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Date night evokes nostalgia

After a hectic week at work, I really looking forward to date night.  Date night for me is a relatively new event, due in part to no interest (immediately following my divorce) and to lack of options (due to my pickiness in men).  It has now been nearly three years since my divorce and it was time for me to embrace dating as something to look forward to instead of dreading.

Not to say that I have not been on dates.  I have had a few first dates, but none that made me want a second date.  This has changed recently, when I met a good, nice, kind man.  I will refer to him as Mr. Maybe, because he may be the right guy after a lot of wrong ones.   Mr.  Maybe  and I have been out every weekend since then.  One of our dates was to the Long Drive-In, in Long Prairie.  

I have not been to a drive in in several years, until last year when I went to the Long Drive-In for the first time.  I really enjoyed that experience and was looking forward to going again.  I grew up with a drive-in not far from my home in Washington.  I have many sentimental memories of going to see movies in my pajamas with my family.  My parents would bundle us kids in the van, along with several blankets and pillows, a large bag of popcorn, and drive to the drive-in.  We would park backwards and my parents would open the back door of the van, make a bed in the back, and hook the speaker to the van antenna.  

The first movie would be some family friendly film.  I saw Indiana Jones at the drive-in.  There would be a short cartoon in between films, and then a more adult film would come on.  My parents never worried about us watching something inappropriate at the drive-in because inevitably, we would fall asleep within the first few minutes.  My parents could then watch the film in peace and quiet.  At least I hope that is what they were doing.

As a teenager, I still enjoyed the drive-in with my friends.  My first boyfriend took me to the drive-in and we saw Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I loved that movie, though the boyfriend didn’t work out.  Back then, we paid for entrance by the car, not by the person.  So, being the mischievous teens we were, we would pull over near the entrance and meet another car of our friends, then stuff a few of them into the trunk of the car.  The bigger the trunk, the better.  Once we got into the drive-in, we let out the trunk passengers and split the cost.  Now I am so thankful we didn’t kill anyone!

And so, with these memories running through my head, I went with Mr. Maybe and my BFF and her family to the Long Drive-In.  The films for the weekend were Man of Steel and The Hangover III.  We arrived around 9 p.m., when it was still light out.  We found our spot up close and backed in.  Things were a bit different.  Most people don’t sit in their cars to watch the movies anymore.  We brought camp chairs and set them up in the back of the truck bed, with a ton of blankets.  We went inside the concession stand and I was surprised at the variety of items for purchase.  In addition to the normal movie food of drinks, candy, and popcorn, they also had pizza, burgers, tacos in a bag (must be a Minnesota thing) and glow sticks for necklaces and bracelets.  We purchased a few things and then settled into our seats under some blankets.  After a long string of hot days, the night had cooled down and it was actually a bit chilly.  We chatted for awhile until the movie started.  

The movie was great, and the view couldn’t be beat.  We watched the film in the company of many fireflies under a clear sky with thousands of stars.  I even saw a shooting star and made a wish.  I can’t tell you what it was, or it won’t come true.  And Mr. Maybe was a perfect gentleman, holding my hand and making sure I had enough blankets to stay warm.  The first movie was done at 12:30 a.m. and even though we were tired, we stayed for (and laughed through) the second film.  I got home at 3 a.m., which made for a long Sunday.  But it was worth it.  

I enjoyed the drive-in as much now as I did when I was younger.  I want to share that experience with my children in the fall and hope to do so for many years.  But the era of drive-ins is threatened.  The drive-in of my childhood closed last year and The Long Drive-In is in danger of closing.  With new digital technology, they must purchase a digital projector, to the tune of $60,000.  While I was there on Saturday, I noticed a display on their wall showing how much they had raised and how much more work there is.  On their Facebook page, they have a post about the fundraising campaign.  Honda Corporation is also holding a contest in which they will donate digital projectors to the five drive-ins with the most votes.  Voting begins in August and people can vote every day.  I plan on voting every day to preserve this local treasure.

As for Mr. Maybe, we had our next date at the Viking Raceway in Alexandria last weekend.  I confess to a bit of prejudice against races.  On TV, NASCAR seems so boring a sport to me and I figured the dirt car races would be the same.  We arrived at the racetrack an hour prior to the event and found our seats. The music that was playing through the speakers was all country.  This did not alleviate my misgivings about the event, as I do not enjoy country music at all.  

We brought earplugs and it was a good thing, because the cars were LOUD!  There were several different types of cars, none of which I could name.  The first half of the night was spent on small heats – races of six laps, which was just short enough to make it interesting.  There were crashes, flat tires, cars that drove off the dirt track.  At one point, I was biting my nails when an ambulance showed up at a nasty crash, but the driver got out and waved to the crowd.  

My group and I decided to make little bets on which cars we thought would win each race.  The prize was bragging rights only, and the rules were that we couldn’t pick the same numbers.  We would each choose a different car.  Not knowing anything about cars or racing, I resorted to choosing the prettiest car – I particularly liked the ones with sparkly numbers and flashy paint jobs.  Needless to say, I didn’t win many bragging rights that night.  Most of my choices were the ones who ran off the track or were so far behind, I was embarrassed for them.  But I had a fabulous time.  I was surprised at how much I got into this event.  

I don’t know that I would go to the races often, but I plan to make it a regular once a summer event.  And Mr. Maybe and I are still going strong, so the night was a complete success.