VHS Memories.

Netflix, I should have bought stock, but you also need to apologize for killing the video store. Or, more importantly, killing the ritual of the video store.

I miss wandering in a slow lap around the store, shuffling along like we were in an art museum getting some culture.  You even had the same kind of categories, surrealism (Terry Gilliam), realism (documentaries), and utter crap. Friday night almost always involved the video store.

When we were staying with dad we went to a big video store called Anderson’s, or The Warehouse.

“ohhhh Slumber Party Massacre,” Smokey and Whiskey would pitch.

“nope,” Dad would say.

“But I heard it’s great,” Smokey would plead, a born salesman.

“Move along,” Dad would say, knowing damn well that nobody ever reviewed that film. But I bet even he appreciated the cover art.

We would all shuffle two feet to our right.

MY LITTLE PONY THE MOVIE!!!!” MILK would shriek.

Then all the guys would make groaning noises, she would snatch it and cling to it like it was her source of oxygen.  Dad would cave on that one, just to not be the guy in a tug-of-war with a crying 8 year old in the New Release aisle. She would watch it the next morning. Alone. It would still be better than that time she watched Poltergeist.

We would shuffle along two more feet to the right.

Robocop!” I’d chime.

“Crap, all gone,” Smokey would reply holding the empty place holder box.

“How about this one?”

“Seen it.”

“This one?”

“I heard it sucks.”

And on and on it went as we slowly orbited the store. Finally we’d get some compromise of an action movie and MILK would have her animated talking horses or something, and we’d go home. If our step mom was present we might have to get something from the Drama section, but usually it was a guy’s pick.

This was the video store experience with dad…Weekends at mom’s were a whole different story. Mom was old school; she never went to the big video store. Mom had bought a house in a primarily Asian section of San Jose, so her video store was a small mom and pop tucked in a miniature strip mall.  Vietnamese teenagers trying to look tough would glare at us from the laundry mat where they monopolized a Street Fighter machine.

Video Store Nostalgia

The really nice couple that owned the place did not believe in sorting the movies by genre or rating, or even language as far as I could tell. They had the little room in back with a beaded curtain to keep the hardcore porn separated, but any box that did not actually feature genitalia on the cover tended to end up in the regular mix. I spent a lot of time staring at risque VHS boxes as a young fella, wondering what magical sights were hidden within. And mom couldn’t blame me for looking, you had to really dig around to find that new release they had shoe horned in between Casa Blanca and Porkies. The benefit of this system, was that you were likely to stumble across some weird gem (or rock) that you would never even see at Blockbusters.

And boy did we.

Mom must have had rules on what movies we could rent, but they followed no logic we could see. She loved “B” horror movies, art films, James Bond movies, and anything really weird was always a sure bet. On mom’s watch, we saw Naked Lunch, HousekeepingBrazil, Goulies, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Toxic Avenger, Critters 1,2,3, and 4, and The Gate. For some reason violence was ok, as long as it was really badly done. When it was your turn to pick a movie, you really had to go out on a limb to get it vetoed. MILK  rented Sheena of the Jungle every Friday for four months, and mom let her do it.

Because mom let us rent art films and B horror there were occasionally scenes with, what they call in the biz, “production value.” You know, boobs. Mom had a foolproof method of dealing with this. Because fast forwarding VHS tapes is a pain in the ass, and because you didn’t want to risk losing the plot in C.H.U.D., she would launch herself off the couch and use her hands like black sensor bars to cover up the naughty parts. It sort of looked like she was frantically trying to feel up the poor actress through the screen. Any unseemly moaning was covered by our hysterical laughter, so she was winning on two fronts.

But you have to have a pretty limited supply before you start picking up a movie like Housekeeping. Thanks to Netflix, my kids have Mighty Machines available twenty four seven, not to mention all those obnoxious preteen shows Disney breeds. They will probably never be so desperate for entertainment that they’ll sit through Doctor Strangelove with their pops on a Friday night just to avoid sleeping.

And that’s a shame. I have fond memories of that Monday morning at school, trying to explain Naked Lunch to friends who’d spent the weekend watching Red Dawn.

“I think it’s about bugs or something…”

I ended up in film school. Weird.


One thought on “VHS Memories.

  1. Pingback: The New Signs of Aging | Milk & Whiskey

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