America lost it at the drive-in movies

People are upset about America’s 30-year spiral down the great commode of history. They wonder what caused it. Moral degradation? Political iniquity? Microsoft? They wonder what to do about it. Cut the capital gains tax? Save the spotted owl? Blow up their fellow citizens? People are hungry for answers.
I sympathize with them, as I was once hungry for a Charleston Chew. I was also once a person. Fortunately, I am now a pundit and can supply the very answers for which people are clamoring (a people activity with which I am unsympathetic, having never clamored).
The decline of America coincides precisely with the decline of the drive-in movie. This is because the decline of America has resulted from the decline of the drive-in movie. Arguments can be made to the contrary, but they would be stupid arguments, so we won’t fool with them.
You see, once upon a time, this nation had a place to bring its squalling brats in jammies, a place where young people could drain their disgusting excess hormones in the sprawling comfort and privacy of a Plymouth Fury. A special place, where dirt-dumb rednecks could get hammered on smuggled-in Pabst instead of troubling their little gnat brains with politics and forming militias. A place where no one was ever shot dead by a mailman. This place was the drive-in.
America has many communal experiences, from the shopping mall to the crowded elevator where some rotten bastard has let one slip. The drive-in movie, however, was unique in that it allowed one to gather together with one’s neighbors without having to sit next to them or listen to them. And one could bring one’s dog along. Try that at your Rosedale.
The drive-in reinforced family and community values. During the interminable wait for the show to start, drive-in screens would urge one to worship this Sunday at the church of one’s choice. No wonder no one worships at the church of one’s choice anymore. The drive-in is not there to remind one.
There was also the chest-swelling thrill of uniting as one community, with hundreds of headlights flashing and horns blowing the instant the projector malfunctioned. Look in vain for that at your Target Center.
No, you won’t find that at your Metrodome. Nor will you find a real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool refreshment stand. You found no $9 cups of flat 3.2 beer at the drive-in. No, the beer was full-strength, Pabst or Schlitz, smuggled in inside ice-filled Styrofoam coolers, as God intended. And there were no such things as nachos, nasty pressed flakes of cornmeal dust slathered in orange goo. No, there were genuine pizzaburgers, straight from the pizzaburger works in Akron, wrapped in genuine Alcoa aluminum foil sheets and served up piping warm. One of the great joys of the drive-in was watching Dad juggle a Boxcar-O’-Corn, four RC Colas, three chili cheese dogs and a box of Milk Duds as he stepped unwittingly onto a half-eaten pizzaburger and shot into the cigarette machine at 40 miles per hour, fracturing his pelvis. Ha-ha, we would all laugh heartily, ha-ha.
And the refreshment stand is where the Mystery of the Cheerleader baffled us all, as she would enter the rest room shaking up a bottle of Coke and emerge minutes later, empty-handed.
What insidious forces conspired to slowly erase the drive-in movie from the America landscape? It started with radio sound. Some ninny got the idea that people disliked the little speaker-on-a-post, and would rather listen to the radio at the drive-in. This, of course, was rank dunderheadedness. The little speaker-on-a-post hung on a slightly open window, which let mosquitos in, which was a perfect excuse to make Dad trudge to the refreshment stand for one of those burning-coil repellents, which stunk up the whole car and gave everyone an excellent buzz. Try that with your Alpine stereo system.
What really slipped the green weenie to the drive-in, however, was the imbecilic and grotesquely evil practice of showing normal movies at the drive-in. No one wants to see “Return of the Jedi” at the drive-in. People want to see drive-in movies at the drive-in. They want to see “Humanoids from the Deep”; they want to see “Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens.” They want to see Hell’s Angels in women’s prisons; they want to see drug-crazed hillbillies on spring break.
They want to discover for themselves that vampires aren’t slick-daddy old Hungarians in tuxedos but badly dubbed naked lesbian ladies. They want to see “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the greatest drive-in movie of all,since it was made by actual cannibals dressed in human skins! They want to see the Dusk-’til-Dawn “Shaft” triple feature and hear really good wacka-wacka music. Just as one would never go to see “Shaft” under a roof, why would one possibly want to see “Pretty Woman” under the stars? Richard Gere and Julia Roberts would just suck the twinkle out of the sky.
There are still three functioning drive-ins in the Twin Cities area: the 65-Hi Blaine, the Vali-Hi on I-94 east of St. Paul, and another one, I forget. I think it’s in Cottage Grove or something. Anyway, here’s where you play your part in the rebirth of America. Get thee to the drive-in posthaste. Use posthaste in a sentence. Breathe the drive-in; feel the drive-in; BE the drive-in. Eat a pizzaburger, if they still have them. If they don’t, for God’s sake, don’t cave in and get nachos.
Make do with Raisinets. Stay for the whole show. Don’t peter out just because they’re showing “Father’s Day.” At some point in the proceedings, ferret out the manager and request — no, DEMAND — that he save his business and the nation. Tell him in no uncertain terms that, as a concerned citizen, you expect to see “Horror of Party Beach,” “I Dismember Mama” and “Invasion of the Bee Girls” on his marquee within the month. And bring back “‘Chainsaw.” God bless America.

Jon Nilsen is the Daily’s editorial cartoonist.