Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Big Mo

I went to Columbia this weekend to see my family. Sunday afternoon, I was helping - OK, watching - my mother fry chicken when my sister called me and invited me to accompany her and her niece, and a friend of the niece and the friend's mom, to the drive-in movie theater in Monetta, South Carolina, the "Big Mo." The Big Mo was showing a double feature of Shrek 2 and 13 going on 30. That sounded cool, so I said sure.

When I got to my sister's house, it turned out that four additional friends of my niece were coming along, and we were all going in the same vehicle. So we had nine people in my sister's big-ass Ford Expedition. I learned that the Expedition, much maligned by me, holds nine people comfortably, along with nine folding chairs, a card table, pillows, two coolers and a picnic basket. A good thing, because it was a long ride: the Big Mo is way the heck out in the sticks. It's a 45 minute drive from where we were to Monetta. From Columbia, you go down I-20 to SC 39; then drive another 7 miles along a country road lined with peach orchards and not much else (a few trailers and farmhouses). The Big Mo itself is right in front of a cow pasture, and when we got there and climbed down from the Expedition, there was a definite odor of cow manure (which is really not that bad).

We arrived at 7:45 p.m. and I learned that the first movie didn't start until 8:45. I was surrounded by Christian women and girls so I couldn't say the first thing that popped into my head, which was "What the fuck are we going to do for the next hour?" But it's a good thing we got there when we did, because the place was already filled up, and was full to capacity by 8:45. And the wait wasn't boring after all, as there were plenty of people to observe, people who looked like they might be at home in a Flannery O'Connor story. In addition to other white-bread suburbanites like ourselves.

While standing in line for the ladies' room, in The Big Mo's little bitty cinder block concession stand, I stood behind a girl who looked to be about 9 years old. Kind of chubby, bobbed light brown hair in a half-ponytail sticking up, wearing shorts and a pink t-shirt with a faded legend on the back: "Dixie Belles," with a design of rows of what looked like Hershey's Kisses with a stars-and-bars design on the paper pulls. I wondered if "Dixie Belles" was a girls' softball team or a clogging troop. She was with another little girl half her size. The first girl saw me peering at a line outside the concession stand and helpfully said, in a twangy little voice, "They's another bathroom out there." "Thanks, I guess I'll stay here," I said. A few minutes later we were standing at the bathroom door. She was holding the door open and I absently looked at the sparkly pink fingernail polish at the end of her plump little fingers. Then I realized she was wearing what looked like a diamond solitaire engagement ring on the ring finger of her left hand, on top of what looked like a gold wedding band. It was the oddest thing. I told my sister about it later and she speculated that maybe the little girl was one of the . . . I think she meant the Irish Travelers. They marry them off young, I hear. But then, maybe she was just wearing some relative's rings. A dead grandmother's, maybe. But they sure looked like they fit her little girl finger . . .

Anyway. It was a beautiful balmy evening under the stars, with a bright (but not too bright) half moon and a perfect breeze. Lots of fun. Though of course when they came up with the concept of drive-in theaters, it was looong before anyone had come up with the concept of big-ass SUV's, which surrounded us. I couldn't complain, because ours was the biggest-assed SUV of them all. Fortunately, you could sit outside your car, or big-ass SUV, and find a spot that allowed a line of sight between the two big-ass SUV's in front of you, and listen to the sound from everyone's car radio (they don't use the speaker boxes at The Big Mo; you tune in to a radio station for the sound). The people who really had it made were the ones in pickup trucks, with folding chairs in the truck beds. But it was all good. I'd definitely go back to The Big Mo, even without a pickup truck.


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