The Remains Of Another Day ~ Most Of Your Didn't Live

Something fiercely common is happening in Chicago right now. Another crumbling westside movie house is being razed. Its demise prompts this question: Do you ever wonder what happens to your thoughts….?

In the fullness of time, they typically become one of two things. Actions or memories. Like all energy, they endure in both space and time. Consider: The thoughts of Karl Marx rummaging in the stacks of the British Library during the 1870s; or those of Adolf Hitler sketching in the flop-houses of Vienna during the 1910s. Their’s surely altered the world.

Mine, spawned in this small neighborhood theater during the 1940s, altered very little. And yet, now when I drive past its boarded vestiges, I am reminded of other locals who once sat here riveted to the same silver screen. Among them Gene Krupa, Hugh Hefner, Kim Novak and Bob Newhart. Collectively, their thoughts altered their world too.

This notion stuck with me as I drove through the community decay that had closed in around this once spunky dream palace. A musician, a publisher, an actress, and a satirist. Each had indulged in generous doses of the same Hollywood mythologies I had during those depression/wartime years.

Exactly what were the celluloid myths that became fermentation for them and all those others? Here is a calculated guess. The Generation some call the Greatest was just then emerging from the Great Depression, and plunging into the Second World War. The big studios out West understood better than most what we needed, looking up in there from the darkness.

Family. Community. Flag. God.

Measure carefully, mix sentimentally, then be sure both the good and the girl win in the end. Formulaic? Of course; but so is the “Odyssey,” the Statue of Liberty, sermons from the pulpit, and much of the Bible. Either you were there with 130 million other Americans; or you’re the kind of new ager who calls Frank Capra classics like “A Wonderful Life,” “Mr Smith Goes To Washington” and “Lost Horizon” corny. Capra, himself a proud immigrant, happily preferred Capra-Corn.

Family. Community. Flag. God.

Could something so prosaic really nourish greatness…? Questions like that have no quantifiable answers. They are framed by historians, re-told by authors, remembered by old men, then occasionally believed by young ones. Young men and women who at times pierce the miasma of current cynicism in order to believe there must have been something of value back there. Back then.

Just enough to help survive a depression and win a war. Not bad for my spunky little dream palace.

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