientele, I had a pimples and a tummy pregnant with tacos and chimichangas.

She recommended products to diminish my pimply woes. As she applied the best of Scandinavian skin care products, 90’s alternative rock blasted for the trendy Angelenos. Glaring to my left was the alternative to grunge.

Standing tall was the ideal L.A. man. Perfectly sculpted, handsome and confident, he tried on various graphic tees (in the neighboring t-shirt shop). My teenage soul sank to the ground. I wish I didn’t like chimichangas, so much, I thought to myself.

Lust filled my existence. After my facial treatment, I stared at a face full of red dots. If I get bored, I could always play connect the dots with my zits. Staring at my normal exterior made me a bit disillusioned. However, my interior was filled with art and wonderment.

I wouldn’t grow into a Gucci model, but it didn’t matter. By the teenage years, I knew I would venture east. Everything about New York fascinated me. The East had promises of intellectuality, classic architecture, public transportation, seasons, and a less vain society.

After several years in New York, I found that my city had embraced L.A.-isms, the gym, frozen yogurt, and yoga. Had New York become the new L.A.? In the midst of New York’s great beauties, I couldn’t get a date.

Although, I had a gorgeous complexion, I wasn’t exactly an Adonis either. I spent many nights alone with Chinese food and sitcoms. Alas, a handsome (or any) prince had not yet rescued me from fifth-floor walk-up land.

Were my quirky looks igniting perpetual rejection? Strolling New York, I was quite melancholy. At therapy, a breakthrough arose. “I’m alone,” with those words, I took a giant leap for gays, everywhere.

For years, I brushed off lonely sentiments. Instead, I put on a brave face as independent boy about the world. After therapy, I embraced vulnerability. Maybe, I am not that muscle guy from Fred Segal? Maybe I am not that handsome? However, I returned to the beauty within.

That week rather than focusing on dating apps and outward appearance, I channeled my inner author. Compiling a collection of short stories, I printed out the pages. Musically, the pages spewing out were Mozart to my ears. When the last page arrived, I held it close.

My heart pounded rapidly. In my hands, I held my first book. It was mine. Ideally, my inner art produced outward beauty. The pages were warm and smelled of a pine tree adorned forest. I found my happy moment, even in the midst of loneliness and insecurity.

This quirky boy still longs for a trip to Fred Segal. I’ve haven’t been in years. I loved their Santa Monica outpost. One day, I’d like to linger in their café and play, connect a zit. It’s the game, which best exemplifies my quirky teen years. Luckily, I no longer have the zits to play with.