Blue Starlite Drive In

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have questions that at times take years and years to unravel. Before coming to a point where that question can be understood and possibly solved, I have normally continued to some other equally dire distraction. However, one I return to periodically is a beast I know as a drive-in movie theatre.

Yes, the type of drive-in Michael J. Fox runs his Delorean into on Back to the Future III, the place where anyone over 45 had their first heavy makeout session, and where anyone under 45 wishes they could have their first makeout session.

Why are they so terrific? Why are there none around anymore? When will they make an official comeback? Should they even make a comeback? Why do we need drive-ins?

Well, it’s more than one question I guess.

Drive-in theaters, also called ozoners, today are above all else the ultimate delivery nostalgia. They’re nostalgic because not many are around anymore and yet their mere existence is embedded in our past and contemporary culture. Somewhere in the late 80’s (I blame bucket seats and Reagan) the ozoner lost it’s audience of teenagers and families. The clunky huge, four screen, 1200 car drive-ins out in the countryside became ripe for the growing hunger of 90’s urban sprawl, namely housing divisions and super communities. Cars became bigger, we all got bigger televisions in our media rooms, and entertainment became a very private and isolated pastime. We lost the fun of making a “night of it”, getting all the blankets and chairs into the back of our pickup and sitting under the stars half watching the movie and half interacting with our friends, family, and perfect strangers a car next to us. It was just no fun I guess – or the idea of fun was misplaced.

Well don’t look now, but the drive-in experience is kind of making a viable comeback. In Austin Texas, the drive-in has found a home in the heart of the city – at the Blue Starlite Drive-in. This is not your granddad’s drive-in though. At the Blue Starlite Drive-in you can enjoy all the things that made the drive-in incredibly awesome, and you can throw in some new twists for free. The fresh air, the buzz of community, the enormous screen with Austin as it’s backdrop, the vintage speakers, the stars overhead, the popcorn, and the double feature. It’s enough to make anyone pine for the simpler times of 1950’s high school, classic cars, and that first kiss.

Of course, to live in nostalgia is super cheesy and the Cleavers are far from the family that I truly identify with, but I do think the drive-in offers a link seeded in a deep cultural psyche of many people. The drive-in was an extension of freedom and at the same time a fear/excitement of adulthood. Drive-ins are one of the few places where that universal process is central to the experience.

I’m sure the drive-in will never capture the landscape as it did 80 years ago, but here in Austin I think it can capture a small bit of the urban landscape. That’s right, to hell with noise ordinances and Hummers. Now with two locations, one on E.6th and the original on Cesar Chavez Blvd, the Blue Starlite is entering the fray of an American tradition. And it’s doing so by updating it, Richard Hollingshead is probably rolling in his perfectly angled grave at not patenting this idea.

The owner of the Blue Starlite, Josh, took it upon himself to hunt down outdoor speakers and paraphanelia from online, paint the side of a building white, buy a projector and trailer, and run an urban boutique drive-in. I love this on so many levels. The time is right, the place is right, and the drive-in is right. People are looking for genuine experiences, and they are finding drive-ins a perfect fit for an alternative and cheap way to get out and enjoy some freedom and adulthood making.

So I have a new question.

What’s better than watching Teen Wolf under the stars with a crackly old speaker hanging precariously inside your car ?

Nothing.

It’s an exciting time in Austin, the drive-in is coming back reincarnated after being gone for decades. Check out the website for all the details on showtimes, prices, and renting them out for a private event.

Blue Starlite Website

A Detroit Auto Show

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I hope we’ve learned enough from this period in history I like to call “the Great Regression”.  I definitely have to believe that the dependency we had/have on credit has adjusted our national psyche into the healthy belief that if you don’t have it you don’t spend it, that buying gold isn’t just for grandpa, and  purchasing a home is not an investment but a security. I want to believe in the unemployment rate going down, consumer confidence going up, the price of milk keeping pace with inflation, and my ability to buy new shoes when the many holes form to make one giant hole. I really want that American Dream back for crissakes.

The news that we are buying cars, splurging again on Christmas gifts, vacationing, and having early retirements is uplifting. And after coming across this article

(http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704055204576068170386119208.html)

I reflected more on my experience in the now passing recession (I hope!!)

Last year at this time I visited the annual Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Center in downtown Motor City. Car shows are, face it, a fun experience. I had gone to countless oldies shows, the kind that line little Main St. in every town in every state. I even went to the Portland Auto Show on two occasions. Mostly, I love the chance to wander around like a diplomat of the people, kick the tires and sit behind the wheel of a car that will never be in my driveway (unless it’s a Rolls, then I have to get permission to even look at it). So, to go to the lauded Detroit Auto Show meant I was to experience the show all others try to live up to. The Detroit Auto Show, where the new models are unveiled in flamboyant displays of debauchery and neon. I was excited.

First off: The Cobo Center is, on sight, horrid. I don’t care if it can fit the entire country of Jordan inside. It. Is. A. Monstrosity. inside and out.

Inside I saw what I would expect. There was some amazing cars but none that I went crazy about. None that said to me “the world is changed”. What I found most interesting was the depressing attempt to being optimistic about the show, about the auto industry, about the automobile itself. Reading about this years auto show I feel cheated. Last year I could physically feel the proverbial nail in the coffin of the newly acquired GM and Chrysler. Nothing was presented, it was parked. The big luxury brands of the industry (Audi, BMW, LandRover, Jaguar, etc.) appeared to have brought out their model from 2009 because I believe I saw my dentist driving the same model two years ago. Sadly, the most talked about car there was the Tata from China, a gas pinching tin can that was meant to be the Usonian car for the new working class of some country that still had more bicycles than people. I wouldn’t drive that car in 99.9% of America, not only would I fear for my life on the road, I would fear for my psyche off it. And I drive a Honda Civic.

Let’s just say the show was pretty bad, and to top it off I ventured to the basement where a replica synthetic parkway had been installed in order for the masses to test drive electric SUV’s around in silent curves and bends. I thought someone had died. If there were people there I met them all and I was down there for five minutes.

So, this brings me to the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, which I did not go to.  With the news and numbers coming out of the automakers this year I can imagine it’s a bit more upbeat. There are reports of grand unveilings, Toyota CEO’s being seen for the first time in a decade, and people really excited that their demand is being met by the industry. GM is a real company again and Ford posted profits after seeing the fruits of its restructuring, cars are getting better gas mileage and Oprah is giving away hundreds at a time, plants are reopening around the country and quality seems to have finally become a concern again. I turn to MSNBC, touting Mulally as savior of Ford and the market responding with 52 week highs.

I’m not sure if this means the recession is over for the car industry and I’m not sure I really want it to be the way it was way back in 2006. I like the lean car company, the company that cares about quality over quantity. And if that is priority then it should be celebrated. Tear down Cobo Center, sorry Albert.

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